WATCHLIST: Waiting for an injury opening

The WatchList column is a quick-hit, twice-a-week look at those minor-league players that due to an organizational opening or continued improvement are on the verge of a callup. Many of the players covered in WatchList will not be top-level prospects, but instead players that could hold some short-term fanalytic value in the right situation.

May 1

Rudy Owens (LHP, PIT)
Owens possesses the ability to throw strikes and limit walks. Owens has a career 1.7 Ctl and a 4.2 Cmd. He struggled through a rough year in 2011 (5.06 ERA, 2.2 Cmd, 2.6 Ctl), and ended the season on the DL with shoulder fatigue. His 7.3 Dom is acceptable, but Owens will have to rely on his strike-throwing ability at the major league level to gets outs and over time strikeouts should follow.

Through 26 IP pitched in 2012, Owens has allowed 2 ER (2.08 ERA) to go along with 19 strikeouts and only 1 walk. He's allowed 19 hits, and opponents have batted .200 against him. As good as the Pirates rotation has been, one injury would open a door for Owens to make make his mark. If he continues to stay healthy and throw strikes, Owens could get the call soon.

Clint Robinson (1B, KC)
Robinson has done nothing but mash minor league pitching; with a career .912 OPS and .311 BA, many have questioned why he continues to play in the minors making pitchers look silly. Looking strictly at offense, Robinson shown he is ready for the next level. His career 221 ISO, consistent 80 percent or more contact rate, and improvements in his walk rate and Eye back up the advocates of his promotion. But there has to be a reason a 27-year-old slugger is in the minors.

Besides the loaded and youthful system in Kansas City, Robinson does not provide anything in the field or on the bases. He is a defensive liability who would need to DH in the majors. With a healthy Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer, Robinson would have a hard time amassing the playing time necessary for a young slugger. Off to a 26-for-93 start with 9 extra base hits and a 15:15 K:BB ratio, Robinson may pose a problem—albeit a good one—for the Royals. With Robinson continuing to slug and KC in early-season scuffle mode, the Royals may have to find a way to get him in the lineup. But probably not before someone hits the DL.

 

April 25

Edwar Cabrera (LHP, COL)
The Rockies 4.50 team ERA ranks second to last in the National League, making the call up of Cabrera much more realistic. Cabrera has dominated minor league hitting; flying under the radar similar to Matt Moore (TB, LHP) did until he reached AA last season. With a career 11.7 Dom, 2.8 Ctl, and 4.2 Cmd, Cabrera has shown his ability to get hitters out and keep them off base. His Ctl continues to drop while maintaining his Dom and increasing his Cmd. These signs point to Cabrera figuring things out on the mound and harnessing his arsenal.

Pitching in AA his year, Cabrera is off to a fascinating start. Through 26 IP, Cabrera has a 22:3 strikeout:walk ratio limiting hitters to only 14 hits. His 0.8 hr/9 is good, but all 6 ER this season have come way of the homerun. While Tulsa has been known to be a hitter’s park at times it is still an alarming number. Then again, it demonstrates his composure with runners on base. Regardless of his homeruns allowed, he has continued to fool hitters in the minors. If the issues in Colorado continue and Cabrera remains constant, look for his arrival to be on the horizon.

 

April 22

Michael Taylor (OF, OAK)
Michael Taylor’s hot start may be an answer to filling the gaps in Oakland’s offense. His career .298 BA and .853 OPS should play well in the spacious Coliseum. Taylor has reached base by way of the walk over 10 percent of the time throughout his minor league career, showcasing his pitch selection. With a career 183 ISO and 36 percent extra base hit rate, Taylor projects to have above average power.

Taylor is proving himself in AAA, getting off to a 24-for-62 start with 12 extra base hits and 3 stolen bases. His plus arm plays well in all three outfield positions, but his raw range profiles him more in the corner. While all signs point to success for Taylor, his downfall comes with his swing getting long at times. His career 0.56 Eye is a sign of some strikeouts to come and a slide in the BA. This aside, his hot start can not go unnoticed. With minimal success in left field and at DH for the A’s, Taylor’s bat can step in now and fill an offensive hole.

 


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