Mar 12, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Wes Timmons (17) scores during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
Do you remember Brian Mazone? Chances are, you never even heard of him, because he never pitched in the major leagues. A longtime independent leaguer, Mazone struggled to stick on affiliated minor league teams until he was 27. He didn’t reach Triple-A full-time until he was 29, in the 2006 season, but when he did, he went 13-3 with a 2.03 ERA. No, his underlying performance wasn’t quite that good, but one doesn’t post numbers of that quality without great quantities of excellent pitching. One would think that would be enough to get Mazone a chance—he’s even lefthanded, and lefties get a million chances, right?
Well, it did, as Mazone was scheduled to make his major league debut for the Phillies on September 6, 2006.
Mazone put up a 2.21 ERA in six starts the next season in Triple-A, but missed most of the year to injury. He would have three more quality years in the International League before retiring after 2010, but he never got his chance at the big leagues.
Now, one could debate how successful Mazone would’ve been in The Show. He was a finesse lefthander who worked in the mid-80s and relied on location, and he never posted big strikeout numbers. Still, in a world where Dana Eveland has pitched for seven big league teams, it’s not hard to think that the reason Mazone didn’t get a shot was just that he was never in the right place at the right time.
With that in mind, here’s my "Brian Mazone All-Stars" team—a group of 25 guys who have never played in the majors but deserve a shot in some way or another. None are top prospects; many never even made their teams’ top 30 prospects in annual Baseball America Prospect Handbooks. Many are repeating Triple-A. The strength of their cases for an MLB job varies, as do the reasons (and the legitimacy thereof) that they have yet to achieve their MLB dreams.
With that rather verbose introduction out of the way, let’s begin!
Why He Deserves A Shot: Cole Armstrong is a catcher who bats lefthanded, which was enough to give Paul Bako 2471 career plate appearances. Furthermore, he’s not an embarrassment at the plate (.267/.326/.442 in parts of four Triple-A seasons, including .284/.374/.500 last year) or behind it (career 29% CS, 49 PB in 526 games). None of that really jumps off the page, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a lot of third-catcher types. Blake Lalli, who’s hitting .168/.171/.297 in Triple-A this year and is raw defensively, got called up to the Cubs earlier this season, for example.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Bad timing, mostly. Armstrong was stuck behind A.J. Pierzynski in Chicago for several years. Injuries also haven’t helped his case; he played just 68 games last year and only managed 24 this season before hitting the DL. The Marlins, getting a .162/.294/.282 performance from John Buck, could themselves use him.
Chances For A Callup: Solid. Armstrong likely can stick around as long as he wants, Pat Borders-style, because a team will always want a lefty-swinging insurance catcher with some skill. At some point, enough guys will go down in front of him that he could get that Lalli-style callup. The current issues with Buck mean that if Armstrong is healthy, he has a path to a job this year, as well. However, at 28, time isn’t really on his side.
Why He Deserves A Shot: McBride is hitting .350/.373/.525 in Triple-A. It’s easy to write that off as merely the effects of Colorado Springs’ easy environment, but a) he’d basically be in the same environment in Colorado, and more importantly, b) most of the drivers of his excellence have little to do with Colorado’s thin air. He’s struck out just 19 times in 185 plate appearances and ripped fifteen doubles. He’d be a nice lefty-mashing complement to someone like Armstrong (small sample, but he’s 16-for-40 against lefties this year), and a part-time lefty-mashing role would limit the damage done by his subpar defense.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: In 609 career minor league games, McBride has made 137 appearances at catcher, which tells you all you need to know about how his organizations regard his defense. He’s caught just 19% of basestealers and allowed 22 passed balls, though most of those poor numbers come from his one full year as a catcher back in 2007. An optimist would say those numbers are irrelevant because they’re five years old; a pessimist would note that he’s only caught nineteen games since.
At the plate, McBride’s a bit of a hacker (just six walks this year), and it’s somewhat telling that he only has 88 career Triple-A games despite being 27 years old.
Chances For A Callup: Moderate. McBride could be an interesting NL player as a Ryan Doumit C/1B/LF/RF rover with some sock from the right side, but that’s the sort of role that only makes sense on certain rosters, and it’s very easy for teams to pass up that sort of luxury. Certainly, if teams have let Jake Fox stand behind the plate and at various other corner spots, they might as well let McBride do the same, but unless he finds an organization that trusts his catching enough to give him a third catcher role, he might be out of luck. The Rockies liked him enough to get him in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, which is nice, but they also turned to Wil Nieves when they needed an extra catcher, which is damning.
