Eric Gallanty writing to you today, what an opening day in Syracuse it was. Personally, it was my first Chiefs game, and what an amazing way to start. The crowd was awesome and the Chiefs offense answered the call, with 10 runs and 13 hits in a 10-2 win over the RailRiders. We’ll do it again tonight at 6:05 at NBT Bank Stadium. In case you missed it over the first week of the year, here are some roster updates the Chiefs have made so far.
Rafael Martin called up by Washington:
The Chiefs dominant closer a year ago, Martin was added to Washington’s bullpen and what a MLB debut he had. The right hander struck out five consecutive Red Sox on Sunday, the first Nationals pitcher to achieve that feat in his ML debut since Steven Strasburg in 2010. The Chiefs back-end of the bullpen is still in good hands though with former Major League all-star Evan Meek.
Matt den Dekker optioned to Syracuse:
Acquired in a trade from the Mets on March 30th, den Dekker comes to Syracuse after a week in Washington filling the void of the injured Jason Werth. It’s been a great start for den Dekker in his first three games with the Chiefs, picking up four hits and four RBIs.
Felipe Rivero to Washington, Taylor Jordan back to Syracuse
The Nats recalled Jordan before his scheduled start Wednesday after Craig Stammen was placed on the disabled list. Washington designated left-handed pitcher Xavier Cedeno for assignment a few days before, which left the big club short a southpaw in the bullpen. Enter Rivero, who will swap places with Jordan and act as Cedeno’s replacement, with Martin holding Stammen’s spot for now. Jordan is expected to arrive back in Syracuse in the next day or two.
Opening Day for the Syracuse Chiefs takes place tomorrow on the road against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. In order to get Chiefs fans into the baseball spirit, we decided to take a look at five new additions to Syracuse in 2015 to help you get to know your Chiefs before the season begins. Today’s five players to know is written by broadcast intern Andrew Grella.
1. Tony Gwynn, Jr.
– Gwynn has spent parts of eight seasons in the Major Leagues with four different teams in his career. He has played for the Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Philadelphia Phillies.
– The 32-year-old center fielder is a career .238 hitter with a .309 on-base-percentage in 685 Major League games. Once Gwynn reaches base, he wreaks havoc on the base paths. In 2011 for the Dodgers, Gwynn swiped 22 bags and has 80 total career steals.
– Tony Gwynn Jr. is the son of the late and great Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn.
2. Dan Butler
– Butler was the catcher for the Pawtucket Red Sox since 2011 until he was acquired by the Nationals for Danny Rosenbaum in January of 2015.
– Butler made his major league debut on August 10th, 2014. He was pulled from Pawtucket’s August 1st game against the Chiefs because he was called up to the Majors that day.
– Butler was named the team MVP in 2013 for the Pawtucket Red Sox. In that season, he hit .262 with 14 homers and 45 runs batted in.
3. Rich Hill
– Rich Hill brings a ton of experience to the Chiefs pitching staff. The veteran left-hander has played for six major league teams over parts of 10 seasons in the Majors.
– In 2007 with the Cubs, Hill ranked fifth in the National League with 183 strikeouts and batting average against which was just .235 against the left-hander.
– Hill pitched in 14 games for the New York Yankees last season but only accumulated a total of 5 innings. Expect a heavier workload for the 35-year old this year for Syracuse.
4. Kila Ka’aihue
– Kila Ka’aihue is a native of Kailua, Hawaii but will be braving the cooler temperature of Syracuse, N.Y to open up the 2015 season.
– Ka’aihue led the Pacific Coast League in home runs in 2013 before he was sold to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He spent two seasons in Japan. In 2014, Ka’aihue hit .257 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs
– Ka’aihue is notorious for his power. He made his Major League Debut in 2008 and hit his first home run that year off of Gavin Floyd. Ka’aihue has also homered off of Nationals starters Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer.
5. Evan Meek
– Evan Meek was an all star in 2010 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before the All Star Break, he led all National League relievers with a 0.98 ERA.
– Meek pitched very well in Triple-A last year for the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles the Norfolk Tides. In 39 appearances, the right hander posted a sub two ERA and notched 37 strikeouts.
– Meek was the pitcher who served up Derek Jeter’s walk off single in Jeter’s final at bat at Yankee Stadium in 2014.
Some more updates from Nationals training camp as the 25-man roster is almost set down in Jupiter, Florida…this update is brought to you by braodcast intern Andrew Grella.
