Kris Bryant Not the Only MLB Player Sent Down

The Chicago Cubs made big news yesterday when they demoted Kris Bryant as he is clearly better than other players remaining on the major league roster. Leaving Bryant aside, there are several other prospects throughout the majors who will not get starting roles with their teams who might already be better than the players ahead of them, including fellow Cubs prospect Javier Baez. There are myriad reasons to keep a player in the minors, some related to service time, some related to player readiness, some related to lack of urgency to win, and some due to sunk costs already on the major league roster.

Below are four players who could help their team now, with three players on teams that could contend, but will likely not make the major league roster. Other players who were considered, but not discussed in depth below are Rob Refsnyder on the New York Yankees, Alex Meyer and Miguel Sano of the Minnesota Twins, Archie Bradley of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers and potentially Micah Johnson of the Chicago White Sox. The numbers below come from the FanGraphs Depth Charts. All plate appearances are prorated to 600 and all innings pitched are prorated to 180.

  OBP SLG wOBA WAR
Javier Baez 0.277 0.436 0.312 1.5
Chris Coghlan (LF) 0.319 0.376 0.309 0.3
Arismendy Alcantera 0.290 0.408 0.307 1.7

What was true of Bryant is less clear with Baez. Chris Mitchell did a good job yesterday discussing how much weight should be given to Baez’s terrible start in Major League Baseball last season. Baez was solid last season in Triple-A, but not spectacular with a .260/.323/.510 line in 434 Iowa plate appearances. Baez already has a couple months in the majors so the Cubs would need to keep him in the minors until sometime in June to receive an additional year of team control.

Fellow Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara has the better prorated WAR at second base coming into the season, and aligning the best lineup involves a lot of moving parts. Chris Coghlan is the lowest projected regular on the Cubs so moving him out of the lineup probably moves the Cubs forward the most. Alcantara has played the outfield and could replace Coghlan. He would not be worth as much in left field as the infield, but the net gain over Coghlan would help, assuming Kris Bryant is called up soon and takes over at third base as opposed to left field. The ideal lineup for the Cubs may put Alcantara in center field with Dexter Fowler moving to right as Fowler is not seen as a good defender by UZR or DRS.

  ERA FIP WAR
Carlos Rodon 4.39 4.72 0.5
Hector Noesi 5.84 5.23 -0.5

Across town, the Chicago White Sox have a top prospect of their own who could make an immediate impact with the team. Carlos Rodon has just over 21 professional innings after the White Sox made him the third overall draft pick last year and signed him to a contract in excess of $6 million. Kiley McDaniel ranked him the number eight prospect in all of baseball, noting his great slider. He might not make a big impact this season, but he is likely to be an upgrade over what the White Sox currently have in the rotation.

After trading for Jeff Samardzija and signing Melky Cabrera, projecting the team to win just 78 games might come as a surprise. The Sox have Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Quintana anchoring the rotation, but the White Sox could have two replacement-level or below pitchers in the rotation with Hector Noesi and John Danks. The White Sox still owe Danks around $14 million each of the next two seasons, but the left-hander has not had a decent season since 2011. Rodon does not have any service time so the White Sox could gain an extra year of service time by keeping him down for a few weeks. Those few weeks are not likely to make a difference in the team’s playoff chances, but if they keep him down too long, they might find themselves out of the race earlier than expected.

  OBP SLG wOBA WAR
Maikel Franco 0.283 0.429 0.311 0.6
Ryan Howard 0.307 0.407 0.313 -0.3

The Phillies do not have a lot going for them right now, but Maikel Franco should be a bright spot for them at some point this season. Kiley McDaniel ranked Franco 38th out of all prospects, writing “Franco’s breakout was in 2013, between High-A and Double-A, when he went from a high contact hitter with some raw power to a monster hitting over .300 with 30 homers between two levels”. Franco has already been sent down this spring after some concerns of overswinging.

Franco has been a third baseman in the minor leagues and his projection is actually higher than current Phillies third baseman Cody Asche, but Franco would be a more significant upgrade at first base over Ryan Howard. Given where they sit on the win curve, there is little urgency to call Franco up, particularly to bench former franchise star Ryan Howard. After playing a month last season, the Phillies would need to keep him down into May to ensure a seventh season of service time. Franco might not provide much for the Phillies this season, but he is likely already ahead of the low standard they have set at the major league level currently.

