Top prospects getting late-season tests
Young players can benefit by moving up the Minor League ranks for a short while
Each year, as the Minor League season reaches its final weeks and races for playoff spots intensify, there is a flurry of promotions of top prospects. This year has been no different.
Within the past week, the Cubs moved third baseman Kris Bryant, this year's No. 2 overall Draft pick, up to Class A Advanced Daytona and the Reds promoted right-hander Robert Stephenson, ranked No. 19 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospect list, to Double-A Pensacola.
Bryant, Stephenson and the other prospects who have moved up this month will only play for a few weeks at their new level before the season ends. It might not seem like much time, but player-development officials have specific goals for all the players who move up. Some are hoping to test a player one more time before the end of the season. Others want their top prospects playing in meaningful games at the end of the season or playing at the level where they will be best challenged.
The decision to promote a prospect is always a complex one and teams take each player on a case-by-case basis. But the end of the season adds new wrinkles to the decision-making process.
Reds director of player development Jeff Graupe said there are many factors to evaluate.
"It's a little bit of everything," he said. "How the player has performed, what environment they're going into, how you think they'll respond to a new challenge and getting their feet wet."
Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett said that while there are additional factors in play this time of year, such as a team's position in the standings, the same basic factors that go into any promotion remain the most important.
"When the opportunity presents itself, it's only a positive to place a player in a challenging situation [of a playoff race]," Crockett said. "But you always have to balance that with a player's readiness for the level and opportunity to play. A lot of things go into it at that level."
Cubs director of player development Brandon Hyde also said he believes putting a player in a pennant race can be beneficial.
"Playing in a playoff run is a lot of fun and it says a lot about players," he said. "We want our players to experience that atmosphere."
Beyond just getting into a playoff race, Hyde said teams can use the final few weeks to give a player a "jump start" on next season.
The Cubs gave that opportunity to shortstop Javier Baez last year, promoting him to Daytona in August. He struggled at the higher level, hitting just .188 with 21 strikeouts in 23 games. But Hyde said that experience helped set Baez up for success when he returned to Daytona this season.
"He had some good weeks and there were some bad weeks for him," Hyde said. "This year he was up in [Double-A] Tennessee in the middle of the year, hitting third.
"Accomplishing a level and then experiencing a higher level only helps you for next year."
So far Bryant is making the most of his promotion, hitting .360 with three home runs in seven games for Daytona. Stephenson, meanwhile, allowed two hits and struck out five batters in six innings in his first Double-A start on Friday. They aren't the only players on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list to have received August promotions so far.
• Right-hander Jameson Taillon, the Pirates' No. 1-ranked prospect, was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis. He struck out 22 batters in 18 innings in his first three starts.
• The Red Sox bumped left-hander Henry Owens and right-hander Anthony Ranaudo each up a level. Owens, Boston's No. 4 prospect, has a 29-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 innings at Double-A Portland. Ranaudo, Boston's No. 6 prospect, has a 2.70 ERA in his three starts at Triple-A Pawtucket.
• Catcher Austin Hedges, the Padres' No. 2 prospect, received a promotion to Double-A San Antonio. He is hitting .176 with a .243 on-base percentage in 11 games with the Missions.
• Outfielder Mason Williams, the Yankees' No. 2 prospect, was promoted to Trenton. He is 2-for-18 in four games there, but already has his first Double-A home run.
• Shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect, was promoted to Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. He is hitting .200 with a .322 on-base percentage in 14 games for the Quakes.
• The Twins promoted right-hander Kohl Stewart, this year's No. 4 overall Draft pick, to rookie-level Elizabethton. He was scheduled to make his first start in the Appalachian League on Tuesday.
• The Rangers moved up the double-play combination of shortstop Luis Sardinas and second baseman Rougned Odor to Double-A Frisco. Sardinas, the Rangers' No. 2 prospect, is hitting .213 in 16 games since the promotion. Odor, their No. 3 prospect, is hitting .278 with three home runs.