- Shortstop Aledmys Diaz is back with the Cardinals after an extended run at Triple-A, but as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, his role with the organization — now and in the future — is quite uncertain. Diaz has moved around the infield a bit at Triple-A, perhaps creating some new versatility, though he continued to struggle at the plate. With Paul DeJong now seemingly ensconced at short, Diaz will need to carve out a new role or wait for an opportunity to open with the Cards or, perhaps, some other organization.
The Cardinals announced on Tuesday that they’ve activated right-hander Adam Wainwright from the disabled list. The longtime St. Louis ace has been out since Aug. 17 due to an impingement in his right elbow. Wainwright is reportedly ticketed for a bullpen role upon his return from the disabled list, as the Cards will roll with Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn and young starters Luke Weaver and Jack Flaherty as their starting five through season’s end. The 36-year-old Wainwright has struggled for a consecutive season, following up last year’s 4.62 ERA with a 5.12 mark in just 121 1/3 innings. He’s signed through next season and will earn $19.5MM next year.
A bit more on the Cards…
- Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a lengthy look at the Cardinals’ use of cut fastballs over the past several years, dating back to Chris Carpenter’s emergence with an explosive cutter that transformed him into one of baseball’s best pitchers. Goold speaks with Wainwright, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, manager Mike Matheny and others about the organization’s use of the cutter. Notably, Weaver tells Goold that he’s begun to experiment with the pitch and ultimately believes that a cutter will be an important part of his arsenal, but he’s not yet fully comfortable with the pitch. It’s an interesting look not only at the Cardinals’ usage of the pitch but also at the more general strengths and weaknesses of the pitch as well as its its usage rate throughout the years.
- MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch tackles several Cardinals-related topics in her latest Inbox column, beginning with the omission of Triple-A slugger Patrick Wisdom from the team’s group of September call-ups. The 52nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, Wisdom showed significant power in Triple-A this year, hitting .243/.310/.507 with 31 homers and 25 doubles in 506 plate appearances. As Langosch points out, Wisdom will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason if the Cardinals don’t add him to the 40-man roster, thus making him available to 29 other clubs. The Cardinals haven’t had a significant need at the infield corners this year, however, limiting chances for Wisdom to get a look in the Majors. The Cardinals could, however, still include Wisdom among their final wave of September promotions now that the minor league season has come to a close.
- Injured Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright won’t start again in 2017, but he’ll return to the club as a reliever for the final few weeks, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Wainwright faced teammates Magneuris Sierra, Luke Voit and Alex Mejia in a live batting practice session Sunday morning, per Goold, with manager Mike Matheny catching. Rookie Jack Flaherty will make three more starts this season in what was Wainwright’s rotation spot, though he could be paired with either Wainwright or John Gant in a “piggyback” type of setting, per Goold, where he’d be lifted after four to five innings to help preserve his workload. Interestingly, Goold also notes that Wainwright tried out the changeup grip of young teammate Luke Weaver during his most recent throwing session and will test it out in games over the season’s final weeks.
As planned, Felix Hernandez will come off the DL to start tonight for the Mariners, according to a club announcement. It’ll be King Felix’s first start for Seattle since July 31st. It’s been a tough year for the righty so far (this was his second stint on the disabled list for issues with his throwing shoulder), but he’ll have a chance to turn things around and keep the Mariners breathing in the AL Wild Card chase.
Some other injury news and updates from around MLB…
- Cardinals righty Adam Wainwright threw a bullpen session today, according to a tweet from MLB beat reporter Jenifer Langosch. At this point in the season, and with the Cards three games back in a battle for the NL Central pennant, it seems likely that the veteran will pitch out of the bullpen upon his return. Langosch also notes that reliever Seung-hwan Oh threw a bullpen session as well, while Jedd Gyorko and Dexter Fowler took practice on the field.
- Astros outfielder Jake Marisnick left Wednesday’s game with an apparent thumb injury after sliding into second base in the top of the third inning. Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle offers some thoughts on the unfortunate situation for the AL West-leading Astros, noting that the recently-acquired Cameron Maybin and rookie Derek Fisher are likely to see increases in playing time. The organization hasn’t released details on the severity of the injury, but manager A.J. Hinch offered that, “It doesn’t look good.” For reference, significant thumb injuries — such as fractures or ligament tears — frequently require absences of at least six to eight weeks. More information will likely be available sometime after Marisnick undergoes tests in Houston today.
