- Former Flores teammate Lucas Duda, on the other hand, finds himself on this list for different reasons. The 32-year-old has struggled this year with the Royals, slashing just .235/.304/.395 with 11 long balls in his 313 plate appearances. But he has still handled right-handed pitching, with a 111 wRC+ when batting with the platoon advantages this year, and has certainly shown more overall in years past. Duda is also earning just $3.5MM this year before reaching free agency.
At this point of the season, it’s reasonable to expect the remaining Rule 5 players who are on big league rosters to hold those spots for the remainder of the season. That doesn’t mean that each has necessarily impressed to the point where he’s viewed as a viable long-term option, but with rosters set to expand in a couple of weeks and this much time already invested in each player, the remaining prospects who are clinging to eligibility have likely secured themselves a look in 2019 — even if it means opening the season in the minors.
When I last checked in on this year’s Rule 5-ers back in June, there were nine players either on active MLB rosters or on the big league disabled list, with the rest of this year’s class having been returned to their original organizations. That number hasn’t changed, though the complexion of the list is a bit different, and there have been some encouraging strides among the bunch. Here’s how the class looks at present:
Active Big Leaguers
- Victor Reyes, OF, Tigers (from D-backs): Reyes still isn’t hitting much, but the Tigers have given him much more time in the outfield as the season wears on. The 23-year-old played just nine complete games through the end of June, but since July 1, he’s logged 22 full games of action in addition to numerous partial appearances where he’s either been pinch-hit for or entered the game as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement. Reyes is hitting just .244/.279/.256 through 86 PAs in July and August, so he’s not impressing at the plate in spite of the recent uptick in playing time. He is 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts and has registered solid defensive marks in the outfield. It still seems likely that he’ll be ticketed for regular work in Triple-A next season once he can be optioned.
- Brad Keller, RHP, Royals (from D-backs): As the Kansas City Star’s Maria Torres noted over the weekend, Keller has been a rare bright spot in a largely abysmal season for the Royals. Keller posted underwhelming numbers in Double-A last season and skipped Triple-A entirely, but the Royals deserve some credit for nabbing him anyway last December. In 100 1/3 innings this year, Keller has posted a terrific 3.32 ERA. And while his 6.0 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 marks are underwhelming, he’s notched a strong 54.8 percent ground-ball rate. It remains to be seen if Keller can sustain his minuscule 0.45 HR/9 rate, though he’s never averaged even a homer per nine frames in the minors. Fielding-independent pitching metrics are fairly spread out on him, due in no small part to that low homer rate, but if he can settle in even as a pitcher capable of delivering an ERA in the low 4.00s over a season’s worth of starts, that’d make him a very successful pick.
- Burch Smith, RHP, Royals (from Rays, via trade w/ Mets): Kansas City hasn’t been as successful with Smith, whose ERA sits at an ugly 6.54 through 64 2/3 innings — mostly out of the bullpen. He’s averaged 8.6 K/9 against 4.5 BB/9, and in addition to issuing too many walks, he’s been far too homer-prone (1.95 HR/9). More than 18 percent of the fly-balls against Smith have left the yard — a troubling trend for a pitcher with just a 39.4 percent ground-ball rate. Smith barely pitched from 2014-17 due to injuries, including Tommy John surgery, so the Royals may not want to give up on him in spite of the poor results. At this point, they’ve come far enough along that it could make sense to keep him around and see how he fares in the upper minors next season. He’ll be 29 in April, but he has minor league options remaining.
- Carlos Tocci, OF, Rangers (from Phillies, via trade w/ White Sox): Tocci has been the most seldom-used player in the Majors, functioning almost exclusively as a defensive replacement for much of the season. He’s appeared in 51 games and totaled just 103 plate appearances, but the Rangers have given him a slight increase in playing time in August. This month, he’s started nine games and shown a bit of promise in that tiny sample, hitting .300/.323/.367 in 33 plate appearances — albeit with nine punchouts and just one walk. Tocci is hitting .207/.255/.250 overall, though, and appears ticketed for minor league work in 2019 even if his glove has been solid in limited work to date.
- Elieser Hernandez, RHP, Marlins (from Astros): Hernandez, who turned 23 back in May, made the jump from High-A to the Majors and, unsurprisingly, has posted less-than-stellar results. He’s tossed 56 2/3 innings for Miami, including five starts, while working to a 5.08 ERA with 6.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.27 HR/9 and an extremely low 26.3 percent ground-ball rate. Some struggles were to be expected given the considerable jump he faced, however, and it’d be fair to say he’s at least held his own, given that he skipped both Double-A and Triple-A. He should survive the season with the rebuilding Marlins, and he’ll likely be ticketed for upper-minors work in 2019.
