Over the past few seasons, I’ve grown confident in my ability to play the timeline game along with major league front offices. This year feels different. We’re beyond what’s typically the first Super Two threshold, and I’m ready to spin the wheel, but I’m uncertain about the rules.
Will teams slam the brakes if they didn’t promote a guy on opening day, knowing they’ll be “punished” if that player earns rookie of the year votes?
Survey says . . . probably, if past behavior is the best predictor of future choices.
By the way, before we go further, I should say I hope and pray some of the baseball writers know the rules enough to push good rookies up their ballots. I don’t really care about who finishes in the top five in these awards, and I think the same goes for most fans, but I want to see the players get a W at the negotiating table for the long-term health of the game, particularly where young players are concerned.
So who’s potentially stuck in this no-win position created by the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement? Let’s check the list.
1. Pittsburgh SS Oneil Cruz (AAA)
Your guess is as good as mine on this one, but the upside with Cruz is 20/20 this season, at least on a per-game basis if he’s not given enough games to get there this season. He’s not hitting at all in AAA, slashing .200/.294/.289 in 45 at bats. I’m not worried about it. It’s been freezing in the midwest. I suspect you’ll hear me say that again, but remember it next time someone is talking about scoring being way down this year. If you’ve never swung a wooden bat against a 90+ mph pitch on a 30-degree night, let me be the first to tell you it’s awful. The pitcher typically stays warm and loose because he’s out there working all night. Hitters are mostly just standing around getting colder and colder. I’m not saying the chill is solely responsible for every hitter’s early slump, but it’s certainly a factor. Cruz went 2-for-5 with a stolen base on Friday night, for what it’s Weurtz.
2. Tampa 2B Vidal Brujan (AAA)
In his second game back from knee soreness, Brujan got on base four times in six plate appearances and stole a base then got sent to the taxi squad. He’s likely to get called up sometime soon. His role when that happens could be minor, but he’s the kind of guy you don’t want to miss if you can help it. (Update: Brujan was recalled as I walked to the coffee shop after posting this Saturday evening. He’ll cover for Yandy Diaz, who is headed to the IL. Fingers crossed he starts hot.)
3. Miami RHP Max Meyer (AAA)
Meyer has been slipperier than a hotdog slathered in catsup this season. His 0.55 WHIP and 32.1 percent strikeout minus walk rate across 14.2 innings suggest he shouldn’t be in the minors much longer. The team might prefer to slow-play it, but he’s forcing the issue.
4. Pittsburgh RHP Roansy Contreras (AAA)
He’s gonna carve up these turkeys in the NL Central like Clark Griswold on Christmas.
5. Boston 1B Triston Casas (AAA)
Dobby Malbec is drinking in the commissary with the other Elves before games while Casas is prepping for the Triwizard Cup in the Prefect’s bathroom. He’s hitting just .241 but has four home runs and a .373 On Base Percentage in 54 at bats.
6. Baltimore RHP Grayson Rodriguez (AAA)
We’re in the no-fun zone on this one, waiting for the Orioles to get off the pot because we all fear they won’t do shit. Rodriguez has a 0.49 WHIP through three starts and 14.1 innings at AAA. Can he force the issue with another few starts like the ones he’s had? I sure hope so, and I’m picking him up in TGFBI this Sunday because, well, screw it, kind of. I’m rostering Shane Baz, so I’ll just swap him out for the lothario’s large adult son.
7. St. Louis 2B Nolan Gorman (AAA)
Totally different situation than Grey’s son, but the same outcome for our purposes. Skill and readiness are not issues. We’re just waiting on the world to change.
8. Minnesota SS Royce Lewis (AAA)
You could put Lewis as high as the one-spot here, and I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. Not because I burned my eyebrows off in a product-testing accident but because Lewis looks great right now, flashing plus plate discipline along with the tools that made him the 1.1 pick out of high school in the 2017 draft. He’s hitting .309 with 2 HR and 3 SB.
9. Arizona OF Alek Thomas (AAA)
Could copy and paste pieces of the Rodriguez and Gorman blurbs here. Maybe some of the intro, too. When the Diamondbacks decided to send Thomas to AAA, were they making a half-season decision? Or could Thomas create his own opportunity by playing well? He’s slashing .279/.328/.492 with 2 HR and 1 SB through 14 games.
10. Minnesota 3B Jose Miranda (AAA)
Help! Miranda’s been better lately but isn’t locked in by any means. It’s cold though, up the north. Easy to think like a child of summer but helpful to keep contexts in mind, especially early when everything feels huge no matter how small it would seem in July.
11. Los Angeles 3B Miguel Vargas (AAA)
Might become the toughest big-league out on the list. He’s got 11 walks and 12 strikeouts in 15 games along with two home runs and a stolen base.
12. Baltimore C Adley Rutschman (AAA)
In big bold letters, Adley’s page on Fangraphs says “Rutschman isn’t expected to make his debut until late in 2021.” They’re quoting Rotowire from April 1, 2021.
Needless to say, that blurb is out of date, as Rutschman didn’t debut last season and isn’t expected to make his debut until (quite a bit) later in 2022. No fault of his own. Just injury compounded by Baltimore being Baltimore. By the way, while we’re here, pick up closer Jorge Lopez if you get the chance. I know I besmirched his name in an article a couple weeks ago, but he’s throwing real hard right now: 97.9 mph on the sinker per statcast, 2.6 mph faster than he threw it in 2021, which was 2 mph faster than he threw in 2020. I don’t think there’s anything fluky in it. It’s just a career-long starting pitcher learning to gas it up over short stretches.
13. Detroit OF Riley Greene (AAA)
Greene painted his foot black and blue with a foul ball this spring, breaking it in the process. He remains without a timeline to return, but unlike a lot of players on this list, he won’t be held back when he’s ready to roll.
14. Cubs OF Brennen Davis (AAA)
Every game the Cubs win this year increases the chances we’ll see Davis. His .716 OPS thus far isn’t pretty at first blush, but the weather in Iowa has been late-winter nasty thus far, so I’m actually a little encouraged he has eight walks and two homers in 15 games.
15. Colorado 3B Elehuris Montero (AAA)
Would be higher on the list in some alternate universe where the Rockies are run by competent, competitive people who are supported by ownership from top to bottom.
The next ten:
16. Kansas City C MJ Melendez (AAA)
17. Seattle RHP George Kirby (AA)
18. Texas 3B Josh Jung (AAA)
19. Toronto SS Vinny Capra (AAA)
20. Kansas City 1B Nick Pratto (AAA)
21. St. Louis 1B Juan Yepez (AAA)
22. Texas 2B Josh H. Smith (AAA)
23. Cleveland RHP Daniel Espino (AA)
24. Washington OF Josh Palacios (AAA)
25. Cleveland SS Jose Fermin (AAA)
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.