– By Cruz Serrano
With the draft now in the rearview mirror, it’s time for teams, and fans as well, to focus on the present. With the pennant races beginning to take shape, teams are beginning to weigh their options for that extra push that may help them get a leg up in their respective divisions. The Astros have already decided to make a change, opting to call up bigtime prospect and fellow Puerto Rican Carlos Correa to the major league team to try and solidify a team that is already in first place, but lacked overall consistency at the shortstop position. After losing Jed Lowrie to start the season, the Astros have virtually gotten no production from short, and Correa can certainly help on defense, even if he struggles to make adjustments on the fly at the big league level. Here are some other teams that can look within their organizations for help as they try to make a push to play in October.
Alex Meyer, SP/Byron Buxton, CF: Minnesota Twins
Much like the Astros, no one expected to see the Twins atop their division in early June. The biggest difference is the Twins looked like a team that was going to be rebuilding, rather than a team that was ending its rebuilding phase. However, the Twins have rocketed to the top of the AL Central thanks to production from the likes of the ageless wonder Torii Hunter, who continues to be productive despite being on the wrong side of 35. The Twins have gotten solid pitching from a few guys, however the lack of punch from the rotation, a spot where Alex Meyer may be able to help. The rotation currently has 3 pitchers that have performed below league average according to ERA+, which is rate stat with a mean of 100 that quantifies a pitcher’s production adjusted for the league and era. Having three below average starters is not a good formula for winning, and Alex Meyer is a big league-ready arm that can help immediately. Meyer is already 25 and is certainly a better option than the likes of Tommy Milone or Ricky Nolasco when he comes off the disabled list. On the other side of the ball, the Twins currently rank dead last in WAR from center fielders with a cumulative total of -1.1. Byron Buxton was considered by many to be the best prospect in baseball a couple years ago, and can certainly make his presence felt this season. His development has been hindered by injuries, and I highly doubt the Twins will actually call him up even if they feel a pennant is within their reach. Although he’s still only 21, he has speed and power, and can definitely impact the Twins by performing above replacement level, production that hasn’t been seen in center field for the team yet this season. Update: Byron Buxton was called up by the Twins on Saturday, June 13th and made his major league debut Sunday afternoon, June 14th, going 0-4 with 2 strikeouts while also scoring a run.
Lucas Giolito, SP: Washington Nationals
The Nationals are still in a dog fight with the Mets in the East, and are looking for a way to win when Bryce Harper doesn’t make the rest of the league look bad. The starting pitching for the Nationals has been solid, aside from Stephen Strasburg, and the aforementioned Harper has been a cog that has bolstered the team’s offense. The biggest problem for the Nationals this season, aside from their sometimes bad, sometimes putrid defense, has been the bullpen, which currently has a cumulative WAR of -0.4. Although Giolito projects as a top of the rotation starter, the Nationals would benefit from calling him up later in the year as a great option to use as a reliever. The team held him back in extended spring to help minimize his innings total, and by using him out of the pen, they would continue to follow this same game plan. As we saw with David Price when he made his presence felt in the 2008 postseason, future starters can help a team win by providing a reliable relief option out of the bullpen.
Kyle Schwarber, C?/LF: Cubs
Going forward, the Cubs definitely appear to be a team that has the ability to compete for a wildcard spot at the very least. Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel have anchored the rotation, while Kyle Hendricks has been a welcomed surprise. Aside from a trade for another pitcher to anchor the backend of the rotation, the smartest move for the Cubs would be to upgrade their left field play. Other than a trade, the most logical move would be to promote minor league catcher Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber, though the Cubs tend to say otherwise, isn’t a very good defensive catcher and would be best suited to change positions. Left field has been a weakness to this point for the Cubs, and Schwarber has been killing AA pitching. If the Cubs intend to stay in it and aren’t worried about arbitration clocks as they have already shown, this is a no-brainer to try and upgrade their team with in house talent.
Jameson Taillon, SP: Pirates
The Pirates have begun to rebound from a disappointing start to the season, and part of that has been due to the outstanding starting pitching from both Gerritt Cole, Francisco Liriano, and AJ Burnett. The other starters have been adequate to this point, though probably none of them can be trusted for the long haul. Taillon is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won’t be ready to contribute until mid-July. Before his injury, however, Taillon was showing promise at AAA. He is a power pitcher who should fit right in with the likes of Cole. As the dog days of August approach, Taillon can provide fresh arm to help push Pittsburgh toward another playoff berth.
Julio Urias, SP: Dodgers
Okay, okay, I realize this one is pretty farfetched. However, after the loss of Brandon McCarthy to Tommy John surgery, and uncertainty surrounding the soundness of Hyun Jin Ryu’s shoulder, the depth the Dodgers thought they had with their starting pitchers has been put to the test. Urias’ stuff is definitely major league-ready, and he has cut his walk rate in half from last year. Although he’s still only 18, I truly think that Urias isn’t far from being ready to compete in the show. He could probably help the Dodgers though, as they try and work toward a NL West title. This is more of a personal choice, because I would love to see someone the age of most graduating seniors throw fastballs past major league hitters.
Miguel Sano: 3B, Twins
Corey Seager: SS, Dodgers
Francisco Lindor: SS, Indians
Update: Lindor was called up by the Indians Saturday evening as well. Going 1-2 after pinch hitting for David Murphy Sunday afternoon in his Major League debut, and 8-1 Indian loss to Detroit.
Aaron Judge: OF, Yankees
– Cruz Serrano, @cruzin_USA