  ERA FIP WAR
Noah Syndergaard 3.54 3.37 2.9
Dillon Gee 4.23 4.24 1.1

Much has been made of the Cubs decision to send Kris Bryant down, but much less has been written about the decision to keep Noah Syndergaard in the minors. Heading into the season, the Mets are just a couple projected wins behind the Cubs and their odds at the playoffs (30%) are not that far off compared to the Cubs (44%). The Mets looked good in the rotation heading into spring, but when Zach Wheeler went down they inserted Dillon Gee into the rotation.

Gee’s projections are not very good while Syndergaard is projected to be very good right off the bat. Kiley McDaniel rated Syndergaard the 19th best prospect in baseball and wrote, “He now sits 93-97 with heavy life and hits 98 mph with a curveball that is mostly above average, but still varies outing to outing. Syndergaard also has been more open to using his changeup than Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler at the same stage, with the pitch flashing above average pretty consistently already.” The win jump between Syndergaard and Gee is huge, similar to the one the Cubs will gain when they call Kris Bryant up.

The Mets, Cubs, and White Sox all have an outside shot at contending this season, but look like they will keep a potentially important piece to contention in the minors. Kris Bryant gets all the attention, but Carlos Rodon, Javier Baez, and Noah Syndergaard have claims of their own. If the goal is to put the best team on the field, even Phillies fans should be complaining. Not all service time manipulation is as obvious as the Cubs’ decision to send Kris Bryant down, but it is a fairly common practice that happens every spring.





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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CS Yankee
8 years ago

Comparing most of these players to Bryant ignores the reality of what really doesn’t pass the smell test in baseball.

This guy has created the best case to be taken North possibly ever due to the following;
1) His HR’s, average, etc. is off the charts. When was the last time that much power (and avg.) didn’t make the team from ST?
2) He is an everyday player…not a reliever or starter but a player that can make the diffence from day one.
3) The Cubs have historically failed perhaps the most loyal fan group in any sport.
4) Their other Rook’s should be sent down as they are incomplete, Bryant should be the exception because the kid had done frickin’ everything imaginable. The Dodger’s aren’t keeping Joc down and they have like 60M$ roaming the three OF positions.
5) As a fan of the game, I’m okay with reasons why you might not take the best 25 players, but this kid is clearly in their top-5 right now on their team at a position of need for them.

Pbmax
8 years ago
Reply to  CS Yankee

“3) The Cubs have historically failed perhaps the most loyal fan group in any sport.”

This should be #1. Epstein, Hoyer and the Ricketts don’t seem to care or even acknowledge the past. How about more recently, like last season, when they put a shite product on the field? I’ve been a fan since I was a kid and have seen Maddux walk away for nothing, the rise and fall of Sammy, the Bartman debacle, among others.

And now the bleachers not getting done on time, can the Cubs alienate their fans any more than they have? I’m sure they can, and Bryant is one more way.

Two-Seam-Hakeem
8 years ago
Reply to  Pbmax

Delaying his service time directly benefits Cubs fans.

What it doesn’t do is immediately gratify their every whim.

agam22
8 years ago
Reply to  Pbmax

Were I a Cubs fan and a decision was made to keep Bryant up solely to pacify long-suffering fans, I would be livid that the front office went against their best judgement so pointlessly.

The FO thinks its in the best interests of the team to keep him down for two weeks (and I would agree). That is the only criteria upon which a baseball team should make decisions

not quite right
8 years ago
Reply to  Pbmax

actually, the 2nd half of last season, once they started playing the rookies and the bullpen got locked in, was quite watchable, and they played near .500 ball over the last 100 games (49-51).

The previous couple of years were horrible, however, I’ll give you that. Not good teams, not watchable.

That said, keeping Bryant down for 2 weeks is a complete no brainer. I have no issue with it. I seriously doubt he’d be a candidate to sign a team friendly extension, so get him for an extra year if you can. It’s not like they are being cheap: that 7th year will be expensive through arbitration.

apk
8 years ago

Pirates fan, here, so I know a bit about fanbases pissed off by front offices.

The hard truth is that the best front offices don’t (and shouldn’t) care what the fanbase thinks. They owe you nothing. If a front office does its job- put the franchise in the best position it can to compete long-term -and the team starts winning, the the fans will flock to the ballpark no matter how much they hate the GM.

For example, the Pirates’ front office still isn’t very popular in this town, but they’ve reached the level of “begruding respect” faster than I thought possible. Regardless, record attendance heals a lot of bruised egos.