Nationals Reassign Rafael Martin and Ian Stewart to Minor Leagues
The Nationals announced their latest roster moves after yesterday’s game against the Miami Marlins. Rafael Martin and Ian Stewart have been reassigned to minor league camp and will start the season with Triple-A Syracuse. Washington manager Matt Williams said that both Stewart and Martin can help the big league club later in the season but will start this year in the minors. That’s good news for the Chiefs. Rafael Martin was dominant for Syracuse in 2014. The 30-year old posted a 0.80 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 33 innings in Triple-A last season. In just over six innings of work this spring, Martin allowed six hits and only one earned run while holding opposing batters to a .250 BAA. As for Ian Stewart, he hit .279 in 43 at bats this spring with two doubles and three home runs. Stewart fell short of obtaining the final bench spot for the Nationals to open up 2015.
Nationals Roster Down to 27 with Two Cuts Remaining
With the final 25-man roster due on Sunday afternoon, the Nationals are down to 27 with four days left to cut two more players. Washington will have to cut one pitcher and one position player. The battles will be for the final spot on the bench and for the final spot in the bullpen. For that final spot in the pen, two left handers will be battling to be the second left handed relief pitcher on the roster. The battle appears to be between Xavier Cedeno and Rich Hill. Hill has had better numbers than Cedeno so far this Spring, however if the Nationals choose Hill, Cedeno will have to clear waivers and it is unknown whether he will return to Washington or be traded. So if the Nats would like to keep both lefties, it may be easier to send Hill down first and call him up later. For the bench spot, the battle seems to be between Mike Carp and Clint Robinson. Both players are first basemen who can play a corner outfield position and both hit from the left side of the plate. Carp has more experience than Robinson, but Robinson has had a better spring training so that battle will continue over the final four days for that final roster spot.
What this means for the Chiefs?
1. The Chiefs get a solid reliever in Rafael Martin returning to the roster to start 2015. He may not be down in Triple-A for long but will be a solid addition to the back of the bullpen to help Syracuse win some games to start the season.
2. Ian Stewart looks to have regained some of his power that he was touted for when he was younger. The 29-year-old is looking to have a resurgent year for the Chiefs after bouncing around several teams over the past few seasons. He is a legitimate power threat in the Syracuse lineup for 2015.
3. Mike Carp or Clint Robinson would both provide an offensive spark for the Chiefs. Carp was a major contributor off the bench for the 2013 World Champion Boston Red Sox but has struggled offensively since last year. He only hit .189 this spring and may be sent down to get his swing back. As for Robinson, he has not played in the Major Leagues up to this point in his career, so we will see whether they want to see more from him in the minors or give him a shot to start the season.
4. The battle between the relief pitchers may come down more on contractual obligations than to skill of each of the left handers. Rich Hill can start out in the minors and has an option to opt out if he is not promoted by June 1st. Meanwhile, Xavier Cedeno will have to go through waivers if he does not start 2015 with the new club. Chiefs fans won’t want to miss Hill who has pitched very well in the Spring. When his curveball is biting, it is one of the nastiest benders in the majors.
Eric Gallanty here with today’s spring training update. I’m the newest member of the Chiefs radio booth, and can’t wait to work with Kevin and get rolling with the season.
Kevin Frandsen Released
Washington granted Frandsen his unconditional release this morning. Despite injuries around the diamond, the utility man found himself as at least the third option at multiple different infield positions. And after the Nationals signed Reed Johnson and traded for Matt den Dekker this week, the outfield in Washington is now a bit crowded as well. Frandsen spent all of 2014 with the big club, playing in 105 games with a .229 average. With Frandsen’s departure, Washington must get to 25 with a potential Chief, at least until some of the injured starters return.
OF Tony Gwynn Jr. Sent to Minor League Camp
The Chiefs are getting one of the most productive hitters in the Nationals camp this spring. Gwynn flourished in Viera, hitting .341 in spring training, holding a .420 on-base percentage. Gwynn hit .152 in 80 games with the Phillies last season, yet his spring success nearly landed him a spot on the opening day roster. But after the additions of Johnson and den Dekker, Gwynn was re-assigned to minor league camp. If his bat stays hot, Washington may come calling again.
Lots to dig into from the past couple of days. Here’s today’s update, with some writing assistance from one of our 2015 broadcast interns, Andrew Grella…
C Sandy Leon traded to Red Sox
Leon, one of the Chiefs’ main catchers last year, was sent to Boston on Monday in exchange for cash. Last season, Leon hit .229 with five home runs in 51 games for the Chiefs. He’s mainly known for his defense behind the plate, having thrown out 17 of 29 base-stealers last year between Syracuse and Washington. Leon’s departure comes as little surprise – the 26-year-old was out of options and would have had to clear waivers to return to Syracuse.
