The last piece of the Yankees' Tyler Voltron has arrived.
The Situation: Starlin Castro tweaked a hamstring, so the Yankees have called on their swiss army prospect, Tyler Wade, to give them some additional flexibility in the infield.
The Background: The Yankees selected Wade in the fourth round of the 2013 draft as a SoCal prep shortstop, signing him for a little over $370,000. He got a somewhat aggressive assignment to Charleston in his first full pro season, considering he wasn’t a highly-touted prep pick, and both his raw athleticism and his general rawness showed up there. He progressed to Tampa in 2015 and prospect team member Jeff Moore saw a future big leaguer whose “contact skills, left-handed bat and ability to play two up-the-middle positions [gave] him a chance to play a nice role on a big-league roster.” I got eyes on him in 2016 in Trenton and saw much of the same, although I thought his athleticism was starting to show up more in the baseball skills now. He faded a bit down the stretch in Trenton, but overall put together a solid performance for a 21-year-old in Double-A. With the acquisition of Gleyber Torres at the trade deadline, the Yankees sent Wade to the AFL for the second straight season, this time to get some reps in the outfield. This year in Scranton he has played all three outfield positions in addition to shortstop, second, and third. He’s in the midst of a bit of a breakout season, adding a bit of pop to the profile and improving his efficiency on the bases.
A look at five prospects who should get called up.
We’ve started the Midseason Top 50 process here at Baseball Prospectus. There is a ways to go—so far we are only at the point where we have sorted a draft in a car heading to Camden Yards and then were unable to explain to the rest of the staff why Joshua Lowe ended up on it—but one of the hardest parts of the process is pegging who will actually be eligible. We only consider players in the minors at the time of publication, and now that we are well past the Super 2 safe harbor date, teams don't have service time manipulation reasons to keep their best upper-level prospects in the minors (well, maybe one of them, which we’ll get to). So let's take a look at some of the top names who may send us scrambling to find more top 50 prospects at the last minute (I guess Lowe still has a chance after all).
The hard-throwing lefty takes his fastball/slider combo to the Brewers' bullpen, for now.
The Situation: The pipeline of prospects keeps coming in Milwaukee. Shortly after calling up Brett Phillips, the Brewers have added their top pitching prospect Josh Hader to the bullpen mix.
The Background: Hader was the Orioles' 19th-round draft pick in 2012. A local prep arm, he burst onto prospect radars with a dominant professional debut in short-season ball that summer. His full-season debut went swimmingly as well. Hader struck out nearly a batter per inning as a 19-year-old in the South Atlantic League before he was dealt to the Astros at the deadline as part of the Bud Norris package. The lefty wasn’t done wandering yet, though (he even looks the part of a well-traveled roadie).
No one can ever really fill a Bartolo-sized hole, but Newcomb will try, at least for a spot start.
The Situation: Atlanta has an injured Bartolo Colon and a doubleheader this weekend, so they’ve decided to call up their closest pitching prospect, and a pretty good one at that, in Sean Newcomb.
The Background: Newcomb was selected 15th overall by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 2014 draft out of the University of Hartford. He was the first player picked from Hartford in a decade and the highest overall pick in school history, besting Jeff Bagwell by almost 100 spots. In his first short season assignment that Summer, he established a pattern of performance that has repeated at every level— overpowering stuff, but troubles keeping it in the zone. Nevertheless, he got to Double-A in 2015 during his first full professional season. That winter he was dealt to the Braves for Andrelton Simmons. He spent all of 2016 back in Double-A as he tried to iron out his control issues with limited success. His 2017 campaign in the International League has gone much the same, striking out well over a batter an inning, but also walking over 13% of the batters he’s faced.
You’re it. No, you’re it. Hey you’re really it, you’re it.
