Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Men among boys

Mid-season graduations and moves are on the horizont. They started with the, much approved, Daniel Mayora (AA to AAA), Greg Sexton (A+ to AA) and Omar Luna (AAA to A+) shuffle.

In this post I'm going to look at some prospects who should - in my opinion - be on the move up in July.

Durham Bulls to Tampa Bay Rays
Here I get the point with the service time but the Rays have to be careful not to fall out of contention right now. They HAVE TO play with the best roster available. I would suggest two moves while waiting with the third (Jose Lobaton for Kelly Shoppach) and fourth one (Desmond Jennings) till service time restrictions are no concern any more.
Why not DFA'ing Kelly Shoppach right now? Well, he started to hit a bit in June (.804 OPS) and I would wait another week or two. But, if he comes back to his April/May hitting, please move Lobaton up. He can't be worse offensively and is a better defensive catcher.
Why waiting with Jennings? Because he seems to be the most expensive one of the 4 prospects I mention here long term and because the Rays have to look at such things. Because he is not a clear immediate upgrade over a Guyer/Upton/Joyce/Zobrist/Fuld outfield unless e.g. B.J. Upton is being traded.
  • Alex Cobb up; Andy Sonnanstine down. If Jeff Niemann struggles again in his next start, this move is inevitable. Move Niemann to the Sonny role and play Cobb in the rotation. Sonnanstine might even clear waivers and end up in Durham anyway.
  • Brandon Guyer up; try to move Justin Ruggiano. Justin Ruggiano's value was/is at his peak. Try to get a prospect for him and plug Brandon Guyer in as the most-day left fielder. Guyer has more power upside and contact skills. And while I like Ruggy, he will come back to his very solid (for AAA) and below average (for MLB) all-around game.
Montgomery Biscuits to Durham Bulls
  • Matt Moore up for Edgar Gonzalez. Together with the Alex Cobb move mentioned above I'd hope for a Durham rotation of Alex Torres, Matt Moore, Andy Sonnanstine and 2 out of Brian Baker, Dirk Hayhurst and Jay Buente by the end of July. Matt Moore simply is ready for this move. As there is no imminent replacement for Matt Moore available in Port Charlotte I'd suggest to either move a starter from AAA down to AA or to sign a free agent to take Moore's rotation spot.
  • Nevin Ashley up. Sign Craig Albernaz for AA. This move has to come into place when/if Kelly Shoppach gets DFA'd. Ashley is very solid defensively and his bat has taken a step forward in each of the last 3-4 years. Craig Albernaz is the Rays upper level back-up catcher for years now. This would open a spot for him in AA.
  • Cole Figueroa up. Lets test Figueroa in AAA. He doesn't project as a regular major leaguer but with his solid approach (28:25 BB:K ratio) and versitality (can play 2B, 3B and SS) he is much more of a prospect than for example J.J. Furmaniak. And Furmaniak (who can also play in the OF) doesn't even have to be released as the Bulls have a roster spot free and as the Brandon Guyer promotion would open up another spot.
Charlotte Stone Crabs to Montgomery Biscuits
  • Tyler Bortnick up and nobody down. Tyler Bortnick is ready for this move to AA. He needs to be tested at higher levels. And as Cole Figueroa is moved up to AAA in this scenario nobody has to come down to take his play. I don't see anybody really destroying A-ball but I can see three scenarios (order by my preference) coming into place if Tyler Bortnick is being moved up: 1) Robby Price moving up (solid in A-ball; a bit older prospect; more playing time for Julio Cedeno then); 2) Anthony Scelfo playing more in the infield and sharing the duty with Matt Hall and Omar Luna; 3) signing a MiL free agent to fill the void.
Bowling Green Hot Rods to Charlotte Stone Crabs
  • Robbie Price up. Nobody down. Tyler Bortnick is ready for this move to AA. He needs to be tested at higher levels. And as Cole Figueroa is moved up to AAA in this scenario nobody has to come down to take his play. I don't see anybody really destroying A-ball but I can see three scenarios (order by my preference) coming into place if Tyler Bortnick is being moved up: 1) Robby Price moving up (solid in A-ball; a bit older prospect; more playing time for Julio Cedeno then); 2) Anthony Scelfo playing more in the infield and sharing the duty with Matt Hall and Omar Luna; 3) signing a MiL free agent to fill the void.
  • Wilking Rodriguez up. Lets give him 2-3 more starts and then move him up to Port Charlotte. Charlotte could either play with a 6 man rotation then or move Koronis (as his arm isn't used to a starter's workload) or Merrill Kelly (I don't see him projecting as a starter) back to the pen.
Hudson Valley Renegades to Bowling Green Hot Rods
  • Jeff Malm up. Nobody down. I know that the sample size is very, very small, but he looks very comfortable in Hudson Valley. I'd try him out in Bowling Green alongside fellow '09 draftees Luke Bailey and Todd Glaesmann. Malm could share 1B/DH duties with Phil Wunderlich.
  • Jason McEachern up. The most logic successor of Wilking Rodriguez in the Hot Rods' rotaion is Jason McEachern. He worked on some things this spring and looks better than ever right now. There is some talk that the Rays want to skip him over Bowling Green in '11 and keep him in Hudson Valley this year. I think every level is essential. He should just stick to the approach he has right now in A-.
Rookie ball (Princeton and GCL) to Hudson Valley Renegades
  • Cameron Seitzer, Taylor Motter and Matt Johnson up. All three of them can't learn a new thing at the level they are playing at right now. They could get at-bats due to the promotion of Jeff Malm and due to less at-bats to the likes of Diogenes Luis, Brian Bryles and Tanner Biagini.
Foreign leagues (DSL/VSL) to Rookie ball
  • Oscar Hernandez. The 17 year old catching prospect is destroying the pitching of the VSL. Some numbers: .400-.506-1.274 stat line, 15 HR in 43 games, 17:25 BB:K ratio. I'd like to see him in the GCL soon.


