With the trade deadline just two weeks away, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on around the baseball world throughout the day today:
1. Pirates Prospect Promotions:
This evening’s game against the Guardians is shaping up to be a significant one for the Pirates, as the club is poised to call up a trio of prospects prior to the game tonight. Reports began circling over the weekend that right-handed pitching prospect Quinn Priester would be taking the ball for his MLB debut tonight, while last night news broke that he would be joined by catcher Endy Rodriguez and infielder Liover Peguero, the latter of whom will be returning to the big leagues after a one-game cup of coffee last year.
The trio of top 10 prospects in the Pirates system have all generated top-100 prospect buzz throughout their careers in the minors. Rodriguez is the best known of the bunch, as a consensus top 55 prospect in the sport entering the 2023 campaign. Priester, entered the 2023 campaign ranked 60th by MLB Pipeline. Peguero isn’t on any top 100 lists at the moment, though he was a consensus top 80 prospect prior to the 2022 campaign. Rodriguez and Peguero are both already on the 40-man roster, but an opening will need to be created for Priester before he can join the team. Of course, space will need to be cleared for all three on the active roster prior to tonight’s game as well.
2. Reds to promote CES:
The Pirates aren’t the only club promoting a top prospect today. The youth movement in Cincinnati is set to continue this evening with infield prospect Christian Encarnacion-Strand set to join the club for tonight’s game against the Giants. Encarnacion-Strand is currently ranked 88th on MLB Pipeline’s top 100 list and has had an incredible season in his first taste of Triple-A action with Louisville. In 316 plate appearances at the level, Encarnacion-Strand has slashed .331/.405/.637, good for a wRC+ of 153. The 23-year-old is not yet on the 40-man roster, so a corresponding move will be necessary to create space for him.
In promoting Encarnacion-Strand, the Reds will create a bit of a logjam in their infield. With future Hall of Famer Joey Votto raking 77 plate appearances into his age-39 season, the Reds will have to juggle playing time for him, Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer, Elly De La Cruz, Jonathan India, and Matt McLain around the infield. While the DH slot should ease those issues to an extent, with six infielders seemingly due for regular playing time and only five spots in the lineup available to them, the Reds will either have to make difficult decisions regarding their infield mix or lean heavily on the limited experience of both Steer and Encarnacion-Strand in the outfield corners.
3. McClanahan to return:
Rays lefty Shane McClanahan has been on the 15-day injured list since the beginning of the month with mid-back tightness. After just over the minimum time away, he’s poised to return to the mound today in a start against the Rangers tonight in Texas. McClanahan’s return is sure to take pressure off right-handers Tyler Glasnow, Zach Eflin, and Taj Bradley, who have operated as a three-man rotation in McClanahan’s absence.
The lefty was dominant in 17 starts prior to going on the IL, with a 2.53 ERA and 3.86 FIP in 96 innings of work. While those numbers are certainly impressive, they’re actually inflated by a pair of shortened starts during which McClanahan was battling the injury that eventually sent him to the shelf. Through his first 15 starts of the season, McClanahan appeared to be the clear front-runner for the AL Cy Young award this year with a sterling 2.12 ERA in 89 1/3 innings of work.