First base: Luis Antonio Jimenez, Mariners
Why He Deserves A Shot: First and foremost, Luis Antonio Jimenez is listed at 6’3" and 280 pounds, and he looks exactly as big as one would expect someone of that listed size to look—which is to say his girth approaches Rich Garces territory. As a man who counts Matt Stairs, Jack Cust, and Tommy Everidge as three of his favorite players, I would love to see Jimenez bring some of the beer-league aesthetics back to The Show.
But I digress. Like Stairs, Cust, and Everidge, Jimenez is not a professional athlete due to his physique, but rather his ability to put together quality at-bats and rip mistakes. This season, he’s hitting .307/.417/.510 in Triple-A, with more walks (38) than strikeouts (35).
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Um, well…first and foremost, Luis Antonio Jimenez is listed at 6’3" and 280 pounds, and he looks exactly as big as one would expect someone of that listed size to look—which is to say his girth approaches Rich Garces territory. Hey, who said copying and pasting has no use?
Of course, Jimenez is limited to first base, and he’s of little use even there, so in order for him to get a look, a team would need to be really convinced he could hit at a high level. Jimenez didn’t even reach Triple-A until he was 25, and at 30, this is the first year he’s actually fully played at the level. At 27, he headed to Japan, and didn’t resume playing organized US ball until two years later.
Chances For A Callup: Low. He’s limited to first, so he’d need to be the best first base option in an organization at a given time; it’s not like a team will go to the trouble of purchasing the contract of a 30-year-old just to have him be a backup first baseman. At least Jimenez is in the American League, where DH is an option, and he’s in one of the most offense-starved organizations in baseball, but even then, he has several factors working against him. Yes, Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero are underperforming, but will the Mariners actually get so fed up that they try Jimenez instead? I doubt it, but I can’t help but root for him.
Why He Deserves A Shot: Brock Bond has played 168 Triple-A games. He has reached base at a .401 clip in those games. He plays a middle infield position. Any questions?
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Bond played just 19 games last year due to injury, basically wiping out his age-25 season. He’s managed just an .089 Triple-A Isolated Power despite playing in the Pacific Coast League. He’s not good enough defensively to play shortstop and isn’t especially adept at any of the positions he does play (second, third, and left). Beyond making contact and drawing walks, he really doesn’t have any above-average skills.
Chances For A Callup: Good. Bond is hitting .371/.450/.467 this year, which are numbers that catch the eye. Giants second basemen have hit .236/.291/.266. Brian Sabean isn’t known for making prudent decisions with young players, but you have to figure that at some point, Bond will find his way to the big leagues. At 26, he could certainly have a career somewhere along the Augie Ojeda-Jeff Keppinger spectrum.
Shortstop: Jake Elmore, Diamondbacks
Why He Deserves A Shot: Jake Elmore is hitting .388/.478/.529 this season. He plays shortstop. Any questions?
"Uh, Nathaniel, he’s playing in Reno…"
Ahh yes, Reno. Yes, Elmore hit .270/.362/.349 in Double-A last year, and his batting line is inflated, no doubt. But like McBride, a lot of his production comes from things that the ping-pong Nevada environment has little influence on. He’s walked 38 times and struck out just 24—a big increase from his 55 BB and 56 K last season in Double-A. He’s only hit one ball out of the park, instead stinging 16 doubles and five triples. Doubles and triples happen mostly on grounders down the line or liners in the gaps, and most are no-doubters off the bat no matter the environment. Perhaps Elmore deserves something close to .300/.400/.400 instead, but that basically makes him Bond, except two years younger and with the ability to play shortstop and steal bases.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Elmore’s just 24, though he turns 25 this week, and he’s been a mostly anonymous player since being drafted in the 34th round of 2008. As he wasn’t overly fantastic in Double-A last year, and this is his first Triple-A campaign, it’s understandable that he hasn’t received the call yet.
Chances For A Callup: High. As I just mentioned, Elmore’s one of the younger players on the squad, and he has yet to acquire the "Quad-A" stench due to his youth and Triple-A nascence. He can play just about anywhere on the field, he has some baserunning acumen that could come in handy off the bench, and he’s got a nice bat, and in an Arizona organization relatively thin on quality minor league infielders, he won’t have too many players to fight off for future super-utility roles. It would take some serious bad luck from here on out for him to not get the call at some point, and I’d even put his odds for a callup this season at over 50%.
Why He Deserves A Shot: If this is the "Brian Mazone All-Stars," then Wes Timmons deserves the "Brian Mazone Lifetime Achievement Award."
In 2009, he had a .416 OBP in Triple-A. In 2010, it was .402. Last year, it was .432. Over the past two seasons, Timmons has amassed 41 walks and just 13 strikeouts in Triple-A. He also is a capable if non-elite defender at first, second, and third who can spot for short doses in the outfield corners or at shortstop.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Timmons came up as a third baseman in the Braves organization, where he was stuck behind some guy named Larry. Wait, no, that’s not right, is it?
