Brett Lawrie was on the verge of being called up in May when a broken hand knocked him out for two months, but he’s hit .350 at Triple-A since returning in mid-July and today the Blue Jays officially added their top prospect to the roster.
There are questions about whether Lawrie can stick at third base defensively long term, but he’ll get a chance to play the hot corner for now with Jose Bautista shifting back to right field and his bat is the real draw anyway.
Lawrie, who was acquired from the Brewers for Shaun Marcum this winter, hit .353 with 18 homers and a 1.076 OPS in 69 total games at Triple-A, which is pretty damn impressive for a 21-year-old even at hitter-friendly Las Vegas in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
He didn’t show nearly that much pop at Double-A last season, hitting .285 with eight homers in 135 games, but the 16th overall pick in the 2008 draft ranked 10th on Baseball America‘s midseason top prospect list with the only position players ahead of him being Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Manny Machado, and Jesus Montero.
To make room for Lawrie in the lineup and Bautista in the outfield the Blue Jays demoted Travis Snider to Triple-A for the second time this season. Snider was once a very highly touted prospect himself, but he’s struggled to make consistent contact or control the strike zone. So far a .249 batting average and .308 on-base percentage have offset Snider’s significant power potential, but he’s also still just 23 years old.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.