- Brett Graves, RHP, Marlins (from Athletics): Graves was on the DL back in June, having missed the first two-plus months of the season with an oblique injury. Since making his big league debut, he’s posted a 6.23 ERA with 10 strikeouts against seven walks (two intentional) and three hit batters in 17 1/3 innings. The 25-year-old has primarily been a starter in the minors but has been used out of the bullpen in Miami to this point. He’s displayed good ground-ball tendencies thus far (53.6 percent) and has yet to allow a homer. Though he missed notable time this year, Graves was activated early enough that he’ll accrue the requisite 90 days on the active roster to shed his Rule 5 status this season — provided he doesn’t incur an injury before rosters expand.
On the Major League Disabled List
- Julian Fernandez, RHP, Giants (from Rockies): Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery back in April. He’ll accrue MLB service time while spending the season on the 60-day disabled list and will retain his Rule 5 status heading into 2019, if the Giants wish to hang onto him all offseason.
- Pedro Araujo, RHP, Orioles (from Cubs): Araujo is the last of three Orioles picks from the 2017 Rule 5 Draft remaining on the big league roster, but he’s been on the DL since June 11 due to an elbow sprain. When he was active, he showed plenty of ability to miss bats (13.9 percent swinging-strike rate, 9.3 K/9) but also averaged 5.8 walks and a staggering 2.89 homers per nine innings pitched. It’s not clear if he’ll return this season, but if he doesn’t, he’ll retain his Rule 5 eligibility into 2019. The Orioles won’t be able to option him until he spends 90 days on the active MLB roster, and he’s a bit more than two weeks shy of that right now.
- Nick Burdi, RHP, Pirates (from Twins via trade w/ Phillies): The flame-throwing Burdi missed nearly all of 2016 due to injury and underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017, but he’s finally on the comeback trail in a new organization. Pittsburgh sent the former Louisville standout on a rehab assignment earlier this month, and he’s pitched seven innings with an 11-to-4 K/BB ratio across three levels so far. He’s yielded five earned runs in that time, though the Bucs likely aren’t focusing heavily on bottom-line results at this point of his recovery. Burdi will have to carry over his Rule 5 eligibility into the 2019 season if the Pirates wish to retain him, but he’s a highly intriguing bullpen piece who could be worth the investment. Burdi’s heater received 80 grades on the 20-80 scale prior to surgery, and he’s been touted as a potential big league closer since his college days.
Returned to Original Organization
- Anyelo Gomez, RHP: Returned to Yankees by the Braves
- Nestor Cortes Jr., LHP: Returned to Yankees by the Orioles
- Jordan Milbrath, RHP: Returned to Indians by the Pirates
- Mike Ford, 1B: Returned to Yankees by the Mariners
- Anthony Gose, LHP: Returned to Rangers by the Astros
- Jose Mesa Jr., RHP: Returned to Yankees by the Orioles
- Tyler Kinley, RHP: Returned to Marlins by the Twins
- Luke Bard, RHP: Returned to Twins by the Angels
- The Royals have selected right-hander Jake Newberry’s contract from Triple-A Omaha and optioned fellow righty Jason Adam, per a team announcement. Meanwhile, righty Blaine Boyer is now a free agent after clearing waivers, Maria Torres of the Kansas City Star tweets. The 23-year-old Newberry is in line to make his major league debut long after joining the Royals as a 37th-round pick in 2012. Newberry has dominated at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels this season, with a combined 1.63 ERA and 9.6 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9 in 49 2/3 innings. Boyer, whom KC released Wednesday, has logged a godawful 12.05 ERA with 3.7 K/9 and 5.4 BB/9 in 21 2/3 major league frames this year.
The Royals announced on Thursday that they’ve traded minor league right-hander Kelvin Gonzalez to the Rangers in exchange for international bonus pool allotments.
The 20-year-old Gonzalez — not to be confused with third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez, who was acquired from the Nationals in exchange for Kelvin Herrera — has spent the 2018 season with Kansas City’s Rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League. Through 19 1/3 innings, he’s worked to a 4.19 ERA with a 17-to-7 K/BB ratio and a 50.8 percent ground-ball rate. Gonzalez split the 2017 season between the Royals’ Rookie-level Arizona League affiliate and their Dominican Summer League club, pitching to a combined 3.00 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9. He’s made 36 appearances as a professional — all coming as a reliever. He was not ranked among the organization’s top 30 prospects.
It’s at least a moderate surprise to see the Rangers dealing away any international slot allocations, as Texas is not under any penalty for the 2018-19 signing period and is free to spend its pool as it wishes. The Rangers already catcher Jose Rodriguez and infielder Luisangel Acuna (the younger brother of Ronald Acuna) for a combined $2.45MM, and they’ve added at least 11 other international amateurs since the period opened, per Baseball America’s Ben Badler.