By the time he escaped the Braves, he had six Triple-A seasons under his belt and was nearing his 32nd birthday. The A’s, a team looking to rebuild, have consistently looked at younger options in lieu of Timmons, even kicking him down to Double-A for a brief period last season.
Chances For A Callup: Very low. If it hasn’t happened yet, with the A’s having tried converted catcher Josh Donaldson, converted second basemen Eric Sogard and Luke Hughes, and converted washout Brandon Inge at third base (the last of whom has surprisingly seized the job), then chances are the team would continue to comb the waiver wire, retry Sogard or Donaldson, or look to another in-house solution (Steve Parker or Adam Rosales, namely) if the spot were to open up again. And if it’s not going to happen now for the 33-year-old, when will it? It’s not like he’s going to get any better from here.
Why He Deserves A Shot: One theme with this team that is already evident is versatility. Obviously, Jimenez is moored to first, and Armstrong is a catcher, but even McBride can play four positions, and Bond, Elmore, and Timmons all can play just about anywhere. Seratelli fits right into that mold, as he can play anywhere but catcher and center field. Like Bond, he’s a switch-hitter with good command of the strike zone, posting a .392 OBP in Double-A last year and a .376 mark in Triple-A this season. He also has some gap power that, when run through the PCL Inflatathon 5000, has given him a .544 slugging percentage this season.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Seratelli was an independent league find. He made his professional debut at 24…in Rookie ball. At 25, he hit .230/.308/.381 in High-A. Repeating the level at 26, he hit a still-modest .268/.343/.353. It wasn’t until last season, his age-28 campaign in Double-A, that he started to make some noise statistically. So, like Elmore, there’s been little reason to think Seratelli merits a callup until basically right now. Unlike Elmore, Seratelli has his age, now 29, working against him. He’s also not really an accomplished defender, spending more time at first than any other position, and his .938 fielding percentage at shortstop makes him a poor fit to play there on a non-emergency basis.
Chances For A Callup: Decent. Utility guys often get chances eventually—Irving Falu got some significant time in Kansas City this year, for example, despite being stuck in Triple-A for several years. And while he’s 29, Seratelli’s development gives him more of a "possible late bloomer" label than a "Quad-A" one at this point. He’s also in an organization that thinks Yuniesky Betancourt and Chris Getz are decent options. That’s a double-edged sword, of course—on one hand, those guys shouldn’t be too tough to push aside, but on the other, if Johnny Giavotella’s having trouble pushing them aside, that might say more about the Royals misplacing their faith than anything else, which would be bad news for Seratelli.
Why He Deserves A Shot: Decker has a ton of power. He’s a career .280/.360/.562 hitter, which has allowed him to speed to Triple-A less than three years after being picked in the 22nd round as a nondescript 22-year-old. He hit .286/.365/.662 in Double-A this season before getting the call to Triple-A, where he already has eight extra-base hits in seventeen games. A move to the outfield from first base makes him a more palatable prospect.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Decker’s another guy who just reached Triple-A, so the Free Cody Decker campaign really had no merit until now—one could argue it’s even premature to start it at this point. He lacks much defensive utility and has all of four career stolen bases, and he hits from the right (i.e. wrong) side of the plate. He’s reverted to a swing-for-the-fences approach at times, which has led to some ugly K/BBs in the past, though that hasn’t been an issue this season (53 K, 26 BB). Petco Park isn’t going to do him any favors if and when he gets the call, as his value is largely reliant on his ability to pull the ball over left field fences.
Chances For A Callup: Decent. The Padres moved him to left field, which is a sign they take Decker seriously as a prospect (getting him away from the obvious roadblock of Yonder Alonso). But he’s going to have to hit a ton in Triple-A for it to happen on anything other than a whim, and he’s going to need to hit now, because the Quad-A vultures are sure to soon commence their circling.
Center field: Adam Eaton, Diamondbacks
Why He Deserves A Shot: Because he’s a longtime effective righthander…no, not that Adam Eaton. That Adam Eaton wasn’t even all that effective. Anyway, this Adam Eaton is a pipsqueak (5’8" 185) outfielder with a .389/.460/.521 line in Reno this year.
YES, IN RENO! SHUT UP, PARK FACTOR-OBSESSED DEVIL’S ADVOCATE!
