Toronto Blue Jays – MLB Trade Rumors 2018-09-19T04:38:57Z WordPress Jason Martinez <![CDATA[The Top Minor League Performers Of 2018]]> 2018-09-19T01:00:00Z 2018-09-18T23:15:05Z Over at Roster Resource, I rank Minor Leaguers throughout the regular season using a formula that takes into account several statistics with age and level serving as important factors in how they are weighed. These are not prospect rankings!

This is how it works:

  • Hitters are mostly rated by total hits, outs, extra-base hits, walks, strikeouts and stolen bases.
  • Pitchers are mostly rated by strikeouts, walks, earned runs, home runs and hits allowed per inning.
  • A few counting stats are included (IP, plate appearances, runs, RBI) to ensure that the players atop the list played a majority of the season.
  • The younger the player and the higher the level, the more weight each category is given. Therefore, a 19-year-old with an identical stat line as a 25-year-old at the same level will be ranked much higher. If a 23-year-old in Triple-A puts up an identical stat line as a 23-year-old in High-A, the player in Triple-A would be ranked much higher.

A player’s potential does not factor in to where they are ranked. If you’re wondering why a certain prospect who is rated highly by experts isn’t on the list, it’s likely because they missed time due to injury (see Victor Robles or Nick Senzel), MLB promotion (Juan Soto) or just weren’t productive enough. While there are plenty of recognizable names throughout the MiLB Power Rankings Top 200 list, it’s also full of players who were relatively unknown prior to the season and have seen their stock rise significantly due to their performance. Here’s a closer look at the Top 20.

1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

Guerrero probably deserved to start his MLB career sometime between the debuts of NL Rookie of the Year candidates Ronald Acuña Jr. (April 25th) and Juan Soto (May 20th). All things being equal, that would’ve been the case.

But his call-up was delayed, mostly because third baseman Josh Donaldson was healthy in May and designated hitter Kendrys Morales was being given every opportunity to break out of an early season slump. As Guerrero’s path to regular playing time was becoming clearer, he suffered a knee injury in early June that kept him out of action for a month. When he returned, the Jays’ playoff chances had dwindled. Instead of adding him to the 40-man roster and starting his service time clock, they chose to delay his MLB debut until 2019.

You can hate the rule, but I’m certain Jays fans would rather have Guerrero under team control in 2025 as opposed to having him on the team for a few meaningless months in 2018 and headed for free agency after the 2024 season. And maybe it’s just me, but I kind of enjoy seeing what kind of numbers a player can put up when he’s way too good for his competition. And all this 19-year-old kid did was slash .381/.437/.636 with 20 HR, 29 2B, 37 BB, 38 K in 408 plate appearances, mostly between Triple-A and Double-A (he had 14 PAs during a rehab stint in the low minors).  Thanks for providing us with that beautiful stat line, Vlad Jr.

2. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros Astros Depth Chart

Despite a slow start—he had 21 hits in his first 83 Triple-A at-bats with one homer and 20 strikeouts— the 21-year-old Tucker showed why the World Champions were willing to give him a chance to take their starting left field job and run with it in July.

Tucker wasn’t quite ready for the Big Leagues—he was 8-for-52 in two separate MLB stints prior to a recent third call-up—but his stock hasn’t dropped one bit after slashing .332/.400/.590 with 24 homers, 27 doubles and 20 stolen bases over 465 plate appearances in his first season at the Triple-A level.

3. Luis Rengifo, SS, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

A 21-year-old shortstop just finished a Minor League season with 50 extra-base hits (7 HR, 30 2B, 13 3B), 41 stolen bases, as many walks as strikeouts (75 of each) and a .299/.399/.452 slash line. If the name Luis Rengifo doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably not alone. He kind of came out of nowhere.

The Mariners traded him to the Rays last August in a deal for Mike Marjama and Ryan Garton. Nine months later, the Rays shipped him to the Angels as the PTBNL in the deal for C.J. Cron. Based on those two trades, I can say without hesitation that the Mariners and Rays did not think Rengifo was this good. Not even close.

4. Nathaniel Lowe, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

Lowe’s breakout season mirrors Juan Soto’s in one way: They both posted an OPS above 1.000 at two different levels before a promotion to a third. Soto’s third stop was in Double-A, and it was a very short stint before heading to the Majors. After destroying High-A and Double-A pitching, Lowe’s final stop of 2018 was Triple-A, where he finally cooled off.

Still, the 23-year-old has put himself squarely on the Rays’ radar. After homering just 11 times in his first 757 plate appearances, all in the low minors, Lowe broke out with 27 homers and 32 doubles in 555 plate appearances in 2018. His overall .330/.416/.568 slash was exceptional.

5. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Minnesota Twins | Twins Depth Chart

We’re four seasons into the Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano era—both debuted during the 2015 season—and we can’t say for certain whether either player will even be penciled into the regular lineup in 2019. They could be still turn out to be perennial All-Stars someday. But you can’t blame Twins fans if they temper their expectations for the next great hitting star to come up through their farm system. And yet, that might be difficult with Kirilloff, a first-round draft pick in ’16, and last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Royce Lewis, after the year each of them just had. Both are moving up the ladder quickly.

The 20-year-old Kirilloff, who missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, was a hitting machine in his first full professional season. After slashing .333/.391/.607 with 13 homers in 65 games with Low-A Cedar Rapids, he hit .362 with seven homers and 24 doubles in 65 games with High-A Fort Myers. He also had 11 hits in the playoffs, including a 5-hit performance on September 5th.

6. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

All Bichette did during his age-20 season was hit 43 doubles and steal 32 bases while manning shortstop for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the 2018 Eastern League Champions. It’s unlikely that he’ll join Vlad Jr. in the Majors early next season, but he might not be too far behind.

