Monday News and Notes: Stanton, Wendle, and More

Monday was an exceptionally busy day across the game of baseball.

The Yankees announced that a pair of starters: outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (bicep strain) and third baseman Miguel Andujar (shoulder strain) have been placed on the injured list and replaced with infielder Tyler Wade and outfielder Clint Frazier.  Stanton is expected to be shut down for the next ten days, and could return by the end of the month, while Andujar is looking at a much more serious timetable. He has a small tear in his labrum and could be in for a season-ending surgery. For the time being, it seems as though DJ LeMahieu will see most of the reps at third base while Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman will platoon in left. Seeing as how LeMahieu is a more than serviceable replacement, and the Stanton injury isn’t currently expected to be one that keeps him out of action for an exceptionally significant amount of time, I don’t expect them to look outside of the organization at this time.

The Rays lost second baseman Joey Wendle to a hamstring strain that he sustained during a stolen base attempt on Sunday. Christian Arroyo has been recalled in a corresponding transaction, and will see time at second base along with Daniel Robertson and Brandon Lowe. Lowe, however, is expected to see the lion’s share of time while Wendle is sidelined. It isn’t yet known just how long he’ll be out, but it’s not considered to be overly serious.

Also out of the American League East, the Blue Jays provided updates on a host of injuries. On the bright side, Clay Buchholz is expected to throw tomorrow and could make a start in Triple-A on the 7th, assuming everything goes well, meaning he’s expected to be back around the middle of the month, while Ryan Borucki and Ryan Tepera have been throwing and are expected to return by the end of April. Furthermore. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been taking swings in Extended Spring Training, and while it’s not yet known whether he’s going to be assigned to the major league roster once ready, he’s trending in the right direction.

Unfortunately, the news wasn’t as positive for another pair of offseason acquisitions, as Bud Norris‘ timetable is still unclear, and Clayton Richard was placed on the 10-day injured list with a knee stress reaction and was replaced on the active roster with Sean Reid-Foley. Richard is expected to be shut down for at least two weeks before he begins throwing again and could be out for an extended period of time. Foley should hold down a spot in the rotation, at least until Buchholz is ready to go.

The Braves provided some updates on a host of injured players, as they announced that Mike Foltynewicz will be sent on a rehab assignment on April 4th, and is expected to return on April 14th, while A.J. Minter is expected back once he’s eligible on Thursday, which will provide a much-needed boost to a bullpen that was taxed in their series in Philly. The bad news, however, is that Darren O’Day isn’t expected back anytime soon.

In other Braves news, catcher Rafael Lopez cleared waivers and will be assigned to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he seems likely to serve as the Braves’ emergency catcher in Triple-A. My projections have him slashing .239/.315/.396 (.711 OPS) with 162-game rate counting statistics consisting of 21 doubles, a triple, 17 home runs and 75 RBI’s. It should be noted, of course, that he’s not expected to land anywhere near that mark, as I would place him at roughly 37 games, which would translate to five doubles and four homers.

Also clearing waivers is Padres’ righty Bryan Mitchell. The nearly 28-year-old starter was acquired by the Padres from the Yankees as compensation for San Diego taking on the Chase Headley contract. His first season in the pitcher friendly Petco Park didn’t go well at all, as he posted a 5.42 ERA and a 6.11 FIP to go along with a 1.48 HR/9. I expect him to accept outright assignment, as he would forfeit his $900k salary if he were to decline assignment. He could be up in a long-relief capacity if the Padres are hit with injuries, or wind up trading off some talent if they don’t compete this season.

The Padres also made a minor trade, acquiring righty Matt Wisler from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for right-handed pitcher Diomar Lopez. Wisler was drafted by the Padres back in 2011 and traded to the Braves in the blockbuster deal that also netted the Padres Craig Kimbrel and both Justin Upton and Melvin Upton Jr. in the Padres’ ill-fated attempt to go for it in 2015. Since the trade, however, Wisler hasn’t been as successful as the Braves had hoped that he would have been, as he posted a 5.27 ERA with a 4.89 FIP over 324.2 innings pitched from 2015 through 2018, before he was shipped to Cincinnati in the Adam Duvall trade from last summer.

