Rockies adding top prospect Chacin to bullpen

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When the Rockies pulled top prospect Jhoulys Chacin from his start at
Double-A last night “as a precaution for possible, future
organizational moves” there was speculation that a major trade was coming, but instead they’re promoting him to the big leagues to work out of the bullpen following news that Manny Corpas is headed for elbow surgery.

Last year was Chacin’s first full season as a pro and he went 18-3 with
a 2.03 ERA in 28 starts between two levels of Single-A as a
20-year-old, earning Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year honors
from MLB.com and ranking as the Rockies’ second-best prospect behind
Dexter Fowler according to Baseball America.

Chacin hasn’t been quite as dominant while moving up to Double-A this
season, but his 3.14 ERA and 86/35 K/BB ratio in 103.1 innings there is
extremely impressive for someone who won’t be 22 years old for another
six months. Unlike many top pitching prospects his strikeout numbers
haven’t been off the charts, with only 323 in 390 career innings.

However, to some extent Chacin pitches to contact with a hard sinker
that has induced 60 percent ground balls. Toss in solid control for
someone so young and the 6-foot-3 right-hander projects as a possible
No. 2 starter with some ace potential, but the Rockies are definitely
taking a risk by having him skip Triple-A to join their bullpen as a
21-year-old with 18 total starts above Single-A.

Colorado has a 1.5-game lead in the Wild Card race and the Rockies’
bullpen has been a relative weakness, so they no doubt think that the
possibility of Chacin having a big impact as a setup man makes it
worthwhile to risk some of his long-term development for a short-term
gain. We’ll see, but I’d certainly spend the next week trying to swing
a deal for a veteran reliever before rushing my top prospect to the
majors.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.