7. Peter Alonso, 1B, New York Mets Mets Depth Chart

Alonso’s monster season (.975 OPS, 36 HR, 31 2B, 119 RBI between AAA/AA) ended in disappointment when he was passed over for a September promotion. As was the case with Vlad Jr., it didn’t make much sense to start his service time clock and fill a valuable 40-man spot during the offseason—neither Guerrero or Alonso have to be protected from the next Rule 5 draft—while the team is playing meaningless games. The 23-year-old Alonso did establish, however, that he is the Mets’ first baseman of the very near future, and they’ll plan accordingly during the upcoming offseason.

8. Touki Toussaint, SP, Atlanta Braves Braves Depth Chart

As tough as it will be to crack the Braves’ rotation in the coming years, the 22-year-old Toussaint has put himself in position to play a significant role in 2019 after posting a 2.38 ERA and 10.8 K/9 in 24 starts between Triple-A and Double-A. He’s also starting meaningful MLB games down the stretch as the Braves try to seal their first division title since 2013. After spending last October in the Arizona Fall League, where he followed up an underwhelming 2017 season by allowing 10 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings, he could find himself on the Braves’ playoff roster.

9. Vidal Brujan, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays Rays Depth Chart

The highest-ranked player to spend the entire season in Low-A, the 20-year-old Brujan slashed .320/.403/.459 while stealing 55 bases in his first crack at a full season league (27 games in High-A; 95 games in Low-A). He’ll still be overshadowed a bit in a deep Tampa Bay farm system that includes two of the best young prospects in the game, Wander Franco and Jesus Sanchez, but it’s hard to ignore such a rare combination of speed and on-base ability displayed by a switch-hitting middle infielder.

10. Michael King, SP, New York Yankees Yankees Depth Chart

The Yankees’ offseason trade that sent two MLB-ready players, Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith, to the Marlins cleared a pair of 40-man roster spots prior to the Rule 5 draft and brought back $250K in international bonus pool money. They also received King, who—whether anyone expected it or not—was about to have a breakout season.

After posting a 3.14 ERA with a 6.4 K/9 over 149 innings in Low-A in his age-22 season, numbers that typically indicate “possible future back-of-the-rotation workhorse,”  he looks to be much more than that after his 2018 performance. In 161 1/3 innings across Triple-A, Double-A and High-A, King posted a 1.79 ERA, 0.911 WHIP and 8.5 K/9. He was at his best once he reached Triple-A, posting a 1.15 ERA with only 20 hits and six walks allowed over 39 innings.

11. Taylor Widener, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks Diamondbacks Depth Chart

Unlike the trade to acquire King, the Yankees appear to have gotten the short end of the stick in a three-team, seven-player offseason deal with Arizona and Tampa Bay. They traded away Nick Solak to the Rays and Widener to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Brandon Drury, who was supposed to fill a short-term need for infield depth.

While Drury was a bust in New York—he had nine hits in 51 at-bats before being traded to Toronto in a July deal for J.A. Happ—Solak, a second baseman/outfielder, put up terrific numbers in Double-A (.834 OPS, 19 HR, 21 SB) and Widener has emerged as one of the better pitching prospects in the game. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.75 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 11.5 K/9 over 137 1/6 innings with Double-A Jackson.

12. Josh Naylor, 1B/OF, San Diego Padres Padres Depth Chart

The offseason signing of first baseman Eric Hosmer certainly didn’t bode well for Naylor’s future with the Padres. Whether he had an MLB future at all, however, was already in question. First base prospects can’t just be good hitters. They need to mash, which is far from what Naylor did in 2017 (.761 OPS, 10 HR between Double-A and High-A). But a 20-year-old holding his own in Double-A is still interesting, nevertheless. So it was worth paying attention when he hit .379 with seven homers, five doubles, 13 walks and 12 strikeouts in April. He also spent most of his time in left field in 2018, adding a bit of versatility to his game.

Although April was his best month, by far, he still finished with an impressive .297/.383/.447 slash line. He’ll enter 2019 as a 21-year-old in Triple-A who has flashed some power (17 HR, 22 2B in 574 plate appearances) and above-average plate discipline (64 BB, 69 K).

13. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

Unlike the Jays and Mets, who had multiple reasons to keep Guerrero and Alonso in the Minors until 2019, the Sox’s decision to bypass Jimenez for a September call-up was more questionable.

Already on the 40-man roster and without much to prove after slashing .337/.384/.577 with 22 homers and 28 doubles between Triple-A and Double-A, Jimenez’s MLB debut appeared imminent as September approached. But White Sox general manager Rick Hahn, citing Jimenez’s need to improve his defense, confirmed in early September that he would not be called up. Of course, the 21-year-old probably would’ve benefited greatly from playing left field in the Majors for 20-25 games in September. And, of course, Hahn is just doing a good job of not saying the quiet part out loud: Eloy under team control through 2025 > Eloy under team control through 2024.

14. Dean Kremer, SP, Baltimore Orioles Orioles Depth Chart

After posting a 5.18 ERA in 2017, mostly as a relief pitcher in High-A, Kremer’s stock rose quickly with a full-time move to the starting rotation in 2018. In 16 starts for High-A Rancho Cucamonga, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 3.30 ERA with a 13.0 K/9. After tossing seven shutout innings in his Double-A debut, the Dodgers included him as a key piece in the July trade for Manny Machado. Kremer continued to pitch well with Double-A Bowie (2.58 ERA, 45 1/3 IP, 38 H, 17 BB, 53 K) and now finds himself on track to help a rebuilding Orioles’ team in 2019.

15. Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals Royals Depth Chart

Lopez started to turn some heads during last offseason’s Arizona Fall League, and it carried over into 2018 as he slashed .308/.382/.417 with nine homers, 15 stolen bases and more walks (60) than strikeouts (52) between Triple-A and Double-A.  It’s a sign that the 23-year-0ld’s bat is catching up with his stellar defense and that he’s closing in on the Majors, where he could team with Adalberto Mondesi to form one of the better young middle infield duos in the game.

16. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins Twins Depth Chart

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft didn’t disappoint in his first full professional season, posting an .853 OPS, nine homers, 23 doubles and 22 stolen bases in 75 Low-A games before a 2nd half promotion to High-A Fort Myers. He didn’t fare quite as well (.726 OPS, 5 HR, 6 SB in 46 games), but he did hit three homers in the playoffs to help his team win the Florida State League championship. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the if he reached Double-A early next season as a 19-year-old with a jump to the Majors in 2020 not out of the question.

17. Michael Kopech, SP, Chicago White Sox White Sox Depth Chart

Throwing a 100 MPH fastball isn’t as rare as it used to be, but Kopech has reportedly touched 105 MPH, putting him in a class of his own. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old right-hander is expected to join a long list of pitchers who have had their careers interrupted by Tommy John surgery after he was recently diagnosed with a torn UCL.

The timing isn’t great, as Kopech had just arrived in the Majors in late August and would’ve likely been a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year in 2019. Still, he’ll only have to prove that he’s back to full health before he returns to the Majors—he should be ready to return early in the 2020 season— after making a strong impression in Triple-A with a 3.70 ERA and 12.1 K/9 in 24 starts.

18. Kevin Smith, SS, Toronto Blue Jays Blue Jays Depth Chart

Not only do Guerrero, Bichette and Cavan Biggio likely form the best trio of infield prospects in the game, two are sons of Hall of Famers—Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Craig Biggio, and Bichette’s dad, Dante, was also pretty good. And yet, another Blue Jays infield prospect with a very ordinary name and without MLB lineage managed to stand out. The 22-year-old finished the season with 25 homers, 31 doubles, 29 stolen bases and a cumulative .302/.358/.528 batting line between High-A and Low-A.

19. Gavin Lux, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers Dodgers Depth Chart

The former first-round pick wasn’t overly impressive in his first full Minor League season in 2017, slashing .244/.331/.362 with seven homers and 27 stolen bases for Low-A Great Lakes. A move to the hitter-friendly California League in 2018, however, seemed sure to give his offensive numbers a boost. It did. Lux had a .916 OPS and 41 extra-base hits in 404 plate appearances, but he also didn’t slow down once he reached the upper minors late in the year.

In 28 regular season games with Double-A Tulsa, the 20-year-old Lux slashed .324/.408/.495 with four homers in 120 plate appearances. It didn’t end there. Over an eight-game playoff run, the left-handed batter went 14-for-33 with five multi-hit games.

20. Patrick Sandoval, SP, Los Angeles Angels Angels Depth Chart

Acquiring the 21-year-old Sandoval from the Astros for free agent-to-be catcher Martin Maldonado could turn out to be the steal of the trade deadline. While the lefty didn’t stand out in Houston’s deep farm system, he was having a strong season at the High-A and Low-A levels at the time of the trade (2.56 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 88 innings). The change of scenery didn’t affect him one bit as he tossed 14 2/3 shutout innings in the California League before finishing the season with four impressive Double-A starts (19 2/3 IP, 3 ER, 27 K).

Power Ranking Leaders By Level

Hitter: Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
Starting Pitcher: Michael Kopech, Chicago White Sox
Relief Pitcher: Ian Gibaut, Tampa Bay Rays

Hitter: Bo Bichette, Toronto Blue Jays
Starting Pitcher: Taylor Widener, Arizona Diamondbacks
Relief Pitcher: Matt Pierpont, Colorado Rockies

Hitter: Colton Welker, Colorado Rockies
Pitcher: Emilio Vargas, Arizona Diamondbacks

Hitter: Chavez Young, Toronto Blue Jays
Pitcher: Jhonathan Diaz, Boston Red Sox

Short-Season A
Hitter: Tyler Freeman, Cleveland Indians
Pitcher: Jaison Vilera, New York Mets

Hitter: Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
Pitcher: Joey Cantillo, San Diego Padres

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Blue Jays Recall Anthony Alford]]> 2018-09-17T22:26:12Z 2018-09-17T22:26:12Z The Blue Jays announced today that they have recalled outfielder Anthony Alford. He was already on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding moves will be required.

It’s an oddly timed move on the surface, as Alford — who is by most accounts one of the organization’s top prospects — wrapped up his Triple-A season a couple of weeks back. He’s also the last 40-man player, aside from outfielder Dalton Pompey, to be activated.

As Shi Davidi of explains, though, the timing makes more sense when you look more closely. Alford is being asked up as a way of rewarding him for his efforts this year, Davidi writes, the club is wary of allowing him to accrue enough service time that he may ultimately qualify as a Super Two.

To this point, despite very limited MLB action, Alford has accumulated 101 days of service. Had he spent all of September on the active roster and cracked the 2019 roster very early in the season, he might have been on track for an early arb trip.

As things have turned out, there’ll be no real consideration of Super Two status — at least, that is, at the beginning of the 2019 season. The longer Alford remains in Triple-A next year, in fact, the more important the number of service days becomes, because it’ll also be possible for the Jays to keep him short of a full season of MLB service.

Ultimately, this timing call is hardly a major strategic undertaking, since Alford still needs to show he’s deserving of a full look in the majors. Certainly, this situation doesn’t merit the kind of scrutiny that has attached to decisions not to promote some other, more hyped young players (including a certain teammate of Alford’s).

