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 email@example.com 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.
Happy Fourth of July, Chiefs fans! As if a sold-out crowd, gorgeous weather and spectacular fireworks weren’t enough, the Nationals’ widely-regarded second-best prospect will make his second Chiefs start of the year today – right-hander A.J. Cole. Here’s our broadcast intern, Daniel Comisi, with a look at the 22-year-old out of Florida:
Labeled as the #2 prospect in the Washington Nationals organization and #69 overall on MLB.com’s Top 100 list earlier this year, A.J. Cole made his Syracuse Chiefs debut on Saturday against the Buffalo Bisons. In 5.2 innings, Cole allowed eight hits, six runs (only one earned), one walk and five strikeouts. Selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by Washington, Cole was traded with Derek Norris, Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock to the Oakland A’s for Gio Gonzalez in December 2011. In one full season with Class-A Burlington and High-A Stockton, Cole started in 27 games, sporting a 3.70 ERA with 133 strikeouts in 133.2 innings. Cole was traded back to Washington along with Blake Treinen and Ian Krol in a three-team trade that sent Michael Morse to Seattle and John Jaso to Oakland. In 2013, the 22 year-old was named to the 2013 All-Star Futures Game and promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where he started in seven games and was 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 45.1 innings.
According to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo, Cole’s struggles in Oakland’s organization were not a worry and he was thrilled to reacquire Cole…
His developmental curve is on track, and we’re going to get him with our pitching people and kind of straighten out his delivery and I think that this guy will be a quick mover for us from this point forward.
While some scouts are comparing Cole to Matt Cain, a fly-ball pitcher who occasionally struggles to get lefties out, others have compared him to Justin Verlander, a tall, lanky pitcher with a high-velocity fastball. Cole is listed as 6’5” and 200 lbs, so his peak 95 mph fastball seems even faster to hitters with his long stride to home plate. Cole also has a power curveball and a decent changeup, but his fastball is his best pitch and he gets most of his strikeouts by throwing it past hitters. It appears that most scouts say that if Cole is able to develop his curveball, he has the possibility a major-league starter for many, many years.
Cole’s next start will be on Friday against Pawtucket after Thursday’s game versus Lehigh Valley was postponed.
Chiefs fans will get to know the Norfolk Tides quite well over the next week. Syracuse and Norfolk play the second of eight straight games today, with the two teams heading to Virginia on Monday morning for a four-game set. Our own Daniel Comisi took a look at the Triple-A Orioles in our next edition of Triple-A Trickledown…
Catcher: Steve Clevenger, Brian Ward
29 year-old Clevenger is a major-league veteran after playing 107 games in four years with both the Cubs and the Orioles. His best year was in 2012, when he batting .201 with 13 extra base hits in 69 games with Chicago. 28 year-old Ward is the primary backstop and is in his first year with Norfolk. In 21 games this year, Ward has hit .284 with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts, which shows his plate discipline. Clevenger is on the 40-man roster and would only be called up if something would happen to Nick Hundley, who is only starting behind the plate because All-Star Matt Wieters is on the DL with a right elbow strain.
First Base: Chris Marrero, Brett Wallace
Chiefs fans will remember 25 year-old Marrero, who spent 2011, 2012 and 2013 in Syracuse after being drafted 15th overall in the 2006 draft by Washington. In his 275 games in Syracuse, Marrero batted .281 with 25 home runs and 34 doubles. Marrero has played 39 games in Washington, 31 in 2011 and eight in 2013. 27 year-old Wallace was the starting first baseman for the Houston Astros from 2010-2013, playing in 311 games. Two main reasons why Wallace continued to lose playing time each year after starting 115 games in 2011 are his high strikeout rates and a batting average that continued to plummet each year. Neither player is on the 40-man roster and even though Wallace is hitting well, (.278 BA, 7 HR, 27 RBI in 60 games at first), All-Star Chris Davis is occupying first base with the Orioles and Delmon Young at designated hitter, there is no room for him in Baltimore.