OF Matt den Dekker acquired from Mets
On Sunday, Nationals G.M. Mike Rizzo expressed his satisfaction with the team’s depth. On Monday, he traded a catcher for cash, a reliever for an outfielder and signed another outfielder. (More on that in a bit.) The key move of the day was trading left-hander Jerry Blevins, a mainstay in last year’s bullpen, for den Dekker, a 27-year-old outfielder who’s bounced between Triple-A and the major leagues each of the last two years. In 80 big-league games, he’s hit .238 with a .325 on-base percentage and 57 strikeouts. Last year in Las Vegas, however, he posted a .334/.407/.540 slash line in 93 games. (Grain of salt alert: Las Vegas is a hitter-friendly park in a notoriously hitter-friendly league. Still. Pretty darn good.) Expect him to start on the Nationals’ bench, with a move to Syracuse potentially corresponding once Washington’s lineup returns to full health.
OF Reed Johnson signed to a minor-league deal
Johnson, who enters 2015 at 38 (!) years old, was released by the Marlins yesterday morning and signed by the Nationals in the afternoon. He posted just a .266 on-base percentage last year with Miami, but did rank second in the major leagues in pinch-hits. The guess here is Johnson either makes the big-league team or moves on. His last stint as a full-time minor leaguer? 2003 – with the Syracuse Chiefs.
What does this all mean for the Chiefs?
1. Syracuse likely won’t have left-hander Xavier Cedeno (also out of options). Blevins’ departure opens a spot in the Nationals’ bullpen for a southpaw, and Cedeno may be it.
2. Dan Butler and Steven Lerud, almost definitely, will be your starting catching tandem on Opening Day.
3. Syracuse’s outfield just got stronger. While we don’t yet know who’ll be in the Chiefs’ outfield, the acquisitions of den Dekker and Johnson bolster the Nationals’ outfield depth. With those two, Clint Robinson, Tony Gwynn, Jr. and others still in major-league camp, expect Syracuse to have a strong outfield group to begin the year.
The Chiefs may have received nearly 25% of their roster today, with the latest round of Nationals’ cuts as follows…
That’s six non-roster invitees who are all but assured to start the season in Syracuse. Let’s briefly examine them, one by one…
Cutter Dykstra (25-year-old 2B/utility player)
- Hit .274 with .349 OBP in first Double-A season last year. Career .363 minor-league OBP.
- Second-round pick of Brewers in 2008; traded to Nationals in 2011 for Nyjer Morgan.
- Son of former major-leaguer Lenny Dykstra
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting second baseman. Dykstra’s played seven different positions in the field in his career, but only played at second last year. Expect him to continue a slow ascent through the minors.
Emmanuel Burriss (30-year-old SS)
- Post-Season All-Star last year with Chiefs; hit .300 with .377 OBP in 116 games.
- Hit seven home runs last year (including one in postseason), surpassing entire professional total from first eight years.
- Washington, DC native.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting shortstop. With another season like last year’s, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Manny return to the majors and play for his hometown team. On Opening Day, he should lead the Chiefs onto the field once more.
Steven Lerud (30-year-old C)
- Career-best .376 OBP last year with Gwinnett Braves.
- Has played in Pirates, Phillies, Orioles and Braves’ organizations…15 major-league at-bats between 2012-13 Phillies.
- Set Nevada high-school state record with 60 career home runs. (Joey Gallo has since broken it with 67.)
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Backup catcher. Dan Butler should get most of the Chiefs’ backstop reps as a member of the 40-man roster, but Lerud’ll get some run after a solid season in the I.L. last year.
Kila Ka’aihue (31-year-old 1B)
- Played in Japan with Hiroshima Carp over last two seasons.
- .313/.421/.620, 16 HR in 53 games with Triple-A Reno in 2013 – his last year to date in affiliated baseball.
- Brother Kala, Jr. and father Kala, Sr. both played minor-league baseball as well.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Starting 1B/DH. Matt Skole and Clint Robinson could also end up at first base, but Ka’aihue’s played just 10 career games outside of first in his career. He’ll gladly take aim at NBT Bank Stadium’s short porch in right field.
Derrick Robinson (27-year-old OF)
- Missed entire 2014 season after shoulder surgery.
- Played 102 games with 2013 Cincinnati Reds, his big-league debut season, hitting .255 with .322 OBP.
