The Situation: The A’s are not a good baseball team. When you’re not good, you often get a good look at young prospects. Chad Pinder is a young(ish) prospect. He’s going to play for the A’s now.
Background: Pinder came to Virginia Tech without much fanfare—he went undrafted his senior year of high school—but he was an immediate contributor for the Hokies, ranking among the league leaders in several categories in the ACC. After hitting .321/.404/.483 in his junior campaign, there was talk of being a day-one draft pick, and Oakland snatched him up in the second-round of the 2013 draft. He struggled in his first professional taste to the tune of a .579 OPS, but Oakland was so confident in his abilities that they had him skip Low-A entirely. He rewarded their confidence with a .288/.336/.489 line in the California League, and he followed that up with an .847 OPS in Double-A Midland the next year. He wasn’t nearly as good this year in Triple-A Nashville, but he does have 40 extra-base hits, and at 24 years of age, it’s time to see what exactly the Athletics have.
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Background: Swanson wasn’t a household name coming out of Marietta High School in Georgia, and his strong commitment to Vanderbilt saw him slide to the 38th round of the 2012 draft, where he (obviously) didn’t sign. He didn’t play much his freshman season, but after earning the starting job at second base as as sophomore, he quickly established himself as one of the best players in the SEC. He made a seamless transition to shortstop the following year, and he went from being a potential top-10 pick to the overwhelming favorite to be the first-overall pick, which is exactly where Arizona took him. After a strong season in the Northwest League, Swanson was inexplicably dealt to Atlanta that winter in the Miller deal. After dominating at HIgh-A Carolina, Swanson more than held his own at Double-A Mississippi; earning a spot in the 2016 Futures Game, and now a trip to Atlanta to finish the 2016 season.
The Situation: With Alex Rodriguez unconditionally released, the Yankees have room for another bat, and have called upon Aaron Judge (and Tyler Austin) to provide an offensive lift, and audition for a starting role in 2017.
Background: Taken in the 31st round in 2010 out of Linden (CA) HS by Oakland, Judge honored his commitment to Fresno State and in the end it paid off as he was taken 32nd-overall in 2013. Judge put himself on the map following a standout 2012 performance in the Cape, followed by a junior-year campaign where he hit .369/.461/.655 with 12 home runs. Judge has slugged .473 in his minor league career, but has also struck out at a career 24.6 percent rate thus far. The Yankees have taken it slowly thus far with Judge, allowing him to accrue over 650 plate appearances in Triple-A, and nearly 1,300 minor league at-bats in all.
With Alex Reyes assigned to the bullpen, the Cardinals will turn to Weaver to fill their rotation slot for Saturday.
The Situation: Yesterday, we wrote a call-up on Cardinals right-hander Alex Reyes, and how he was on his way up to help stabilize the rotation. Apparently, that’s all hogwash and poppycock, because Reyes is headed to the bullpen, and Luke Weaver will make his big-league debut on Saturday in place of Michael Wacha.
Background: Weaver was one of the best pitchers in the country his sophomore year at Florida State University, posting a 2.29 ERA and an impressive 119/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just over 98 innings. He struggled to repeat those numbers as a junior (85 strikeouts in just over 106 innings), but still was considered a first-round talent in the 2014 draft, and St. Louis procured his services with the 27th pick that June. Since entering the Cardinals system, the numbers have been ridiculous; he’s posted a career era of 1.78, and after posting a 1.40 ERA with 88 strikeouts in Double-A Springfield and a shutout in his first start at Triple-A, St. Louis is ready to see if those numbers can translate to the next level.
The Cardinals are calling upon one of the top arms in the minors to aid their run for the playoffs.
The Situation: Barring a 1995 Mariners-esque comeback, the Cardinals are not going to catch the Cubs. They’re right in the thick of the wild-card race despite some so-so starting pitching, however, and they’re going to call on Alex Reyes to see if he can be part of the solution.
Background: Similar to what Lucius Fox did last June, Reyes “defected” from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic in 2012, and the Cardinals were able to sign him $950,000 that December. After impressing the next summer in the Appy League, Reyes struck out 137 batters in 109 innings for Low-A Peoria in 2014 , and quickly became one of the most intriguing right-handed pitching prospects in baseball. That stock went up substantially in 2015 after dominating in the Florida State League, and he more than held his own as a 20-year-old in Double-A later in the year. He was throwing well in the Arizona Fall League, but then a marijuana suspension not only cut his AFL stay short, but caused him to miss the first couple months of the 2016 season. Pitching in the treacherous PCL, he’s posted a 4.96 ERA, but he’s also struck out 93 hitters in just over 65 innings, and the Cardinals believe he’s ready to contribute.
Can Thompson make the most of this window, and seal up a rotation spot?
The situation:Jake Thompson was going to be the next starter up for the Philadelphia Phillies. The most likely scenario was his taking Jeremy Hellickson's spot after a deadline deal sent the crafty veteran packing for a contending team that needed to stabilize their rotation for the home stretch. That never materialized, but Aaron Nola's elbow woes have opened a spot for the Phillies top pitching prospect, albeit not in the way the phaithful would have preferred.
