The start of June has typically signaled the start of promotion season in Minor League baseball. Two months at a level is a pretty good benchmark for many guys – everyday players are generally approaching 200 PAs, starting pitchers have 8-10 starts under their belts, and relievers are often 25+ innings into their campaigns. And mid-month is the draft, the end of Extended Spring Training, the start of short season/rookie leagues, and the mid-point of the five month full-season leagues. So lots of opportunity for movement.
In many cases, what it amounts to is an organizational question, not necessarily a prospect question. Some of the guys mentioned below are not really “prospects” in the sense that you look at them to have an impact on the big club in the future. But don’t discount them all; the players who surprise from the rank and file, the non-prospects, are often the same guys having big seasons like those organizational guys I mention below.
Lehigh Valley (AAA) – Aside from thinking it’s a waste to have Dom Brown spending time at AAA when we need to see if he can do anything at MLB, I don’t see much going on at AAA that would warrant a promotion.
And they don’t really move guys into the bigs the same as they promote elsewhere anyway…2 months at AAA might prove you’re ready, but unless you’re knocking down the door, you stay until there’s playing time for you at the big league level. Maikel Franco was knocking down the door. Someone like Joely Rodriguez is just peeking in the window. Creepy, Joely. Creepy.
Reading (AA) – Aaron Altherr is repeating the league and showing that he’s got the pitchers figured out a lot better than last year. He’s walked in over 10% of his PAs, or nearly double his rate from 2014, (yesterday on Twitter I called him the “Rhineland Walket”, which unsurprisingly drew no fanfare), and his wRC+ of 118 shows he outpacing the league. Time for the 24-year-old to get a crack at AAA. There’s no one of import holding him from taking over center field at Lehigh Valley. As an added bonus, it would free up time in the Reading OF for Brian Pointer to get more regular PAs so he can go on the inevitable hot streak that will fuel my yet-to-be-crushed-by-professional-scouting-opinion-but-still-unabashedly-absurd fantasy of him being a regular big league outfielder.
As for pitchers, Aaron Nola is probably just about ready for MLB to be his next challenge. Time in AAA won’t change much, so unless you want him in that atmosphere with more former big leaguers around him or you want him to work with IronPigs Pitching Coach Ray Burris before he hits the MLB for good, I don’t see it as a necessity. What I would do, were I the Phils, is let Jesse Biddle get the hell out of the worst place he’s ever been to, (sorry, Reading, PA). Nothing you teach him while he muddles through the season at AA can’t be taught while he muddles through at AAA, and the change of scenery can do no harm.
Also for Reading, you could convince me on a promotion for unheralded first baseman Brock Stassi. He’s got a .940 OPS in his repeating season at the level and no one at AAA is worth holding back a guy raking like that.
Clearwater (A+) – It’s getting close to JP Crawford time in Reading. His power has been down, perhaps sapped by his spring injury, so I could see wanting to monitor him more closely with the short road trips and better facilities in the Florida State League. He could get the call in three more weeks, he could get the call tomorrow. As long as he’s on the club when they hit my “home series” in Bowie in July, I’ll be fine. Do whatever.
If they have room for a starter at AA, I’d like to see Mark Leiter Jr. get the call over Brandon Leibrandt, but I’m not sure that’s what they’ll do. Either guy is a coin-toss to immediately handle AA at this point, I think, but they have both been good in A+. Neither strikes me as a particularly strong candidate to be pushing for a big league spot in the near future with all that higher-ceiling inventory ahead of them at Reading, but both deserve to keep moving up. We shall see. Out of the pen, prospect Edubray Ramos has been killing it, with a 0.86 WHIP and a 2.63 FIP. He’s Rule 5 eligible again this year, so it might behoove the club to figure out if he is worth the roster spot now, and a challenging promotion wouldn’t hurt that decision. Along the same lines, Cody Forsythe looks like he’s figured out the FSL. Maybe time for a jump there.
Lakewood (A-) – Rhys Hoskins was the club’s fifth round pick in 2014, and he is hitting a ton at Lakewood. He’s cooled off ever so slightly in the last 20 games, OPSing .862 over that span, to bring his season OPS down to .919, but really, that’s picking nits. He’s sporting a .386 BABIP with similar GB/LD/OFB rates as last year, so he’s luckier than he was and probably due for regression there, but there’s not much left for him to do with the bat at A-.
Carlos Tocci has also proven his worth this year in his third trip to the South Atlantic League, and that’s been well documented. Had they not moved Andrew Pullin off 2B so soon, there would be a logical place for Tocci in Clearwater, but as it stands, he’d be moving into a crowded outfield with no real candidates for promotion to AA. Not sure what they’re going to do here, but they could get each guy PAs as a DH, and maybe spot start Pullin at second or Dylan Cozens at first, where many think he’ll end up in the long run, so running with 4 “prospect” OFers isn’t the worst thing. Also, SS Malquin Canelo’s a candidate to move whenever they push Crawford to AA. Not certain this is the time, and my opinion is he could likely spend the whole year at A- without holding up his progress. Too bad the club doesn’t listen to me. They stopped taking my calls in 2011 when I kept yelling “MATT-RI-ZZO-TTI”and clapping rhythmically five times into everyone’s voicemail. You know, *Clap, Clap, ClapClap, Clap*? True story.
And finally, from the Sally League bump, Ranfi Casimiro seems to have figured it out in the rotation at the start of his second turn through the league – he walked just five men in 32 May innings, and his seasonal WHIP sits at 1.01. Impressive from the 6’8” righty. I’d look to comparatively small lefty Joey DeNato as a likely promotion from the bullpen, as the late-round 2014 pick out of Indiana U. has been lights out all year long. The 5’10” southpaw is sporting an FIP of 2.42 and a K%-BB% of 25.0%. That’s pretty much domination of the league.
Look for something from me around the draft in two weeks. I may play out the Top 10 in a mock for all of you shortly before and will certainly have thoughts in the aftermath of the Phils second Top 10 pick in two years and the subsequent rounds of the draft.