  1. Edgar Gonzalez was released, but otherwise great post. I agree that most of these should happen.

  2. Princeton to Hudson Valley- If SS Motter came up to HV, where would SS Querecuto go? Would they share the SS position? Would one of them knock out/share duties with starting 2B Church?

  3. Thanks for the kind comments on Tyler.

    I'll be honest, the one-level-per-year stuff with the Rays is tough. I know that other teams are scouting Tyler and like him so maybe he'll get a shot with someone else. If you want something a bit more radical, why not give Tyler the shot at AAA? A frustrated father talking here but I believe there is a big league club out there that Tyler can help - sooner rather than later.

  4. As an Ohio native I agree about Bortnick. Bortnick has extremely good potential as well as Dietrich. Dietrich is ripping it up in A- ball so it would make sense moving Bortnick, Dietrich and Price up a level.

  5. Re Bulls: With new guy Matt Torra, the Bulls have a full (overfull?) roster of 13. Believe it or not, the starter who isn't working out is Alex Torres. Last night's game a good example. Leadoff batter got on 4 out of 6 innings. Three on walks. Would a stretch back in AA help? Don't know. But he'd be my candidate to swap for Moore.

  6. Dan~ would love to see Tyler move up, too. :)

  7. On DSL/VSL -> US moves remember visa issues may affect their ability to do that.

    Figueroa really lost playing time once O'Malley came off the DL. If he can't get time on his current team not sure he'll get promoted. I also like his performance though, until he lost regular pt.

    Trading for Torra/signing Buente when Moore is ready in AA would upset me if I were in Durham.

    Seitzer never should have gone to Princeton in the first place, and he's got the 2nd highest OPS in the org (min 50 PAs). He could DH in HV w/ Malm at 1B or bump him to BG as DH w/ Wunderlich at 1B. I don't see a problem w/ costing Schwaner/Tinoco/Castillo a few ABs.

    The biggest problem w/ this is creating roster space and AB/IP. Maybe the 1st thing to do would be make a list of guys who could be released at this point. I know that's not a real popular subject around here, but it has to happen at some point. There have been fewer releases this year than in the past (by my memory fwiw) because of so many guys on the DL. Here are a few candidates (not in order of priority, just off the top of my head):

    Reid Fronk and Jake Jefferies: both were demoted from AA to Charlotte to get playing time, and they both have OPSs around .600. Time to make room for younger players to move up instead of demoted players to struggle.

