Prospects Tyler Moore, Pat Corbin Receive the Call.
It’s been an exciting week for call-ups with the Top 2 prospects within the Top 100 pre-season prospect list getting the call to the Majors. A couple other interesting names have also received a promotion to the Majors this week for the first time, although their names carry much less fanfare than the likes of Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.
The demotion of Josh Collmenter from the starting rotation to the bullpen in Arizona is not a surprise. However, the prospect tapped with replacing him in the rotation may be. Southpaw rookie Pat Corbin, 22, was off to a very nice start in double-A, although he doesn’t possess the same ceiling as fellow top prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs. Prior to the season Corbin was ranked sixth on FanGraphs’ Top 15 prospect list for the Diamondbacks, while Bauer was first and Skaggs was third behind the now-traded Jarrod Parker.
Corbin commands his three-pitch repertoire well for his age and experience level, which helps his average fastball play up. For him to succeed in the Majors – and especially in his potent new home ball park – he’ll have to do a better job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone. Right-handed hitters continue to hit him much better than lefties so the development of his changeup is also important.
Corbin should be an immediate upgrade over Collmenter but he may not be ready to assume a permanent role at the big league level. He’ll officially be added to the 25-man roster on Monday and will make the start against Miami and veteran southpaw Mark Buehrle. The rookie may simply be keeping the spot warm for the eventual promotion of Bauer or Skaggs, or for the return of Daniel Hudson who’s currently on the disabled list with a shoulder impingement.
Tyler Moore, 25, is a right-handed mashing first baseman. Between 2010 and 2011 he smashed 62 home runs while playing at both high-A and double-A. His home run prowess continued into 2012 with his promotion to triple-A where he slugged another seven home runs in just 22 games. Moore did not appear on the FanGraphs pre-season Top 15 prospect list for the Nationals organization and has not made the list in any of the past three seasons.
The former 16th round draft pick out of Mississippi State does not come with the ‘top prospect’ label but it’s hard to argue with his power (.262 ISO rate in ’11) and he definitely deserves a shot in Washington. A career .286 hitter in the minors, Moore wil likely be more in the .230-.250 range at the big league level with his current approach at the plate. He’s overly aggressive and doesn’t walk much at all. His propensity for the strikeout (24.8% in ’11) will keep the batting average, and his overall effectiveness, down.
Ultimately he may end up as a platoon player or a right-handed bat off the bench, especially if he cannot improve his two-strike approach, but he definitely has value if he continues to slaughter southpaws at the big league level. Moore will battle two veteran left-handed hitters, Adam LaRoche and Chad Tracy, for playing time. He takes the place of injured veteran infielder Mark DeRosa on the 25-man roster.
With Trout Recall, Angels Make Half Of Right Decision.
At 6-14, the Angels enter play today tied with the Royals for the second-worst record in baseball, and at -12 runs, they have the eighth-worst run differential as well. They have lost eight of 10, including five straight, with the last two being of the walk-off variety. As such, the team is in desperate search of a spark, and on Friday night they hope they found it by calling up the one player who should have been with the team all along in Mike Trout. Unfortunately, the Angels roster is now misshapen, thanks to the fact that Anaheim cut the wrong player in order to get Trout to the Majors.
In Spring Training, the Angels used a pair of excuses to ship Trout back to the Minors. One was that he battled a virus and lost some weight, with the other potentially being more serious — he had shoulder tendinitis. But since Trout went out and clubbed four doubles, five triples and a homer in his first 20 games at Salt Lake, it seems his shoulder is just fine and dandy. The real reason he was sent down was that the Angels had a conundrum on the corners, and since he is the rookie, he drew the short end of the stick. And he would have likely continued to draw that short end had the Angels started strong. After all, it took a five-game losing streak to get him called up, despite the fact that he was hitting over .400 in the Minors.
Now, some of that batting average is likely attributable to the Pacific Coast League’s hitting-friendly environment, but it’s important to note that Trout’s stats still placed among the league leaders. He currently ranks seventh in wOBA, fourth in speed score and 24th in BB%. It took the Angels a little while to come around, but now that he is back up in the Majors, they aren’t being shy with him — Trout is hitting leadoff today. He is befitting of such a role because outside of Chris Iannetta and Albert Pujols, Trout may be the most patient hitter on the team. But while Trout should immediately make the Angels a better team, Anaheim hamstrung themselves by cutting the wrong player.
To make room for Trout the Angels released Bobby Abreu. This was one of the more telegraphed moves of the season. The Angels have not been shy about trying to find a new team for Abreu, and at one point had a deal to ship Abreu to the Indians, though it fell apart over how much of Abreu’s salary Anaheim would eat. But while it was a telegraphed move, it was also the wrong one. Whether or not you are of the opinion that there is anything left to salvage of Vernon Wells’ career or not, he is now completely redundant on Anaheim’s roster. Today, Wells will ride the pine, with Trout, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter starting from left to right in the outfield. You’ll notice something about those three players, and that is that like Wells, they’re all right-handed hitters.
