We are back! Over the course of the last few seasons, this series has aimed to detail every prospect promotion across each week of the entire regular season. After reviewing feedback from our readers, we have decided to mix things up a little bit for 2023. Instead of outlining every prospect that gets the call, the series will highlight some of the bigger names that receive a promotion. These players will be discussed in more detail. Some other notable prospects who head to the bigs will also be discussed, but this time around there will be more focus on detailing these top prospects and less focus on players who are being brought up as a depth piece for a double header.
Of course, this means there will be some variance on what this article looks like week to week. Some weeks there will be several notable young players who are joining their major league club while other weeks there will be hardly any. Either way, there should be more than enough players to breakdown.
Additionally, each week, I’ll do a quick note on the featured players from the week prior. This will mostly focus on recent performance and whether or not it appears that the player will stay with the big league club moving forward.
Last week, we looked at Eury Pérez, Matt McLain, Mark Vientos, Taj Bradley and Joey Ortiz. Pérez had his third big league start on Tuesday and it’s his ugliest line thus far – 4.1 innings pitched, three earned runs, three strikeouts – but it was a Coors Field outing so we let it slide and move on. He’s probably the most promising pitching prospect long-term, though his outings in 2023 will likely continue to be around five innings per start. McLain has shown off his pop, collecting a home run and three doubles in his first seven games, but is striking out around 40% of the time. He’s playing most days.
Vientos seems to be a lock to start against lefties going forward, while starting about half the time against righties. He hasn’t played enough yet to make any notes on his performance. Bradley got beat up by the Blue Jays on Tuesday, coughing up four runs on nine hits in four innings. He did strikeout seven though. Bradley was a bit inconsistent in Triple-A this year so it may be wise to sit him in tougher matchups, like this weekend’s contest against the Dodgers. Ortiz has started to find his groove, going 4 for his last 9 with a double, but he still has a lowly .511 OPS in the bigs so far, and is yet to draw a walk. He’s torn up Triple-A in 2023 and has good big picture upside, but with Ramón Urías set to come off the IL within a week it’s likely the former is back in the minors in short order.
Now, onto this week’s featured promotions.
Bobby Miller, P, LAD (preseason PL/team ranking: 41/3): Miller made his MLB debut on Tuesday against the Braves, allowing one earned run across five frames. Miller struck out five while walking one and yielding four hits. You can watch Nick Pollack’s video breakdown here.
Miller’s carrying card is his ability to rack up punchouts. In 2022, Miller struck out 145 hitters in 112.1 innings. He finished the season with a 30.9% and a K-BB rate of 23%. That strikeout rate ranked 13th overall for minor league arms that tossed at least 110 innings, and the K-BB rate also slotted in at the 13th overall. Based on that alone we know that Miller is finding himself in the upper echelon of pitching prospects.
Miller spent the bulk of the 2022 season in Double-A before making a handful of Triple-A outings to close out the season. Similar to someone like Brandon Pfaadt, Miller’s run prevention throughout the campaign was a bit higher than you’d like from a top pitching prospect. The righty-throwing Miller finished out his age-23 season with a 4.25 ERA, though his FIP was a 3.68 ERA.
It appears from the outside that Miller got this promotion as a temporary job, with Julio Urías hitting the IL for what was an expected a stay around the minimum. That would mean Miller might be in line to only get one or two more starts, but given his effectiveness in his debut and Gavin Stone’s struggles (nine earned runs in eight innings), there’s always a possibility he grabs a more long-term starting spot.
Eduourd Julien, 2B, MIN (preseason PL/team ranking: 71/4): Julien got the call earlier this season and was a featured name in one of our earlier articles. He up for for a little more than a week’s worth of games and went 6-for-29 with two homers, but struck out 30% of the time and barely walked. The infielder was sent back to Triple-A as the Twins got healthy.
Well, Minnesota is now dealing with injuries to both Jorge Polanco and Carlos Correa, so Julien is back in the bigs. It’s been a similar story so far as Julien has gone 2-for-10 with a home run with a bunch of strikeouts, though he has gotten on base a bit more. He’s been one of the best in the minors at drawing walks over the last few seasons so I imagine in a bigger sample his walk rate will continue to climb.
At Triple-A this season Julien has continued to be one of the best hitters at the level, posting a 141 wRC+ in 31 games. He’s triple-slashed .287/.442/.481 to go with four home runs and three steals. The 24-year-old has the minor league track record off offensive production that instills confidence that he can produce at the big league level, and I’m more confident that he could stick with the MLB club a bit longer this time around with the aforementioned names on the IL and Jose Miranda back in the minors. The impending return of Royce Lewis could complicate things, but Lewis’ positional flexibility should allow Julien to keep his spot, at least for the time being.
Bo Naylor, C, CLE (preseason PL/team ranking: 51/6): When this promotion happened it was clear as a day that it was a temporary call up for a doubleheader, but we are a little light on notable promotions this week so we will briefly discuss Naylor and try to figure out what the heck Cleveland is doing by keeping him in the minors.
Naylor had some hype going into the 2021 season but really struggled as a 21-year-old at Double-A, hitting just .188 and striking out more than 30% of the time. As a result, many of us jumped off the Naylor train heading into 2022 and he bounced back in a big way. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Naylor triple slashes .263/.392/.496 – good for a 139 wRC+. Oh, and he tallied 21 homers and 20 steals.
It’s been more of the same for Naylor at Triple-A to kick off 2023. Through 43 games, the catcher has a 118 wRC+ with nine long balls. He is yet to swipe a bag, though (he’s been caught stealing twice), so his fantasy ceiling may not be quite as high as it seemed a year ago.
But from a real life perspective, it’s a bit of a headscratcher as to why Naylor hasn’t gotten a long-term look with Cleveland yet. The Guardians have a league-worst 33 wRC+ from the catcher position and are only a handful of games behind the injury-plagued Twins team in a very winnable AL Central. Perhaps there is something to Naylor’s game that still needs to be refined, but from the outside looking in he appears to be the perfect piece to help Cleveland contend now.
Gavin Stone, P, LAD (preseason Pitcher List/team ranking: 54/2): Stone was mentioned above in the Miller breakdown and, like Julien, was mentioned in a previous article when he was called up earlier in the season. As mentioned earlier, Stone has a had rough start to his MLB career – he currently holds 10.13 ERA through two starts.
Following his first start, Stone was sent back to Triple-A. He made two starts there and performed well – allowing three earned runs in 11 innings while striking out 14. He did walk seven, though, and he has also walked seven in his eight MLB innings. Stone had an 8.9% walk rate in 2022, and while that’s not at an alarming level, it does feel just high enough where it could be come problematic if it ticks up a notch in the bigs.
If you want to cut Stone some slack – which we should, he has only pitched eight MLB innings following a dominant 2022 campaign – he did face two of the leagues tougher offenses in Atlanta and Philadelphia. For now, Stone is expected to stay in the rotation, but he still will have his work cut out for him with his next scheduled start slated to come this weekend against Tampa Bay, baseballs top offense by a wide margin. It is difficult to project that he will be up long-term though with Urías slated to return in the not-so-distant future and Miller looking like the better impact arm at least in the short term.
Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesfdx on Twitter)