Second Base: Alexi Casilla, Steve Lombardozzi, Jemile Weeks
Casilla (29), Lombardozzi (25), and Weeks (27) all have spent time in the major leagues. Casilla spent seven years with the Twins before spending last year in Baltimore. After playing 577 games in the majors in eight years, Casilla owns a .302 OBP with 103 extra-base hits and 80 stolen bases in 91 attempts. 2011 Chiefs fans will remember Lombardozzi from when he played 69 games with Syracuse. He was fantastic in Central NY, batting .310 with 19 extra-base hits before being called up to Washington. Lombardozzi spent 257 games with Washington before being sent to Detroit this offseason in the Doug Fister deal, and finally landing in Baltimore after traded to the Orioles for Alex Gonzalez. He’s played 20 games in Baltimore this year and was hitting .288 before being sent down to Norfolk on May 1st.
Weeks, the younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, has played 226 games in the majors, most of them with the Oakland Athletics. After a fantastic rookie year in 2011, batting .303 with 22 stolen bases and eight triples in 97 games, Weeks’ numbers have gone down. He’s now looking for a second chance in Baltimore. This year in Norfolk, Weeks is batting .288 with six steals and four triples in 31 games. It appears that Lombardozzi will be the first guy to called up to the majors because he has normally been used as a utility guy to give any of the middle infielders a day off and if someone got injured, I’d expect Lombardozzi to be called up again.
Third Base: Buck Britton, Cord Phelps
27-year-old Phelps was a third round pick in the 2008 draft by Cleveland after playing though Low-A, High-A, and Double-A in a year-and-a-half before being promoted to Columbus in 2010. Now in his fifth year in Triple-A, Phelps is with Baltimore after being claimed off waivers this offseason and is looking to make the jump to the majors again after playing 53 Major League games with Cleveland. Britton has been bouncing between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk each year since 2012 and has had trouble with Triple-A pitching. In Double-A, Britton is hitting well with a .296 BA, .350 OBP and 17 stolen bases in 271 games. But in Triple-A, Britton is only hitting .232 with a .282 OBP and only two steals in 98 games. Neither player is on the 40-man roster, and even though starter Manny Machado has struggled, Lombardozzi would likely be the next man up.
Shortstop: Ivan DeJesus
Once a second-round draft pick in 2005 by the Dodgers, DeJesus (27 years old) has been bouncing around teams the past couple years. He was a part of that massive Boston-Los Angeles trade in 2012 that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to LA for prospects and salary cap relief for Boston. Then, in the 2012 offseason, he was traded by Boston with Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel and Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt and spent 2013 with Triple-A Indianapolis. In Indy, DeJesus batted well in 103 games with a .319 BA, .380 OBP and 27 doubles. This year, he’s continued his contact hitting and extra base hits with Baltimore’s Triple-A squad, batting .308 with a .398 OBP and 13 doubles in 51 games. However, since DeJesus is behind All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy, it’s unlikely that he’d see time in Baltimore without a few injuries.
Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Julio Borbon, Xavier Paul, Francisco Peguero, Henry Urrutia
The only top-10 prospect in the Baltimore organization in Triple-A is roaming the Norfolk outfield. 27 year-old Urrutia (#7 prospect according to Baseball America) from Cuba made his major league debut on July 20, 2013 and played 24 games last year in Baltimore, batting .276 with a triple. Urrutia is in his second year of playing in American baseball after playing in Cuba from 2005-2009. In 2010, Urrutia tried to defect from Cuba but failed to do so and was suspended from Cuban baseball for the entire season. In September of 2011, he successfully defected to Haiti and attempted to get a work visa to come to America. After having trouble acquiring a visa for a year, Urrutia was in America and played his first game in April of 2013 with Double-A Bowie.