Alford, after all, managed only a .240/.312/.344 slash line in his 417 plate appearances at Triple-A. That’s not what was hoped for after a strong showing last year at Double-A and in the Mexican Pacific Winter League. After running a 45:35 K/BB ratio in 289 plate appearances at the penultimate level of the minors in 2017, Alford’s 112:30 mix this year is especially disappointing.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[AL Notes: Tucker, Abreu, Betts, Blue Jays]]> 2018-09-16T20:39:49Z 2018-09-16T20:39:49Z The Astros called up top outfield prospect Kyle Tucker from Triple-A today, and that could very well mark the team’s final September promotion, manager A.J. Hinch tells reporters (Twitter links via Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle). Hinch added that Tucker probably won’t play much in the season’s final weeks, though with Tucker having already debuted earlier this summer and his season in Triple-A Fresno over, there’s little reason not to bring Tucker back up. The 21-year-old former No. 5 overall pick hit just .154/.254/.212 in 59 plate appearances with the ’Stros earlier this year, but he decimated Triple-A pitching at a .332/.400/.590 pace, swatting 24 homers and swiping 20 steals along the way.

More from the American League…

  • In an interesting look back at what could have been, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald examines the Red Sox’ initial pursuit of Jose Abreu when he was an international free agent. The BoSox maxed out at six years and $60MM in their pursuit of the vaunted Cuban slugger according to Silverman, but they ultimately lost out when the White Sox offered a total of $68MM guaranteed over that same term. Silverman runs through a series of trickle-down effects, as Boston instead pivoted to re-sign Mike Napoli. That was one of many lackluster offseason moves that set the stage for the ill-fated 2014-15 offseason that saw the Sox sign Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. There’s little sense in fretting too much over hindsight, but it’s nonetheless an intriguing reminder of the domino effect that so many offseason moves (and non-moves) carry.
  • Mookie Betts exited today’s game with soreness in his left side, the Red Sox announced today. That’s the same issue that caused him to land on the disabled list earlier this summer, but manager Alex Cora tells reporters that this instance was precautionary and not considered serious (Twitter link via Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic). Betts is expected to see some time at DH in the Red Sox’ upcoming series against the Yankees, with J.D. Martinez lining up in right field in his place.
  • The Blue Jays are making some changes in their scouting department, as first reported by Robert Murray of The Athletic (Twitter link). Specifically, Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reports that pro scouts Jon Bunnell, Dan Evans, Bryan Lambe and Kimball Crossley are being let go. A pair of veteran Jays scouts, Jim Beattie and and Brad Matthews are retiring as well. While some organizations have begun to pare back on their pro scouting staffs, Davidi notes that the Blue Jays are planning on replacing all six of them.
Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Latest On Josh Donaldson]]> 2018-09-15T06:46:09Z 2018-09-15T06:46:09Z Josh Donaldson’s difficult season and recent trade have prompted plenty of looks in the rearview mirror to imagine what might have been. Now with the Indians for the tail end of an injury-plagued year, the veteran third bagger could instead have inked a long-term deal to stay in Toronto or been shipped elsewhere.

Multiple organizations reputedly sought to acquire Donaldson from the Blue Jays before the start of the season. Reports at the time pegged the Cardinals as a major pursuer, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today now reports on Twitter that the club was indeed serious about landing Donaldson. While he had only one year of contract control remaining, and a hefty $23MM salary, the St. Louis organization was evidently not shy about giving up significant talent to make a deal.

Indeed, per the report, the Cards offered up a two-player package that included young righty Jack Flaherty — the same hurler who might well be cruising to a National League Rookie-of-the-Year award were it not for the brilliance of two historic young hitters. Flaherty’s ongoing ability to suppress base hits — he’s allowing only a .248 BABIP — may reasonably be questioned. But his 132 1/3-inning showing (to this point) has been amply impressive even if it comes with some batted-ball fortune.

Unquestionably, the Jays would take a do-over on their decision not to accept that offer. But that’s based as much or more on the ensuing injuries to Donaldson as it is Flahrty’s emergence. And if we’re going to consider what-if’s, there’s another entire scenario that also could have occurred. In this case, the outcomes favor the Toronto ballclub.

It has long been known that the Blue Jays explored the possibility of an extension with Donaldson in advance of the 2018 season. Details, though, have not only been slow to emerge, but have come with no small amount of controversy.

Today, Jon Heyman of Fancred fired the latest shot in an ongoing back-and-forth with Donaldson’s agents regarding pre-2018 extension talks with the Blue Jays. Heyman argues that “the Jays and the Donaldson camp knew exactly where they stood” in terms of contract price last spring, citing some of the player’s own comments to support his reporting. And, he insists, the Blue Jays made clear they’d be willing to pay something at or over the three-year, $75MM level to make a deal, if not a bit more.

In Heyman’s telling, the Donaldson camp found that level insufficient — which, as Heyman notes, would certainly have been a fair position to take given Donaldson’s outstanding level of play in the preceding campaigns. The recently stated position of agent Dan Lozano, however, is that “the team never extended an offer” and that “no years or dollars were ever specifically discussed.”

Those interested in the topic will want to read all the materials and reach their own conclusions. Broadly, the post mortem on the end of Donaldson’s tenure in Toronto is interesting for a variety of reasons. But it’s clearly also not a subject that necessarily needs to feature winners and losers. Certainly, there was no known reason to think that Donaldson was headed for such a calamitous season — either for the Blue Jays or the player’s reps. Historians may debate the facts, but they won’t likely dispute that the player was warranted in seeking a massive payday and that the club was justified in demanding a big return via trade.

In any event, for the Indians the focus now is solely on what Donaldson can do on the field. He broke through with a home run today, a promising sign for the club as it seeks to get him up to full speed in advance of the postseason. When the season ends, the veteran will be able to choose his next uniform for himself.