When Wells was platooning with Abreu, it made sense, since Abreu is a left-handed hitter. They could easily swap in and out of the lineup based on matchups. Wells no longer has that luxury. And while Wells still hits lefties well, none of the three outfielders ahead of him on the depth chart has demonstrated a deficiency against lefties. Kendrys Morales has had troubles against lefties in the past, but if he needs a day off against a lefty, Mark Trumbo can stand in for him, with one of the Angels’ better fielders manning third base. Wells also isn’t going to be valuable as a pinch hitter. For starters, it’s a role with which he is almost completely unfamiliar — he has just 10 plate appearances as a pinch hitter in his 14-season career. Second, Wells is simply too aggressive to be a good fit for the role. A pinch hitter needs to be able to come in and see a couple of pitches to get his bearings and work a good at bat, and Wells doesn’t do that. So far this season, he has seen just 3.59 pitches per plate appearance, which ranks 148th out of 194 American League hitters. His BB/K is no different — his paltry 0.15 mark is 15th-worst in the game. And while the samples for this season are small, it’s not like past years have been much different — Wells BB/K last year was 0.23, and his career-best mark is 0.63.
Abreu, on the other hand, is not only the better hitter — his wOBA last season bettered Wells’ by 40 points — but he is also a perfect fit as a pinch hitter. Thanks to his time in the National League, he has pinch hit far more frequently during his career than has Wells, and his hitting profile fits the role of one much better. While Wells topped out at 0.63 BB/K, Abreu has had a BB/K of .63 or better in each of the last 14 seasons. He is at just 0.40 so far this year, but then he’s only had 27 plate appearances. And Abreu also sees a lot more pitches — his 4.30 P/PA ranks 22nd best in the AL right now. And again, since he is a left-handed hitter, he would be easier to sub in for one of the outfielders on days when they might need a breather. To take that one step further, by keeping Wells, the Angels now have no solely left-handed hitter on their active roster; they have nine right-handed hitters and four switch hitters. Abreu would have helped balance both the outfield and the entire roster better than does Wells.
While it may have taken 20 games too many, the Angels were right to get Mike Trout back to the bigs, as he will almost assuredly be one of the Angels’ three best outfielders from here on out. However, in cutting Bobby Abreu instead of Vernon Wells, the Angels have a misshapen roster that is at a tactical disadvantage in the late innings. That might be defensible if Wells was the better player overall, but he isn’t. Yes, the Angels still owe Wells a lot of money, but that is a sunk cost. By choosing to keep him and his contract over Abreu, Anaheim has not only done themselves a disservice, but potentially one to Trout as well, as he may have to look over his shoulder at Wells after every bad game.
Bryce Harper Promoted to Nationals.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
It wasn’t the way the Nationals envisioned it, but nevertheless, Bryce Harper has graduated to The Show. With Ryan Zimmerman heading to the disabled list for the second straight season, the team was looking to put an impact bat, as well as perhaps shift the focus away from Zimmerman’s injury, and thus Harper gets the call.
The reason that it has the chance to come off as little more than a publicity stunt is that Harper isn’t hitting all that well so far this season. His .313 wOBA ranks just fifth out of the seven Syracuse Sky Chiefs who have accumulated at least 40 plate appearances. This is actually sort of a continuation of his production at Double-A from last year, where Harper had just a .332 wOBA. He did dominate the Arizona Fall League last year, but in the regular season, he hasn’t hit well since last July.
Since Harper may soon find himself back in the Minors if Zimmerman only misses the minimum, the team could have certainly could have gone with one of its hot hands. Tyler Moore, Corey Brown and Mark Teahen all have experience in the outfield and are sporting .422, .389 and .365 wOBA’s at Syracuse, respectively. Teahen in particular would have been an easy call to make, since he is a Major League veteran. Doing so would have allowed the team to avoid starting Harper’s service time and arbitration clocks, which would seem like an important consideration if this is truly a temporary situation. Even more players will qualify for Super Two arbitration status under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, and there are less top prospects in the Majors right now than there have been at this point in the past two seasons. Of Marc Hulet’s top 30 prospects this year, only Matt Moore, Jesus Montero, Devin Mesoraco and Jarrod Parker are in the Majors. Then again, perhaps Zimmerman’s injury is a long-term concern, as Will Carroll suggested earlier today.
And just because Harper hasn’t hit well in 55 games between Double and Triple-A doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve the call-up. He has been young for every level, and at just 19 years old, he will be the youngest player in the Majors, displacing the 21-year-old Drew Hutchison — whose reign as the game’s youngest player lasted just eight days. And as Harper showed as an amateur, in A ball and the AFL, there is legitimate thunder in his bat. In addition, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was in Syracuse to scout the Sky Chiefs earlier this week, and came away impressed with Harper. The error bars for his performance are likely to be wide, but with Washington expected to play him every day starting tomorrow, he will have an opportunity to get his bearings. And even if he doesn’t hit, he should be an asset in the field, as his speed and arm have graded out as plus or better by scouts.
Luckily though, Harper doesn’t have a tall mountain to climb to be a useful hitter for the Nats. To date, Washington has one of the worst offenses in the game. Its .290 wOBA ranks 24th in the game, and is tied for 12th in the National League. The average NL wOBA is just .306, but Washington’s left fielders have been far, far worse than that. Xavier Nady, who has started 10 games in left, is sporting a downright odious .192 wOBA, and he’s been the club’s best left fielder. Mark DeRosa, who has started six of the other nine games in left, is “hitting