Below you’ll find a roundup of notable moves from the past few days, as well as future expected moves and a Minor League Report, which includes a list of recent major league debuts and a few players who are “knocking down the door” to the majors. For this column, any lineup regulars, starting pitchers, or late-inning relievers are considered “notable,” meaning that middle relievers, long relievers, and bench players are excluded. You can always find a full list of updated transactions here.
Boston Red Sox
6/8/19: 1B Mitch Moreland (strained quad) placed on 10-Day IL, retroactive to June 8.
Back in the lineup after missing 12 days due to a strained lower back, Moreland grounded out twice in Friday’s game before he was removed with a new injury that has him right back on the injured list. With Steve Pearce still working his way back from a strained lower back—he’s been on the injured list since June 1—and rookie Michael Chavis scuffling as of late, the Red Sox are struggling to get production out of their first base spot with Moreland out of the lineup. J.D. Martinez is in Monday’s lineup, however, after missing the past four games because of back spasms.
6/9/19: OF Yordan Alvarez has contract purchased from minors.
Most would agree that Alvarez’s call-up was long overdue, especially Pacific Coast League pitchers. After a 9-for-12 performance over a three-game span in early May, his slash line peaked at .407/.491/.945 with 13 homers and 14 walks, two of which were intentional. He struck out only 19 times over that period. If there was ever a hitter deserving of a big league promotion, it was Alvarez at that moment.
Yet, he stuck around for more than a month longer. While he continued to inflict damage, homering 10 more times and knocking in 34 runs over his last 31 games, he was also walked 24 times, including nine intentional walks, with 31 strikeouts. In all likelihood, the left-handed slugger was expanding the strike zone because getting pitched around can’t be all that much fun in that friendly of a hitting environment.
Finally getting his chance on Sunday, the 21-year-old Cuban didn’t disappoint. Batting 5th in his major league debut, he launched a 413-foot home run to left-center field in his second at-bat against Orioles starter Dylan Bundy. He should continue to get the bulk of starts as the designated hitter.
New York Mets
6/9/19: 2B Robinson Cano (strained quad) placed on 10-Day IL, retroactive to June 6.
The 36-year-old re-aggravated his quad injury just two at-bats into his return, although he’s expected to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday and could be activated as soon as he’s eligible on Sunday, June 16. Adeiny Hechavarria and Jeff McNeil will continue to share time at second base until Cano is healthy.
Dickerson’s first season in Pittsburgh went about well as he could’ve hoped. He slashed .300/.330/.474 in 533 plate appearances and won his first Gold Glove award. Starting in left field and batting third on Opening Day to kick off his second season with the Bucs, Dickerson homered and walked in a 5-3 loss to the Reds. Only a few days later, though, he was headed to the injured list with a shoulder injury that would eventually cost him more than two months of the season. To make things worse, he has no path to regular playing time with rookie Bryan Reynolds off to a terrific start (.352/.405/.552 in 158 plate appearances) and unlikely to take a back seat to anyone at this point. While the 30-year-old Dickerson did make a start in left field on Saturday with Gregory Polanco getting a day off, he sat on the bench on Sunday and is not in Monday’s starting lineup.
Kang, also relegated to a part-time role after beginning the season as the starting third baseman, made his first start at shortstop on Sunday and crushed his fifth homer of the season. The 32-year-old has a .530 OPS in 103 plate appearances.
Notable Moves Involving Part-Time Players
- Minnesota Twins: Utilityman Willians Astudillo was optioned to Triple-A on Saturday. The 27-year-old had 18 hits, including six doubles and two homers, in his first 58 at-bats in 2019, but struggled over the past month with only 10 hits in 54 at-bats. He’s walked just once and struck out five times on the season. He is 6-for-8 with a homer and a walk, however, since his demotion.
Expected Future Moves
6/8/19: Adam Plutko recalled from Triple-A.
With the Indians’ starting rotation in shambles due to injuries, Plutko took advantage of a golden opportunity by pitching six strong innings (2 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 4 K) on Saturday to pick up his second win in an 8-4 victory over the Yankees. The 27-year-old is scheduled to start again this weekend at Detroit.
