- The Angels announced that righty Akeel Morris has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake. The 25-year-old Morris, whom the Angels designated for assignment on Wednesday, has struggled at both the Triple-A and major league levels in 2018. He owns an ERA near 6.00 in a combined 53 2/3 innings between Salt Lake and Anaheim, with the majority of his work (39 2/3 frames) coming with the former.
The Angels announced that they’ve reinstated catcher Rene Rivera from the 60-day DL and opened a 40-man roster spot by designating right-hander Akeel Morris for assignment. The Halos optioned catcher Jose Briceno to Triple-A to open room on the 25-man roster.
It’s been a tough season for the 25-year-old Morris both in the Majors and in Triple-A. The former Mets and Braves prospect has been tagged for nine runs on 18 hits and eight walks with seven strikeouts in 14 big league innings this season. His 5.79 ERA in the Majors is actually better than the 5.90 mark he’s posted with Triple-A Salt Lake this season, though Morris has punched out 40 hitters in 39 2/3 innings in Triple-A. He’s still been too prone to walks in the minors, however, which has been a persistent issue for him throughout his professional career.
The Halos will have a week to trade Morris or try to pass him through outright waivers, which would allow them to keep him in the organization without dedicating a 40-man roster spot to the righty. Morris will be out of minor league options in 2019, though, which might make other clubs with interest in the right-hander more reluctant to take a chance on him.
To open a roster spot, the Halos designated fellow right-hander Dayan Diaz for assignment. With the move, the Marlins now have an open 40-man slot to work with.
Needless to say, this isn’t the sort of mid-summer trade acquisition the Angels envisioned making at the start of the season. Despaigne has mostly functioned as a gap-filling swingman since he reached the majors, so he isn’t the sort of pitcher who’d be targeted by a contender. Sitting 11.5 games out of postseason position, the Angels simply aren’t one. The move seems designed merely to relax the burden on the club’s injury-riddled pitching staff.
Despaigne has spent a bit of time working as a MLB long reliever this year, but has thrown more at Triple-A. Over 43 1/3 innings at the highest level of the minors, he hasn’t allowed a single home run but carries a 4.36 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9. In his 331 major-league frames over the past five years, Despaigne has a 4.76 ERA, though estimators suggest he has been a bit better than that (4.30 FIP; 4.61 xFIP; 4.19 SIERA).
As for Diaz, who was claimed off waivers last fall from the Astros, he opened the year on the restricted list owing to visa troubles and really never got going. Though the 29-year-old reliever briefly reached the majors in 2016 and 2017, he has only made seven appearances at the High-A level this year.
6:06pm: The Angels announced that outfielder Chris Young was transferred from the 10-day DL to the 60-day DL to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Ward. Young, who underwent hip surgery earlier this summer, was already known to be out for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez was optioned to Salt Lake to open a spot on the active roster.
5:31pm: The Angels announced that they’ve selected the contract of third baseman Taylor Ward from Triple-A Salt Lake. He’ll make his Major League debut tonight, playing third base and batting seventh. A corresponding move has yet to be announced.
Word of Blake’s call to the Majors first came yesterday from appropriately named Halos reporter Taylor Blake Ward (Twitter link). The 24-year-old Ward (the player, not the reporter) has torn through both Double-A and Triple-A pitching this season, raking at a ridiculous .349/.446/.531 between the two levels.
A first-round pick by the Angels back in 2015, Ward ranked eighth among Angels farmhands on the midseason update from Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. A converted catcher, Ward is said to have a plus arm and excellent plate discipline, even if he’s lacking a bit in the power department. Ward has walked in 14.6 percent of his minor league plate appearances this season against a 21.1 percent strikeout clip. He’s also gone 18-for-21 in stolen base attempts — a somewhat remarkable development for a player who entered the season with all of six minor league steals (none since 2015).
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.
Morales, 25, receives his first shot at the majors despite the fact that he’s carrying only a 6.22 ERA in 92 2/3 Triple-A frames on the season. He has long carried appealing K/BB rates in the minors, but is generating just 8.1 K/9 against 5.1 BB/9 thus far this year.
As the Halos get a look at Morales, they’ll send the 23-year-old Paredes back to Triple-A. He has generally performed well in the minors, but carries only a 5.53 ERA with 7.1 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 40 2/3 MLB innings over the past two seasons.
- The Angels announced that left-hander Tyler Skaggs has been placed on the 10-day DL due to a left adductor strain, with righty Eduardo Paredes called up from Triple-A in a corresponding move. Skaggs was only just activated yesterday from a DL stint with the same injury, and he also missed time in July due to a problem with his right adductor. No stranger to injuries throughout his career, Skaggs has already tossed a career-high 116 2/3 innings this season, posting a 3.78 ERA, 3.51 K/BB rate, and 9.5 K/9.