Sorry about that. Anyway, Adam Eaton doesn’t really need Reno to be great—just ask all the opposing pitchers he faced in Rookie ball, where he hit .385/.500/.575, or Double-A, where he hit .302/.416/.413. Or the other mega-inflated place he’s played, the Cal League, where he hit .332/.455/.492. And to repeat the same rhetoric I used with Elmore, Eaton’s largely a doubles guy (18 in 49 AAA games) with good command of the strike zone (28/21 K/BB), so he’s not really getting that big a boost. Of course, he probably deserves to hit closer to .300 than .400, but he’s already a damn effective Triple-A player.
Add in his ability to swipe bases with high quantity and efficiency and his ability to play all three outfield positions, and you have a player very similar to the man currently tearing it up in the leadoff spot for the rival Giants, Gregor Blanco. Blanco too was doubted much of his career, mind you—he made the Giants as an NRI this year, after all.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Arizona has a somewhat similar player in A.J. Pollock, who happens to be on a tick faster timetable than Eaton, so he got the call when a job arose. The Diamondbacks are deep in the outfield, and Eaton is another guy who probably wasn’t significantly above replacement level until this year.
Chances For A Callup: Very High. Eaton is just 23, and he was a 2010 draftee, so the Diamondbacks don’t even have to make a 40-man roster decision with him until after the 2014 season. Barring a catastrophic decline or injury, I’d expect his contract to be purchased long before then. If he hasn’t made his debut by this time next year, I would be surprised.
Why He Deserves A Shot: Man, here’s some weird handling of a player. Goedert hit .261/.345/.528 in Triple-A in 2010, and followed that up with a .271/.346/.493 line last year. The Indians, for some reason, started him back in Double-A this season, where he predictably dominated, hitting .395/.476/.613. He then went back to Triple-A and is hitting .278/.318/.582. That’s a .267/.342/.520 line across three Triple-A seasons.
Wow, all those triple-slash lines in one paragraph. That made me dizzy.
Anyway, you can tell from that that Goedert has plenty of power and enough contact and discipline to go along with it. A third baseman by trade, he’s moved to the corner outfield spots this year, and also has experience at first and second base. There’s not a whole lot of difference between his skillset and Shelley Duncan’s, and Duncan has found intermittent success in the majors after being overlooked much like Goedert.
Why He Doesn’t Deserve A Shot: Well, clearly the Indians aren’t all that jazzed with Goedert. They weren’t confident enough in his glove (.929 fielding percentage at third in his career) to leave him in the infield, and they weren’t confident enough in his bat to want to start him in Triple-A this season despite a long track record of performance. He’s a righthanded hitter without great defensive ability who had his two worst pro seasons at 23 and 24, the age when a guy needs to really get going; the success he’s had since can be seen as too little, too late, as he beat up on younger guys in Double-A and soft-tossers in Triple-A. One could reasonably dispute the fairness of that labeling (and by putting him here, I suppose I am), but that doesn’t make it totally ungrounded and unreasonable.
Chances For A Callup: Decent. He’s hitting, he’s "just" 27, and he’s more versatile than ever now, but he isn’t going to dislodge Shin-Soo Choo any more than he was going to dislodge Lonnie Chisenhall. His best bet might be to catch on with another organization, Garrett Jones-style. If I’m remembering the rules right, he’s a minor league free agent following the year, and given the Indians’ handling of him, Goedert might be best served looking for a change of scenery for 2013.
Why He Deserves A Shot: Butler hit .322/.388/.493 in Triple-A last season, but it came on the back of a PCL-inflated .451 BABIP. Somehow, though, he’s managed to increase his wOBA from .389 to .408 this year despite losing 92 points of BABIP. He’s done it by cutting his K/BB ratio from 138/43 in 113 games to 55/43 in 61 contests, while hitting eleven homers already after twelve last year. His .306/.422/.518 line undoubtedly still has some PCL residue on it, but it’s far more legitimate than Butler’s 2011 performance, which makes him a potentially solid big leaguer. He’s no defensive marvel, but he runs decently and plays a decent right field.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Well, the Rangers have Nelson Cruz in right field and a whole host of other potent bats. Butler’s 2011 performance, while superficially impressive, didn’t pass the smell test as outlined above, and he never hit at "potential starting MLB right fielder" levels prior to that. So this is his first really good year, and it comes as a 26-year-old Triple-A repeater who, while adequate defensively, doesn’t really offer much beyond the bat.
Chances For A Callup: Solid. Butler’s Rule 5 eligible after the year, so either the Rangers will add him to their crowded 40-man roster, or he’d become one of the top bats available in the Rule 5. That’s nice, but his age will soon begin to work against him, and having one well-above-average year in five isn’t exactly a great sign from a right fielder. I suppose the best way to put it—and this goes for several of these guys, actually—is "If he keeps this up, then probably. If not, then probably not."
