Prospect Q & A

Twitter is a great medium for sports writers (and those of us trying to be), but it has its downfalls. I get prospect questions from readers all the time and love to answer them, but the 140-character limit doesn’t leave much room for an explanation, and after posting the question in the response for context, I have to write like a texting tween just to give a semi-coherent answer back.

So while there are times when character limits have their place, I have selected a few questions I received over the past few days that other prospect-followers are probably having as well, and expand on them further than the constraints of Twitter allowed me to do at the time.

@MLBPW Hamilton coming up to the Reds in Sept.?

The simple fact that the Reds, and manager Dusty Baker himself, haven’t completely dismissed this notion makes me think that it’s a real possibility. It’s not that Hamilton is anywhere near ready to play at the major league level. He’s not. But his baserunning ability may be worth a postseason roster spot, and the Reds have the month of September to figure that out.

Remember the way the Angels used Chone Figgins in 2002? He was called up on Aug. 25 and appeared in 15 games down the stretch, but received just 12 plate appearances. His speed was an asset that manager Mike Scioscia wanted on his postseason roster, however, and his usage became even more specialized in October, as he appeared in six games and scored four runs while batting just once.

This is what the Reds have in mind with Hamilton. If he comes up, it won’t be to play regularly or to groom him as their starting shortstop (or starting anything else) next season. It will be to see if his speed translates in the majors (it will) and to see if he can be the same disruptive force he is in the minors (he will be). I can absolutely see Hamilton pinch-running for any of the Reds slow-footed starters—Scott Rolen, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce, Miguel Cairo (if he’s playing) and even Joey Votto—and then having the luxury of Todd Frazier and his many gloves available to replace Hamilton when it’s time to take the field.

@MLBPW the M’s Hultzen and Walker? What do you think?

I assumed the reader was asking about a call-up here, and not my general musings about life. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Danny Hultzen get a start or two in September, but I don’t think he should. Frankly, he hasn’t earned it.

Hultzen dominated Double-A, going 8-3 with a 1.19 ERA and a 2.79 FIP before getting a promotion. If you had asked me at that point, I would have put even money on at least one Safeco start this September just to give the fans something to root for after the NFL season starts. But at Triple-A, Hultzen has gone back and forth from strong start to start where he can’t find the plate. He’s walked 33 batters in 42 innings, including four in his latest start without getting out of the first inning. He’s also given up at least four runs in four of his 10 starts in Tacoma and has just one quality start there.

It’s not a punishment for Hultzen, but the last thing the Mariners want, both for PR reasons and for Hultzen’s psyche, is for him to get a start toward the end of the year and have the wild, no-command Hultzen show up, walk five in 2.2. innings, and let the fan-base, and Hultzen himself, sit on that all winter. It’s just not good for anybody.

As for Taijuan Walker, I absolutely would be shocked. This past offseason, everyone got all excited about Walker and started acting like Chris Farley looking for chicken wings. And with good reason.

The Mariners got excited too and skipped him to Double-A, a move that won’t get an argument from me if the reasoning behind it had anything to do with sparing their top pitching prospect from having to pitch in the California League. Walker held his own in Double-A, going 7-8 with a 4.22 ERA and a 3.86 FIP, which is not just respectable for a 19-year-old but downright impressive. It is absolutely not a reason, however, to call him up to the majors.

Unfortunately, because of his pure stuff, Walker is probably a safer bet than Hultzen to turn in a decent start in Seattle if the team only wanted to give him one, but given that he’s already at a career high in innings pitched (by 20.2 innings and counting), it just doesn’t seem likely.

@MLBPW Does Shelby Miller get the Sept. call with recent success?

As you can see, I originally said that I thought his poor first half had killed that possibility, but then Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch posted something today saying that he’s hearing rumors of a Miller promotion after the Triple-A season is over.

Now if this is one of those call-ups where he joins the expanded roster, puts on a uniform, travels with a team, shags balls in BP, but stays in turfs and has no chance of getting into a game, then fine. I have no problem with him getting a taste of the major league experience.

But how are the Cardinals going to use him in their chase for a Wild Card spot?

Is he going to get a start? Even if they have an injury in their rotation, the Cardinals are six-deep at starting pitcher, with Lance Lynn in the rotation and Joe Kelly in the bullpen. If an extra starter is needed, isn’t Kelly, who has made 13 starts this season, a better option?

I guess there isn’t much harm in calling him up when the rosters expand and giving him a couple of innings in mop-up duty throughout September, especially with an open spot on the 40-man roster, but that’s about the most exposure I’d give Miller. After a rough start to the season, he’s turned it around and had a strong August. I’d be awfully tempted to let him finish the season on a high note.

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