Minor League Update: Introducing Brujan Da 5’9

Piece by piece, pick by pick, signing by signing the Tampa Bay Rays have quietly built the best farm system in baseball. Stocked at all levels with players of all types. This balanced blend of pitching and hitting, power and speed, big stuff guys and pitchability types. There’s no shortage of prospects to discuss on the Rays farm. While much of the recent discussion and helium has followed wunderkind Wander Franco and his assault on the Appy League. He’s not the hottest player in the Tampa system at the moment. That honor belongs to recently promoted second baseman Vidal Brujan. The 20 year old switch-hitter is a contact machine, showing an uncanny ability to get his bat on balls in all quadrants of the zone. With a mature approach at the plate, it’s apparent right away that Brujan has a plan. His ability to recognize and make in swing adjustments is rare. When I caught the spark-plug (coded short person language) in the New York-Penn League last year with Hudson Valley, he stuck out like a green hat with an orange bill. Rarely do you see a player this athletic in short season ball, that seemingly has the foundations figured out. But there was Brujan. He’s never going to be an impactful power hitter, but his swing does have loft, and he has the ability to drive balls to the gaps. Quick hands generate his plus bat speed, but it’s his laid back approach, and ability to make split second reads on spin that really set him apart. That’s before we even talk about his speed and base-running ability. He’s quick, getting clocked at 4.26 on the turn by Jason Woodell just weeks ago. He uses that speed too, wrecking havoc this season between the Midwest League and Florida State League, stealing 49 bases on 67 attempts. I envision a top of the order table setter with 25+ steals, a high batting average and 12-15 homers, but 30+ doubles. If I was in a dynasty that used points scoring, I’d make it a priority to add Brujan. Through 12 games in High-A he’s slashing .409/.519/.614 with a homer and 6 steals. Go add Brujan da 5’9 (that’s his listed height) before he goes BOOM!

Tigers Designate Zach McAllister For Assignment

The Tigers announced that they’ve designated right-hander Zach McAllister for assignment. To take his place, they plan on selecting fellow righty Jacob Turner’s contract from Triple-A Toledo prior to Sunday’s game against the Twins.

It appears the marriage between the Tigers and McAllister will end up as a short-lived union, as the team just signed the 30-year-old on Aug. 10. In order to make room for the addition of McAllister, Detroit designated Turner, making Saturday’s move a reversal of that transaction.

The hard-throwing McAllister appeared in three games and threw 3 1/3 innings as a Tiger, giving up a whopping eight earned runs on 10 hits despite racking up five strikeouts against no walks. McAllister also struggled to prevent runs across 41 2/3 frames with the AL Central rival Indians earlier this year, as he pitched to a 4.97 ERA with 7.3 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9, prompting the Tribe to release him Aug. 8.

McAllister isn’t far removed from serving as a quality reliever, evidenced by his 2.99 ERA over 183 1/3 innings from 2015-17, but it appears this will go down as a season to forget for him. Turner, on the other hand, hasn’t experienced much success since debuting with the Tigers back in 2011, but they’ll give him a chance to make his second start of the season Sunday. The 27-year-old owns a 5.37 ERA with 5.76 K/9 against 3.51 BB/9 in 369 big league frames, and has allowed a comical 15 earned runs on 19 hits in just 6 2/3 innings between Detroit and Miami in 2018.