Fifth outfielder: Dan Robertson, Padres
Why He Deserves A Shot: Another 5’8" on-base-oriented center fielder, Robertson was a 33rd-round pick in 2008 who’s hit at a .311/.389/.420 clip in the minors, including .333/.410/.403 in Triple-A this season. He runs well, has extensive experience at all three outfield spots (a plus in Petco’s big outfield), and has never had a bad season—his worst OBP is .370.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Robertson lacks power, and he’s continually had to prove people wrong due to his size, advanced age (he’s 26), and low draft status. He has an .080 ISO in the PCL.
Chances For A Callup: Solid. Robertson’s a tailor-made fourth or fifth outfielder. If this Mazone All-Stars team actually existed, he’d be a nice late-game replacement for Decker in left, and he could spot for Eaton in center and lead off against tough lefties. That’s the same sort of role he’d fill well on a real MLB team, and speed-and-defense guys tend to get more breaks than bat-only players.
Why He Deserves A Shot: What, the Sultan of Sock doesn’t deserve a shot? Please. How dare thou suggest such absurdities!
With a 25th man, there’s something to be said for a guy with a career .352 Triple-A OBP, speed that grades out near the top of the scouting scale, and experience everywhere but catcher and first base. Wimberly’s had very good contact rates for his whole career, and he’s drawn twelve walks while striking out just nine times this season, hitting .271/.364/.344.
But mainly, I didn’t see too many other eminently qualified infielders, and just wanted to make the Hero of Hosiery reference. The dude’s 28; who knows how much longer I can trot that out?
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Wimberly got stuck in Double-A for three years, though he didn’t really deserve the second repeat of the level. He has almost no power and isn’t the most polished of defensive players, despite his obvious athleticism. He hit just .231/.288/.302 last year after hitting .284/.373/.354 in his Triple-A debut in 2010.
Chances For A Callup: Low. Again, speed, defense, and versatility have a way of getting a guy a big league job, but a lot of guys have that combination in most organizations, and many would sooner turn to a 23, 24, or 25-year-old with that skillset than a 28-year-old.
Why He Deserves A Shot: Since Day 1 of his pro career, Terry Doyle has excelled. His highest ERA at any one stop is 3.71; his highest in a full season is 3.07. He was the best pitcher in the Arizona Fall League last year, which got him Rule 5’d by the Twins, but a pair of horrific spring appearances got him sent back to the White Sox, where he promptly picked up where he left off and has dominated the International League. Doyle has a 2.83 ERA and 3.06 FIP. He’s a big, durable pitcher (he threw 200 innings across the minors and AFL last year, tops in baseball) with excellent command, a fastball that touches 94 mph, and a plus curveball.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Doyle was drafted at 22, but for some reason, the White Sox left him in Rookie ball for two years despite his success, so he didn’t debut in a full-season league until he was 24. As a result, he’s always been way old for his levels, reaching Double-A at 25 and Triple-A at 26. I took a rather incidental liking to him in 2010, but other than that, few noticed him until his AFL performance, and even then, he had many doubters. Some days, he runs his fastball into the mid-90s (including the AFL, which is verified by his AFL PITCHf/x), but other reports have him working mostly in the upper 80s.
Chances For A Callup: Very high. He was already Rule 5’d once; with a great Triple-A season under his belt, he’ll either be called up this year, added to the 40-man after the year, or Rule 5’d again. With his durability, he’s a good bet to stay healthy, as the biggest impediment to him making it would be a sudden injury. As a starting pitcher, he also has a bullpen move as a fallback option, where he might reach his peak velocity more consistently and also be able to throw his curveball more at the expense of his pedestrian slider and changeup.
Starting pitcher #2: Tyler Cloyd, Phillies
Why He Deserves A Shot: Cloyd has pitched as well as anyone in the minors over the past two seasons, with a 2.77 ERA and 138/22 K/BB between High-A and Double-A last season and a 2.11 ERA and 60/14 K/BB between Double-A and Triple-A this year. He threw six perfect innings in his first Triple-A start and hasn’t really looked back, joining Doyle as one of the top pitchers in Triple-A in his first crack at the level. He doesn’t have the same grade of velocity, but Cloyd has a good changeup and a usable fastball and slider, and his easy delivery allows him to spot all three with impressive ease, similar to Josh Tomlin or Tom Milone.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: As a righthander who mostly works in the upper 80s, Cloyd has to fight hard to get noticed in a system full of similar guys (Austin Hyatt and Julio Rodriguez being two prominent examples). And while he lacks Doyle’s fastball, he shares the same age-relative-to-level problem. Cloyd spent his age-23 season as a long reliever for the Phillies’ High-A Florida State League team, where he posted a 5.32 ERA in a pitcher-friendly league; it wasn’t until last year at age 24 that his career suddenly sprung to life. So now he’s 25, and people are just now taking him seriously.
