CALL-UPS: May 31-June 6, 2022


Ethan Small (LHP, MIL)

The players covered in this column are only those who still have rookie status as determined by MLB, and who have not already been written up earlier in 2022. Find previous Call-up profiles on the News tab of the player’s PlayerLink page. 

Contributing writers: Jeremy Deloney, Nick Richards, Matthew St-Germain, Doug Otto and Shelly Verougstraete

 

June 2, 2022

Ethan Small (LHP, MIL)
In today’s game, high-end velocity rules the day, so when you see a starter like Long with a four-seamer topping 92, the immediate reaction isn’t “strikeout artist” but that’s exactly who Small has been for a long time. 6’4″ and 215 pounds, the native Tennessean’s athletic with a frame that’ll eat innings. Stuff-wise, he’s been a “deception/command” guy up the ladder who “lacks a plus offering” but it’s safe to say that Small’s change-up, a fringe-average offering at best at the time of his first-round selection by the Brewers in 2019, is now at least a plus offering. However, that fastball was Small’s primary option at Mississippi State, where he would pitch solely off of it and was one of the leaders in K/9 in Division I, so the FB works. Small has optimized his VAA as well as the functional spin on the fastball and he’s able to move it all over the zone for an inordinate amount of swing-and-miss. He also varies his delivery timing, hides the ball well, and gets excellent extension down the mound. That, combined with knowing how to pitch, makes Small’s profile more impressive than at first glance. The 25-year-old still lacks a dependable third offering, and as such, he’s struggled with the walks as better hitters are more able to lay off his breaking stuff. His underlying metrics at Triple-A Nashville are fairly solid (56.0% GB%, 14.3% SwK) but he’s also benefiting from a low H% (24.1%). This is a mid-rotation starter at projection with the stuff to get there, but one that’ll likely struggle a bit making the jump with shaky command nor a dependable third offering.
STATS: Small Baseball-Reference page
OTHER COVERAGE: No. 2 on MIL Org Report, HQ Radio (May 2022), Eyes Have It (June 2021), Eyes Have It Podcast (June 2021)
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL: #3 starter
RATING: 8C

Evan Lee (LHP, WAS)
Lee was a two-way guy for Arkansas when Washington took him in the 15th round in 2018 who quickly shifted to pitching only upon signing. 6’1″ and 210 pounds, the 24-year-old has a solid one-two combo in his four-seamer and curveball. The fastball works low-90s with high spin and good life up in the zone. His plus curve works high-70s to low-80s and offsets the fastball nicely with solid drop that he can land at the bottom of the zone. There’s a cutter and a change-up in here, but they are both distant third pitches, and Lee rarely features them (around 5% usage). Washington has moved Lee around from reliever to starter and repeat. Lee best profiles as a reliever who could work in leverage, as his fastball likely plays up beyond its 55 grade in the pen, giving him two plus pitches alongside functional control. However, the Nationals are keeping Lee in the rotation for the time being and that’s how he’ll be used upon promotion.
STATS: Lee Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL: #5 starter/swingman
RATING: 7D

Matt Swarmer (RHP, CHC)
Swarmer had a solid four-year career for Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and ended up a senior sign by the Cubs in 2016 in the 19th round. 6’5″ and 195 pounds, the 28-year-old has an athletic frame and gets good extension on the mound. Despite being a starter the whole way up, Swarmer is primarily a two-pitch guy, with a 90-91 mph four-seam fastball, and low-80s slider. The slider does most of the heavy lifting in the profile and he throws the pitch more than his fastball. Major league hitters were able to make ample contact with the fastball upon his debut, but they struggled mightily against the slider, with a .143 oppBA and 38.5% Whiff%. Swarmer has been pretty lights out with Triple-A Iowa, so he’s clearly working his pitches well, but with a heavy FB lean (39.6%) and modest SwK (12.1%), the likelihood of this working multiple times through the league in a starting role seems dubious without a third pitch or lockdown fastball. In the pen, that fastball likely plays up, and Swarmer would have some leveraged upside. For now, he’s starting and in a rotation that is in need of arms, so if he produces, he likely sticks.
STATS: Swarmer Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL: Setup reliever/#5 starter
RATING: 6C

