Getting summoned to manager's office and being told you're moving up the ladder is something every prospect strives for and a few notable prospects recently received such news.
OF Michael Saunders (Seattle)
Promoted from Triple-A Tacoma to the majors on July 25th
Saunders, who we ranked as the third-best prospect in the Mariners organization entering the season, was enjoying a fine year for Triple-A Tacoma. His wOBA (.390) and ISOP (.234) were among the 15 best in the Pacific Coast League, but more impressive was the fact that his K% (17.1) was a career low by nearly six percent. With the Mariners surprisingly in contention, the 22-year-old Saunders was promoted to boost an offense that ranked 28th in the majors in runs scored. With Ichiro Suzuki entrenched in the right field, and with Franklin Gutierrez emerging in center, Saunders will likely take over in left and he should see substantial at-bats the rest of the season and profiles as a solid everyday player. To make room for Saunders, the Mariners designated outfielder Wlad Balentien for assignment. Formerly one of the better prospects in the organization, the 25-year-old Balentien had yet to put it together at the major league level but his power potential should be attractive to other teams. It was surprising to see Balentien go before someone like Ryan Langerhans (a journeyman) or Mike Sweeney (a has-been).
RHP Jhoulys Chacin (Colorado)
Promoted from Double-A Tulsa to the majors on July 24th
Few prospects made the type of leap Chacin did last year. He entered 2008 in relative obscurity, but ended it as one of the top right-handed pitching prospects in the game. Known for the ever-alluring combination of strikeouts and groundballs, the native Venezuelan had the third-best groundball rate in the Texas League at the time of his promotion (55%) while sporting a solid 20.0% K, a rate which increased over the first three months of the year. Chacin's promotion coincided with a trade for Cleveland Indians reliever Rafael Betancourt in an effort to bolster the big league bullpen. In the long run, Chacin profiles as at least a mid-rotation starter, but he will break into the majors as a reliever, something pitchers such as Johan Santana and Mark Buehrle did early in their careers. Chacin made his major league debut on July 25th, striking out two and walking one in an inning of work.
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (Tampa Bay)
Promoted from Double-A Montgomery to Triple-A Durham on July 23rd
Hellickson has always been one of those prospects revered more by stat heads than by scouts. Some point to the lack of knockout stuff and others knock him down a peg for his smallish 6-foot-1, 185 pound frame. Back in Double-A after a 13-start stint last summer, the 22-year-old was one of the more impressive pitchers in the Southern League. Among pitchers with at least 55 innings, he ranked second in FIP (2.72) and K% (27.4) while being stingy with walks (6.2%). He debuted in Triple-A on July 24th, allowing two runs over six innings, walking three and striking out six. With rotation and bullpen questions in Tampa, Hellickson could reach the majors by the end of the year. Note that Hellickson missed over a month during the first half of the season due to a sprained shoulder.
RHP Mat Latos (San Diego)
Promoted from Double-A San Antonio to the majors on July 19th
It has been a meteoric rise for Latos, 21, who went from Low-A to the majors in a span of three months. A few factors helped push Latos up the ladder. His performance in the minors was outstanding. Between Low-A and Double-A, he had a 4.4% BB, a 27.3% K and a FIP in the low 2.00's. The major league rotation was a mess. Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Cha Baek, and Walter Silva -- four members of the opening day rotation -- are either injured or proved ineffective. Other rotation options such as Shawn Hill and Josh Banks suffered similar fates. With a prototypical pitchers frame and a fastball that can get up to 96 MPH, Latos is arguably the top prospect in the organization and his potential is considerable. The Padres are rightfully excited about Latos, but with the team well out of contention, look for the organization to pay extra close attention to his pitch counts and inning totals. He is already 25 innings past his previous high. Through two starts in the majors, Latos has lasted 9.2 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, including three homers. He has walked three and fanned nine.
1B Eric Hosmer (Kansas City)
Promoted from Low-A Burlington to High-A Wilmington on July 18th
Most players get promoted due to strong performance, but that wasn't the case with Hosmer. The third overall pick in last year's draft, Hosmer was drawing walks at an impressive clip (13.5%) but otherwise was underwhelming (.128 ISOP, .323 wOBA). It was assumed that he would follow the developmental path of fellow top Royals prospect Mike Moustakas, who spent his entire first full season in Low-A before debuting in High-A to open his second year. It's possible that the Royals wanted to get Hosmer out of the pitcher-friendly Midwest League or perhaps they wanted to team him with Moustakas. Either way, the timing of the promotion was odd, considering Hosmer had yet to experience prolonged success in Low-A. Hosmer is off to a 7-for-26 start in High-A with a double, two walks, and six strikeouts.
Discussion Question: Both Chacin and Latos jumped from Double-A to the majors. Who do you like more long-term and why?
To keep up to date with all of the latest promotions, or to alert us of a prospect getting promoted, check out our promotions thread.
Contact Ryan Fay at firstname.lastname@example.org