- Has stolen 321 bases in eight professional seasons, with a high of 69 in 2009.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Versatile outfielder. A healthy Brian Goodwin should get most of the reps in center field, where Robinson’s played most of his career, but concerns over Goodwin’s shoulder could get Robinson some look at their position. Expect him to also play quite a bit in left field.
Manny Delcarmen (33-year-old RHP)
- Led 2014 Chiefs with 46 games pitched, sporting 3.13 ERA.
- Surrendered just two home runs in 60.1 innings pitched while striking out 55.
- Former World Series champion with Red Sox; has also pitched with Rockies, Mariners, Rangers, Yankees and Orioles’ organizations.
- 2015 OUTLOOK: Setup reliever. Rafael Martin and Matt Grace are likely to take care of the final two innings, but Delcarmen should be another reliable bridge in the back of the Chiefs’ bullpen.
Soooo…remember that post we wrote two days ago? About how Jeff Kobernus was likely to be in the Chiefs’ outfield? And how we expected him to be in Syracuse come Opening Day?
That news came down yesterday from camp. At first, the move came as a surprise, especially without a corresponding move on the 40-man roster. Kobernus had filled in with the Nationals each of the last two years and had an option year remaining (e.g. he wouldn’t have to clear waivers to be sent to the minor leagues). To shed a little light on the move, here’s Matt Williams’ explanation from today, courtesy of the Washington Post…
So there you have it. Our best to Kobernus as he searches for a new home. Update your Chiefs starting lineup bingo card accordingly.
As for today’s move…
No surprise here. Cole split time between Harrisburg and Syracuse last year, and with the Nationals’ rotation set in stone, A.J.’s back in Triple-A. As a reminder, he made a strong first impression with the Chiefs last year, throwing to a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts. (The offense also liked him; the Chiefs scored more than six runs per game in his starts, helping Cole to a 7-0 record.) Cole’s a candidate for the top spot in Syracuse’s rotation this year.
With exactly one month to go before Opening Day at NBT Bank Stadium, we figured this was as good a time as any to start our periodic spring training updates. Here’s an early look at some Nationals’ transactions as Syracuse’s roster begins to take shape…
Saturday: IF/OF Jeff Kobernus optioned to Triple-A; RHP Erik Davis continues rehab from Tommy John surgery in Minor-League camp
With 154 games played over the last two years at Syracuse, Kobernus’ return to Triple-A is no surprise. Last year, he struggled with injuries and sported a .257/.338/.359 slash line in 59 games with the Chiefs, stealing just 15 bases. But a healthy offseason could turn Kobernus back into the All-Star-caliber player we saw in 2013. That season, he hit .318 in 95 Chiefs games with a healthy .366 OBP and 42 stolen bases. Expect Kobernus to continue his transition into a full-time outfielder and trot out to left field on Syracuse’s Opening Day.
Meanwhile, Davis went under the knife last April 2nd, putting his return to game action still a number of weeks away. In December, he told reporters at NatsFest that he’s expecting to return in late April or early May. A healthy Davis would be great news for the Chiefs’ bullpen – he sported a 3.10 ERA in 45 games in 2013, the same year in which he made his major-league debut.
Sunday: RHP Taylor Hill optioned to Triple-A; RHPs Eric Fornataro, Mitch Lively & Scott McGregor reassigned to Minor-League camp
(A quick word on terminology here: Hill was “optioned” because he’s on the Nats’ 40-man roster. The other three were “reassigned” because they’re non-roster invitees.”
An early theme of this spring – a dynamic Chiefs pitching staff could be taking shape. Hill’s a likely Opening Day candidate after leading the rotation with an All-Star season in 2014. Lively, who struck out 11 in the Chiefs’ division-clinching win at Pawtucket, could join him, while McGregor might be destined for Syracuse or Harrisburg depending on numbers.
The new guy in the bunch is Fornataro, a sinker-dominant reliever who comes over from the Cardinals. He put up a 2.57 ERA in 44 games with Triple-A Memphis in the notoriously hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and threw in eight games with the big league club to boot. Fornataro owns a career 1.68 GO/AO (groundout to air out) ratio in the minors. He won’t strike out many batters, but he gets results. Expect him in the back end of the Chiefs’ bullpen.
Monday: OF Brian Goodwin optioned to Triple-A; LHP Sammy Solis optioned to Double-A Harrisburg
Though Goodwin struggled offensively in his first Syracuse season, remember this – he’s only 24 years old and he’s played just three years of professional baseball. The Nationals still think highly of Goodwin, promoted to their 40-man roster in the offseason. His plate discipline’s not in doubt – with 50 walks in 81 games, he was by far the Chiefs’ most patient hitter last season. An increased approach to contact could turn 2015 into a breakout year for Goodwin.