Jason Alexander (RHP, MIL)
First of all, any time a NDFA makes it to the majors as a starting pitcher, you’ve got to show some love. Alexander started six games for Long Beach State in 2014 and then didn’t pitch again for two years before popping up at Menlo College in the NAIA. He pitched well but didn’t garner enough interest to get drafted in 2017. The Angels saw something of interest and gave him enough burn to rise to Triple-A by 2019, but a 9.36 ERA in 50 IP had him released. He would pop up next with the Marlins and again flop out of the organization though his surface stats improved markedly from 2019. Milwaukee took a chance on him this year and he’s performed serviceably. Alexander has a four-pitch mix with a mid-90s sinker, change, curve, and slider, though he relies heavily on the sinker. Nothing here is remarkable, and the SwK is low at 9.1%, but the 29-year-old gets a lot of weak contact with a heavy GB tilt (63.3% GB% so far this year with Triple-A Nashville). Alexander has hand and he’s gonna need it as he’s up for a starting gig against the Cubs. Milwaukee’s rotation is more mash unit than anything at the moment, so if Alexander can eat innings they’ll be there for him. That said, he’s more likely a long-reliever if he makes it.
STATS: Alexander Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL: Long reliever/#5 starter
RATING: 6D


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June 1, 2022

Zac Lowther LHP, BAL)
Lowther was a supplemental second-rounder in 2017 on the back of a successful season in the Big East for Xavier and on the Cape where he led the league in Ks with 54. At 6’2″ and 235 pounds, the 26-year-old has an innings-eater frame and a pitch mix that projects him to the back of a rotation. Lowther is more of a deception/pitchability guy instead of a stuff guy, as he presently lacks a plus offering. He does get excellent extension down the mound and releases his 90-mph fastball with a low arm angle. The pitch has some late life, but is more of a fringe-average pitch and one that major league hitters feasted upon during his debut last year to the tune of a .338 oppBA. His average change-up was also demolished (.444 oppBA), but his breaking stuff did fairly well, with both his curve and slider working around 2,600 rpm and both generating at least a 34% Whiff% and low oppBAs. The margins are thin, however, for Lowther without a put-away fastball. His command is also around average and did not make the trip with him last year with a 9.4% BB%. Due to those thin margins, Lowther has been fairly hittable, with a .298 oppBA in the majors last season, and a .339 oppBA this year for Triple-A Norfolk alongside a 5.05 FIP. The main issues with Lowther’s profile last season do not seem to have been addressed, so while he does have a rotation projection, the outcomes are likely to be difficult. He’s starting to feel like organizational depth rather than a rotation arm.
STATS: Lowther Baseball-Reference page
OTHER COVERAGE: No. 12 on BAL Org Report
CURRENT ROLE: Starting pitcher
POTENTIAL: #4 starter
RATING: 7C

Jermaine Palacios (UT, MIN)
Originally signed by the Twins and then shipped off as the return for Jake Odorizzi (RHP, HOU) to the Rays, Palacios found himself back in the Twins organization after refusing assignment after the 2020 season. Palacios put together a comeback year last season, hitting .259/.340/.439 with 17 2B, 19 HR, and 18 SB for Double-A Wichita. He’s kept it up this year for Triple-A St. Paul and has made himself into a nice little utility piece. 6’0″ and a lithe 145 pounds, the native Venezuelan originally started out at 3B but then moved primarily to SS. As he’s progressed, he’s still done the majority of his work at SS, but has now played every position but CF and C, and features both a plus arm and plus defensive skills, which should allow him to at least carve out some utility work at the major league level. The speed is average and his hit and power tools are maybe fringe-average, but he’s been trending in the right direction and things have come together at the right time for the 25-year-old. There’s some sneaky value in the profile.
STATS: Palacios Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Utility fielder
POTENTIAL: Utility fielder
RATING: 6B