Chances For A Callup: Good. Philadelphia’s rotation is fairly set, but Cloyd could well be an upgrade on Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick if they falter, and he’s probably at the front of the line of the Triple-A pitchers now. He doesn’t have much value in relief, and struggled in that role in the past, so he’s more starter-or-bust than Doyle is, but it would be unusual to see a guy post numbers like this for multiple years and not get a shot. You’d have to go back to…well, Brian Mazone, really. And what organization was Mazone in? Oh…
Starting pitcher #3: Todd Redmond, Braves
Why He Deserves A Shot: Todd Redmond is in his fourth year of Triple-A. The first year, 2008, he posted a decent 4.41 ERA and 4.74 FIP, and has basically been on an upward trend since. Last year, he had a 2.92 ERA and 3.88 FIP. This year, those marks have met in the middle, at 3.52 and 3.50. For three straight seasons, he’s walked under 2.5 batters per nine innings while striking out over 7.5; this season, he’s got a 62/16 K/BB in 69 innings.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: The Braves have a ton of pitchers. They can’t find room for Julio Teheran in there. They demoted Mike Minor to open last season after he had a nice run down the stretch in 2010. Redmond has become a bit of an afterthought. He lacks dominant stuff, and he’s an extreme flyball pitcher, giving up 1.3, 1.2, 1.0, and 0.9 HR/9 in his four Triple-A seasons, with groundball rates usually hovering around 30%. He might be able to survive with that, but it significantly dampens the enthusiasm his K/BB strength creates.
Chances For A Callup: Very high. Redmond has one big thing working for him: he’s on the Braves’ 40-man roster. That means he could well get a courtesy September callup regardless of what else happens in the organization, and it significantly eases the path for a callup in other circumstances. And if the Braves ultimately DFA him, chances are some team would take a flier on him as a fifth starter.
Starting pitcher #4: Rob Scahill, Rockies
Why He Deserves A Shot: Hey, here’s an instance where we should call "PCL Inflation!," preferably in as shrill of a voice as possible. Scahill has a 5.76 ERA despite a 10.62 K/9 and resulting 3.55 FIP. He’s actually managed to keep the ball in the park despite throwing half his games in Colorado Springs and the other half in nearly-as-daunting environments, with just five homers allowed in 59 1/3 frames, so it’s BABIP (.363) and strand rate (59.1%) that have undone him. He brings low-90s velocity and a trio of workable offspeed offerings, so his stuff suggests fourth-starter-dom.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Last year, Scahill struck out under six batters per nine innings in Double-A. That performance was out of character with the rest of his career, which has generally been quite good, and it makes his 2012 turnaround come as something of a surprise. He’s always been a bit old for his levels as well, already 25 in his first shot at Triple-A this year. He’s struggled with his control at times this season, walking 29 batters in 59 1/3 innings, so he’s not entirely a finished product in that regard—not the best sign for a guy who is nearing his prime.
Chances For A Callup: Very high. Scahill’s velocity makes his callup potential less tied to his performance than the three pitchers that precede him here. If Doyle, Cloyd, or Redmond falter, they lose their prospect cred, whereas Scahill will just get the "Needs a bullpen move" label. That’s not a good label, mind you, but it’s infinitely preferable to "Non-prospect" or even "Quad-A." The Rockies could sure use starting pitching, too. I wouldn’t necessarily expect Scahill this year, but 2013 is quite likely.
Why He Deserves A Shot: Statistical analysis of prospects doesn’t tell us everything, but one thing it does do is identify trends. In 2008, Steve Johnson had a 7.10 ERA in High-A; the next year, he repeated the level and cut it to 3.82. In 2010, he had a 5.09 ERA in Double-A; the next year, he repeated the level and cut it to 2.16. Last year, he had a 5.56 ERA in Triple-A. If you’re surprised he’s cut it to 3.40 this year, you weren’t paying attention to his career the last four seasons.
Johnson is a four-average-pitch guy, but he gets more strikeouts than you’d expect given the pedestrian grades he gets in scouting circles, and his control is solid. Despite all the time it takes him to adjust to new levels, he’s actually the youngest member of this starting rotation, not turning 25 until August 31. He also has more Triple-A experience than all except Redmond.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Well, given that last year’s Triple-A run was pretty bad, even the woeful 2011 Orioles didn’t need Johnson around. Given his history of long adjustment times, they might as well let him get as comfortable as possible at Triple-A first, anyway.
Like Redmond, Johnson’s an extreme flyballer who has had trouble keeping the ball in the park, though that hasn’t been an issue in either of his Triple-A stints. It certainly could prove tough in the stadiums (not to mention against the lineups) of the AL East, however.