29-year-old Berry is in his ninth professional season and now with his seventh team as he bounces around the minor leagues. He has played 107 games in the majors, 94 of them in 2012 with the Tigers, where he batted .258 with 18 extra base hits and 21 steals. Borbon (28) was a first round pick by Texas in 2007 and has played 288 games with the Rangers and the Cubs. In 2010, Borbon played 137 games and batted .276 with 11 doubles and 15 stolen bases. 29-year-old Xavier Paul – a Chiefs outfielder in 2012 – is the oldest and most tenured outfielder with 335 games played with the Dodgers, Pirates and Reds. 26-year-old Peguero has been in the Giants organization since he was 18, but signed with Baltimore as a free agent this offseason. Peguero played 35 games between 2012-2013 and is currently rehabbing with Norfolk after being on the disabled list since March 21 with a strained right wrist.
The Orioles’ outfield currently holds Adam Jones, one of the majors’ best outfielders, MLB home run leader Nelson Cruz and .305-batting Nick Markakis. Reserve David Lough’s hitting below .200 this year, so a hot spurt from one of Norfolk’s outfielders could send a Tide to take his place.
Starting Pitchers: Nick Additon, Eddie Gamboa, Mike Wright, Suk-min Yoon
Despite yesterday’s start, 24-year-old Mike Wright has been a bright spot in the Oriole organization. Wright was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft and is in his first full season with Norfolk. In 12 starts this year, however, Wright has struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 57.1 innings. 27 year-old Suk-min Yoon is in his first year in America after spending the first nine years in the Korean Baseball Organization. In 303 games (136 starts) in Korea, Yoon is 73-59 with a 3.19 ERA and a fantastic 1.20 WHIP. He’s also on the 40-man roster and most likely will be a September call-up. Gamboa, a converted knuckleballer, will start for the Tides tonight in his third Norfolk season. He’s a 29-year-old in his seventh season in the Orioles’ minor leagues.
Relief Pitchers: Tim Alderson, Kelvin De La Cruz, Preston Guilmet, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Jones, Evan Meek, Anthony Vasquez
As I look at this group of relievers, none of them are having a spectacular 2014 season. Norfolk’s team ERA is 4.77, which is third-worst in the International League, and every reliever has an ERA over 3.20. 26 year-old Guilmet leads the team in saves with four, and has been up in Baltimore for nine appearances, allowing six runs in 9.1 innings while striking out 11. Former Pittsburgh Pirate Meek (31) is second on the team with three saves in 13.2 innings. Heath Bell recently opted out of his minor-league contract, as well, taking away another possible arm for the Orioles. Guilmet and Meek are the only ones on the 40-man roster and will most likely continue to be called up and sent down based on how the bullpen is used and if a fresh arm is needed.
Indianapolis Indians star prospect Gregory Polanco takes the field once again against the Chiefs today in what could be Polanco’s final series in the minor leagues. Need a quick guide on who Polanco is and what you might see on him? Here’s a look from one of our interns here in the broadcast booth, Daniel Comisi:
The 22 year-old Dominican came into the 2014 season listed as the 10th best prospect in all of major league baseball according to Baseball America. But if you take out the guys who are in the majors right now, (Bogaerts, Taveras, Tanaka), he is the seventh top prospect still in the minors and the second-best outfielder, behind the number one prospect, Byron Buxton. Even though Polanco is ranked the seventh prospect in all of the minors, only Archie Bradley with the Arizona Diamondbacks is in Triple-A and there has already been plenty of questioning of why Bradley was not called up in April. The other five are in Double-A or lower.
Polanco has shot up the Pittsburgh organization after being signed as an international free agent with the Pirates in 2009. In the year of 2013 alone, he went from High-A Bradenton, to Double-A Altoona, and spent the final two games of the year with Triple-A Indianapolis. If you only look at his Double-A and Triple-A stats: through 127 games, he is batting .303 with 12 home runs, 7 triples, 29 doubles, and 28 steals in 40 attempts (70% success rate). But the stat that I was drawn to was this: through 467 games and through 1944 plate appearances to date, Polanco has only struck out 303 times and has walked 184 times. That is a very low strikeout rate (15.5%, the MLB average is 23.1%) and a high contact rate (74.9%, the MLB average is 71.5%). With his speed, he has the capability of turning a routine ground ball into a base hit – as he did last night – and would be great at the top of the Pirates lineup.