Nothing could be more frustrating for a fanbase than to see a top prospect, seemingly ready to contribute to the big league team, get passed over for a promotion. It’s even worse when a journeyman gets pulled off the scrap heap instead. In this case, Dylan Cease, a recent “Knocking Down The Door” pick, is that prospect, and Despaigne, signed to a minor league contract on May 18, would be that journeyman. The 32-year-old Despaigne, a crafty veteran who could keep an opposing lineup off balance for a few innings, becomes the fourth Cuban player on the White Sox roster (Jose Abreu, Yonder Alonso, Yoan Moncada). He’ll start against the Nationals on Monday.
With three upcoming off-days in a span of eight days, the White Sox do not need to fill Covey’s spot anytime soon. He could return before a fifth starter is needed again, which means that Cease might have to wait a little while longer to make his major league debut.
Cahill joins another disappointing offseason signee, Matt Harvey, on the injured list. The duo makes a combined $20MM in 2019 and there’s no guarantee that either makes another start with the Angels. Harvey, who allowed eight earned runs in 2.2 innings in a rehab start over the weekend before re-aggravating his back injury, had a 7.50 ERA in 10 starts before he was sidelined. Cahill has been slightly less bad with a 7.18 ERA in 12 games (11 starts).
In the meantime, the young pitchers on the Angels’ staff have gotten the job done. Rookie Griffin Canning has been the team’s best starting pitcher while the 21-year-old Suarez has been effective in his first two big league starts. Peters, functioning as the “primary” pitcher in Saturday’s game, allowed three earned runs in 5.2 innings and picked up his first win.
New York Yankees
6/10/19: Masahiro Tanaka reinstated from Paternity List.
6/9/19: Domingo German (strained hip flexor) placed on 10-Day IL, retroactive to June 8.
6/8/19: Masahiro Tanaka placed on Paternity List.
Tanaka’s wife gave birth to their daughter on Friday, which is why Tanaka had his Saturday start pushed back to Monday. CC Sabathia moved up a day to make Saturday’s start (5 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, BB, 5 K, L) and Chad Green (2 IP, 0 R, H, BB, 3 K) was the first of seven pitchers used in Sunday’s 7-6 win.
Davis’ first big league start since September 2017 didn’t go all that great (3 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 5 BB, 2 K), but it’s a big step forward after missing all of 2018 recovering from hip surgery. Whether he gets another shot in the Pirates’ rotation is yet to be determined, as is who will start in his spot on Wednesday or in Lyles’ spot on Thursday. It won’t be Nick Kingham, who was designated for assignment over the weekend and has a good chance of getting claimed on waivers. Top prospect Mitch Keller, who struck out 13 batters over five scoreless innings in his last Triple-A start, is an option.
St. Louis Cardinals
6/8/19: Adam Wainwright (strained hamstring) placed on 10-Day IL, retroactive to June 10.
Michael Wacha is making his return to the rotation on Monday and now the Cardinals have another void with Wainwright expected to miss at least two starts. There’s no shortage of interesting options—see Carlos Martinez and Alex Reyes—although it could make the most sense to give Daniel Ponce de Leon a chance. The 27-year-old, recalled from Triple-A on Sunday and available out of the bullpen for now, has a 2.59 ERA in five major league starts, including a very good one in April (5 IP, ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 7 K).
Martinez tossed a season-high 29 pitches out of the bullpen on Sunday and had not appeared in a game in eight days Reyes struck out 10 batters in his last Triple-A start, but he also allowed three earned runs and walked four batters in four innings. While intriguing, I’ll venture to say that they aren’t likely possibilities anytime soon.
Notable Moves Involving Part-Time Players
- Boston Red Sox: Josh Smith recalled from Triple-A. He started game one of Saturday’s double-header, allowing four earned runs in four innings. As the designated 26th man, he was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday.
- Oakland Athletics: Paul Blackburn recalled from Triple-A. He started game one of Saturday’s double-header, allowing five earned runs in three innings. As the designated 26th man, he was optioned back to Triple-A on Sunday.
- Oakland Athletics: Tanner Anderson recalled from Triple-A to make his first major league start on Monday at Tampa Bay.
