Knocking Down The Door: August 12, 2021

“Knocking Down The Door” is a weekly column highlighting minor leaguers who are making a case for a major league promotion. Listed below are the names of this week’s picks and the player’s team, age, level(s), prospect ranking, and last 2-3 weeks of statistics.

The analysis can be viewed in the embedded video of the previous day’s episode of The RosterResource Show, a weekly live stream focused on all things related to rosters, transactions, and RosterResource content at FanGraphs.

Knocking Down The Archive

Leody Taveras (22), CF, Triple-A Round Rock | Texas Rangers | Prospect Rank: n/a | July 31-August 10: 13-for-36, 3 HR, 3 2B, 3B, 10 RBI, 5 BB, 8 K

As a 21-year-old rookie last season, Taveras held his own in the big leagues despite making the jump from Double-A in 2019. Taking a step forward offensively was the hope in 2021, but he had only four hits in 46 at-bats with 23 strikeouts before the Rangers demoted him to Triple-A in late April. As Adolis García was quickly emerging as an impact bat while taking on the starting center field job, Taveras became the forgotten man as he continued to struggle at the plate in the minors.

Nearly four months later, the path to a spot in the Rangers’ outfield is wide open and the switch-hitting Taveras has caught fire over the past few weeks. Since July 18, he is slashing .319/.398/.653 with 12 extra-base hits in 84 plate appearances, including his 16th homer of the season on August 8.


Michael Stefanic (25), INF, Triple-A Salt Lake | Los Angeles Angels | Prospect Rank: n/a | July 29-August 10: 19-for-50, 4 HR, 2B, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 3 K

Signed as an undrafted free agent in July 2018, Stefanic made a quick rise to High-A early in his first full professional season. But he struggled in the hitter-friendly league, posting a 98 wRC+ with three homers in 342 plate appearances. For a non-prospect, that usually means the end of the line if you can’t hit in the California League. But the Angels didn’t give up on him and it’s paying off in 2021.

After collecting 30 hits in 87 at-bats to begin the season with Double-A Rocket City, Stefanic has continued to be a base-hit machine for Triple-A Salt Lake. But he’s also showing some power with 11 homers and nine homers to go with a .332 batting average and .406 on-base percentage in 256 plate appearances. The Angels have several utility infielders on the 40-man roster, most of whom have gotten a long look in the majors this season. Giving Stefanic an opportunity down the stretch will allow them to better evaluate which ones to keep heading into the 2022 season.

 

José Marmolejos (28), 1B,/OF Triple-A Tacoma | Seattle Mariners | Prospect Rank: n/a | July 29-August 10: 21-for-40, 4 HR, 3 2B, 14 RBI, 6 BB, 6 K

Only days after first baseman Evan White landed on the Injured List with what would eventually lead to season-ending hip injury, Marmolejos’ golden opportunity was officially wasted as he was designated for assignment after slashing .139/.266/.278 with three homers in 94 plate appearances. He cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Tacoma, where he would soon fall deeper down the depth chart when the Mariners acquired Jake Bauers from Cleveland a few days later.

Nevertheless, the 28-year-old Marmolejos went about his business and has quietly put himself back on the radar by posting a .377/.467/.735  with 20 homers, 35 walks, and 39 strikeouts in 242 plate appearances. Over his last 10 games, he has a .583 on-base percentage and a .900 slugging percentage. While it’s yet to be seen whether he belongs in the big leagues or when he’ll get another chance, it appears that he is too good for Triple-A pitching.

 

Hunter Greene (22), SP, Triple-A Louisville | Cincinnati Reds | Prospect Rank: 38 (overall); 2 (organizational) | July 29-August 5: 12.1 IP, 2 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 17 K

Greene came into the season with only 72 2/3 professional innings under his belt — none since 2018 when he made 18 starts in Low-A; he missed 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery — so it was a bit surprising when the Reds assigned him to Double-A Chattanooga to begin the season. But it was clear early on why they felt comfortable pushing their best pitching prospect.

The 21-year-old dominated in seven starts (1.98 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 13.1 K/9) before a promotion to Triple-A, where he’s settled in after scuffling in his first few starts. He has a 1.98 ERA over his last five starts with 37 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. Now at age 22, Greene appears ready for the next step. The question is whether the Reds feel like the timing is right. If the Reds are in the playoff hunt and Greene is healthy in September — he was scratched from Wednesday’s start with AC joint irritation, although he’s expected to take his next turn — he would be an intriguing roster addition with a fastball that usually sits in the 100-103 MPH range.

 

Keegan Thompson (26), SP, Triple-A Iowa | Chicago Cubs | Prospect Rank: 34 (organizational) | July 31-July 10: 10.1 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 5 BB, 9 K

As was the case with Justin Steele, it appears that the Cubs put Thompson back on a path that would prepare him for an opportunity in the big league rotation despite an impressive early-season performance out of the bullpen. Following a scoreless inning for the Cubs on July 26 that lowered his ERA to 2.21 in 40 2/3 innings, Thompson was sent back to the minors where he could pitch out of the starting rotation.

Things are going well. He’s had three consecutive scoreless outings, including a four-inning stint on Monday. If he can get past the five-inning mark in his next start, he could return for his second big league stint soon thereafter. While he pitched primarily out of the bullpen during his first stint, he did make one start. Like his three minor league starts, he didn’t allow a run.

 

Jovani Moran (24), RP, Triple-A St. Paul | Minnesota Twins | Prospect Rank: 31 (organizational) | July 31-August 11: 9 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 12 K

Moran showed potential as a reliever early in his professional career, posting terrific numbers at the Rookie, Low-A, and High-A levels before reaching Double-A in 2019. But he was not terrific there. Despite a 13.1 K/9 rate, the lefty had a 4.98 ERA and 23 walks in 34 1/3 innings. Two years later, he was back for another stint in Double-A. This time, it was a different story. In 37 2/3 innings, he had a 1.91 ERA, 3.3 BB/9, and 15.3 K/9. Since a promotion to Triple-A in mid-July, he continues to make a strong case for the big leagues.

Before allowing two runs in 2 1/3 innings on Wednesday, the 24-year-old had not allowed a run, walk, or a hit in seven consecutive innings. Without many bright spots in the Twins’ bullpen this season, Moran could change things if given an opportunity to show off his changeup against major league hitters.

 





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Nathan
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Nathan

Do you expect Josh Lowe to see the majors this year?

Slappytheclown
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Slappytheclown

Unlikely as he has K issues still and isn’t as good a defender as Phillips or Kiermeier.