- Veteran reliever Jim Johnson of the Atlanta Braves has been diagnosed with achilles tendinitis, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. He remained in Atlanta while the team traveled to Washington, and Braves manager Brian Snitker says he’s unlikely to pitch this weekend. Johnson is in the first year of a 2-year, $10MM deal with the Braves. It remains to be seen whether he’ll pitch again this season, but its certainly an unfortunate development for Johnson after losing the closer role to Arodys Vizcaino already this season. For Atlanta, the loss of Johnson thins out a bullpen that already has the fifth-highest ERA among all major league teams.
With just a few weeks left in the season, we have a pretty clear idea of which Rule 5 draft picks will stick with their drafting teams. At this point, having already carried the player this far and with expanded rosters easing any pressures, teams are quite likely to stay the course. Here’s how this season’s Rule 5 group has shaken out thus far:
It isn’t official yet, but these
- Miguel Diaz, RHP, kept by Padres (via Twins) from Brewers: As part of the Pads’ unusually bold Rule 5 strategy, the club kept three youngsters this year. Diaz, 22, has managed only a 6.21 ERA with a 31:22 K/BB ratio over 37 2/3 innings. But he is showing a 96 mph heater and will remain with the organization, quite likely heading back to the minors next season to continue his development.
- Luis Torrens, C, kept by Padres (via Reds) from Yankees: The youthful backstop — he’s just 21 — has struggled badly on offense in limited action. Through 133 plate appearances, he’s slashing just.169/.246/.212 — with just four extra-base hits, none of them home runs.
- Allen Cordoba, INF, kept by Padres from Cardinals: And then there’s Cordoba, who’s also just 21 years of age. He faded after a hot start at the plate, but on the whole his output — a .209/.284/.304 batting line and four home runs over 215 plate appearances — is fairly impressive given that he had never before played above Rookie ball.
- Dylan Covey, RHP, kept by White Sox from Athletics: Technically, owing to a DL stint, Covey has only compiled 83 of the minimum 90 days of active roster time required to be kept. But he’s going to make it there before the season is up, meaning that the Sox will be able to hold onto his rights and option him back to the minors in 2018. Covey, 26, has struggled to a 7.90 ERA with 4.9 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 54 2/3 innings, allowing 18 long balls in that span.
- Stuart Turner, C, kept by Reds from Twins: Turner has seen minimal action, appearing in just 33 games and taking only 77 trips to the plate. And he’s hitting just .141/.184/.268 in that sporadic action. Clearly, though, the Reds have seen enough to believe he’s worth the trouble to hang onto.
Still In Limbo
- Kevin Gadea, RHP, selected by Rays from Mariners: Gadea has not pitched at any level this year owing to an elbow injury. He’ll remain with the Tampa Bay organization for the time being, but will still need to be carried on the 40-man roster over the offseason and then on the active roster for at least ninety days for his rights to permanently transfer.
- Armando Rivero, RHP, selected by Braves from Cubs: It’s the exact same situation for Rivero as for Gadea, though he has had shoulder problems.
- Josh Rutledge, INF, selected by Red Sox from Rockies: This was not your typical Rule 5 move. Boston snagged the veteran infielder after he signed a minors deal with Colorado. He ended up seeing minimal MLB time owing to injuries and his season ended recently with hip surgery. Rutledge is eligible for arbitration this fall and isn’t likely to be kept on the 40-man roster regardless.
- Anthony Santander, OF, selected by Orioles from Indians: Since he only made it off of the DL late in the summer, Santander can accrue only 45 days on the active roster. If Baltimore wants to keep him, then, it’ll need to put him on the Opening Day roster next year. Santander has seen minimal playing time thus far, recording two hits in twelve trips to the plate, though he put up impressive numbers on his rehab assignment.
Kept By Other Means
- Daniel Stumpf, LHP, signed with Tigers after electing free agency upon return to Royals: This is another unusual situation. As a previous Rule 5 returnee, Stumpf was eligible to elect free agency upon being returned to his original organization. That’s just what happened when Detroit sent him back to Kansas City; the southpaw then turned around and re-signed a MLB deal with the Tigers. He has ended up turning in a rather productive year, posting 32 1/3 innings of 2.78 ERA ball with 8.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9 at the major-league level and showing even more impressive numbers during his time at Triple-A.
- Tyler Jones, RHP, returned to Yankees by Diamondbacks: Jones has thrown rather well at Triple-A since going back to the New York organization, posting 10.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 63 2/3 innings, though he has also allowed 4.38 earned per nine.
