With David Freese slumping, the Cardinals dig into their deep farm system and bring up a second baseman who raced up the minor-league ladder.
The Situation: With the Cardinals offense sputtering just slightly of late, St. Louis is calling up second baseman Kolten Wong, who ranked no. 34 on Baseball Prospectus’ mid-season top 50 prospects list, to jolt the offense. Although the Cards already have an All-Star second baseman in Matt Carpenter, it’s unlikely the 22-year-old Wong is being brought up to ride the pine. Expect to see some lineup and positional shifting. Regular third baseman David Freese is having an underwhelming season––he’s hitting just .269/.348/.386––and Carpenter is experienced at the hot corner. St. Louis could begin placing Wong at second base and Carpenter at third with Freese coming off the bench. That’s a likely scenario against right-handed pitching especially, as Wong and Carpenter are both lefty bats while Freese is a righty.
Background: St. Louis selected Wong with its first-round pick (no. 22 overall) in the 2011 draft. A Hilo, Hawaii native and University of Hawaii product, Wong was a first-round pick despite his second-base profile and 5-foot-9 frame, which speaks volumes about his natural ability to hit and impressive overall skill set. Coming out of UH, Wong was regarded as an advanced bat who would hit his way through the minors quickly, and that’s exactly what he has done.
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Pitching prospects: the Padres have them. Jason speaks to one who's not too far from The Show.
With power stuff, a feel for pitching, and strong results at Double-A San Antonio, 20-year-old righty Matt Wisler has become the upper-level standout among the Padres’ impressive crop of minor-league arms.
A seventh-round pick out of high school in 2011, Wisler jumped on the prospect radar last season by posting a 2.53 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 114 innings at Low-A Fort Wayne. After showing a promising four-pitch arsenal that includes a plus fastball, he checked in at no. 8 on Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10 Padres prospects list entering this season.
Jason chats with the Cardinals' top pitching prospect.
When the Cardinals selected Michael Wacha 19th overall in last year’s draft, the right-hander was widely regarded as a polished arm who could potentially zoom to the major leagues. While that has proven to be true––Wacha reached St. Louis less than a year after he was drafted––he’s showing to be more than just a “safe” pick.
The Texas A&M product put himself in the big-league discussion this spring by yielding one unearned run in 11.2 innings out of the bullpen, walking one and striking out 15 while flashing 95-98 mph velocity. The impressive performance yielded an aggressive assignment to Triple-A Memphis out of camp.
As perhaps the game’s top hitting prospect, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras has become a household name to baseball fans, and not only in St. Louis. When the 21-year-old Taveras ranked no. 2 on Baseball Prospectus’ recently released mid-season top 50 prospects list, Jason Parks wrote that Taveras “will eventually settle in as a middle-of-the-order hitter at the highest level, where he should develop into a perennial all-star and possible MVP candidate.” It’s high praise for a prospect who has yet to appear in a major-league game, but it’s also a sentiment that is echoed by scouts throughout the industry.
Having posted a .321/.380/.572 slash line in his age-20 season at Double-A Springfield in 2012, Taveras appeared on the cusp of reaching St. Louis as 2013 approached. He looked even closer after impressing with a strong performance in big-league camp this spring, hitting .289 while seeing action in 24 games.
The Mariners look to Triple-A for some offensive help in the infield.
The Situation: With the Mariners’ offense once again struggling to score runs, Miller is being called up to replace incumbent shortstop Brendan Ryan. Although Ryan has flashed his usual fantastic glove, he’s hitting a punchless .196/.254/.252 in 67 contests. Seattle will look to play the hot hand with Miller, who’s currently riding a 22-game hitting streak while batting .356/.426/.596 in 26 Triple-A games.
Background: Miller was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft following an accomplished three-year career at Clemson University. The Orlando native has since produced at every level, quickly mashing his way up the minor-league ladder. While Miller didn’t rank in Baseball Prospectus’ top 10 Mariners prospects this past offseason, he’d certainly crack that list today. Entering this season, Jason Parkswrote that Miller didn’t “have an ideal profile for an everyday shortstop” but could be a “valuable utility player at the major-league level.” The prospect has since hit .319/.399/.521 between the Double- and Triple-A levels, proving that his breakout 2012 campaign wasn’t just a mirage. He’s looking more and more like a big-league regular in the middle infield.
With Alfredo Figaro on the DL, the Brewers bring up a 6-foot-9 flamethrower.
