AL Notes: Minor, Whitley, Giolito, Stewart

The Rangers received offseason trade interest in lefty Mike Minor but opted to hang onto him to help anchor a thin rotation in 2019. And while USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweeted recently that both the Mets and Phillies are showing “strong” interest in Minor, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News cites three sources in reporting that the Texas organization hasn’t had any recent trade talks regarding the left-hander. It’s likely that the Phillies and Mets have each scouted Minor’s early outings, but other clubs have surely done the same, just as Philadelphia and New York have quite likely scouted numerous other starting pitchers.

For the Rangers, it’s difficult to envision trading Minor to the Mets, Phillies or any other team so early in the year — particularly given their own thin rotation. Minor, earning $9.5MM in both 2019 and 2020, will likely be an oft-discussed trade candidate later this summer, when a greater number of motivated buyers is willing to make an offer (and when additional replacement options have potentially emerged within the organization). At present, however, a trade of that magnitude seems unlikely.

Here’s more from the American League…

  • Jake Kaplan of The Athletic explores the manner in which the Astros will manage the workload of top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley (subscription required). The highly touted righty totaled just 52 1/3 innings between the regular season and the AFL last year, owing to a 50-game drug suspension and a pair of injuries, so Houston will monitor his pitch and inning counts closely. Thus far, Whitley has been limited to five innings or 80 pitches per appearance. Houston opted to have him take the final turn in what is a six-day rotation consisting of three solo starters and three tandem pairings (one including the pairing of Whitley and Cy Sneed). While the organization has a rough idea of where they’d like Whitley’s innings count to land, president of baseball ops Jeff Luhnow suggested that it’s a context-dependent guideline rather than a hard cap. It’s plausible that he could debut as either a starter or reliever, depending on team needs. In general, Houston’s at times unorthodox approach to player development makes for a fascinating read, and that’s all the more true when the focus is placed on arguably the game’s top pitching prospect.
  • The White Sox announced Thursday morning that they’ve placed right-hander Lucas Giolito on the 10-day injured list due to a strained left hamstring. To replace Giolito and outfielder Daniel Palka, who was optioned to Triple-A following last night’s game, they’ve recalled righty Carson Fulmer and outfielder Ryan Cordell. Giolito tells reporters that he expects to only miss a pair of starts with the injury (Twitter link via Daryl Van Schouwen of the Sun Times), but it’s still a discouraging setback for the former top prospect. The 24-year-old had an awful first full season in 2018, stumbling to a 6.13 ERA in 173 1/3 innings, but he’s shown some encouraging signs early in 2019. His fastball velocity is up nearly a mile per hour over his 2018 average, while his swinging-strike rate is up from a pedestrian 8.3 percent to a well-above-average 12.4 percent. After averaging just 6.5 K/9 in 2018, Giolito has already punched out 23 hitters in 18 2/3 frames. He still needs to improve his control, but the early improvements in velocity and missed bats are encouraging even if his ERA is still at an elevated 5.30 mark.
  • Tigers outfielder Christin Stewart landed on the injured list Thursday thanks to a right quad strain, per a club announcement. Infielder/outfielder Brandon Dixon is up from Triple-A Toledo to take his spot on the roster. The 25-year-old Stewart’s bid for an everyday spot in Detroit’s long-term lineup is off to a decent start, as he’s batting .246/.346/.465 through 136 plate appearances dating back to his late-2018 debut. Stewart has drawn a free pass in 12.5 percent of his trips to the plate and smacked five homers, six doubles and two triples in his limited experience, showing off the patience and power that make him an intriguing prospect. He’s unlikely to provide much in the way of defensive value, but he has the makings of a bat-first corner outfielder or designated hitter moving forward.

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