It didn’t look like a September callup for Yoan Moncada was part of the Red Sox’s plans, at least not until Travis Shaw struck out all four times he was up in a 4-3 loss to the Rays on Wednesday. Suddenly, Moncada was on his way to Boston, the official announcement coming hours after he was named to the Arizona Fall League (another indication a callup wasn’t previously in the plans).
I find no fault with the Red Sox for taking the chance on Moncada's readiness. The biggest concern was that the 21-year-old was striking out 31 percent of the time against Double-A pitching. The other was that he had just switched to third base after spending his first year-plus in the minors playing second. Moncada, though, did play third in Cuba.
Moncada isn’t ready to excel offensively in the majors, but he should be able to hold his own. He’ll strike out a ton, but he’ll likely have a high BABIP, because of his ability to hit the ball hard to the outfield and leg out grounders to the left side of the infield. When he makes contact, he’ll be one of the league’s most exciting players, and because he can steal bases, he’s worth the flier in mixed leagues. The Red Sox don’t plan to play him against lefties initially; he struggled hitting right-handed in Double-A and the team has Aaron Hill as a platoon option.
- The A’s will add Raul Alcantara and Jharel Cotton to their beleaguered rotation this week. I find Cotton the more interesting of the two. While he’s usually been viewed as a future reliever, he’s impressed in six starts for Triple-A Nashville since coming over in the Rich Hill-Josh Reddick deal, posting a 2.82 ERA and a 36/7 K/BB ratio in 38 1/3 innings. He’s not an immediate mixed-league grab, but he could be a sleeper for 2017. Even if he doesn’t make it as a starter, a future as a closer is quite possible. Alcantara has also been successful in Nashville, amassing a 1.18 ERA in eight starts. Before that, he had a 4.80 ERA in 17 starts in Double-A. He’s a control guy -- he’s walked just 30 in 135 2/3 innings this year -- but his stuff is rather fringy.
- As if things weren’t bad enough for the Angels rotation, they lost Matt Shoemaker to a skull fracture on Sunday, the same day that prospect Nate Smith, who was expected to join the rotation this month, was shut down with a sore elbow. Now they’ll probably have to go bring back Tim Lincecum and maybe add Kyle Kendrick to the mix in an effort to make it to Game 162. Streaming hitters against the Angels is a great idea right now.
- The Angels left themselves without a closer when they shipped Fernando Salas to the Mets just before the Sept. 1 deadline. I was guessing J.C. Ramirez would take over, but it was Andrew Bailey, just added on Sept. 1, who got the call in the team’s first save chance Sunday. That makes sense; Bailey has done it before and it’s not like the Angels are playing for anything anyway. Deolis Guerra has been the team’s best reliever of late, but Ramirez was the guy working the eighth before Salas was traded and he’d still seem to be the likely fallback if Bailey fails or gets hurt. I like Mike Morin best of all Angels relievers, but Mike Scioscia isn’t quite as fond.
- The Indians have to be feeling a lot better about things after Danny Salazar struck out 11 in a strong effort Sunday against the Marlins. His velocity has been improved since his DL stint, giving him the separation he needs between his fastball and changeup in order to rack up the strikeouts. I don’t know that he won’t get hurt again, but he’s looking much closer to his early season form now.
- Sometimes I’ll criticize a team’s plan. Sometimes I’ll criticize a team for not having a plan. The Padres started Alexei Ramirez, a terrible hitter for a shortstop these last two seasons, in right field on Saturday and then released him on Sunday. This after rosters expanded on Thursday. Their left fielder Saturday was utilityman/king of the waiver wire Adam Rosales. And while this was going on, PCL MVP Hunter Renfroe was being left in Triple-A to finish out the season and the postseason at El Paso. Because El Paso is apparently a bigger priority than San Diego.
I’m rather skeptical about Renfroe. The 24-year-old has hit 30 homers in Triple-A this year, but El Paso is a hitter’s paradise and he’s currently sporting a 115/22 K/BB ratio and a .333 OBP. In road games this year, he’s hit .247/.276/.461, even though he’s still playing in some pretty good hitter’s parks. Plate discipline is a major issue for him.
So, I’m not sure Renfroe is ready to succeed in the majors. I am sure that it’s time for the Padres to find out. It should have happened a month ago. Renfroe isn’t going to change the approach that led to Most Valuable Player honors while thriving in El Paso. If he had come up and put together a strong September as the Padres’ right fielder, that would have been a good thing. If he had come up and struggled all month, that might have been even better, since it would give him some stuff to work on as he entered next year. Instead, he could get about two weeks in the majors once El Paso’s season ends, rather than the two months that would have made a lot more sense. That’s probably not going to be enough to tell anyone much of anything.
The Padres also left catcher Austin Hedges in Triple-A to finish the season, even after losing Christian Bethancourt to the DL just before rosters expanded. Hedges, you might remember, spent most of 2015 backing up Derek Norris in the majors, looking entirely overmatched as a 22-year-old playing twice a week. This year, he’s actually hit really well in the minors -- much better than he did before his callup last year -- yet he hasn’t set foot in the majors, even though Norris has been one of the game’s worst regulars. It’s just bizarre the way the Padres have handled a guy who was looked at as one of the game’s top two or three catching prospects two years ago. I’m still not particularly high on his bat, but he is the organization’s best defensive catcher and, like Renfroe, he probably should have been starting for the team on Aug. 1 (he might have been, had anyone been willing to give up a prospect for Norris). Instead, we’ll finish 2016 not really knowing anything about his ability to hit in the majors.
OK, I’m done. Sorry about the Padres rant. At least they found a taker for Matt Kemp.
- It’s certainly not the way I wanted to see it happen, but Jose Peraza will likely be an everyday guy for the Reds after Billy Hamilton went down with a strained oblique Sunday. Peraza can lead off and play center field, making him an asset in mixed leagues.
- Clayton Kershaw (back) will come off the disabled list to throw 50-60 pitches against the Marlins on Friday. Even though it’s going to be difficult for him to last five innings, mixed leaguers will want him active unless they have really nice alternatives.
- Jose De Leon finally got his chance on Sunday and struck out nine while allowing four runs in six innings against the Padres. It was surprising that the Dodgers didn’t turn to De Leon a couple of weeks ago, when they had such an obvious need and he seemed like the best candidate for the job. Now they have the veterans coming back this week and next, creating a situation in which De Leon is likely to be crowded out of starts. I think De Leon would be worth playing in mixed leagues if he had the rotation spot, but as is, he doesn’t have to be grabbed.
- It’s hard to believe the Dodgers were really debating whether to recall Yasiel Puig this month. They’re certainly glad they did now, after he clubbed a three-run homer in his second start back Sunday. He also has a couple of singles and a pair of walks in his two starts. None of this bodes well for Andrew Toles, who was making quite a case for extra playing time, but now seems likely to spend most of September on the bench. The Dodgers need to let Puig play and try to figure out if he should be a postseason regular. He’s worth a try in mixed leagues, particularly with the Dodgers facing mediocre pitching these next couple of weeks.
- Vince Velasquez made his final start of the year a good one, as he allowed two runs over seven innings Saturday against the Braves. The Phillies announced afterwards that they were shutting him down, something they were always likely to do in early September. Jake Thompson is likely next in line. Velasquez ended up 8-6 with a 3.12 ERA and a 152/45 K/BB ratio in 131 innings for the season. I’m still pretty nervous about his ability to throw 180 innings per year. The ability is there to make him a top-30 starter in 2017, but because of the injury risk, I won’t rank him quite that high.