Polanco is the best prospect in the International League and has the capability of being the next Wil Myers or Yasiel Puig, who will make an immediate impact and be in the running for Rookie of the Year award even though he has spent the first 60 games in the minor leagues. Similar to Puig, if Polanco was born in the U.S. he would most likely be a star running back or linebacker in football with his 6-foot-4, 220-pound build. But since he was born in the Dominican Republic, where baseball is the best way to get off the island, he was surrounded by baseball.
So why is he still in the minors if he is the next great prospect in Triple-A and the Pirates desperately need him in right field? Well, the most educated guess that I can make is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are using a strategy that most MLB teams use when dealing with the “Super Two” exception. While this is a very complicated rule, here is the simplest way I can put it. A “Super Two” player is a player who is the top 22 percent of the players with more than two years of service time but less than three. David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote a very good article about Polanco and why he is still in the minors. In Polanco’s case, the first professional game he played was with Low-A State College in 2011, which would make the 2014 season his third year in the Pirates organization. Since he is in the top 22% of prospects and is between two and three full seasons in the Pirates organization, Polanco would have the ability to file for arbitration a year earlier than the other 78% of players and receive drastically more salary because he projected to be a top player and is hitting the ball extremely well in the minors. But if the Pirates hold Polanco in the minors until mid-June, it will delay his arbitration clock and Polanco will have to wait an extra year to file for arbitration and get the big contract. Most small-market teams like Houston (George Springer this year) and Tampa Bay (Wil Myers last year) do this because they do not have the money to pay for their top prospects like the Los Angeles Angels can do with Mike Trout, who signed a six-year $144.5 million deal this offseason.
So if you can make it to the ballpark during the next three games, I highly encourage you to do it, because he will be one of the next big stars in the major leagues. But Chiefs tickets are much cheaper than the Pirates and you will be able to see two of the top teams in the International League playing each other. First pitch for every game of this series is at 7:00.
With 11 games to go between the Chiefs and PawSox this year, we figured we’d dust off Triple-A Trickledown once more to take a look at the Triple-A Red Sox. Here’s our intern Daniel Comisi with an oversight of Pawtucket’s roster…
Catcher: Dan Butler, Ryan Lavarnway, Christian Vazquez
There’s good catching depth here between Lavarnway (26 years old), Butler (27), and Vazquez (23). All three have spent at least 10 games behind the plate, but only Lavarnway has worn the catcher’s mask in the major leagues, playing 88 games the past three years in Boston. Vazquez was drafted in the ninth round of the 2008 draft and has risen through the Boston organization. He’s in his first go-round at Triple-A after batting .289 with five home runs and 48 walks in 96 games with Double-A Portland last year, though his biggest strength has always been a tremendous arm and defensive presence. Butler, meanwhile, is in his second full year with Pawtucket after cameo appearances with the PawSox every year from 2010 to 2012. All three catchers are on the 40-man roster, but Lavarnway might be the next in line thanks to his previous major-league experience.
First Base: Brandon Snyder
Snyder splits first baseman duties with Lavarnway and has also spent some time roaming the outfield. The 27-year-old has played 83 games in four years between Baltimore, Texas, and Boston. Now in his fifth season with Pawtucket, Snyder will be used in a platoon with Lavarnway. Snyder’s path back to Boston is tough as he’s not on the 40-man roster and there are a multitude of first base-eligible players already in Boston.
Second Base: Ryan Roberts, Justin Henry
The platoon between Roberts (33) and Henry (29) is favoring Roberts this season by almost a two-to-one margin. Roberts has plenty of MLB experience, playing 518 games over nine seasons for Toronto, Texas, Arizona (where he played the majority of his games including 143 in 2011), Tampa Bay and Boston. In that 2011 season, he played 107 games at third base and only 28 at second base, but gradually has moved over to the right side of the infield. Henry has yet to reach the majors, but is currently in his second full season with Pawtucket after collecting 17 doubles in 102 games in 2013. The road to the majors is once again slim for both players barring an injury to All-Star Dustin Pedroia.