- The Angels placed center fielder Mike Trout on the 10-day disabled list Friday, retroactive to Aug. 6, with right wrist inflammation, Maria Guardado of MLB.com was among those to report. Trout’s balky wrist has kept him out of action since Aug. 1, perhaps derailing the perennial MVP candidate’s chances of taking home his third such award in 2018.
There has been a fair amount of roster movement today. We’ll use this post to keep tabs on the players moving onto MLB rosters:
- After shipping out first baseman Justin Bour earlier today, the Marlins announced they would replace him by selecting the contract of outfielder Rafael Ortega. The 27-year-old Ortega got a solid shot with the Angels in 2016 but could not take advantage. He had a productive season last year with the plate at Triple-A and has been solid as well at the highest level of the minors in 2018, though he hasn’t sustained the power he showed in 2017. In the current season, he has slashed .275/.375/.404 with an impressive combination of 44 walks and 31 strikeouts over 328 plate appearances.
- The Twins will select the contract of righty Kohl Stewart, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (via Twitter). Chosen fourth overall in the 2013 draft, Stewart is now slated for his MLB debut after being left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft last winter. Through 108 2/3 innings this season in the upper minors, he owns only a 4.47 ERA. But Stewart has seen a real boost in his K/BB numbers over past years. He’s carrying 8.4 K/9 against 2.7 BB/9 along with a 57.3% groundball rate on the season.
- As part of a series of pitching moves, the Braves purchased the contract of righty Chad Sobotka. He and lefty Chad Bell will join the active roster as the team has optioned down relievers Wes Parsons and Adam McCreery. Sobotka is a 25-year-old reliever who came to the Atlanta organizatino as a fourth-round pick in 2015. He had already climbed to Triple-A for the first time after dominating performances at High-A (2.21 ERA, 28:7 K/BB in 20 1/3 innings) and Double-A (2.89 ERA, 37:13 K/BB in 28 innings). He has been giving out too many free passes so far at the highest level of the minors (eight in 6 1/3 frames) but has still been getting strikeouts and keeping runs off the board.
- The Giants announced that they selected the contract of righty Casey Kelly, bumping Johnny Cueto to the 60-day DL as he continues to rehab from Tommy John surgery. Kelly, a first-round pick way back in 2008, has seen brief MLB action in parts of three seasons. He owns only a 4.78 ERA in his 130 Triple-A innings this year, with 7.2 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9.
Though a few notable players went on the disabled list earlier today, some even more notable names are making progress in their returns. Here are the details…
- Shohei Ohtani is nearing a return to the mound, and his rehab seems to be going even better than expected (per Trent Rush of Angels Radio Network). The Angels double-threat reportedly threw from 120 feet “with aggression”. Ohtani, the club’s headliner offseason acquisition, is already back to doing damage at the plate, but the club would surely be glad to see him return with rest and rehab after suffering a grade 2 UCL sprain earlier this season; the alternative would of course be the feared Tommy John surgery which would keep him off the field until the beginning of the 2020 season.
- It would appear that Giants hurler Jeff Samardzija is even closer to a return, as the 33-year-old threw 30 pitches off a bullpen mound on Monday (h/t Chris Haft of MLB.com). “Shark” has been trudging through an injury-plagued 2018 season that’s seen him make just ten starts and average fewer than five innings across them. His hideous 6.25 ERA would be a career-worst by far, and his 5.44 FIP doesn’t paint a much kinder picture. The 57-58 Giants will surely be hoping he can provide a boost to their rotation after they opted not to sell off any assets at the trade deadline in overly-optimistic hopes of contending for an NL Wild Card.
- The outlook isn’t as optimistic for former wunderkind Julio Urias of the Dodgers. The 21-year-old lefty blew away the competition at every level of the minors en route to a 1.8 fWAR showing in his first taste of major-league action back in 2016, when he pitched to a 3.39 ERA in 77 innings. But he followed that up with a rough 2017 showing that saw him post a bloated 5.40 ERA and ultimately cede the season to an anterior capsule injury that required surgery. Now, according to Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs, Urias’ velocity is down to 88-91 MPH after sitting closer to the mid-90’s for the majority of his pro career. Longenhagen also reports that the youngster’s secondary pitches are less “crisp” than they were pre-injury, leading to questions about whether Urias will ever be the same pitcher again.
- “I’m not going to get ahead of myself,” says Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant in reference to his latest attempt to return from a shoulder injury. In a video interview with Mark Gonzalez of the Chicago Tribute, the former NL MVP details his patient approach to injury rehab (though it’s disappointing that the interview is largely inaudible). Bryant’s 2018 season has been marred by shoulder troubles, though he’s still managed an impressive .276/.380/.474 performance across 358 plate appearances while healthy. On the other hand, that’s not quite to the level of his career numbers (.286/.387/.519).