After gaining polish over 13 Triple-A starts, Zack Wheeler is ready to prove that he belongs in the Mets rotation.
The Situation: With the Mets struggling at the big-league level and the “Super 2” timeline squarely in the rearview mirror, it was time for the club to call upon their other high-end pitching prospect to pair him with right-hander Matt Harvey. Zack Wheeler will make his major-league debut just down the road from where he grew up near Atlanta on Tuesday night against the Braves.
Background: Wheeler, the sixth-overall pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2009, joined the Mets in exchange for outfielder Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline in 2011. After two successful but inconsistent seasons in Low-A and High-A with the Giants, Wheeler got his first taste of the upper levels in 2012 with the Mets. In 19 Double-A starts Wheeler notched a 3.26 ERA with just 92 hits allowed in 116 innings. He walked a career-low 3.3 batters per nine innings and fanned better than a batter per inning, making progress in his development. The Mets promoted him to Triple-A Buffalo at the end of 2012 season, and he logged a 3.27 ERA in six starts. Returning to Triple-A to start the 2012 season, though this time in the high-octane Pacific Coast League, Wheeler has posted a 3.93 ERA with 61 hits and 27 walks yielded in 68-2/3 innings and an impressive 73 punchouts.
Our top-ranked preseason prospect makes his major league debut tonight.
The Situation: Pittsburgh left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is suffering from inflammation in his left forearm, causing him to miss a start and forcing the Pirates to look for a replacement in the rotation. Enter Gerrit Cole, the top-ranked pitching prospect on BP’s preseason rankings, who will make his major-league debut on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
Background: A first-round pick of the Yankees in 2008, Cole opted not to sign and instead honored his commitment to UCLA, where he topped the Bruins’ rotation for three years. In 2011, the Pirates made him the no. 1 overall pick in the draft and signed him with an $8 million bonus. The right-hander made his official pro debut in 2012, dominating High-A Bradenton through 13 starts. He allowed just 53 hits in 67 innings while striking out 69 batters en route to a 2.55 ERA. The Pirates pushed him to Double-A Altoona in the second half of last season, and he responded with a 2.90 ERA and over a strikeout per inning in 12 starts. After another promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis to start the 2013 season, Cole has posted a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts with just 44 hits allowed in 68 innings, though he has seen his strikeout rate dip to 6.2 whiffs per nine innings.
Colome's fastball-curveball tandem might fit better in the bullpen, but the Rays will give him a rotation trial while Alex Cobb and David Price are out.
The Situation: Tampa Bay originally called up Colome to help solidify its bullpen, but ended up needing him in the starting rotation when Alex Cobb came down with an injured finger.
Background: Signed in 2007, Colome did not make his stateside debut until 2008, when he was torched for a 6.80 ERA in 46 1/3 rookie-league innings. He improved dramatically the following year in the New York-Penn League, posting a 1.66 ERA across 15 starts while striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings. As the Rays typically do, they have moved Colome slowly through the system; he spent the entire 2010 season in Low-A and then the majority of the 2011 season in High-A. Late in the 2011 season, he was promoted to Double-A Montgomery for nine starts and he finished with a 4.15 ERA and less than a hit per inning, though he did walk 28 batters and only strike out 31. During a return trip to Double-A in 2012, Colome battled injuries but still showed improvement across the board, as he continued to refine his arsenal. Entering the 2013 season, Colome ranked 10th on BP’s Rays Top 10 Prospects list. With Triple-A Durham this season, Colome has notched a 2.60 ERA in 10 starts, allowing just 46 hits and 22 walks in 55 1/3 innings while fanning 61 hitters.
The Nationals call up a pitching prospect to fill in for the injured Ross Detwiler.
The Situation: Following a breakout 2012 season, Karns seemed destined for another full season in the minor leagues blocked by a loaded Washington rotation. With just one injury, though, things can change, and they changed to Karns’ benefit when Ross Detwiler injured his oblique, creating a need for another starter.
Background: After battling inconsistency at North Carolina State and Texas Tech, Karns’ draft stock plummeted in 2009, as he was routinely touched up throughout the spring. He was finally popped in the 12th round by the Nationals and signed for $225,000. Almost immediately after signing, Karns came up lame with a torn labrum and missed the remainder of the 2009 season and all of 2010. Back on the hill in 2011, Karns posted a solid 3.44 ERA in eight starts for the New York-Penn League’s Auburn Doubledays. His breakout came in 2012 with good health and monster showings at both Low-A and High-A. On the season, he recorded a 2.17 ERA in 116 innings with just 70 hits allowed, 47 walks, and 148 punchouts. Karns has handled the jump to Double-A reasonably well this season, pitching to a 4.60 ERA in nine starts, allowing less than a hit per inning, and fanning 11 batters per nine.
The Mariners replace Dustin Ackley with Franklin, Seattle's fourth-best prospect on our offseason rankings.
The Situation: Second baseman Dustin Ackley came out of college considered an elite-level hitter who would quickly establish himself in the big leagues. Ackley has never fulfilled his potential in three seasons in Seattle, totaling a .237/.307/.344 line in 1,215 plate appearances. With his continued struggles (.205/.266/.250 this year) and a Seattle offense that is hitting just .241/.310/.392 as a team, changes needed to be made. Enter Nick Franklin. Franklin, the team’s fourth-ranked prospect entering the year, has been called up to replace Ackley, who was optioned to Triple-A.