Solis, meanwhile, is a name to monitor at a lower level. The Nationals grabbed him out of the University of San Diego in 2010 as a second-round pick – but injuries have hampered Solis’ progress throughout his minor-league career. He threw in just five total games last year because of elbow discomfort, two years after Tommy John surgery, and hasn’t yet thrown 100 innings in a professional season. At 26 years old, however, Solis’ talent still remains – as evidenced by Director of Player Development Mark Scialabba’s continuous praise. With a healthy season, Solis could finally find his way to Triple-A.
We’ll continue to update the Chiefs as spring training rolls along. For more on Syracuse and its parent club, tune into The Score 1260 today at 5:15. I’ll be on with Mike Lindsley for a Chiefs’ Spring Training Update.
We also welcome your thoughts and comments. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @ChiefsRadio – we’d love to hear from you.
And now a word from one of our broadcast interns, Daniel Comisi:
This is my final installment of the Triple-A Trickledown for the regular season (I might do another should the Chiefs make the playoffs), and I have enjoyed doing my own little scouting report on the Chiefs’ upcoming opponents. It brought my love of stats and learning about player’s history to a face when I actually saw them play. I believe that it really helped me learn a lot about every team in the International League. Hopefully you’ve all learned something as well.
Catcher: Miguel Gonzalez and Josh Phegley
26 year-old Josh Phegley is the primary catcher in Charlotte, starting in 91 games, while 23 year-old Gonzalez has only started in 19. Both catchers were called up to Chicago last year; Phegley played in 65 and Gonzalez played in five. Phegley is in his fourth season at Charlotte and been fantastic this year for the Triple-A White Sox. This year he is batting .289 with 20 home runs and 27 doubles and seems to be a rising star in the organization. Gonzalez was promoted to Triple-A after batting .269 in 16 games with AA Birmingham. The White Sox’ current catcher, Tyler Flowers has been decent this year, batting .248 with eight home runs in 96 games. If Phegley keeps up his offense, he is on the 40-man roster and can easily get a call back to the bigs.
First Base: Andy Wilkins
25 year-old Wilkins is in his second year in Charlotte after batting .265 with seven home runs in 58 games. Wilkins has been fantastic this year in his first full season at Triple-A, batting .296 with a career-high 28 homers and 30 doubles in the middle of the Knight’s lineup. Unfortunately for Wilkins, his fantastic 2014 numbers won’t necessarily get him to the majors any time soon because Chicago’s top prospect, first baseman Jose Abreu, has 31 home runs and is batting .303 on the year. Adam Dunn is still the team’s designated hitter and continues to have a ridiculously low batting average of .217, but he has 17 homers on the year, so he’ll continue to get his at-bats. Wilkins is not on the 40-man roster and will most likely get more seasoning at Charlotte, barring an injury to Abreu or Dunn. My presumption for Wilkins in his future is that if the White Sox do not extend Dunn’s contract, which expires at the end of the 2014 season, he would get the opportunity to start next year as long as the White Sox have not signed anyone during the offseason.
Second Base: Micah Johnson
23 year-old Johnson is the #6 prospect for Chicago according to Baseball America and has batted well in his first season at Triple-A. He is batting .291 with 10 steals and only 33 strikeouts in 56 games. However, he only has 14 extra-base hits in 237 at-bats and seems to be a high-average/20-steals-a-season type of player.
Chicago has been looking for a good offensive second baseman for years as current second baseman Gordon Beckham has been known for his defense and not his offense, so Johnson provides some hope for White Sox fans. It’s unlikely to see him called up since he is only in his third professional year and has only played 56 games in the majors. But to play devil’s advocate, he on is the 40-man roster, and if White Sox GM Rick Hahn and the front office get sick of Beckham’s poor offense, Johnson could get the call. He is definitely putting Beckham on the hot seat with his good play.
Shortstop: Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien
Sanchez, a 22-year-old shortstop, was called up for one game with the White Sox, going 0-5 with two strikeouts against Cleveland on July 13th. He’s played by far the most games at shortstop for anyone with Charlotte. In his sixth professional season, third with Charlotte, Sanchez has batted .303 with a career-high six home runs (He either hit no home runs or one homer every year before 2014). 23 year-old Semien has played 64 games between last year and this year with Chicago, but was sent down after batting .218 with three homers in the 2014 campaign. It appears to be a platoon at short and both are on the 40-man roster, but since Sanchez is having the better year, he would most likely get called up if something happens to Alexei Ramirez.