    I know he plays a lot of positions, but Omar Luna. .490 OPS this year, .573 career. They let Cody Cipriano go, they can survive w/o Luna.

    Matt Sweeney. Doesn't play any positions that can't be filled easily, hasn't even played 3B this year, all 1B/DH. Hitting .153 w/ 70 Ks in 190 ABs, .546 OPS. Only hit .225 last year when he at least played 3B.

    JJ Furmaniak can handle 2B/SS/3B/OF, but he's almost 32 and hitting .191 w/ a .502 OPS. Promote Figueroa or O'Malley to replace him. (This may be my choice for #1 move to make.)

    One last one, Dustin Biell in Charlotte. This is his 5th season since being drafted in the 5th round in 2007, he's a career .224/.292/.301 hitter. In 2011 he's below his career average at .178/.259/.236. He's a little harder to replace because he's a CF, but they could promote Kevin Kiermaier from BG, or even Cody Rogers.

    Anyway, not to be so negative, but they need to clear space. Any other position player moves you'd like to see?

  8. Maybe Diogenes Luis-Hudson Valley

  9. What about chris winder?

  10. I agree the Rays organization seems to hang on to everyone which creates a bottleneck within the organization. Let go of the ones that are not improving and let the new talent have a shot. Very frustrating.

  11. I kinda like Seitzer where he is. knows pro style ball. baseball in his blood. he can rub off on vettleson, sale, o'connor, etc. that team seems like a lot of fun. can't wait to see these kids grow up.

  12. Phil Wunderlich gets no love again,whats up with you fellas ???He can flat out hit !!!Cody Rogers is leading midwest league in runs scored,Kevin Kiermaier has an absoulute cannon in center field,they both can swipe a bag.Chris Winder is off to a great start in NY-Penn !!!!

    C.J. Reifenhauser is the Hot Rods top pitcher,very tough Yonkers kid that can deal.

    Bortnick and Nommenensom both have terrific bb to so ratios,and deserve to be promoted !!!

  13. First of all I have to say that it's not a knock on any player to go level by level. Especially with the Rays. I didn't point out guys like Brett Nommensen, Phil Wunderlich (I don't have anything against them being promoted), Kevin Kiermaier or Cody Rogers (I wouldn't promote them mid-season as they have lots of things to learn in their approach) as I don't see the need to immediately promote them.

    I agree with Doug that there could be made more room for more at-bats for the top-prospects. But, maybe the Rays don't want them to play everyday as they want to show them and work on things on individual off-days. Sounds logical to me.

    I don't want to call anybody out and say that they should be released as I simply (nearly) only have the stats to go from. That is why I didn't mention releases in the post above. But, a release candidate shouldn't stand in the way of prospect development. Prospect development should be THE goal.

    @Daniel Bortnick: We are on the same board with your son being promoted in June as he deserved it. But, I think he definitely should not be bumped over Montgomery as you learn new things at every level. Even Evan Longoria was nearly a year in A+ and a year in AA. I also think that the Rays organization knows what it has in your son and values him very highly. They drafted him in the first place which suggests that they value him more than any other organization.

    @Kevin: Thanks for the note.

  14. During MiST I got to talk to a few frustrated parents about the projected level for their boys, but the worst thing you can do is push a young player and set him up to fail. With less than a month in,the short season teams will take more time to truly evaluate progression and development before rushing into a decision, as they should. Even half a season is far from enough time to evaluate how a young player will do as the long season begins to wear down some of these guys who are new to the longer (over 100 games) seasons with tough competition every day.

    Patience with young players is a positive for development, and has worked for the Rays, mistakes of holding players back are much less damaging than rushing them into a bad situation. You only get one shot at developing them, and erring on the side of caution is generally a better option.

    Just a other perspective.

  15. Well let me take a shot at it.

    I can see the Rays making a few moves before the end of the month.