- Caleb Smith, LHP, returned to Yankees by Brewers: Smith ended up earning a 40-man roster spot and spending some time in the majors after showing quite well as a starter in the minors. But he has been knocked around in his 18 2/3 MLB frames on the year.
- Justin Haley, RHP, returned to Red Sox by Twins (via Angels): The 26-year-old didn’t stick with Minnesota, allowing a dozen earned runs in 18 innings before being returned to Boston. But he has thrown well since landing back at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a 2.66 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 in 44 innings over seven starts.
- Tyler Webb, LHP, returned to Yankees by Pirates: Webb also gained a 40-man spot with the Yankees after showing some intriguing K/BB numbers at Triple-A. He was ultimately dealt to the Brewers.
- Aneury Tavarez, OF, returned to Red Sox by Orioles: Tavarez played his way back up to Triple-A upon his return to his former organization, but has hit just .244/.292/.400 in 145 plate appearances there.
- Glenn Sparkman, RHP, returned to Royals by Blue Jays: Sparkman was bombed in his one MLB appearance and has been limited to just 30 1/3 minor-league frames due to injury.
- Hoby Milner, LHP, returned to Phillies by Indians: Another player who has risen to the majors with the organization that originally let them leave via the Rule 5, Milner has turned in 24 1/3 frames of 1.85 ERA ball in Philadelphia. Of course, he has also managed just 15 strikeouts against ten walks in that span.
- Mike Hauschild, RHP, returned to Astros by Rangers: The 27-year-old righty struggled badly in his eight MLB frames. Upon returning to the rotation for Houston’s top affiliate, Hauschild has uncharacteristically struggled with free passes (5.3 per nine).
- Dexter Fowler will be out of action “for at least a few days” due to a left knee contusion, MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports (Twitter link). Fowler suffered the injury crashing into the outfield wall in pursuit of an Adam Frazier fly ball last night, and Fowler was forced to leave the game. The good news is that an MRI didn’t reveal any structural damage to Fowler’s knee. Fowler as been productive (.255/.356/.470, 15 homers) when he’s been able to play this season, though a variety of injuries has limited the Cardinals outfielder to 436 PA and 106 games.
- There are a few more details available on the strange circumstances that led to the Cardinals acquiring reliever Juan Nicasio from the Phillies earlier today– but without the ability to utilize him in the postseason. A team other than the Cards won the claim for Nicasio when the Pirates put him on trade waivers in August (only to pull him back when no deal was reached), per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (via Twitter). Rather, it may actually have been yet another NL Central rival — the Cubs — that had the highest-priority claim on Nicasio last month, per Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — which would mean the Cards bypassed a shot at adding him at that time. In any event, St. Louis did place a successful claim this time around, when the Phillies ran him through trade waivers after acquiring him via outright waivers on the last day of August, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets.
- Looking further out into the future for the Cardinals, the team faces a potentially interesting slate of questions — and possibilities — involving its outfield in the coming offseason. As Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes, picking and choosing between the many existing options carries plenty of risk, but also perhaps could open some intriguing avenues to shoring up other needs. “The question is balancing future projection on performance relative to playing time,” says president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. “Clearly you’ve seen some exciting things from really everybody involved. But at some point we’re going to have to decide who we think our top three outfielders are.” While players such as Harrison Bader, Jose Martinez, and Magneuris Sierra don’t have much experience, all occupy 40-man spots and are arguably ready for a full shot at the majors. Tyler O’Neill is pushing for his own opportunity and will need to be added to the MLB roster. With high-priced free agent Dexter Fowler and breakout star Tommy Pham seemingly unlikely to go anywhere, that could leave the Cards considering deals involving still-youthful, former top prospects Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty.
The Phillies announced that they have traded right-hander Juan Nicasio to the Cardinals in exchange for minor league infielder Eliezer Alvarez. Philadelphia had recently claimed Nicasio off outright waivers from the Pirates. Nicasio will give the Cardinals’ bullpen a boost, though since he’s been acquired after Aug. 31, he won’t be eligible for the postseason roster if St. Louis qualifies. Nicasio is a free agent after the season.
Nicasio’s time with the Phillies will last all of a week, bringing to a close one of the more puzzling sequences in recent August trade history. The Pirates were unable to pass Nicasio through revocable trade waivers last month, ultimately pulling him back off waivers and placing him on outright waivers and instead losing him to the Phillies, who had top waiver priority, for nothing other than salary relief that amounted to roughly $600K.