Third Base: Matt Davidson
23 year-old Davidson was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Diamondbacks and was acquired by the White Sox in the Addison Reed trade during the offseason. Davidson played 31 games for Arizona last year, batting .237 with three homers and an OBP of .333. Unfortunately, he has been struggling this year, batting .201 with 138 strikeouts in 108 games, but he has 18 home runs, so he is an all-or-nothing hitter. Davidson is on the 40-man roster and the White Sox are desperate for a decent third baseman, but right now, Davidson does not appear to be the guy.
Outfield: Avisail Garcia, Michael Taylor, Jared Mitchell, Matt Tuiasosopo
23 year-old Garcia is currently rehabbing with Charlotte after tearing the labrum in his left shoulder in April with Chicago. Over the past three years with Detroit and Chicago, he is batting .287 with nine home runs and an OBP of .323. 28 year-old Taylor is in his first year with Charlotte but he has been in Triple-A for five years with Sacramento (Oakland’s farm system). Through 44 games, the PCL-to IL-transition has not hurt Taylor at all, batting .326 with five homers and 14 doubles. 25 year-old Mitchell is in his third year with Charlotte, but has been struggling so far. Through 59 games this year, he is batting .198 with six home runs and has a career Triple-A average of .199, so he doesn’t seem quite ready for Triple-A pitching. 28 year-old Tuiasosopo played 81 games with the Tigers last year, batting .244 and was with both Buffalo earlier in the year before being purchased by the White Sox on June 12th. Besides Garcia, who is rehabbing, only Jared Mitchell is on the 40-man roster, but he has been struggling so much at Charlotte that he likely won’t pack his bags for Chicago any time soon.
Starting Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Erik Johnson, Shawn Hill, Chris Beck, Charlie Leesmaan
If this team has such dominant hitting and big sluggers, how are they 55-68 on the year? Well, to put it bluntly, Charlotte’s pitching is bad. Real bad. Their team ERA is 4.94, which is 20 points higher than the second-highest ERA with the Louisville staff. A name you might know is Chien-Ming Wang. 34-year-old Wang pitched for the Yankees from 2005-2009, threw for the Nationals (and Chiefs) from 2011-2012, and pitched in six games for Toronto last year. He sports a career 4.37 ERA in the majors, and he’s a few years removed from the 2006 and 2007 seasons, where he won 19 games each year with New York.
24 year-old Johnson is the big name you may not know about. He is the #2 prospect in the White Sox organization according to Baseball America behind some guy name Jose Abreu (who probably just hit another a home run while you were reading this). He dominated the minors, with ERAs of 2.43, 2.30, 2.74, 1.96, 2.23, form 2011-2012 and a ridiculous 1.57 ERA last year, flying from A-ball to Double-AA in less than a year and made his major league debut last year. There, he posted a 3.25 ERA in five games in 2013 and spirits were high that he would emerge as a dominant pitcher at the front of their rotation. This year, however, Johnson has taken a big step backward. Johnson was in the rotation right out of training camp and in his first game he allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings against the Royals. After four more so-so games, he was optioned down to Triple-A for seasoning. Unfortunately, that has not worked out well for the young righty. With Charlotte this year, he has a 5-6 record with a 6.29 ERA and a ridiculously high walk to strikeout rate of 51-62.
23 year-old Chris Beck is a bright spot in the Charlotte rotation after being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. After dominating Double-A with a 3.42 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, he was called up to Triple-A where he’s been solid. In four games, he owns a 3.57 ERA and actually has been doing the best of any of the starters since he came up. The final starter is 27-year-old Leesman. The lefty has been okay so far and even though his ERA is over 4.00, Charlotte plays in a hitter’s park so perhaps he can hang his hat on that accomplishment. He was called up on April 22nd to pitch against Detroit this year and got lit up; 2.2 innings, nine hits and six runs and was sent down immediately after the game. Even though the White Sox really need one of these guys to come up and replace Scott Carroll (4-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 19 games), nobody is really standing out to be called up to Chicago. However, Leesman and Johnson are on the 40-man roster so they might get the call up if a spot start is needed or someone goes down with an injury.