 

May 31, 2022

Edward Cabrera (RHP, MIA)
As Cody Poteet goes on the IL, the Marlins are going to call up Edward Cabrera and have him enter the rotation beginning with the May 31 matchup against the Rockies. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched seven games for the Marlins in 2021 with moderate results. His surface stats were not great (5.81 ERA/1.633 WHIP), and his skills were also alarming (23% strikeout rate, 16% walk rate). Repeating Triple-A to start this season, his skills are improved (32% strikeout rate, 12% walk rate). That struggle to throw strikes will hold him back from his potential. Otherwise this is a starter’s skill set with a four-pitch mix of which three of them are plus pitches. The 6’5″, 217-pound Cabrera has an upper-90s FB, a very good changeup and slider, and a curve that is a quality pitch as well. He gets the strikeouts, but as long as the walks pile up, it will lead to ugly surface stats. If he gets his control issues ironed out, he has the pitches to be a No. 3 starter in the rotation.
STATS: Cabrera Baseball-Reference page
OTHER COVERAGE: No. 5 on MIA Org Report; No. 53 on HQ100; The Eyes Have It – August 10th, 2021
CURRENT ROLE: #5 starter
POTENTIAL: #3 starter
RATING: 8C

Kody Clemens (2B, DET)
Kody Clemens was called up when Robbie Grossman was put on the IL. When Clemens first appears it will be his major league debut. The 6’1″, 170-pound second baseman/third baseman/right fielder began the year in Triple-A where he put up a very nice .283/.316/.527 batting line in 197 PA. As noted, the lefty batting Clemens can cover both the infield and the outfield, making him an ideal utility bat in the major leagues. His skills are decent but not plus, other than his power, which can lead to double-digit HRs. He has some speed for a handful of bases. His BA this year at Toledo notwithstanding, his BA is not likely to be high. He looks for FBs to drive and can be beat by major league off-speed pitches. He’s 26 now, and repeating Triple-A, so while the opportunity might be short-lived this time, there’s not much more for him to prove in the minors.
STATS: Clemens Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Bench depth
POTENTIAL: Utility player
RATING: 6B

Anderson Espinoza (RHP, CHC)
Called up as the 27th-man for the May 30 doubleheader, Anderson Espinoza will give the Cubs bullpen depth. The 6’0″, 208-pound right-hander began the season in Double-A Tennessee where he started eight games, striking out 36 of the 121 batters he faced while walking 14. That’s been the pattern for the 24-year-old: lots of strikeouts, but too many walks. He has had two Tommy John surgeries in his past, so even to get this far is a triumph. Espinoza rides his upper-90s FB to get the strikeouts. His curve is his only other average pitch, a high-80s offering. His changeup and slider are less effective. He can use his two good pitches more effectively out of the pen, though as he has shown in Double-A, he can give the team innings if they need it. In the long run, he’s more likely bullpen bound, and can be quite a good one if he gets his control in better shape.
STATS: Espinoza Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: 27th man
POTENTIAL: Setup reliever
RATING: 8E

Nelson Velázquez (OF, CHC)
Replacing Jonathan Villar on the active roster is 23-year-old outfielder Nelson Velázquez to make his major league debut. The 6’0″, 190-pound Velázquez began the year in Double-A for 22 games, then moved to Triple-A Iowa for 19 more games. He put up a .288/.394/.700 line in Tennessee, but that dipped to .214/.294/.414 in Iowa. In the 2022 Minor League Baseball Analyst, Chris Blessing noted that Veláquez flattened out his swing plane to reduce his extreme uppercut. That helped cut down on his whiffs, and helped him more consistently reach his maximum exit velocity marks. Unfortunately so far this year his K% rate has been high, though the results when he does connect have been superior. His new-found strength leads us to think he could put up 20 HRs. Add a dozen SBs to the mix and a decent OBP and you have a potential starting outfielder. Since he has so little time spent at Triple-A, and struggled thus far, it would not be a surprise to see him return and work on consolidating his skills.
STATS: Velázquez Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Reserve OF
POTENTIAL: Starting OF
RATING: 7D