The Rangers opened the 2018-19 period with the standard bonus allotment of $4,983,500. The exact amounts of their signings to date haven’t all been reported, nor has the size of the allotment they’re sending to Kansas City, so it’s not known exactly how much Texas has remaining. Under the collective bargaining agreement, international allotments must be traded in $250K increments (though clubs can send under $250K to complete a deal if they have less than $250K remaining).
Technically, Boyer’s release won’t be official until he clears waivers in 48 hours. Other clubs will have the opportunity to claim him off release waivers in the meantime, though that seems quite unlikely given the veteran’s struggles in 2018. Through 21 2/3 innings with Kansas City this season, the 37-year-old Boyer has posted a disastrous 12.05 ERA with more walks (13) and nearly as many home runs allowed (7) as strikeouts recorded (9). Boyer has had his share of recent success, racking up 212 2/3 innings of 3.51 ERA ball between the Padres, Twins, Brewers and Red Sox from 2014-17.
As for Lopez, he’ll join the Royals as the second piece that the team acquired in the trade sending Mike Moustakas to the Brewers. (Outfielder Brett Phillips is already on the big league roster.) The 25-year-old’s prospect star has dimmed a bit since he was considered a top 100 minor leaguer a couple of years ago, but he’ll look to turn things around in what figures to be an earnest audition on a thin Royals pitching staff. Lopez pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen in the Brewers organization this season, but the Royals are stretching him back out and will take a look at him in the rotation. He’s slated to start tonight’s game.
Through 37 2/3 innings in Triple-A so far this season, Lopez has posted an ugly 5.26 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9. However, much of that work has come in a terrible setting for pitchers: hitter-friendly Colorado Springs. Lopez’s numbers have been more encouraging in a small sample of nine innings with Kansas City’s top affiliate. He’s also posted a 2.75 ERA with a 56.1 percent ground-ball rate in 19 2/3 big league frames with Milwaukee this season, though a lackluster 15-to-13 K/BB ratio in that time suggests that he’s had a bit of good fortune and is still in need of some refinement.
The Cubs have acquired outfielder Terrance Gore from the Royals, per an announcement from the Kansas City organization. Cash considerations will head back in return.
Gore, 27, will presumably reprise his role as a late-season/postseason threat on the bases. No doubt he’ll begin his tenure with the Chicago organization in the upper minors, where he has typically resided until rosters expand in September.
Since first cracking the majors in 2014, the light-hitting Gore has taken only 14 plate appearances at the game’s highest level. But he has appeared in 49 total games and racked up 21 steals.
Of course, utilizing a specialist in that manner only requires the commitment of a 40-man spot once rosters have expanded. For the time being, the Cubs won’t even need to tie up a slot on Gore, who had re-joined the Royals on a minors deal over the winter after being cut loose last fall.
Whether or not Gore could also feature on the Cubs’ presumptive postseason roster remains to be seen. The Royals carried him throughout the 2014 and 2015 postseasons, up to but not including the club’s successful return to the World Series in the second of those two memorable campaigns. Despite being in uniform for quite a few contests, Gore has only appeared in eight total playoff games, stealing four bags but never striding to the plate.
Former first overall pick and nine-year MLB veteran Luke Hochevar has decided to hang up his spikes, he tells MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan. He spent his entire career with the Royals, who selected him in the 2006 draft out of the University of Tennessee.
Hochevar was said to be pursuing a comeback earlier this year after undergoing a procedure to address thoracic outlet syndrome. But he was still experiencing pain when he attempted to throw despite being two years removed from the surgery.
Now 34 years of age, Hochevar made it to the majors after just 34 minor-league appearances. But he failed to gain traction as a starter, struggling mightily in that role before moving into the bullpen for the 2013 season.
That campaign turned into a coming-out party for Hochevar, who spun 70 1/3 innings of 1.92 ERA ball with 10.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. But he missed the ensuing campaign after requiring Tommy John surgery, sidelining him for the club’s exciting run to the World Series and again putting his future in doubt as he entered free agency.
Hochevar ultimately decided to stay in Kansas City. Despite the health uncertainty, the club promised him $10MM on a two-year deal, which included a club option for 2017.
That decision worked out for all involved. Hochevar threw 88 innings of 3.78 ERA ball, with 9.1 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9, over the two guaranteed seasons of the contract. More importantly, he contributed 10 2/3 scoreless innings over nine postseason appearances in 2015, including five clean frames in the Royals’ successful return to the World Series.
In the end, Hochevar wraps up his playing career with 929 1/3 innings of 4.98 ERA pitching. That’s undoubtedly not what he or the K.C. org anticipated at the outset. But all’s well that ends well; he helped the team reach the promised land and tells Flanagan that he’ll retire feeling “grateful for the time I had in this game.” MLBTR wishes Hochevar the best in his new endeavors.