Relievers: Taylor Thompson, Donnie Veal, Ryan Kussmaul, Frank De Los Santos, Jarrett Casey, Andre Rienzo, Eric Surkamp
27 year-old Thompson leads the team in saves with six, followed by 27 year-old Kussmaul with five. Thompson leads the team in appearances with 33 and has a fantastic 2.47 ERA. He also has gone up for five appearances with the White Sox this year, and was doing well through his first three games. However, in his fourth and fifth games, he allowed five runs in two innings to spike his ERA well over 10.00. He was recently optioned down and the Knights hope that he can go back to his dominant self.
26 year-old De Los Santos is on the 40-man roster and is in his third season in Triple-A (first with Charlotte). He’s been OK in his 21 appearances this year, with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 33 innings of work. However, his 16 walks to 14 strikeouts shows he struggles with his control and will need more seasoning before being called up. Surkamp was sent down to Charlotte at the start of this series from Chicago after struggling in the majors. In 20 appearances, he allowed 10 runs in 12.2 innings (7.11 ERA) and walked seven batters. He’s been okay with the Knights, but he has been a starter for Charlotte in 11 of the 15 games, yet his experience in the majors is a reliever, so I put him here in the reliever section.
For the first time since April 25th, the Chiefs will meet the Triple-A Cincinnati Reds, the Louisville Bats. Here’s a look at what to expect for the 58-60 Bats…
Catcher: Bryan Anderson and Tucker Barnhart
23-year-old Barnhart has the most starts for Louisville this year, starting in 63 games for the Bats, followed by 27 year-old Anderson with 31 starts behind the plate. Barnhart, the Reds’ #10 prospect according to Baseball America, was called up from April 26-May 18 and from July 6-11 and played in 12 games for Cincinnati, hitting .232 through 64 games with 24 walks and 29 strikeouts. Anderson has the best numbers of the catching corps, batting .283 with five homers in 39 games. Since Barnhart has already been called up this year and he is on the 40-man roster, I’d guess that if anything were to happen to Devin Mesoraco or Brayan Pena, Barnhart would get the nod.
First Base: Thomas Neal and Neftali Soto
26 year-old Neal is batting .260 with 16 doubles and three homers in 92 games for the Bats this year and has played 46 games at first. Neal is in his first year with Louisville, but has spent the past three years in Triple-A (2011 with Fresno, 2012 with Akron, and 2013 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). Soto is the MLB veteran among the first baseman, playing 13 games for Cincy last year and playing 21 games this year for the Reds. However, he only has 3 hits in 42 at-bats (.071 batting average) and one RBI in the majors. Soto is on the 40-man roster, but is still in the minors even though All-Star 1B Joey Votto is on the DL with a strained left quad, so the odds of Soto making it back up to the majors this year is very slim.
Second Base: Ruben Gotay, Hernan Iribarren, Donnie Murphy
Three older veterans, 31 year-old Gotay, 30 year-old Iribarren, and 31 year-old Murphy roam second base for the Bats. Gotay is the starter at second, playing 73 games and is batting .257 on the year with 16 home runs, most of the team. He is also the team leader in games played with 111, runs scored with 76, walks with 53, and strikeouts with 102. Iribarren has played in 76 games, and has played second, third, shortstop, and the outfield. He is batting .238 on the year with 21 walks and 38 strikeouts. Murphy was signed to a minor league contract on July 19th after being released by the Texas Rangers and has played 10 games on the year, batting .152 with a home run and three RBIs before going on the Disabled List. None of these players are on the 40-man roster and Skip Schumaker has been holding down the fort while Brandon Phillips has been out with left-thumb surgery. (He’s expected to return in mid-August.) It is highly unlikely any of these guys will make the majors this year.
Shortstop: Jake Elmore, Rey Navarro
27 year-old Elmore is the most recent addition to the Louisville roster after being claimed off Oakland’s waivers on August 2nd. He spent the beginning of the year with Triple-A Sacramento, batting .282 with 15 doubles and stole nine bases in 47 games. Even though Navarro is only 24 years-old, he has been a part of three different farm systems (Diamondbacks, Royals, Reds) and is up in Triple-A for the second time after playing 17 games with Triple-A Omaha (Royals). Navarro has been spectacular at the dish for Louisville, batting .317 with 15 doubles, two home runs and has only struck out 18 times in 41 games. With shortstop Zack Cosart batting .219 with only two home runs and three steals up in Cincinnati, the Reds already called up Kris Negron from Louisville and neither Elmore nor Navarro are on the 40-man roster, so it is highly unlikely that either will make the majors this year, but the ceiling for Navarro appears to be high with a little more seasoning in Triple-A.