Wisler hit DFA limbo despite strong results in camp in for the Reds. He posted a 3.75 ERA over 12 innings of relief, walking just one batter next to 16 strikeouts. He could very well be given an opportunity to start for the Padres, who have been relying on a very young rotation consisting of rookies Chris Paddack and Nick Margevicius.

As for the Diomar Lopez, the 22-year-old minor league reliever reached Class A Advanced for the first time in 2018. He struggled mightily throughout 2018 posting a 5.18 ERA over 41.2 innings between Class A Short Season, Class A and Class A Advanced. He’s still considered to be a very raw prospect with improvement expected in nearly every aspect of his game. According to fangraphs, he has the potential to eventually sport above average marks in both his fastball and curve, while his well-below average control is expected to improve as well. He can hit 97 on his fastball, but really needs to improve his command. I would consider him to be a lottery ticket with the upside of a set-up man, but high risk. At this time, we’re still waiting on a corresponding move.

I like this move a bit more for San Diego, as I don’t see why the Reds’ didn’t carry Wisler over Wandy Peralta. They already have Zach Duke and Amir Garrett representing left-handed bullpen options, and Peralta has two options remaining. While Lopez is a decent return for a guy in DFA Limbo, he’s still essentially a lottery ticket, and would realistically rank around 30th to 40th in the Reds’ system. Meanwhile, the Padres are getting a guy who showed some legitimate improvement this Spring and could factor into their rotation mix.

Also coming out of the NL-West, the Diamondbacks announced that top prospect Jon Duplantier had his contract purchased from Triple-A Reno, replacing Ildemaro Vargas on the active roster. Duplantier is a consensus top-100 prospect, and for very good reason, as he has posted a career 1.79 ERA over 211 innings in the minor leagues having reached Double-A for the first time in 2018. We’re looking at a four-pitch mix here that includes a plus fastball that sits in the mid-90’s, an above average slider and curve as well as an average change. He induces a considerable amount of ground balls, and while his control is only average, his stuff is good enough to make up for it.

He is expected to begin his career in the bullpen, probably as a precautionary measure, as he dealt with injury throughout last season. The hope is that he can give the Diamondbacks fans something to be excited about after an abysmal opening series against the Dodgers. I’m not so sure I would have called him up now, as he’s yet to reach Triple-A, but he looked good over a limited sample size in the Arizona Fall League and handled his major league debut very well pitching three shutout innings for his first major league save.

As for Vargas, the 27-year-old infielder is a pretty standard utility guy with an outstanding glove and a relatively lacking bat. While he has shown contact ability, he lacks power and plate discipline. He still has a minor league option this season, and should continue to shuffle between Triple-A and the major leagues. Long-term, I see him as a journeyman utility guy who sees major league time annually, but with a different team.

After what feels like a record of two days without a Jerry Dipoto trade, he struck again acquiring power reliever Connor Sadzeck from the division rival Rangers in exchange for right-handed pitcher Grant Anderson. Sadzeck will be placed on the active roster, as he is out of minor league options. My projections on Sadzeck have him posting a 4.59 ERA with a 0.63 HR/, a 6.42 BB/9 and a 9.24 K/9. He’s essentially your standard flame throwing reliever. He can hit triple digits with his fastball, but has always had difficult controlling it. He seems likely to serve in a middle relief capacity for the Mariners who really don’t have a ton of relief depth following the loss of Hunter Strickland, who was placed on the 60-day injured list to accommodate the transaction, to a lat strain.

The Rangers made out rather well in this deal, as Grant Anderson has looked rather promising over his first 13 professional innings. He was drafted in the 21st round of the 2018 draft out of McNeese State (a school that also produced one of my favorite minor leaguers, in Robbie Podorsky of the Padres), and went on to post a 1.38 ERA over 13 innings pitched between Rookie Ball, Short Season A and Class A. While he has struggled with control to an extent, he has done an excellent job inducing ground balls, and could very well make it to the majors as a middle reliever by the end of the 2020 season.