Josh Smith (3B, TEX)
24-year-old Josh Smith was called up to make his major league debut hitting eighth and starting at 3B for the Rangers. Standing 5’10” and weighing 172 pounds, Smith has been playing at Triple-A Round Rock this year, appearing in 40 games split between 3B, SS, and CF. He put up a nice .273/.382/.422 line there, and now gets a shot while Brad Miller goes on the IL. Looking at Smith’s skills, you don’t see anything that stands out as plus, nor do you see any weaknesses. He draws walks and gets on base, and has enough power to hit the occasional HR. He can steal a few bases, and as noted by his positional flexibility, he has decent defense, though his ultimate role might wind up at 2B. He has the potential to be a starting middle infielder, and he gets his first chance now to show he belongs in the majors.
STATS: Smith Baseball-Reference page
OTHER COVERAGE: No. 8 on TEX Org Report
CURRENT ROLE: MI/3B
POTENTIAL: Starting MI
RATING: 8D

Luke Barker (RHP, MIL)
Needing an extra arm for their doubleheader, the Brewers called up 30-year-old Luke Barker to provide depth in their pen. The 6’3″, 230-pound right-hander was spending his third season at Triple-A to start the year, and he can provide strikeouts without giving up too many walks. Although he has had success in the upper minors since signing with the team from his independent league days, Barker’s FB only sits around 90 mph, so his major league success is not that likely.
STATS: Barker Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Middle reliever
POTENTIAL: Middle reliever
RATING: 5D

Peter Strzelecki (RHP, MIL)
Another pitcher called up by the Brewers is right-hander reliever Peter Strzelecki. At age 27, the 6’2″, 195-pound Strzelecki barely reached Triple-A in 2021, so his 16.1 innings there this season gives us a good picture of his skill. Striking out 26 of the 68 batters he faced in relief shows he can get the strikeouts. Walking 7 of those 68 shows he is a bit too generous with the walks. He sits around 94 mph with a lower arm slot delivery. He has throws a slider and a changeup. If he keeps throwing strikes with good control, he can carve out a place in the major league bullpen. With all the moving parts in Milwaukee, it would also not surprise to see him return to Triple-A. But he has shown he deserves a shot, and here it is.
STATS: Strzelecki Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Middle reliever
POTENTIAL: Setup reliever
RATING: 7C

Jose Cuas (RHP, KC)
With several relievers going on the COVID IL, the Royals selected the contract of Jose Cuas to help with bullpen depth. The 6’3″, 195-pound right-handed reliever has spent the season in Triple-A Omaha where he has appeared in 20 games, facing 88 batters, striking out 18 of them while unintentionally walking only five. Cuas started out as a shortstop, and then a 3B, and then reinvented himself as a pitcher since 2018. He throws a sidearm sinking FB that gets to 93 or 94 mph, and has been effective at getting strikeouts. He has also been stingy with the walks. When he first appears it will be his major league debut.
STATS: Cuas Baseball-Reference page
CURRENT ROLE: Middle reliever
POTENTIAL: Middle reliever
RATING: 6C

 

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PLAYER POTENTIAL RATING
Scale of (1-10) representing a player’s upside potential

10 – Hall of Fame-type player
9 – Elite player
8 – Solid regular
7 – Average regular
6 – Platoon player
5 – Major League reserve player
4 – Top minor league player
3 – Average minor league player
2 – Minor league reserve player
1 – Minor league roster filler
 

PROBABILITY RATING
Scale of (A-E) representing the player’s realistic chances of achieving their potential

A – 90% probability of reaching potential
B – 70% probability of reaching potential
C – 50% probability of reaching potential
D – 30% probability of reaching potential
E – 10% probability of reaching potential

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.



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