Steve Adams <![CDATA[Blue Jays Facing Roster Crunch In Offseason]]> 2018-09-14T14:41:42Z 2018-09-14T14:41:42Z
  • Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi takes a thorough look at a crowded Blue Jays roster in previewing some of the decisions the Jays will have to make this offseason. They’ll only lose two players (Tyler Clippard and Marco Estrada) to free agency, and their 40-man spots will be filled by Troy Tulowitzki from the 60-day DL and eventual trade acquisition Julian Merryweather (the PTBNL in the Josh Donaldson trade). The Jays have an arbitration class of nine players without any real non-tender candidates, and there are numerous prospects who still need to be added to the 40-man roster to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Davidi speculates that former prized prospect Dalton Pompey could be on the bubble, as he’s dealt with myriad injuries that have sapped his production and was also suspended this season due to an altercation with his manager in Triple-A.
  • ]]>
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[NL Notes: Harper, D-Backs, Buchholz, Senzel, DeGrom]]> 2018-09-14T05:31:33Z 2018-09-14T05:31:33Z As ever, there’s plenty of water-cooler chatter about the eventual destination of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, who — had you not heard? — is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. Particularly for fans of a Nats organization that is just weeks away from wrapping up a brutally disappointing campaign, it’s a subject of much attention. So eyebrows were raised recently at comments from Harper and, especially, club president of baseball ops/GM Mike Rizzo that could be interpreted as hinting at a reunion. In an appearance on MLB Network (Twitter link), Harper at least acknowledged a reunion is possible, saying that “it’s going to be an exciting future for the Nationals, and we’ll see if I’m in those plans.” Innocuous enough, to be sure, but perhaps the line could be interpreted as a wink toward contract talks. As for Rizzo, Chris Lingebach of 106.7 The Fan rounded things up. Those interested in parsing the words fully should click the link, but the key phrase at issue from Rizzo is his statement that he “won’t discuss [negotiations with Harper’s camp] until there’s something to announce.” Did the tight-lipped, hard-nosed GM tip his hand? It’s at most an arguable point.

    From this vantage point, there’s enough here to make you think, but hardly a clear indication as to how Harper’s fascinating free agency will turn out. Here’s the latest from the National League:

    • The Diamondbacks had held a strong position in the postseason race for much of the season, but as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes, they’re now left hoping for a memorable late-season comeback to get in. “[B]reakdowns occurring in every facet of their game,” Piecoro writes, have spurred a ghastly 4-16 run that has reversed the team’s fortunes. Unfortunately, odds are that the Arizona club will head back to the drawing board at season’s end — while watching two significant players (A.J. Pollock and lefty Patrick Corbin) hit the open market. Still, it’s notable that the club has largely followed up on its successful 2017 campaign, as the thought in some quarters entering the year was that there wasn’t really enough talent to keep pace.
    • As is also covered in the above-linked piece, the D-Backs suffered an unwelcome blow in advance of tonight’s loss when they were forced to scratch righty Clay Buchholz. The veteran hurler has been an immense asset for Arizona, throwing 98 1/3 innings of 2.01 ERA ball since joining the club in mid-season as a minor-league signee. He’s now headed to Phoenix for testing, though the hope still seems to be that he’ll return this year. Regardless, it’s unfortunate news for the team but even more disappointing for the 34-year-old, who has dealt with plenty of health problems of late and will be reentering the open market at season’s end.
    • It has long been wondered what the Reds Baseball America points outwill do when they are ready to call up top prospect Nick Senzel, who’s blocked at his natural position of third base. We may be seeing the hints of an answer; as , Senzel is listed as an outfielder in the organization’s instructional league roster. That hardly guarantees anything, of course, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Senzel — who’s opportunity for a late-2018 callup was taken by a finger injury — come into camp in 2019 looking to crack the roster in the corner outfield. Just how it’ll all play out, though, remains to be seen.
    • Speaking of top prospects … among his many notes today, Jon Heyman of Fancred writes that the Mets took a targeted approach to discussions with other teams regarding ace righty Jacob deGrom. As Heyman puts it, the New York organization “focused” on the handful of clubs it deemed to have assets worth haggling over. When those teams weren’t willing to give up their best young assets, talks sputtered. Heyman cites “the Blue Jays, Braves, Padres, Yankees, and perhaps to a lesser extent the Brewers” as clubs that were engaged. But the ultra-premium prospects and young MLB players in those organizations simply weren’t on offer. It’s hard to argue with the Mets’ rationale; deGrom reached a new level this season, after all, and certainly shouldn’t be parted with by a major-market club for less than a compelling return.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Prospect Notes: Vlad, 2018 Draftees, Twins, Franco, Pitchers]]> 2018-09-13T16:54:45Z 2018-09-13T16:54:22Z With the season effectively over for all but a few teams, many front offices and fanbases alike are turning their sights toward the 2019 season and beyond as they hope for better days. With that in mind, here’s a look at some notes on some of the game’s top prospects from around the league…