- Texas Rangers: Joe Palumbo recalled from Double-A. He started game one of Saturday’s double-header, allowing four earned runs in four innings in his major league debut. He was optioned to Triple-A before game two.
Minor League Report
Major League Debuts (June 7-9)
- Mike Shawaryn, RP, Boston Red Sox: 2 IP, ER, H, 0 BB, 4 K 6/7/19
- Yordan Alvarez, DH, Houston Astros: 1-for-3, HR, BB, 2 RBI 6/9/19
- Ryan Eades, RP, Minnesota Twins: 2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K 6/8/19
- Tayler Scott, RP, Seattle Mariners: 2 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, BB, 4 K 6/8/19
- Tommy Edman, PH, St. Louis Cardinals: 0-for-1, K 6/8/19
- Colin Poche, RP, Tampa Bay Rays: 1.1 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 3 K, L 6/8/19
- Joe Palumbo, SP, Texas: 4 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 0 BB, 4 K 6/8/19
- Peter Fairbanks, RP, Texas Rangers: 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 K 6/8/19
- Phillips Valdez, RP, Texas Rangers: 2 IP, 0 R, H, 2 BB, 0 K 6/8/19
Knocking Down the Door
Rico Garcia, SP, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Hartford)
Peter Lambert, who was brilliant in his big league debut last week (7 IP, ER, 9 K), has given the Rockies a big boost with Kyle Freeland‘s decline and Tyler Anderson’s season-ending knee surgery. Jeff Hoffman is getting a chance to fill a rotation spot, but the results have not been good as of yet. After giving up 12 earned runs in 15 innings over three starts at Coors Field, the 26-year-old right-hander gave up five and six earned runs, respectively, in back-to-back road starts at Wrigley Field and Citi Field. The hope is that Freeland can bounce back to his 2018 form when he was fourth in NL Cy Young voting. But after one Triple-A start (5 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 2 K) I’d say don’t hold your breath.
So who’s next in line? The answer could be in Double-A where Garcia, a 30th round draft pick in 2016 out of Hawaii Pacific, has been very good through 12 starts (1.88 ERA, 67 IP, 40 H, 21 BB, 85 K), allowing one earned run or less nine times. On June 4, he pitched six hitless innings—two batters reached on an error—while striking out 11. He also struck out 11 over 6.2 scoreless innings on April 30.
The 25-year-old right-hander could probably benefit from some time with Triple-A Albuquerque, but he also might be the Rockies’ best option if they needed a starter in the near future. With a 167-inning season already under his belt (2018 between Double-A and High-A) and a good level of success in the high minors, Garcia could find himself pitching meaningful big league innings down the stretch.
Conner Menez, SP, San Francisco Giants (Triple-A Fresno)
The Giants are going nowhere fast and should be planning for life without ace Madison Bumgarner, who will certainly be one of the top trade targets of many contending teams. Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson are already in the Giants’ rotation and there should be room for at least two more young pitchers by the end of July. Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez each had solid rookie seasons in 2018 and should get another look despite struggling in the big leagues this year. As far as any other interesting prospects who could pitch in San Francisco in 2019, the 24-year-old Menez could be making a strong case after an impressive Triple-A debut on Sunday (5 IP, 2 ER, 4 H, BB, 9 K).
A 16th round pick in 2016, Menez made starts at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A in 2018, striking out 171 batters in 135.1 innings while posting a 4.46 ERA and 4.0 BB/9. While he continues to strike out batters at a high rate in 2019 (11.0 K/9), his walk rate has dropped to 2.9 BB/9 in his 64.2 innings.
Mitch Keller, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Triple-A Indianapolis)
Keller allowed six earned runs in the first inning of his major league debut on May 27, a spot start that came in game one of a double-header. The 23-year-old finished off on a positive note, however, retiring nine consecutive batters after the six runs had crossed and 10 of the last 11 faced. His next Triple-A start was good (6 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K) and his 13-strikeout performance on Friday (5 IP, 0 R, H, 3 BB) was probably his best of the season. Could it have been his last Triple-A start? With two spots currently open in the Pirates’ rotation, Keller is probably the best option to fill one of them and possibly in line for an extended stint in the majors.