The Cubs bring up the first of their excellent prospects for a sip.
The Situation: Late Tuesday night the Cubs announced that second baseman Darwin Barney will be placed on paternity leave for two days, creating an opening at the major league level. With Emilio Bonifacio still on the disabled list the Cubs are giving Arismendy Alcantara (No. 18 prospect in the Baseball Prospectus midseason update) a two-day taste of major-league action as they’ve called him up from Triple-A Iowa to temporarily take Darwin Barney’s place.
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Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.
Tampa Bay Rays
This can be a difficult article to write. Speculating on saves is a tricky thing, one that requires following a lot of beat writers and trying to find trends written into stat lines. The closer job is a serious one, and it’s not like managers pick the closer for completely arbitrary reasons that have little to do with logic and are more holistic in nature. I mean there’s no way someone would pick a closer based on aura, right?
The Astros call up the outfielder they stole from Philadelphia.
The Situation: On Sunday, Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow indicated that Domingo Santana (the no. 8-ranked prospect in the system entering 2014) still had some developing to do in Triple-A. But with outfielder Dexter Fowler finding himself on the 15-day disabled list, the Astros have a need for an outfielder already on the 40-man roster. Checking off both of those prerequisites, Santana was summoned to the big leagues from Triple-A Oklahoma City and debuted with a three-strikeout, 0-for-4 performance on Tuesday.
Background: Santana, acquired by the previous regime in Houston, came to the Astros as the fourth and final piece of the trade that sent outfielder Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies. Santana didn’t become a member of the Astros organization until two weeks after the trade went down, having originally been listed as player to be named later. But it's still puzzling that the Astros were able to acquire Santana, who has been tapping into his raw power since entering pro ball as a 16-year-old. It might have been a mistake on Philadelphia’s part, and not in the figurative sense, if you believe this report (and not this denial).
Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli get changes of scenery, Sergio Romo cedes the Giants gig, plus more closer notes from around the league.
Two Closer Candidates Change Leagues Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli switched teams, as the LA Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates swapped relievers whose seasons had been subpar. We know the story with both of these guys at this point: Frieri has severe issues with the long ball when he’s missing with his fastball, and Grilli has been inconsistent with his command, as he’s been the unfortunate combination of walk-happy and hittable. In terms of proximity to saves, Grilli is the better bet, as there aren’t many good options in Anaheim, and Frieri will have Mark Melancon in front of him. I might be out on both at this point.
The White Sox Mess
Ahhh, White Sox bullpen. I’ve forgotten your scent. The Ronald Belisario show has come to its final and unfortunate end, as the big-faced righty gave up two runs (one earned) and recorded one out against the Blue Jays en route to recording that all-important hold. There was a time where Belisario’s ERA was under 4.00, but a chart of his game-by-game ERA would look like a deep V, as his ERA and peripherals have boomeranged from respectable to just bad. This is the part where I give you a few names to consider at the back end of this bullpen but, well, there aren’t any names I feel good about here.
Surveying the ninth-inning situations around the league.
The ERA doesn’t show it, but Jason Grilli was scuffling after he came back from an oblique injury. The strikeouts were down and the walks were up from his brilliant 2013 campaign. Grilli is hovering around the 21 percent mark in terms of strikeout rate, and the walk rate has come up to 12 percent. Couple that with a newfound propensity to give up home runs in a small sample and the writing was on the wall with Grilli. Mark Melancon will serve as the closer in the short term, and I think there is a really good chance he’s the long-term closer as well. Melancon has solid peripheral numbers and served as the closer during Grilli’s rehab.
Chicago Cubs Neil Ramirez is still making things compelling in the Cubs’ bullpen, which is a rare problem for the North Siders to have, especially after the tumultuous year Cubs relievers had in 2013. Ramirez is carrying a 1.00 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP in 18 innings. Those are outstanding numbers, and they definitely warrant consideration for the job. However, Hector Rondon has still been pitching extremely well, having only given up runs in four of his 27 appearances. I still think Rondon is the closer until he proves otherwise.
Updating the fantasy stock of Chicago's best young hitting talents.
Kris Bryant was promoted to Triple-A Iowa, where he will likely play third base and hit in close proximity to the Cubs’ other talented and highly touted prospect Javier Baez.
Before the season started, the spring had created clever illusions about Baez, as Cubs fans and fantasy owners alike salivated at the possibility that each preseason laser beam to the outfield seats would draw him closer to major-league playing time in 2014. A deep slump to start the year popped those illusions, as those same fans and fantasy owners were left holding their heads in their hands and looking for a consolation that could only come after the high-risk proposition in Baez started solving the puzzle that is pitch sequencing.