Third Base: Garin Cecchini, Carlos Rivero
In his first Triple-A year, Cecchini (23) has started every game for Pawtucket, leads the team in batting average and steals, and is in the top three in runs, walks, RBIs and doubles. Cecchini led all of minor league baseball in on-base percentage last season and could earn his way to his first career major-league call-up at some point this year, though it likely wouldn’t be until later in the year, as Brock Holt was recently recalled to replace the injured Will Middlebrooks. Rivero, a former Chief, was just promoted from Double-A Portland a few days ago and should serve in a utility role.
Shortstop: Mike McCoy
33 year-old McCoy has played 170 games in four seasons in the major leagues, making stops in Colorado and Toronto. He has struggled in the big leagues, batting .190 with three home runs in those games, but has hit well in Triple-A. Between 2008 through 2012 at Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, he batted well over .300 and had more walks than strikeouts each year. At age 33, however, and hitting sub-.200 on the year, McCoy will likely spend the season with the PawSox.
Outfield: Bryce Brentz, Corey Brown, Alex Hassan, Daniel Nava
Chiefs fans will recognize Brown from his time roaming the outfield from 2011 through 2013 for Syracuse, crushing 58 home runs in 357 games, including 25 in 2012. Brentz (25) is in his third year at Pawtucket and leads the Red Sox in both home runs and RBIs. Hassan (26) is now in his fourth season at Triple-A after tearing the cover off the ball last year with a .321 batting average in 55 games. Thanks to that performance last year, he is now an everyday player at either first base or in the outfield. Nava, a contributor to Boston’s World Series-winning team, was sent down from Boston on April 23rd after batting .149 in 17 games. Brentz, Hassan and Nava all are on the 40-man roster and there’s a very good chance that at least one of them will be called up. The current outfield for Boston includes three players with a sub-.700 OPS: Grady Sizemore, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Shane Victorino.
Starting Pitchers: Matt Barnes, Rubby De La Rosa, Anthony Ranaudo, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman
The Pawtucket rotation is full of young, powerful right-handed arms. It’s led by De La Rosa, a center piece of the 2012 blockbuster that sent Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers – a deal that also netted the Red Sox Webster. Both players made their major-league debuts last year with mixed results. Workman has the most experience in the majors of the young pitching rotation, having pitched in 23 games (three starts) with Boston. Barnes (4.35 ERA in six starts) and Ranaudo (3.27 in 10 starts) have also posted strong starts.
Boston’s rotation, meanwhile, is in a bit of flux. Felix Doubront was just placed on the Disabled List, and Clay Buchholz has been uncharacteristically awful (71 hits in 47.0 innings, 6.32 ERA). It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or more of these young pitchers in the majors sooner rather than later.
Relief Pitchers: Drake Britton, Chris Hernandez, Dailer Hinojosa, Tommy Layne, Chris Resop, Rich Hill, Alex Wilson
This is a good bullpen with a bunch of decent hurlers. There is no definitive closer on the team, with six different Red Sox tallying one save. However, 26 year-old Alex Wilson leads the team with five saves and 24 year-old Drake Britton is right behind him with four saves in five chances. Both Wilson and Britton spent part of last year throwing at Fenway at the end of the year and seem to be stepping up their game with hopes to head up to Boston for good. 29 year-old Tommy Layne leads all relievers with four wins in 14 appearances with a sparkling 1.61 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in 22.1 innings. He also spent some time in the majors but with San Diego, pitching in 40 games for the Padres. Only Britton and Wilson are on the 40-man roster and after strong showings so far in Triple-A, their numbers might be called back to the majors any day.
(An editor’s note: Wilson was literally just recalled to Boston as I typed those dashes above, so it appears Daniel was on to something.)