Third Base: Juan Silverio
23 year-old Silverio was called up to the Bats after hitting .274 with nine homers and a 44-10 K/BB rate in 64 games with Double-A Pensacola. He’s been trying to get his sea legs in Louisville, batting .243 with six extra-base hits and only two walks to 19 strikeouts in 25 games in his first stint in Triple-A. Of course, with most 23 year-olds, there is going to be a lot seasoning for Silverio and there is almost no shot that the Triple-A rookie has at being in the majors with his poor showing with Louisville. Also, Todd Frazier’s put up ridiculous numbers, Kris Negron can play most of the infield positions and the Bats have a number of super-utility players, so Silverio better get comfortable in Louisville.
Outfielders: Jason Bourgeois, Felix Perez, Steve Selsky
There are nine players on the Louisville current roster that have played at least one game in the outfield this year, but only 31 year-old Bourgeois (101) and 29-year old Perez (93) have played more than 35 games. Bourgeois is the stereotypical leadoff hitter, who has a high average of .288, on-base percentage of .337, and has 20 stolen bases, most on the team (the next highest base-stealer has two). He has played in 231 games with the White Sox (2008), Brewers (2009), Astros (2010-2011), Royals (2012), and Rays (2013).
Perez is now in Louisville for his fourth season after defecting from Cuba in 2010. He is batting .275 on the year with 28 doubles and 10 home runs, but is a free swinger with only 23 walks in 98 games. 25-year old Selsky has played 35 games for the Bats since being called up from AA Pensacola after batting .301 and walking 29 times to own a .410 on-base percentage. None of these three are on the 40-man roster and the only one who is on the 40-man is Ryan LaMarre, who is on the 15-day DL, so it is unlikely any of these guys will make the Reds this year.
Starters: Dylan Axelrod, Josh Smith, Scott Diamond, Brett Marshall, David Holmberg
The starter to watch here is 23 year-old Holmberg, who came to Cincinnati as part of the Heath Bell to Tampa Bay deal and is a top-15 prospect in the Reds’ organization. Holmberg started one game for the Reds this year, but got lit up, allowing seven hits and five runs in 2.2 innings against the Cubs on July 8th. He has struggled in his first year at Triple-A, going 1-6 with a 4.90 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP in 15 starts. 26 year-old Smith is in his first year at Triple-A after being drafted in the 21st round in 2010. In 19 starts this year, Smith owns a 9-4 record but has a 4.42 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP, which are not good at all, but somehow he is getting wins. 28 year-old Diamond is the veteran of the group, having started 58 games for the Twins from 2011-2013. His 2012 campaign was his only good year, going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA, but in 2011 and 2013 his ERAs were over 5.00 and has not been up to the majors since.
24-year-old Marshall is in his second year in Triple-A after spending last year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. None of Marshall’s numbers are good: 10 starts, 0-7, 39.2 innings, 8.62 ERA, 2.09 WHIP, and it’s surprising to see him still at Triple-A with consistent numbers that are nothing short of awful. 29 year-old Axelrod started in 30 games for the White Sox from 2011-2013 with a 5.36 ERA but has been excellent since being purchased from the Reds on July 17th, with a 2.60 ERA in four starts. He shut out Rochester on two hits earlier in the week. It is also important to note that left-hander Tony Cingrani is on the 15-Day DL with left shoulder tendinitis for the Bats, but there has been no timetable for his return. Holmberg is the only starter on the 40-man roster, but since he did not do well against one of the league’s worst teams, it is very unlikely to see him be called up again this year unless it’s an emergency spot-start.
Relievers: Ryan Dennick, Pedro Villarreal, Curtis Partch, Chad Rogers, Tim Crabbe, Justin Freeman, Fabio Castillo, Mikey O’Brien
27-year-old Freeman leads the team in saves with six, but has allowed 11 runs in 19.1 innings in his second year with Louisville. 27-year-old Partch is on the 40-man roster and has made six appearances with the Reds this year, throwing seven scoreless innings, but he’s also walked seven, so the control is not there for him. He was plagued last year with his poor control, walking 17 batters in 23.1 innings and it was a key factor of his 6.17 ERA last year in Cincinnati. 25 year-old Rogers is also on the 40-man roster but has not been up in the majors since being drafted in the 28th round in the 2010 draft. He’s currently in the middle of a transition from a starter to a reliever, having started every game from High-A Bakersfield to Louisville last year. The switch to a reliever was this year for Rogers and he owns a 4.69 ERA in 26 appearances for Louisville. 27-year-old Dennick is having the best 2014 campaign among Louisville relievers, going 4-0 with a miniscule 2.28 ERA in 48 appearances.