Brad
8 years ago
Reply to  Pbmax

Cub fans are the most loyal…drinking old style’s in the bleachers year after year doesn’t make you a loyal fan….it makes you an alcoholic. I love when Cub fans equate sucking for 100+ years with loyalty, at some point you picked a lemon for a team.

Boras players like Bryant and Rodon should be sent down to prove a point to agents that refuse to negotiate. If agents like Boras are going to be stubborn during contract negotiations it’s fair game for the teams to use their advantages when available.

sheeks9
8 years ago
Reply to  Brad

Im not much of a drinker, and I have been a Cubs fan for almost 20 years (Im not much older than 20 years old)….what does that make me?

And considering almost none of us are 100 years old, why is the streak such a big deal? Ive only experienced the seasons that I have been alive for, and there are a lot of teams that havent won in my lifetime. So even if I werent a Cubs fan, there is still a very high probability that I would have “picked a lemon” for a team.

Bradley (different)
8 years ago
Reply to  Brad

Don’t vilify agents because of what you “think” you know about them. Bryant in fact, made one of the most precise statements ever published about this. Players (of any sport) hire agents to represent them and their (player’s) wishes. If the agent doesn’t like/want that particular agents methods, they wouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Or in some circumstances, if the players wishes changes, they hire other agents, which happens. Bryant wanted a bulldog as he said. Don’t ever let your personal thoughts dilude you, an agent of any kind; lawyer, sport, real estate, etc… acts only in the interest of the client….or they get fired.

Bradley (different)
8 years ago
Reply to  Brad

oh, and most people don’t just “pick” teams…. they grow up rooting for them b/c of location or family ties, or maybe just a favorite player….. none of which corresponds anything to do with alcohol.

florida ron
8 years ago
Reply to  Pbmax

The Cubs were hardly a bad team on the field at the end of last season. They were an above .500 team the last 2 months of the season, playing good solid baseball. The talent level improvement over the last 3 seasons is dramatic.

Ted
8 years ago
Reply to  CS Yankee

In the end, the decision is an easy one: you send Bryant down for two weeks. But anyone outside the CHN FO who says this is about something other than service time deserves serious side eye. He’s done absolutely everything you want, his two positions are currently the weakest two on the North Side, and two more weeks in AAA isn’t going to make any meaningful difference in his approach/training.

26.2CubFan
8 years ago
Reply to  Ted

Actually, he did everything OFFENSIVELY that he could. He’s shown himself over 100+ games last year and all of spring training this year to be a very flawed 3rd baseman. I’m not saying he deserves to be kept down because he needs to work on defense, just that he hasn’t done everything to prove he’s ML ready. All of these fans demanding Bryant be on the big league club are going to be just as quick to turn on him if he struggles defensively in his first few weeks with the big league club.

Tramps Like Us
8 years ago
Reply to  CS Yankee

aren’t you being condescending? You’re smart enough to be on this site, you obviously understand the upside of the extra year as an offset for 2 weeks. But you accuse the Cubs of “historically failing” Cubs faithful. Sounds like you’re saying Cubs fans aren’t smart enough to appreciate the reasons behind sending him down. It’s the smart move. It’s a no-brainer. This is not your grandfather’s MLB. Grow up.

Jason Bmember
8 years ago
Reply to  Tramps Like Us

Agree. This is a failing of the collectively bargained system that’s in place, not of the Cubs’ leadership.

Simon
8 years ago
Reply to  Tramps Like Us

TIL only smart people can find this site.

The Real McNulty
8 years ago
Reply to  CS Yankee

you’ve waited 100 years. You can wait 11 days

Dan
8 years ago

I personally haven’t waited over 100 years, but it’s been my whole life. And I absolutely can wait 12 days, or even 15 just to make it look good to the MLBPA. This decision was made last year when they DID NOT call up Bryant in September, just so they could get him even more in 2015 and call him up in 12 days instead of in late May or June. No brainer at this point. Why would you go against your plan? I would trade 12 days or 9 games of Bryant in 2015 over 162 of Bryant 2020 or 2021 (whatever it is) every day of the week. I couldn’t believe I had to explain this and convince other friends of mine that are Cubs fans and extremely intelligent about baseball, but I did, and now they see the light too. So should you all.

Johnny Ringo
8 years ago
Reply to  CS Yankee

I remember Jake Fox having a big ST a few years ago. We see how that turned out.

pft
8 years ago
Reply to  CS Yankee

Chris Carter for the Red Sox (not the good Chris Carter) hit 10 HR’s in ST a few years ago and was out of baseball after 200 PA over the next few years