Much of this job is figuring out which sorting bucket to drop a prospect. I often half-jokingly gripe about having to write up another athletic shortstop or potential third starter, but those are the easy guys. The prospect-ranking industrial complex has moved away from this in recent years, as we are all in a word count arms race now (Thanks, Kiley), but in a more perfect world, we’d be conveying the same information simply and pithily. And when guys “look the part,” whatever it may be, it takes care of the “simple” part. A few examples:
Kevin Pillar's suspension led to Anthony Alford's debut.
The Situation: With backup outfielder Darrell Ceciliani on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and starting center fielder Kevin Pillar suspended by the team, the Blue Jays have need of an outfielder for a few days. They’ll be using this as an opportunity to get their best outfield prospect’s feet wet in the majors.
The Background: Anthony Alford was taken by the Blue Jays in the third round of the 2012 draft out of Petal High School in Mississippi. He was expected to go higher, but signability concerns attached to his NCAA football commitment dropped him to Day 2. The Jays gave him $750,000 as part of a two-sport deal that also allowed him to play football at Southern Mississippi. He began focusing on baseball full time in 2015 and immediately broke out at the plate, smashing both A-ball levels to the tune of .298/.398/.421 and breaking onto top 100 lists. His 2016 return to Dunedin was marred by a concussion and leg injuries, but a healthy Alford has resumed mashing the baseball this season, posting an .866 OPS in 33 games in the Eastern League.
Consider this a renewed request not to use "Bae-llinger."
The Situation: Joc Pederson is on the DL with a groin strain and the Dodgers could use a left-handed center field bat to pair with Enrique Hernandez. So they called up…a first baseman? Yes, but this first baseman also plays center (and left) field. And mashes dingers.
The Background: Bellinger was the fourth-round pick of the Dodgers in 2013 as an Arizona prep and signed for $700,000. He was drafted as a first baseman, where he played exclusively for the first two season of his pro career. The Dodgers aggressively assigned Bellinger to Advanced-A in 2015 and started playing him occasionally in center field as well. Bellinger broke out in a big way, socking 30 home runs. He proved it was no Cal League mirage last season, mashing his way through Double-A while spending time at all three outfield spots in addition to first. He got off to a hot start in Oklahoma City this year, batting .343/.429/.627 at the time of his call up.
We promise we don't do a "Hu's on first" joke. We make no other promises.
The Situation: Rays long man Tommy Hunter has hit the DL after suffering a calf injury covering first base this past weekend. In his stead the Rays have called up pitching prospect Chih-Wei Hu to take over his role in their bullpen
The Background: Hu was signed out as an 18-year-old of Taiwan by the Minnesota Twins in 2012 for $220,000. He made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League the following season and proceeded level-by-level from there. Although he never posted big strikeout numbers in the minors, his performance was never anything less than stellar at any extended stop. So yeah, he was basically a Twins pitching prospect. Hu was dealt to the Rays in August 2015 as part of the Kevin Jepsen deal and continued to have success while posting average-ish K-rates. A strong Double-A campaign—that level was always going to be an important test of the profile—in 2016, along with flashes of better velocity, was enough to make him the sixth-best prospect on the 2017 Rays Top Ten list.
The Situation: Jorge Soler still isn’t healthy, and Paulo Orlando has a .333 OPS. Yes, OPS. So the Royals will turn to one of their best position player prospects—and apple of our minor league editor’s eye—Jorge Bonifacio to try and help jumpstart an offense averaging just a tick over three runs a game.
The Background: Bonifacio was signed for $135,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, and has been kicking around as a prospect for so long that he first showed up on a Royals team list during the Kevin Goldstein era. A strong 2013 campaign in which he hit .298/.372/.429 between the Carolina and Texas leagues brought him to national attention and he snuck onto the back of the 2014 BP 101. Bonifacio’s bat stagnated in Double-A however, and he would spend all of 2014 and 2015 at that level. He did slowly start to get more of his plus raw power into games—a hamate injury cost him some of 2013—and at the end of 2016 got some post-hype chatter after he set a career high in home runs with 19 for the Storm Chasers. Although he’s been around forever in prospect terms, he is still only 23, and the power is major-league-ready. We are about to find out about the rest of the profile.