    • ESPN’s Keith Law named Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. his prospect of the year for a second consecutive season (subscription required), citing familiar questions about his long-term defensive capabilities but adding that there’s “zero question in my mind” that Guerrero is more than ready to thrive against Major League pitching at the moment. As for 2018 draftees, Cardinals third baseman Nolan Gorman and Royals lefty Daniel Lynch have been the two most impressive in his estimation. Gorman destroyed Appalachian League pitching and was promoted to full-season Class-A ball despite only having turned 18 in May. Lynch, a University of Virginia product, split his pro debut between those same two levels and pitched to a 1.58 ERA with a 61-to-8 K/BB ratio in 51 1/3 innings.
    • Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of took a longer-term look at prospects yesterday, attempting to forecast who will be the top-ranked prospects this time a year from now. With names like Guerrero, Eloy Jimenez, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Kyle Tucker all expected to graduate from prospect lists next year, Callis and Mayo tab Twins shortstop Royce Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick from 2017, as their pick to be the game’s top prospect a year from now. More encouraging for Twins fans is that 2016 first-rounder and outfielder Alex Kirilloff, who missed the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery, lands third on the same list after hitting .348/.392/.578 between Class-A and Class-A Advanced in his return from that surgery.
    • Meanwhile, Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser writes that Rays shortstop Wander Franco has been tabbed as BA’s breakout prospect of 2018. (Franco also appears on the previously mentioned lists from Law and The 17-year-old Franco grew up living next to Indians superstar Jose Ramirez in the Dominican Republic and calls his childhood neighbor and friend his “idol” and greatest influence as a hitter. Glaser speaks to Franco about his relationship with Ramirez and his progress in 2018, and he also chats with Franco’s Appalachian League manager, Danny Sheaffer, about the young phenom’s strengths and upside. Franco was one of just two 17-year-olds playing in the Appy League this year but crushed older pitching to the tune of a .351/.418/.587 slash with 11 homers, 10 doubles and seven triples in 273 plate appearances.
    • Evaluating pitching prospects is among the most challenging endeavors for teams and online analysts alike. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs recently explored the pitfalls of attempting to do so, suggesting that many mainstream publications (his own past work at Fangraphs included) have leaned too heavily in favor of “power-over-feel” prospects and downplayed the potential significance of players cut from the Shane Bieber cloth — those who possess above-average command and stuff but perhaps not an overpowering arsenal of 60- or 70-grade offerings. McDaniel highlights Tigers righty Matt Manning, White Sox righty Dylan Cease and Rays lefty/first baseman Brendan McKay in examining the various elements that have contributed to this line of thinking in an interesting column that those who avidly follow prospects will want to check out in its entirety.
    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Stroman Unlikely To Pitch Again In 2018]]> 2018-09-12T04:24:39Z 2018-09-12T04:20:26Z Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman “probably” won’t pitch again in 2018, manager John Gibbons told reporters today (Twitter links via Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet). He’s been slowed by a blister on his pitching hand of late and simply won’t have enough time to build back up for a return. Stroman last appeared on Sept. 3 — his only appearance since Aug. 17 — and lasted just 1 2/3 innings. If his season does indeed prove to be over, it’ll go down as a forgettable one for the righty. In 102 1/3 innings, Stroman has posted a dismal 5.54 ERA with 6.8 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9, though his elite ground-ball tendencies and a fluky low strand rate have led fielding-independent metrics to paint a more optimistic picture (3.91 FIP, 3.84 xFIP, 4.04 SIERA). Stroman will be arbitration-eligible for the third time this winter as a Super Two player and will earn a modest raise on this year’s $6.5MM salary. He’s controlled through the 2020 season.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Shapiro, Cherington Continually Connected To Mets' GM Opening]]> 2018-09-12T00:11:18Z 2018-09-12T00:11:18Z
  • The Post’s Joel Sherman, meanwhile, wrote recently that the goal for the Mets is to have a list of 10 to 12 candidates by month’s end and to have a new GM in place by the time the annual GM Meetings begin on Nov. 4. Sherman runs through a host of potential names and references the same disconnect as Puma. Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro, former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington (a current Jays exec) and Cardinals director of player development Gary Larocque are a few of names prominently connected to the job. Sherman notes that whoever is ultimately named GM will be hired with the understanding that Minaya will maintain a fair bit of power in terms of player personnel decisions. That, along with the general dysfunction that is largely synonymous with the Wilpon name at this point, will complicate the hiring process.
  • Shapiro, for what it’s worth, has downplayed reports connecting him to the Mets and expressed that he remains committed to the Blue Jays organization. SNY’s Andy Martino, though, wrote this morning that in spite of Shapiro’s comments, “people around the team continue to point to” Shapiro as a potential candidate. It’s worth noting that Sherman’s column makes mention of tension between Shapiro and Jays ownership at Rogers Communications, though he’d also be an expensive hire for the Mets. Martino, too, lists Cherington as a name to watch, and he also adds current Orioles GM Dan Duquette to the pile. Duquette, notably, is in the final season of his contract in Baltimore, and there’s been previous speculation as to whether he’ll remain with the club.
  • ]]>
    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Poll: The Handling Of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez]]> 2018-09-11T00:42:41Z 2018-09-10T03:30:25Z Two of the most talented players in Triple-A will remain there throughout the month of September. Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez will not receive a cup of coffee in the majors this month, per recent announcements from the Blue Jays and White Sox, respectively.

    To those well-versed in MLB service time rules and practices, this news induces a reaction closer to a yawn than a surprise; teams have been using the service clock to manipulate team control for quite some time, and there was no reason to believe that would change in regards to Guerrero Jr. or Jimenez. Recent examples of players whose service time has been suppressed by their respective teams in order to yield them an additional year of team control include Kris Bryant, George Springer and Ronald Acuna Jr., and that list is far from complete. Others still, including the likes of Francisco Lindor, have been held in the minors long enough to reduce their earning power.

    That doesn’t mean agents are quieting down about the issue, though. Both players’ representatives have been vocal in regards to their clients’ dearth of a promotion, as well they ought to be considering they’ll miss out on a significant amount of money. Jimenez’ agent in particular blasted with White Sox for service time manipulation. “Especially with elite players like Eloy and (Blue Jays top prospect) Vlad (Guerrero) Jr., that’s the nature of the business,” said Dan Kinzer. “It’s not about the money. It’s the extra year of control.” Similarly, the MLBPA has spoken out against Chicago and Toronto on the subject.

    Perhaps J.J. Cooper of Baseball America put it best in his recent piece on the subject: it’s impossible to objectively argue that these players don’t deserve a call up based on performance. Guerrero Jr. has hit .336/.414/.564 with a microscopic 7.8% strikeout rate since his promotion to Triple-A this season, while Jimenez owns an even more excellent .355/.399/.597 line to go along with a 13.2% strikeout rate. Put simply, opposing pitchers aren’t fooling these prospects, and there’s no real reason development-wise that they ought not be exposed to major-league pitching. That’s particularly true in light of the fact that the White Sox promoted low-ceiling prospect Ryan Cordell, while the Blue Jays selected Triple-A veteran Rowdy Tellez. Whatever good there is to say of these young players, any attempt to argue that they’ve done more to earn a promotion than Guerrero Jr. or Jimenez would require a staggering amount of cognitive dissonance.