Chances For A Callup: Solid. Johnson’s performance is a bit of a step down from the other four guys. He’s an extreme flyballer without a true plus pitch, and there’s nothing he does really well—Doyle, Cloyd, and Redmond don’t necessarily have better stuff, but they all have better command. That said, effective Triple-A starters usually find their way up, at least for relief cameos, and it’s not like the Orioles roster is impenetrable. Time is also on Johnson’s side, so if he can continue his pattern of improvement, he should get there.
Long relief: Tyson Brummett, Phillies
Why He Deserves A Shot: Last year, as a swingman, Tyson Brummett had a 4.52 ERA and 4.17 FIP in Double-A and a 5.82 ERA and 5.29 FIP in Triple-A. This year, as a pure reliever, he had a 1.50 ERA and 3.14 FIP in Double-A and maintains a 3.63 ERA and 1.18 FIP in Triple-A. He’s punched out 25 of the 69 Triple-A batters he’s faced while walking just four. Clearly, he’s found an extra gear in relief that he wasn’t able to find as a starter. He brings low-90s velocity and a solid curveball to the table, and moving to relief has allowed him to worry about his fringy changeup less; his experience as a starter, overhand arm slot, and curve allow him to work multiple innings, however.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Well, I basically just answered that—Brummett’s had a total of 35 1/3 innings of dominant pitching, and only half of that came in Triple-A. He hadn’t really distinguished himself much at all before—I’d barely heard of him, and he only made a Baseball America Prospect Handbook Phillies depth chart—much less the Top 30 Phillies prospects—once. The dominant form of Brummett has yet to stick in the International League long enough for hitters to make adjustments and expose any flaws that remain.
Chances For A Callup: Solid. Brummett’s 27, nearing 28, so time isn’t on his side, but that seems to matter less for relievers. After all, reliever transactions tend to happen at a more frenetic pace than those at other positions, because of the fungibility and attrition rates of the position. The most "screwed" dominant Triple-A reliever of recent times was probably Colter Bean, but he at least got a couple of token callups, and he was a) a sidearm specialist and b) in the Yankees organization. Winston Abreu also comes to mind, and he got sporadic MLB time as well. Even R.J. Swindle made it up!
Long relief: Dan Remenowsky, White Sox
Why He Deserves A Shot: Remenowsky is sort of the pitching version of Goedert. Last year, he had a 2.06 FIP in Double-A and a 4.18 FIP in Triple-A, but the White Sox decided that for some reason, he needed to go back to Double-A to start 2012. As his 2.59 FIP shows, he’s still plenty capable of dominating that level, and is likely a very solid Triple-A pitcher as well. He has a lot of deception and a plus changeup that makes him effective to both lefties and righties, making him another good long man.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Remenowsky’s always been very old for his level, as he was an indy league find; this is his age-26 season. Like you’d expect from a changeup/deception former indy leaguer, he works mostly in the upper 80s with his fastball, which gives him the "trick pitch" label. His age somewhat invalidates the stats, and the scouting profile isn’t good, and that’s a recipe for the industry overlooking a guy.
Chances Of A Callup: Decent. Again, reliever transaction mania means all sorts of guys get called up, and since Remenowsky’s case has merit, he has a better chance than just any ol’ Triple-A reliever. Clearly, though, there are factors working against him. Many disparage the White Sox system, but one area it is quite strong in is relief pitching, and being a 2008 signee, Remenowsky won’t be free agent-eligible until after 2014, when he’s nearing his 29th birthday. However, he is Rule 5 eligible after this year, so it’ll be interesting to see if the White Sox protect him, and if not, if he’s selected.
Why He Deserves A Shot: An obscure 31st-round pick of the A’s in 2008, Mickey Storey has 266 strikeouts in 260 1/3 career innings, with just 75 walks allowed. This season, he’s got a 36/9 K/BB in 35 1/3 frames in Triple-A. That damned PCL inflation rears its head here (6 HR, 4.33 ERA), but that shouldn’t take away from Storey’s impressive achievements. He throws a plus curveball that neutralizes lefties and righties and makes him another potential multi-inning relief option, as well as a fastball and changeup that grade out as average.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: PCL inflation, unimpressive (90ish) velocity, low draft status, right-handedness…there are some reasons there. What upsets me as an A’s fan is that Oakland flat-out released Storey in the middle of 2011, a move that was quite questionable given Storey’s solid track record. The Astros almost immediately snapped him up and promoted him to Triple-A, and that’s looking like a smart move.
But before my anger about that gets the better of me, let’s get back to the topic at hand. Storey’s 26 years old, and as a curveball ‘n’ command guy, his scouting profile doesn’t really stand out amongst other Triple-A relievers.