The Situation: With starting pitcher Alfredo Figaro landing on the disabled list due to a strained oblique, the Brewers have recalled Hellweg from Triple-A Nashville. He’ll make his big-league debut on Friday against Pittsburgh. Figaro’s issue should sideline him until at least the All-Star break; while Hellweg may not be up permanently, he should get at least a couple starts. If you like big velocity (and who doesn’t?), I’d suggest tuning into Friday’s Brewers/Pirates matchup, as Hellweg will face Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole. Both starters will work mid-to-upper 90s and touch triple digits with their fastballs.
Background: A 16th-round pick out of the junior college ranks in 2008, Hellweg was a 6-foot-7 hurler who threw 90-92 mph at the time he was drafted. In the video interview shown below, the right-hander says he grew five inches between his late high school and early professional years. He now stands a towering 6-foot-9, and his velocity has bumped 101 mph in recent seasons.
Jason catches up with the most polished Rangers prospect at Single-A Hickory.
When Rangers prospect Ronald Guzman joined the Single-A Hickory Crawdads late last month, he immediately became the most polished hitter in a lineup that includes five of the organization’s top 10 prospects. A 6-foot-5 first baseman with a mature lefty swing and solid approach, Guzman ranked no. 9 in the Texas system entering this season.
One of baseball's best-hitting teams adds one of baseball's best-hitting prospects.
The Situation:Wil Myers, ranked by Baseball Prospectus as Tampa Bay’s no. 1 prospect (and no. 7 in baseball) entering this season, has received his much-anticipated MLB call-up. Although Myers appeared to be near big-league ready after mashing in Triple-A last season, the Rays sent him back to the minor leagues in mid-March, citing adjustments needed both offensively and in right field while likely keeping a watchful eye on this year’s “super two” arbitration window. That window has since passed, and Myers has recently caught fire at the plate, leading to Tuesday’s call-up. The top prospect will look to bolster Tampa Bay’s already strong offense in the midst of a tight American League East race.
Background: Drafted by Kansas City as a catcher in 2009, Myers spent two summers behind the dish before his advanced bat enabled him to fly through the lower minors. After the former third-round pick hit .315/.429/.506 between the Low- and High-A levels in 2010, the Royals chose to accelerate his developmental timetable by scrapping his still-raw catching and moving him into the outfield. Myers has since spent time at all three outfield spots but this year has settled in as a right fielder, where he profiles long term. He continued to mash upper-level pitching in 2012, hitting .314/.378/.600 with 37 home runs between Double- and Triple-A. Although Myers got out to a slow start (by his standards) this season, he’s batting .286 through 64 games and has a .339/.377/.696 slash line this month.
The Brewers try to solve their second-base problems by promoting a poor man's Jose Altuve.
The Situation: The Brewers made four roster moves on Monday, looking to shake things up on a club that’s just 7-24 since May 1. Gennett was among the beneficiaries, earning the call from Triple-A Nashville. He’ll take the roster spot vacated by veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez, who was released after hitting .177/.203/.230 in 41 games.
Background: Milwaukee’s 16th-round pick out of Sarasota (Fla.) High School in 2009, Gennett didn’t enter the professional ranks as a top prospect, but he has proven himself at each step on the minor-league ladder. A career .300 hitter across all four full-season levels over the last four seasons, Gennett has been an All-Star at each of the stops and represented Milwaukee in last year’s MLB Futures Game. Although the prospect has scuffled of late in Triple-A, he was still hitting .297/.342/.376 through 50 contests at the time of his call-up.
After making quick work of the minors, Wood could make a smooth transition to the Braves bullpen, but his fantasy value depends heavily on the type of league you play in.
The Situation: With lefty relievers Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty both lost for the season to Tommy John surgery, the Braves are in need of bullpen arms. They’ve purchased Wood’s contract from Double-A Mississippi, adding the 22-year-old southpaw to the big-league bullpen for Thursday night’s game against Toronto.
Background: Atlanta’s second-round pick in last year’s draft, Wood was selected following a three-year career at the University of Georgia. He underwent Tommy John surgery as a freshman in 2010, but hasn’t had an injury hiccup since. Entering pro ball last summer with a mature fastball-changeup combination, Wood cruised through 13 starts in the Low-A South Atlantic League, posting a 2.22 ERA. He impressed during five relief appearances in big-league camp this spring and earned an assignment to Double-A Mississippi. The prospect continued his dominance with the M-Braves, allowing only eight earned runs on 41 hits in 57 innings, walking 15 and fanning 57.