    These teams are clearly planning to restrain their top prospects within the confines of Triple-A until the third week of April 2019, regardless of how well they hit. That’s the point at which they’ll be guaranteed an additional year of team control that allows them to keep those future superstars around through the 2026 season rather than hit free agency after 2025. It’s a distinction that could potentially cost them eight figures in earning power apiece depending on how they develop in the majors.

    The question I want to pose is, how do you feel about the overt suppression of service time to manipulate a player’s team control? (Poll link for app users)


    Kyle Downing <![CDATA[Poll: Grading the Josh Donaldson Trade]]> 2018-09-09T21:26:23Z 2018-09-09T21:21:04Z Perhaps the most significant trade that took place on the day of the August postseason eligibility trade deadline was the one that sent Josh Donaldson to the Indians. The former AL MVP has endured an injury-plagued season owing to his shoulder and calf, but made it back to the field on a rehab assignment just in time to be put through trade waivers and ultimately sent to Cleveland in exchange for salary relief and a player to be named later.

    At the beginning of the 2018 season, it would have seemed unfathomable that the Jays would get so little value as a result of Donaldson’s departure. Few expected them to seriously contend amidst a division that features the Red Sox and Yankees, but if they had been competitive enough to keep Donaldson through season’s end, most would have bet heavily on an outcome in which he’d receive and reject a qualifying offer. That would have netted the Jays a first-round pick had he signed for $50MM or more elsewhere, a scenario that the majority of baseball enthusiasts also would have put money on. And certainly if you’d have told a pundit back in March that Toronto would fall out of competition by late July, they’d have been wondering which team gave up a top prospect in order to acquire him ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline.

    The actual outcome was an awful bout of bad fortune for both Donaldson and the Jays, of course. He only stayed on the field enough to accrue 159 plate appearances, and his performance was inconsistent with his track record. Most readers of MLBTR will by now recognize .234/.333/.423 as Donaldson’s batting line so far in 2018, a far cry from the numbers he’d previously put up over the course of his tenure in Canada.

    In no small part due to those factors, the receipt of a qualifying offer that once seemed a foregone conclusion for the 33-year-old became a decision clouded with doubt across the industry. The club certainly faced serious risk had they kept the slugger. A full return to form would have made it worth issuing him a one-year contract approaching $20MM, but a poor or even average performance would have forced the Blue Jays with a difficult choice: let their star third baseman walk for nothing or make him an exorbitant offer and thereby risk both a payroll albatross and 2019 roster crunch involving Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

    Evidently, the Jays decided that the Tribe’s offer to pay $1.3MM of his remaining salary and fork over a young player presented a better alternative to taking such a risk. Reportedly, they’ll receive right-hander Julian Merryweather, who ranked as the club’s 15th-best prospect headed into the season prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery. One could certainly argue that Merryweather holds more upside and less risk than a late-first-round pick in next year’s draft, but his recent injury would make that a tough sell.

    For that reason, some fans and reporters have chided the Jays for “giving Donaldson away”. That’s not literally the case, as anyone who wanted the three-time All-Star could have simply claimed him on waivers; all 29 rival teams opted to pass on that front). Still, one could look at the scenario as Toronto paying the Indians over $2MM to take Donaldson off their hands (though they’d have to assume that Merryweather has no value).

    On the other hand, it’s perhaps a positive thing that the Jays were able to get Donaldson back on the field in time to reap any value at all from him. Though he’s absolutely raked during his rehab assignment in Cleveland, Toronto could have very easily watched Donaldson re-injure himself and thus been criticized by some fans for keeping him through September.

    What do you think? How do you rate this trade from the Blue Jays’ perspective? (Poll link for app users)

    Mark Polishuk <![CDATA[Blue Jays Notes: Donaldson, Solarte, Atkins, Borucki]]> 2018-09-09T18:36:35Z 2018-09-09T16:46:23Z The latest from Toronto…

    • Several teams, including contenders in the American League, contacted the league office in regards to the Josh Donaldson trade “either to express their dismay with the circumstances of the deal or seek clarification on why baseball allowed it,” The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (subscription required).  The particular issue was Donaldson’s uncertain health status and the timing of his activation from the disabled list as a Blue Jay and his latest DL placement after joining the Indians, without any return to the field in between.  Prior to the deal, teams interested in Donaldson were issued a “buyer beware” warning by the league about his possible injured status, which stemmed from concerns Donaldson himself had about his bothersome calf, which he expressed to the MLBPA (via his agent).  After the union passed these concerns onto the league, Rosenthal reports that MLBPA officials also wondered how the trade was completed.  Donaldson’s worries, however, were alleviated after speaking to the Tribe on August 31, as Cleveland was given permission by the league to speak to the player once the general framework of the trade had been settled.
    • Infielder Yangervis Solarte has been activated from the disabled list, as per the Blue Jays’ PR department’s Twitter feed.  Solarte has missed just under a month due to right oblique injury suffered after an awkward swing.  Solarte has hit .233/.287/.397 over 471 PA in his first season in Toronto, and could be entering his final days with the team — the Jays are deep in young infield options, and may choose to buy out Solarte’s 2019 club option for $750K rather than bring him back at the full $5.5MM price.
    • General manager Ross Atkins is expected to receive a contract extension this winter,’s Shi Davidi writes, as Atkins’ current contract only runs through the 2019 season.  This means that Atkins signed a four-year deal when first hired as Toronto’s GM in the 2015-16 offseason.  The contract length wasn’t reported at the time, and this new deal may also be handled with a modicum of fanfare, as Davidi predicts that an Atkins extension “likely takes place quietly behind the scenes and doesn’t get announced.”  Building off a recent interview with Jays president/CEO Mark Shapiro about the club’s offseason plans, Davidi’s piece also predicts some modest roster targets for the Blue Jays, such as at least one innings-eating veteran starter, and “some value-play additions to the bullpen” in the mold of the Seunghwan Oh and Tyler Clippard signings last winter.
    • In a separate piece from Davidi, he examines how the Blue Jays drafted and signed Ryan Borucki in 2012, an acquisition that may not have happened if Borucki hadn’t suffered a UCL tear while pitching for his high school team that spring.  Despite several injuries that hampered his early development, Borucki has turned into one of the club’s best young arms, and projects to be a member of the 2019 rotation after making his MLB debut this season.
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Heyman: Justin Smoak Drew Trade Interest]]> 2018-09-08T21:59:48Z 2018-09-08T21:59:48Z
  • Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak cleared trade waivers last month, but “a couple teams” did check in on him and some of Toronto’s relievers, Heyman writes. That’s not surprising in Smoak’s case, as the switch-hitter’s amid a second straight strong offensive season and comes with another affordable year of team control in the form of an $8MM club option. Perhaps the clubs that have shown interest in him this season will circle back over the winter, then.

    • Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak cleared trade waivers last month, but “a couple teams” did check in on him and some of Toronto’s relievers, Heyman writes. That’s not surprising in Smoak’s case, as the switch-hitter’s amid a second straight strong offensive season and comes with another affordable year of team control in the form of an $8MM club option. Perhaps the clubs that have shown interest in him this season will circle back over the winter, then.
    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Blue Jays Outright Mike Hauschild]]> 2018-09-08T03:55:34Z 2018-09-08T03:55:34Z The Blue Jays announced today that they have outrighted right-hander Mike Hauschild. He will not have the right to elect free agency, having never previously been outrighted, but will qualify as a minor-league free agent at season’s end unless returned to the 40-man roster.

    Hauschild, 28, was designated recently after signing a MLB deal with the Toronto organization in early August. He opened the season with the Astros but was released in mid-season, ultimately appearing in only two MLB games with the Jays. Previously, he made four relief appearances in 2017 with the Rangers, who had selected him in the Rule 5 draft but later returned him to Houston.

    All of that is to say that Hauschild has tasted the bigs but hasn’t spent enough time there to tell us much. He has spent much of the past two seasons at Triple-A, struggling on the whole and this year posting a marginal 4.90 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 119 1/3 innings. At times in the past, though, the former 33rd-rounder has turned in solid results in the upper minors.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Blue Jays Notes: Vlad Jr., Shapiro, Payroll]]> 2018-09-08T01:03:16Z 2018-09-08T01:03:16Z With the Blue Jays wrapping up a disappointing campaign, there have been a few tense stories involving the organization in recent days. The end of Josh Donaldson’s tenure (link), the potential end of John Gibbons’s tenure (link), and the club’s decision not to promote super-prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have all grabbed headlines. Even president/CEO Mark Shapiro has been in the rumor mill to an extent. All things considered, it made for an interesting media session for Shapiro today.

    Here are some highlights from that Q&A, as covered by Shi Davidi of

    • Regarding Guerrero, as Davidi recently reported, the MLB Player’s Association shared some less-than-friendly thoughts on the matter. “The decision to not to [sic] bring him up is a business decision, not a baseball decision,” a spokesman told Davidi. “It’s bad for the Blue Jays, it’s bad for fans, it’s bad for players and it’s bad for the industry.” Shapiro, of course, had suggested otherwise in attempting to justify the club’s decision to send Guerrero to the Arizona Fall League. Now, Shapiro says in reference to a possible grievance action, he “welcome[s] that scrutiny.”
    • Shapiro pushed back on questions about his future by expressing an ongoing desire to continue in his position. That’s not to say that there are any guarantees as to how things will shake out over the coming offseason, but the veteran exec says he is “as, if not more, excited to be here” than at the outset of his tenure. “This is where I want to be, this is where I am, this is what I’m focused on, and really don’t need to think of anything else,” said Shapiro, who rejected some reporting suggesting problems between him and ownership.
    • Looking ahead more broadly, Shapiro seemingly acknowledged the factors that will likely lead to a payroll reduction without specifically agreeing that a slash was in mind. He said the club is “not going to be playing on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado” but will still “be active in free agency, where we have gaps and holes.” Though Shapiro says the goal is “to field a competitive team,” he also made clear that younger players will be given a chance to learn on the job. That’s “a double-edged sword,” he said, explaining: “playing young players leads to volatility. Volatility can be a great thing because there’s huge upside for those players, but it can also be a disappointing thing because there will be some young players that break your heart. The only way to find out about who a player is at the major-league level is to commit to that opportunity and to commit to those players. We’re embarking on that process now.”
    • As with the Guerrero situation, whether or not one believes the rationale, the effect is clear. In both cases, the Jays will evidently be taking steps that indicate a greater focus on the future. With respect to Guerrero, that means preserving as much future control as possible. With respect to payroll, both in terms of allocating MLB opportunities and setting salary levels, the club is obviously willing to accept greater near-term uncertainty at the major-league level. While that may be disappointing to some fans, it’s also arguably a defensible approach from the perspective of optimizing resources over the long haul, particularly given the ascendance of the two traditional divisional powers in the AL East. While the Blue Jays have just under $55MM committed to 2019 payroll (before arb raises), well shy of the team’s $160MM Opening Day salaries in each of the past two seasons, it’s also not clear that the roster is set up for a true drive for contention even with significant investments. That outlook could change quite a bit based upon how things develop with the team’s prospects and younger MLB assets, but whether and how will depend upon the 2019 campaign.