Chances Of A Callup: Solid. No organization is going to clear space for Storey to rise to the big leagues, but he’s exactly the sort of guy who gets called up when two guys go down and seizes the opportunity. The Astros are a team in a lot of flux as they build themselves up after last year’s bottoming out, so Storey’s in a pretty good spot to get a look at some point. I trust Jeff Luhnow and the Astros’ other decision-makers as great evaluators of talent, so if Storey is one of their seven best relievers at a given time, I’d think they’d find a way to get him to Houston.
Middle relief: Miguel Socolovich, Orioles
Why He Deserves A Shot: Last season, Socolovich struck out 63 batters in 48 2/3 innings with the White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate. A minor league free agent following the season, he was picked up by the Orioles. His strikeout rate has come down a tad this year, but he also nearly cut his walk rate in half, resulting in a much-improved K/BB ratio (2.52 to 3.33). In other words, he’s now strung together two straight dominant seasons in relief. He’s not a trick pitcher, either, working in the low 90s and throwing two solid offspeed pitches.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: I brought up the White Sox’s great relief depth with Remenowsky, and it applies to Socolovich never getting a chance there as well. This season, the Orioles have yet to need him, as Miguel Gonzalez and Stu Pomeranz both broke out and bypassed him through no fault of his own, and the Orioles have stayed more intact as a team than most expected.
Chances For A Callup: Good. He’s just 25, has a strong track record, is in an organization that may well need him sooner rather than later, and doesn’t have any bigtime weaknesses.
Why He Deserves A Shot: Darin Downs is a lefthanded pitcher.
Wait, you needed more? Really? Well, okay then.
Downs is actually the only lefty on this squad, because, you know, most lefties with a shred of merit get a look. Downs certainly has a shred of merit—the guy has a 1.34 FIP this season in Triple-A, and he posted a 2.05 mark in Triple-A last year, with a 2.37 mark in Double-A the year before.
Oh, and he’s a lefthanded pitcher.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: Downs was old for his level to begin with, but that caused his organizations to de-prioritize him, so he was stuck repeating levels he didn’t really need to repeat, which turned into a positive feedback loop. He was in High-A for parts of three seasons and Double-A for portions of four campaigns. A line drive to his face didn’t exactly help him move faster, and neither did organizations moving him back and forth from starting to relieving. Add in the fact that his raw stuff is nothing to write home about…and here we are.
Chances For A Callup: Good. Darin Downs is a lefthanded pitcher. He’s a lefthanded pitcher with a 1.34 FIP in Triple-A. He’s "only" 27. But he’s in the not-quite-as-situational-crazy AL, and the Tigers have a fair amount of relief talent around, so he’s not necessarily in the best possible place to break through. Still, it’s hard not to like his chances of making it sooner rather than later if he continues to excel.
Setup: Cory Burns, Padres
Why He Deserves A Shot: I think I’ll just let the career 11.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 do the talking. Or the 11.6 and 2.0 marks of this season in Triple-A. Or the one homer allowed in 35 2/3 PCL innings. Right, yeah. That stuff.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: To paraphrase Jonah Hill’s character in the Moneyball film: This is Cory Burns. His weakness is that he throws funny.
Chances For A Callup: Very high. You don’t perform at these levels at age 24 in Triple-A and never make it, especially in the NL, and especially on a blown-up Padres team in an organization known for unearthing quality quirky relievers.
Closer: Deunte Heath, White Sox
Why He Deserves A Shot: I struggled to decide what role was best for Heath. In Triple-A, he’s started, relieved, and worked as a swingman, and been effective in all three roles. Last year, he struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings while walking 5.4, and this season, he’s struck out 10.5 while cutting the walks to an exhale-inducing 2.9. That’s good for a 1.91 ERA and 2.31 FIP.
Heath has the most velocity on this team, working in the mid 90s, complementing his fastball with a workable slider and change that he deemphasizes in relief. Clearly, the 26-year-old is a big-league arm, as he’s long overmatched Triple-A hitters, has plenty of velocity, and seems to have improved his control this season.
Why He Hasn’t Gotten A Shot: The White Sox’s bullpen depth comes up again here—it’s one of the reasons he was pushed to starting last season. His past command problems were a wart that several other of the system’s relievers didn’t have, as he previously projected as a low-leverage guy due to the command issues and lack of plus offspeed offerings.
Chances For A Callup: High. Heath is one of the few on this team with a 40-man roster spot, and his velocity is a huge point in his favor, as is his Triple-A track record. There’s just enough concern about the Chicago bullpen depth and Heath’s own weaknesses to keep this from being a lock, but it’s quite probable he makes it to the South Side, or at least to one of the other 29 big league teams.