    1. Cut Kelly Shoppach or package him as part of a deal w/Upton.
    2. Trade Upton- He is starting to get hot over the past few weeks hopefully he can keep it up so we can package him for a good young 1B/DH/C prospect or a top young cost controlled back of the pen type arm.
    3. Trade Juan Cruz- I know it's not a spectacular blockbuster of a move but it makes sense. He won't be a type B FA next year because of his injury the previous year, so why let him walk free without getting something for him. I'd take a projectable relief arm that is far away from the majors for this guy. He is putting together a decent season and bullpen guys always seem to get moved at the deadline as all the contendors want to shore up their pen.
    4. Cut Sonny, move Neimann to the long role- I have been begging for this move for a while now and you suggested it as well. Neimann can compete for a job in the rotation again next year but right now we can't have our 4th best starter (Cobb) taking meaningless starts in AAA. (Moore probably is our 4th best starter but we all know he is not going to come up lol)

    5. Ruggiano- I think someone will take a flyer on a guy who could be a decent 4th outfielder. I think his call up over Guyer was a plan in order to build some value for him so we can move him. Shouldn't bring too much in return by himself but he could be part of a package deal with Cruz.

    I would like to see us hold on to Shields, Farnsworth, and Perralta. Farnsworth and Perralta will be A and B free agents respectably and I think this is a front office that respects what those picks can bring. And with Shields I don't really think you can move him with what he is doing and the uncertainty of Davis/Neimann at the back of the rotation.

  16. As for call ups:

    To the Bigs- SP Alex Cobb, RP Brandon Gomes, C Jose Lobotan, LF Brandon Guyer, CF Desmond Jennings.

    It sucks having better players in AAA then on your major league team. I hope and have faith that by August 1st these 5 guys will be on the active roster for the Rays. Jake McGee is pretty deserving too but he may have to wait til September.

    To AAA Durham- SP Matt Moore, RP Sergio Espinosa, C/LF Stephen Vogt, CF Emeel Saleem, SS Tim Beckham, OF Kyeong Kang

    I know this is 6 players but we have some guys who can get cut like Olmedo/Furmaniak to make room. Moore gets in the rotation and one of the AAAA guys can get thrown to the pen or cut if Sonny clears waivers (Not sure on his options as it has been a bit of a mystery on some of the other blogs). I like calling up Vogt over Ashley but it's close. With Guyer and Jennings moving up I like Vogt moving up as he has been playing LF and we need outfielders. It will allow for more playing time for him and Chirinos. Saleem up mainly because we don't have a guy who can man CF. I picked Espinosa over Fleming due to age but it's close I would like to see what either of them can do at AAA. Beckham moves up he's having a solid season and there's no one really blocking him at AAA but he is blocking everyone else staying at AA. Finally we do need some OF's so bring on Kang too while we are at it.

    Up to AA Montgomery- C Craig Albernaz, SS Hak-Ju Lee, OF Brett Nommenson, OF Chris Murrill, 1B Michael Sheridan, SP Merrill Kelly, RP Josh Satow

    7 move ups with Sweeney getting the ax. Albernaz is filling the backup role as usual, Lee finally gets to AA. Murrill and Nommenson get a shot at AA, Scelfo could be in the mix too. Kelly is having a good season but Thompson could have a shot too cuz the Rays have actually been agressive with him as opposed to other players but I think a whole year in A ball will be in store for him because of his injury this year. Satow is an organizational arm but he has a had a good year so he moves up.

    To A Charlotte- SP C.J. Reifenhauser, RP Chris Rearick, 1B Phil Wunderlich, OF Cody Rogers, , SS Derek Dietrich, and sign FA filler

    Time to see what Reifenhaser can do. Rearick is having a good season at the back of the pen. Wunderlich has torn it up since getting drafted, he is older and should move up quicker. Cody Rogers has put some power on display this season. Dietrich moves up to take Lee's spot, will he start to see some time at 3B?

    Up to A Bowling Green- 1B Jeff Malm, SP Jason McEachern, OF Mikie Maytook.

    Not much going on here, we could fill in with some FA's or older gus playing in Rookie ball but I'm not going to go hunting for these guys. Malm and McEachern deserve to be up and take these spots. Maytook debuts here as he is very polished and ready to take Rogers spot.

    Up to Rookie ball Hudson Valley- Cameron Seitzer and SP Grayson Garvin.