NL Notes: Panik, Shildt, Holliday

The latest from the National League…

  • With Giants second baseman Joe Panik losing his grip on an everyday role, he may be in his last season with the club, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle observes. Panik will earn approximately $5MM in arbitration next year (his penultimate season of team control), estimates Schulman, who writes that the team could either trade or non-tender him over the winter. A Giant since they selected him 29th overall in 2011, Panik isn’t worried about his future, but he may need a strong finish this year to continue with the club. “I do understand the business side of it,” Panik said. “At the same time, “I haven’t even thought that far, and you really can’t, honestly. If you’re thinking that far ahead, you’re not going to be able to take care of business today.” Although Panik has been a solid major leaguer since debuting in 2014, the 27-year-old has hit an unappealing .242/.303/.347 (78 wRC+) in 262 plate appearances this season.
  • It’s unknown whether Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt will return as the team’s full-time skipper in 2019, but he has earned a fan in chairman Bill Dewitt Jr. since taking over the fired Mike Matheny on July 14. “He’s done everything that we could possibly ask for,” DeWitt said (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). “I think he communicates with his staff, communicates well with players, has a good baseball-mind. Strategically — hard to criticize what he’s done. He’s a very good manager. Has been coming up through the ranks. Just a very solid baseball man.” It’s difficult to quantify the performance of a manager, but it’s nonetheless worth noting that the Shildt-led Cardinals have rallied to post a 21-10 mark and now find themselves in possession of the NL’s second wild-card spot.
  • Rockies veteran first baseman/outfielder Matt Holliday, 38, is making a case for a promotion to the majors, Thomas Harding of MLB.com writes. Holliday, who sat on the unemployment line until Colorado signed him to a minor league deal on July 28, has slashed a tremendous .370/.473/.652 in 55 PAs with its top minors affiliate in Albuquerque. Rockies manager Bud Black has taken notice, saying: “He’s checking off some boxes. The thing that we’re happy about is the physical side. Mentally, Matt’s been a longtime player. You get back up to speed real quick. That didn’t take long, I’m sure. But the confidence that when he faces all sorts of pitching — there’s a difference between big league pitching and minor league pitching, but he’s been able to face a lot of different styles of pitching in Triple-A — will continue to get him closer to coming to us.” If the Rockies were to promote Holliday, he’d be in line for his second stint as a member of the club, with which he began his career and thrived from 2004-08.

Injury Updates: Altuve, Nationals, Red Sox, Brewers

Here’s the latest key injury news from around Major League Baseball:

  • Astros second baseman and reigning American League MVP Jose Altuve will play a rehab game at the Triple-A level on Sunday, and it’s possible he’ll be back in the majors Monday, per Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. Right knee soreness has kept Altuve out of action since July 25, and the Astros have gone just 7-12 without him and fallen out of sole possession of first place in the AL West. They lost to the Athletics on Saturday, putting the two teams in a first-place tie atop the division.
  • There is a chance that starter Stephen Strasburg and reliever Kelvin Herrera will rejoin the Nationals during their next series against the division-rival Phillies, which begins Aug. 21, Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com writes. Strasburg has been out since July 20 with a pinched nerve in his neck, while Herrera hasn’t pitched since Aug. 7 because of a right rotator cuff impingement. Starter Jeremy Hellickson and reliever Ryan Madson have joined those two on the DL this week, making it all the more important for the disappointing Nats to get back both Strasburg and Herrera as they try to make up a seven-game deficit in the National League East.
  • Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright, out since June 26 with left knee inflammation, is closing in on a rehab assignment, manager Alex Cora told Christopher Smith of MassLive.com and other reporters. Wright will work out of Boston’s bullpen when he does return, Cora added. The 33-year-old Wright has served as a reliever in six of 10 appearances this season and registered a 3.38 ERA/4.49 FIP with 6.98 K/9, 4.5 BB/9 and a 53.2 percent groundball rate in 40 innings.
  • While Brewers GM David Stearns and manager Craig Counsell indicated Wednesday that Jimmy Nelson probably won’t pitch this year, the righty said Saturday that he still hopes to return in 2018 (via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com). “I’m still doing everything in my power,” said Nelson, who hasn’t taken a major league mound since Sept. 8, 2017, because of shoulder problems. Nelson’s absence has robbed the Brewers of someone who was seemingly turning into a front-line starter before he went down, but they’ve still managed a 68-56 record and a half-game lead on a wild-card spot without him this season.