Background: A first-round pick in 2009, Franklin signed for $1.28 million and hit .333/.354/.476 in a 16-game debut that spanned the rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Northwest League. The following year Franklin exploded with a .281 average in the offensively difficult Midwest League, punching 22 doubles and a whopping 23 home runs as a 19-year old. With lofty expectations in the California League in 2011, Franklin stumbled as myriad injuries took their toll. After hitting .275 in 64 games for High Desert, Franklin was tested with an assignment to Double-A Jackson where he ripped off a .325/.371/.482 line in 21 games. The Mariners returned Franklin to Double-A in 2012 and he again torched the Southern League with a .896 OPS and 25 extra-base hits in 57 games. He struggled after a promotion to Triple-A in the second half, hitting just .243, though he did knock 27 extra-base hits in 64 games. Back in Triple-A to start the 2013 season, Franklin made the necessary adjustments and has hit .324/.440/.472 so far this season.
Desperate for a starter, the Jays call up their no. 2 pitching prospect from Double-A.
The Situation: After an active offseason that included the acquisition of starting pitchers Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, and Josh Johnson, the Blue Jays are now prepared to send their 10th starting pitcher of the season to the mound. In addition to Johnson’s injuries, J.A. Happ has been dealing with injuries of his own and Ricky Romero has been struggling through the first two months of the season. As if that weren’t enough, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison are still several months away from returning to the mound and the club was forced to send Ramon Ortiz to the hill this week. All of that leads to the call-up of left-hander Sean Nolin, the team’s no. 2-rated pitching prospect.
Background: A sixth-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2010, Nolin has had little trouble motoring through the minor leagues. After a 6.05 ERA in six New York-Penn League starts during his professional debut, Nolin has improved at every stop. With Low-A Lansing in 2011 he posted a 3.49 ERA in 108-1/3 innings, allowing just 102 hits and 31 walks while fanning 113 batters. He followed up that strong performance with a dazzling 2.19 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) for High-A Dunedin in 2012 before being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire. In just three starts with New Hampshire, Nolin notched a 1.20 ERA and better than a strikeout per inning. After some missed time early this season due to a pulled groin, Nolin has continued his Double-A dominance with a 1.17 ERA in three more starts.
The Cardinals look for bullpen help from their top starting pitcher prospect.
The Situation: With the worst bullpen in the major leagues as measured by ERA, the Cardinals are in desperate need for relief help. Just as they turned to right-hander Trevor Rosenthal down the stretch and in the playoffs last year, the Cardinals will again turn to a young, hard-throwing right-hander in Carlos Martinez.
Background: Previously known as Carlos Matias, Martinez failed a background inspection and was suspended for a year by Major League Baseball rather than being allowed to sign with the Red Sox in in 2009. After the suspension was up, the Cardinals gave him a massive payday, ponying up a $1.5 million signing bonus. Pitching in the Dominican Summer League in 2010, Martinez started 12 games en route to posting a miniscule 0.76 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 59 innings.
The Situation: Though he has played only 10 games above High-A, the Marlins are looking to 22-year-old outfielder Marcell Ozuna to fill the void left created by Giancarlo Stanton’s trip to the disabled list with a hamstring injury. The Marlins added Ozuna to their 40-man roster over the offseason, which made the decision to call him up now that much easier. The 22-year-old, who was ranked no. 10 on BP’s Marlins Top 10 list by, was hitting .333 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 10 games for Double-A Jacksonville.
Background: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Ozuna debuted with the Marlins’ DSL affiliate that summer, posting a .279 batting average while knocking 14 doubles and six home runs as a 17-year-old. Playing in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2009, Ozuna continued to excel at a young age, this time hitting .313 in 55 games and blasting another 22 doubles and five more home runs. After starting with Low-A Greensboro in 2010, Ozuna broke a bone in his left wrist, forcing him to miss the next two months. After recovering, Ozuna tore through the New York-Penn League, leading the league in home runs (21) and runs batted in (60). The Marlins gave him another crack at Low-A in 2011, and he handled it well, posting a .266/.330/.482 line in 131 games. After a promotion to High-A for the 2012 season, Ozuna nearly duplicated his batting line (.266/.328/.476) while leading the Florida State League in home runs (24) and RBI (95).
The Rockies pull the trigger on a long-awaited promotion.
The Situation: Rockies infielder Chris Nelson could not duplicate the success he experienced in 2012, posting a .242/.282/.318 line in 22 games this year, and the club designated him for assignment over the weekend. Nelson’s departure opened the door for Arenado, ranked third on the Rockies Top 10 list by Baseball Prospectus over the offseason, to make his major-league debut on Sunday.
Background: Drafted in the second round in 2009, Arenado raked at every stop through his first three years in the minor leagues. His professional debut in the Pioneer League was a rousing success, with an even .300 batting average and 17 extra-base hits in just 54 games. Pushed to the Low-A South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old in 2010, Arenado responded with a performance worthy of top-prospect praise, highlighted by a .308/.338/.520 line in 92 games. Promoted another level in 2011, Arenado hit .298 with 32 doubles and 20 home runs in the High-A California League. The jump to Double-A in 2012 proved a little difficult for him, as he “struggled” to the tune of a .285 batting average, 36 doubles, and 12 home runs. Through 18 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs this season, he was hitting .364/.392/.667.