    Seitzer's been tearing it up plain and simple he should have started here in the beginning. Garvin signs and makes a few starts here. SS Taylor Motter could move up too, but there seems to be a lot of SS's at Hudson Valley already.

  17. One thing I forgot to mention is the uncertainety of the middle infield of the Rays has me thinking that Felipe Lopez may be brought back at some point, especially if the Rays package Rodriguez/Brignac/Johson to sweeten an Upton deal. In this case look for 2B Figueroa and Bortnick to move up. But if not I really don't see this happening unfortunately because Bortnick really needs to move up and get tested at a higher level.

  18. As the original post suggests I agree with you on many points but:
    1) I would keep Kang and Riefenhauser right where they are for the rest of the season. It is early enough for them to reach AAA and A+ respectively next season. Kang should build up confidence this season in AA and Riefenhauser will have a slump he has to struggle through sometime. I would not rush any player.
    2) Keep Hak-Yu Lee in A+ while promoting Tyler Bortnick instead. Lee is not tearing up A+ anymore like at the beginning of the season and it looks as if he still could learn something in A+. Keep him there and play him AA next year. Early enough.
    3) I would not promote Tim Beckham to AAA this season. I like the one-level-at-a-time approach with him. His performance level decreased as well as of lately and I would let him improve and learn in AA this year before promoting him to AAA next year.

  19. Interested in seeing Oscar Hernandez in live game action which I could see in the GCL, but remember that a visa can take weeks and he is a minor meaning they would also need one for a guardian.

  20. How common is it for VSL/DSL prospects to be moved to the GCL mid-season? Have we done it before?

  21. Depends on what you mean by mid-season. The Rays promote players from the DSL/VSL to the US short-season teams quite a bit at the beginning of the US teams' season. Since the DSL/VSL start a month or so earlier, they play there first and then join the US teams when they open up. Here is the list of players who did that this year:

    Bruedlin Suero
    Roberto Gomez
    Joan Guerrero
    Jonathan Quinonez
    Ismel Antunez

    What is rare is for a player to move up after the US short-season teams have been playing for a while. If I remember correctly Antunez was the only one to move up later this year, he came up 6/27.

    As someone mentioned earlier, age may affect the visa thing too. All of the guys listed above are 20 or 21, while Oscar just turned 18 today (yesterday I guess, July 9th). Happy belated-Birthday Oscar!

  22. When did Alejandro Segovia come over in '09? Was it mid-season (for the GCL)?

  23. I can't understand what everyone is looking at. only one person in this entire post including the website even mentioned Stephen Vogt. Have you people (website designers) been on and looked at his stats? He is batting over .300 and is second in RBI's in the entire league. come on people

  24. Let's make that another person to mention STEPHEN VOGT. He deserves recognition- lots of it...and a promotion, too!

  25. Whose spot does Vogt take? Chirinos, Lobaton & Ashley are all the same age as him.

  26. I think they are probably looking at him as LF/1B/DH and as a 3rd catcher. If so, could find a spot for him. But as a primary catcher, no. Problem for Vogt is age, he was older to start and then lost a year. Would be OK if played important defensive position, but at LF/1B/DH bat has to carry him and while he's been great, he's old for leagues he's been in and doesn't really have enough power as he approaches MLB. If he could handle catching fulltime the bat would be fine, and the age not as big a deal as catchers always take longer (see the guys above him in Rays org).

  27. Jim, based on play he could take any of those spots and besides that Durham only has 1 outfielder on their roster right now. and if they think age is a factor now would be a good time to find out if he can hit AAA ball

  28. Don't get me wrong, I was writing about how much I liked Vogt back in ST of 09, so I am not against him at all. As a matter of fact he plays the game the way I love to see it played.

    But the Durham OF was only a mess for a couple days when Guyer was up, and with Johnson back to playing 1B and the catchers and Canzler sharing the DH spot it doesn't seem to help the organization to take him from AA where two of the best starting pitchers reside. I love the idea of having "Crash" Vogt on the team with Archer, Moore and Beckham on an everyday basis.

    That's my perspective, but I know there are plenty of other ways to look at it.