This isn’t a bad deal for either side, as it represents a high upside lottery ticket going to the Mariners in exchange for a relatively high-floor, low-ceiling relief prospect. Both teams were able to get something that can benefit them on their own timelines. I will say, however, that I like Anderson a bit more than Sadzeck simply based on age and the fact that Sadzeck is out of minor league options and far from a sure thing to stick.

The Rangers also announced prior to tonight’s game that they purchased the contract of Adrian Sampson to serve as an extra reliever. To accommodate the transaction, Kyle Bird was optioned to Triple-A Nashville, while Yohander Mendez was placed on the 60-day disabled list. Sampson doesn’t have a ton of major league service time, but looked very solid in camp, posting a 2.30 ERA over 15.2 innings. The 27-year-old is a control-oriented starter (1.6 BB/9 over 27.2 career innings in the majors), who lacks stuff, but has the potential to be a very effective swing/long reliever. He showed his potential on Monday evening, when he pitched well despite taking the loss. Over six innings, he allowed just four hits and one run, while striking out three to two walks. This is a reasonably accurate representation of what we can expect from him, give or take a run or two. I would consider him a 3.75 swing, similar to a young Jesse Chavez.

As for Bird, he appeared in two games, posting a combined scoreless innings that included one hit, one strikeout and three walks. He’ll be back in short order and should continue to work out of the bullpen. Expect him to spend more time on the active roster following the trade deadline.

Finally, the Brewers announced five minor league signings: infielder Bruce Caldwell, outfielder Mike O’Neill, third baseman Patrick Leonard and righties Aaron Kurcz and Johan Belisario. All five have been assigned to Double-A Biloxi.

Caldwell, 27, elected free agency after a 2018 season in which he slashed .258/.342/.404 with ten home runs between Double and Triple-A in the Yankees system. He’s can play second base and third base, but is much better at the hot corner. He’s infield depth.

Leonard, 26, spent 2018 with the White Sox organization, where he slashed .242/.315/.395 over 124 games in Triple-A Charlotte with 11 home runs. He has spent most of his time playing in the corner infield and outfield spots, and while he has been solid at first base, he’s more of a designated hitter type. He’s simply depth at this point, but could eventually play himself into a power bench bat role, if there are injuries.

O’Neill, 26, spent the 2018 season in the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate, slashing .255/.327/.398 with 12 home runs and 31 stolen bases. He can play all three outfield positions, but isn’t known to be a plus fielder at any spot in particular. His tools are certainly loud enough for him to eventually make a major league cameo, but his hit tool seems likely to limit his ceiling, which seems to be a fourth outfielder. The more likely outcome is that of an emergency call-up who plays well upon a late season call-up, but is sent through waivers once the season ends only to latch on elsewhere on a minor league deal.

The 28-year-old Kurcz spent 2018 in Tijuana. While the first half didn’t go very well for him, as he posted a 5.40 ERA over 16.2 innings pitched, his results improved in the second half, as he posted a 2.25 ERA over 24 innings. Improved control was likely to reason for his bottom-line improvement, as he walked 4.32 batters per nine innings in the first half compared to just 2.42 in the second half. He will serve as some relief depth in Double-A.

I talked about Belisario in my roster casualty tracker from about a week ago. Here’s what I had to say about the 25-year-old reliever:

“There is absolutely no reason that the 25-year-old righty should not have been promoted to Double-A after the season that he had. Over 51.2 innings pitched, he posted a 1.39 ERA with a 10.63 K/9 next to a 1.74 BB/9. Even his peripheral statistics were just as strong. I would be shocked if he’s still a free agent at the end of the week, as he looks like he could be a major league set-up man in a year’s time.”

This is an exceptionally shrewd signing by the Brewers. While he will serve as depth initially, he could very well play his way into a more serious major league role in the coming months. He picked a great landing spot, as the Brewers have been dealing with injuries in the bullpen, which could open the door for him. He is a name that everyone should watch.

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