The surging A’s are are tied atop the AL West

Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

11½ games back two months ago, Oakland ties Houston atop the division

The Oakland A’s have been charging hard for two months, and their story has morphed from “Here’s who the Yankees will play in the American League Wild Card Game” to “Holy cow they could actually win their division.”

The A’s beat the Houston Astros on Saturday, 7-1, the second straight victory over their division rivals to start this weekend series in Oakland, to pull into a tie for first place in the American League West.

Oakland was under .500 this season as late as June 16, at 35-36, and at their relative lowest was 11½ games behind the Astros in the AL West. But the A’s have won an astonishing 40 of their last 53 games, with the division looking like this with just over six weeks left to play:

Oakland 74-49 (.602)
Houston 74-49 (.602)
Seattle 70-53 (.569)

This is the first time in four seasons that the A’s have been in first place after April, and a huge turnaround after averaging 91 losses the last three years.

The A’s have turned things around thanks to a strong offense, one that banged eight doubles in Saturday’s win, an effective bullpen that was bolstered by deadline deals for Jeurys Familia, Shawn Kelley and Fernando Rodney, and a surprise trio of starting pitchers able to turn back the clock.

Trevor Cahill threw seven scoreless innings on Saturday, lowering his ERA down to just 3.12. Cahill and fellow 30-somethings Edwin Jackson and Brett Anderson have combined for a 3.17 ERA in 36 starts for Oakland, after those three last year had a collective 5.39 ERA in 215⅓ innings.

There is still a long way to go this season, and after Sunday’s series finale in Oakland the A’s and Astros play one more series, at the end of August in Houston.

The only two major league teams with a better record than the A’s and Astros are the Red Sox (87-36, .707) and Yankees (76-46, .623). The way Oakland is playing, catching at least New York is an attainable goal, whether it is for potential home field advantage in the Wild Card Game of the AL Division Series.

That this is even a consideration at this point is a testament to how well the A’s have been playing, and at this point they can’t be counted out of anything.

Romine OK after foul tip off mask, but will sit

Already without everyday backstop Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ catching depth took another hit in Saturday afternoon’s 11-6 win over the Blue Jays when Austin Romine was removed from the game after being struck in the mask by a foul ball. Though Romine passed concussion tests after exiting, the club will continue to monitor him throughout the weekend, according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone.

Manager Notes: Baker, Mattingly, Showalter

In a lengthy interview with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Dusty Baker lends some of his thoughts on managing, the state of the game, labor relations, racism and a number of other topics. Some of the highlights are his explanation as to what he meant by “Dusty don’t like walks”, his thoughts on the racist Trea Turner tweets, and most notably, and his relative disinterest in returning to a management position at any point down the line. Baker feels as though the fans and Chicago ownership turned on him at the end of his tenure there, and he also felt as though he couldn’t make the fans in Cincinnati happy, claiming that even when he won, his “mode of thinking” was criticized. The interview lends some great insight into Baker’s career and his personality.

A pair of other management-related notes…

  • In a scathing critique of his players, manager Don Mattingly called the Marlins’ latest loss “unacceptable” while accusing his team of “playing scared.” Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald has the full details on Mattingly’s outburst, which seems extreme on the surface but is understandable considering the sloppy play of his players during last night’s 8-2 loss to the Nationals. Spencer lists Jarlin Garcia’s errant pickoff throw, Magneuris Sierra’s lazy chase-down of a Bryce Harper single that he allowed to become a double, and a pathetic offensive showing against Max Scherzer“You just can’t play like that here. When you’re playing non-aggressive and always being on your heels, it’s just not a way to play. And it’s one of the things we won’t keep watching.”
  • While the GM-manager tandem of Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter has been a reasonably successful staple of the Orioles franchise for a number of years, Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports believes it unlikely that ownership will keep both for the 2019 season. Heyman further speculates that Duquette is the likelier of the two to stick around beyond this year, citing the sheer number of dollars Duquette saved the club with this season’s deadline trades (and the fifteen players acquired). That means Heyman sees the end of the Buck Showalter era as a likelihood this coming winter.

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