There are quite a few minor moves to cover, with Baseball America’s Matt Eddy releasing several weeks’ worth of transactions. We’ll use this post to cover the most notable ones that haven’t yet featured on MLBTR:
- The Angels released outfielder Ben Revere, who could perhaps be an interesting player to target for contending clubs that like the idea of adding a good defender and baserunning threat to their system. Revere, 30, hasn’t seen the majors this year after seven-straight seasons of action at the game’s highest level. He’s slashing .277/.319/.406 with a pair of steals through 166 plate appearances at Triple-A.
- Ending a relationship that never seemed to work out, the Dodgers have cut loose infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena. Now 28, the former international signee hadn’t played much in the club’s system since he was suspended in May of 2016.
- The Phillies have released a pair of former big leaguers: infielder Danny Espinosa and outfielder Adron Chambers. Espinosa’s always fickle bat has not yet recovered from a 2017 nosedive. In 240 Triple-A plate appearances with three organizations this year, he owns a .295/.239/.312 slash. Chambers, meanwhile, hasn’t seen the majors since 2013 and last played affiliated ball in 2015, but came back from an indy stint to produce a .278/.328/.437 batting line in 138 Triple-A plate appearances.
- A host of players received their walking papers from the Diamondbacks. Righty Brian Ellington is among them; the flamethrower struggled badly with his command in limited minor-league action. Southpaw Anthony Vasquez was also released after after 85 2/3 innings of 5.04 ERA ball in the upper minors. The club also dropped several outfielders. Cesar Puello (.317/.426/.454) and Dan Robertson (.263/.361/.407) are both former big leaguers who were getting on base at Reno, but will now seek other opportunities.
- The Giants released two notable players in righty Chris Heston and backstop Ryan Hanigan. Heston, 30, only made nine appearances in the minors this year owing to injury. Hanigan, who’s closing in on his 38th birthday, is still looking to crack the majors for the 12th-straight season but did not help his cause with a .175/.254/.193 batting line in 63 plate appearances at Triple-A.
- The Cubs parted with Ryan Webb after he made just 11 appearances at the Rookie ball level. It is not immediately clear why the 32-year-old did not get a shot in the upper minors, or what’s next for him In eight seasons of MLB pitching, from 2009 through 2016, Webb owns a 3.43 ERA through 393 1/3 innings.
- A variety of other former major-league relief pitchers were also on the move. Among them: The White Sox signed once-promising Braves reliever Mauricio Cabrera. Righty Dallas Beeler was released by the Royals. A trio of former MLB lefties are back in free agency after being cut free: Elvis Araujo (Orioles); Paco Rodriguez (Twins); and Dario Alvarez (Mariners).
- Meanwhile, the Mariners parted with outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and the Nationals did the same with Alejandro De Aza. One-time Rule 5 pick Taylor Featherston landed with the Reds.
- The Royals have reinstated reliever Blaine Boyer from the 60-day disabled list and transferred outfielder Jorge Soler to the 60-day DL, per a team announcement. But Soler – who hasn’t played since June 15 because of a left toe fracture – could still return as early as Aug. 16. Meanwhile, Boyer has struggled to a horrendous 11.76 ERA with 3.92 K/9 and 5.23 BB/9 in 20 2/3 innings this year with the Royals, who added him on a minor league pact last offseason.
We’ll track the latest minor moves in this post:
- The Royals have released right-hander Michael Mariot, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com tweets. The 29-year-old Mariot had been in his second stint as a member of the Royals, with whom he initially pitched from 2014-15 after they chose him in the eighth round of the 2010 draft. Mariot, who was with the Phillies from 2016-17 and the Padres earlier in 2018, threw 37 2/3 innings between the Royals’ Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this year. The majority of that work came with the latter club, as Mariot recorded a 3.81 ERA with 9.85 K/9 and 2.22 BB/9 in 28 1/3 innings (18 appearances, two starts).
- The Indians announced that they have released righty Zach McAllister, who had recently been designated for assignment. Though he cleared waivers, due in no small part to his $2.45MM salary, the 30-year-old ought to draw interest on the open market. After all, he had been quite a useful reliever for the Indians over the prior three seasons before hitting some bumps this year. McAllister is throwing strikes and getting swings and misses at the same levels as before. Though he’s giving up a fair bit of hard contact, he did that in 2017 as well. Of course, he had been outperforming ERA estimators in recent years. With a 68.5% strand rate and 1.51 homers per nine in 2018, some of the prior issues have finally shown up on the earned-run ledger. McAllister will qualify for free agency at season’s end, having already exceeded six full years of MLB service.
- Per the MLB transactions page, the Padres have selected the contract of righty Brett Kennedy. His forthcoming promotion was reported a few days back by Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (via Twitter). Though he isn’t generally cited among the organization’s best prospects, the 24-year-old Kennedy turned in strong results over 16 Triple-A starts this year, pitching to a 2.72 ERA with 8.1 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 along with a 52.6% groundball rate.