The move was confusing enough that Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington felt the need to explain the team’s rationale to the media. Per Huntington, Nicasio was claimed by a “playoff-caliber” team on trade waivers — it’s not clear if that Cardinals were that club, though it’d make sense — and the Bucs opted to place him on outright waivers in hopes of getting him to an AL contender rather than helping a “direct competitor.” (Trade waivers are league-specific, whereas outright waiver priority ignores league and is solely determined in reverse order of MLB standings.)
Nicasio will ultimately end up with a direct competitor of the Pirates anyhow, though he won’t be able to pitch in the postseason. Moreover, the Phillies will make out extremely well in this deal, as Alvarez entered the season ranked 10th on Baseball America’s list of the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects. He currently ranks 19th among St. Louis farmhands in the eyes of Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com. In essence, the Phillies were able to claim a Cardinals prospect off waivers, which ultimately cost them about $138K in terms of salary (the pro-rated portion of Nicasio’s week-long tenure with the team).
For the Cardinals, Nicasio immediately becomes one of their best relievers. Through 61 1/3 innings, Nicasio has averaged 8.95 K/9, 2.64 BB/9 and a 46.9 percent ground-ball rate en route to an excellent 2.79 ERA. The 31-year-old has averaged a career-best 95.4 mph on his heater in 2017 and is sporting a 10.7 percent swinging-strike rate that would rank third among current St. Louis relievers (not including the injured Trevor Rosenthal, who led the team’s bullpen in that regard).
Alvarez, 23 next month, has spent the season with St. Louis’ Double-A affiliate, hitting .247/.321/.382 with four homers and eight steals (in 11 tries). Those numbers don’t immediately stand out, though it’s worth noting that Alvarez skipped Class-A Advanced entirely and was considerably younger than the league average in Double-A.
Callis and Mayo note in their free scouting report that Alvarez has a line-drive approach with a knack for making hard contact and could eventually grow into more power. He’s an above-average runner and could profile as a regular at second base down the line if everything breaks right for him. Alvarez was added to the Cardinals’ 40-man roster last winter to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, so he’ll go onto the Phillies’ 40-man roster and fill the spot that was vacated by trading Nicasio.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer sat down with former Phillies pitching prospect Matt Imhof to discuss the tragic accident that derailed his once-promising career and left him without his right eye. His journey offers worthwhile lessons to everyone, especially those with a passion for baseball.
Here are the latest updates on injury situations from around the National League:
- The Diamondbacks are awaiting the results of an MRI on the right elbow of star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Goldschmidt himself suggests he’s not too concerned about the discomfort he has experienced in the joint — he describes it as tightness that recedes once he has loosened up — though the team is surely wise to take a proactive approach with such a key player.
- Meanwhile, Diamondbacks infielder Nick Ahmed will undergo surgery after suffering a fractured wrist, as MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert tweets. Odds are, then, that he’s done for the year after twice suffering broken bones on pitched balls. The 27-year-old will qualify for arbitration this fall, though his injury-shortened season and lack of offensive output will tamp down on his earning power quite a bit. In just over three hundred total major league games, Ahmed has established himself as a quality defender but owns only a .226/.273/.345 batting line with twenty home runs.
- The Cardinals are dealing with a few position-player injuries, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Infielder Matt Carpenter will likely undergo an MRI and may also require an injection to deal with ongoing shoulder issues. It seems those problems have nagged Carpenter all season long, though it became a particular problem during yesterday’s contest and may now require some rest. Outfielder Tommy Pham is also dealing with some shoulder difficulties, though he’s not expected to miss time at this point.
- Nationals righty Erick Fedde will be shut down for the rest of the season after he was diagnosed with a strained flexor mass, as Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com reports. Though GM Mike Rizzo explained that the injury isn’t all that worrisome — the strain occurred away from the elbow joint, which is not damaged — the club decided the time was right to put its best pitching prospect on ice. Fedde, 24, is generally seen as the organization’s top pitching prospect, though he has gone through some struggles over the second half of this season since moving up to Triple-A and then on to the majors. Depending upon the club’s offseason moves, Fedde could challenge for a rotation or bullpen spot next spring.
- The Cardinals are attempting to rebuild and contend all at once, as Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at how the team is trying the unusual tactic of using young players (rather than experienced veterans) as midseason and late-season roster upgrades. The plan requires a lot of faith in the minor league system, though many of the youngsters deployed by the Cards this year have been very productive. “We were able to start making some moves that look forward without detracting from today. We sort of jump-started our offseason a little early by opening up opportunities,” GM Michael Girsch said.