The background: Thompson was a second-round pick of the Detroit Tigers out of high school in 2012. He was dealt twice during his minor league career, heading first to Texas for Joakim Soria, then to Philadelphia as part of the Cole Hamels deal. He's pitched well everywhere though, using an above-average fastball/slider combo to cruise to the majors at the age of 22. He entered the year as our no. 3 prospect in the Phillies system, and has made the Top 101 two years running, most recently clocking in at no. 36 on our midseason Top 50.
Orlando Arcia sounds more like a destination resort than a baseball player but here we are.
The Situation: Milwaukee has gone from having one of the worst systems in baseball just a few short years ago to having one of the very best in baseball. On Tuesday, we’ll get to see one of the very best in that system: shortstop Orlando Arcia.
Background: The Brewers gave Arcia $95,000 in the fall of 2011 to procure his services out of Venezuela; a modest—but not insignificant—amount of money. The following year he impressed in the Dominican Summer League, but he didn’t get a chance to build on it after breaking his ankle in spring training, costing him all of the 2012 season. After two pedestrian offensive years in Low and High-A in 2013 and 2014, Arcia took a massive step forward in 2015, hitting .307/.347/.453 in Double-A Biloxi. The 2016 season hasn’t been as impressive, but he has hit a respectable .268/.320/.404 in the friendly confines of the PCL for Colorado Springs, and the Brewers believe he’s ready to show off his talents at the major league level.
Background: Benintendi wasn’t a complete unknown coming out of high school, but he wasn’t taken too seriously as a draft prospect in 2013 (though the Reds did pop him in the 31st round), and he honored his commitment to the University of Arkansas. After a solid but certainly not spectacular freshman campaign, Benintendi shined in 2015, putting up monster numbers in the loaded SEC conference and establishing himself as one of the best collegiate bats in the country. After Boston scooped him up with the seventh pick in the draft, he destroyed pitching at both of his professional stops (Lowell and Greenville) and earned a trip to High-A Salem to start 2016. After beating the crap out of that pitching, Benintendi was hitting .295/.357/.515 in Double-A Portland, and now will get a chance to maim pitching at the highest level.
The Situation: Brandon Barnes isn’t very good. The Rockies had a guy in Triple-A with an OPS above 1.400. Colorado will rectify the situation by sending Barnes out of town and calling up that prospect. His name is David Dahl.
Background: Dahl was a standout in high school, putting up big numbers at Oak Mountain High School in Birmingham, performing well at showcase events, and earning comparisons to Dustin Ackley. At the time, that was a compliment. The Rockies swooped him up with the tenth pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, and after hitting .379 in short-season Grand Junction, expectations were huge for his first professional season. Unfortunately, 2013 was a lost season, as he was suspended for missing a flight, and then missed all but ten games after tearing a hamstring. He came back strong in 2014 with a .827 OPS in stops at Asheville and Modesto. 2015 was another tough season for the young outfielder, as he suffered a ruptured spleen after a collision in the outfield, and posted a pedestrian .278/.304/.417 line in Double-A New Britain. Once again, Dahl bounced back beautifully, hitting .278 with 13 homers in Hartford, and then crushing Triple-A pitching to a borderline unrealistic tune of .484/.529/.887 in Albuquerque before earning his call-up.
The Situation: Arizona made a smorgasbord of moves this winter to position themselves as contenders in the NL West. They currently sit two-plus touchdowns out of first place. With the team all but eliminated from playoff contention and Zack Greinke ailing, the Diamondbacks will call on the best prospect in the system, right-hander Braden Shipley.
Background: Shipley came to Nevada as a true two-way prospect, and was actually better with the bat early on, earning second-team All-WAC honors as a shortstop. That quickly changed, as Shipley transformed himself to one of the best right-handed starters west of the Mississippi, and earned top-10 consideration during his junior year. However, Shipley’s stock slid on draft day causing him to fall to the Diamondbacks with the 15th overall pick. Since then, he’s put up solid—if not spectacular—numbers, posting a career 3.79 ERA in just under 442 innings with a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.70. As is so often the case, those numbers don’t truly tell the story of how talented Shipley is, and the DBacks have seen enough to believe he’s ready to get big-league hitters out.
Monday is turning into a great day for prospect debuts, but this one is the most great.
The Situation: Houston is right in the thick of the playoff chase again, and with A.J. Reed struggling to get on base or hit for power upon his promotion, the Astros will instead call on the best prospect in their system, Alex Bregman.
Background: Bregman was a potential second-round selection coming into the 2012 draft out of Albuquerque, but it was clear that he was set on attending LSU, and attend LSU he did. He quickly established himself as one of the best players in college baseball, posting a .963 OPS in his freshman year and quickly became a legit candidate to be the top player taken in the 2015 draft. A so-so sophomore season saw his stock slide ever so slightly, but he hit .323/.412/.535 and was taken second overall by Houston that June. After an impressive first professional season, Bregman destroyed pitching this spring/summer, posting a 1.016 OPS, earning a trip to the Futures Game (where he nearly hit for the cycle), and becoming one of the best prospects in baseball.