In this section, we'll give you scouting reports on MAJOR LEAGUE CALLUPS, mostly starters that will be making their pitching debuts. If you want an update or scouting report on any call-up, be it pitcher or everyday player, feel free to ask on Twitter or email me anytime and I would be happy to oblige.
Eric Lauer (SD – LHP)
Eric Lauer may come as advertised, polished, mature, calm, collected, and with an obvious plan on the mound and consistency in his mechanics and command. The former first round draft pick (2016) out of Ohio’s Kent State University can carve up lineups and his free, easygoing demeanor on the mound is a sight to see considering he’s still just 21 years old. Lauer sits 89-92 mph but can touch a bit higher than that; see him throw and you feel there’s a lot more in the tank should he choose to exert himself and reach back for it, too, though he rarely does. The lefty has command of four pitches. Lauer’s fastball shows cutting action and can wreak havoc on right-handed batters at times just as lefties. He couples it well with a changeup that has good arm-side fade and some depth, and Lauer can command the pitch to both sides of the plate, making it effective to induce ground balls and weak contact against hitters from each side of the plate.
He throws two breaking balls—a slider and a curve—with the slider being far more advanced to this point. The slider is tight, sitting 77-82 mph with good tilt and hard, late movement. Lauer commands this one as well as his changeup, giving him two off-speed pitches that flash above-average and can keep hitters honest and off balance. The curveball is still something of a work in progress. It can morph into a slurve and command of the pitch is far from the other three in his repertoire, but because he has those other three good pitches, Lauer can flash the curve here and there to make it work well enough when he needs a breaking ball with a bigger hump.
The Padres are high on Lauer for good reason; the lefty is polished and calm on the mound, repeats his mechanics very well, and clearly understands how to sequence hitters to the point where he can be a top of the rotation starter for years. His ultimate ceiling will depend on things like how his curveball develops, of course, but Eric Lauer has a high floor and he’ll get every chance to have a major impact on the Padres’ big league club. In 18 frames for Triple-AAA El Paso of the Pacific Coast League (an extreme hitter’s league), Lauer allowed just 11 hits (.172 BAA), struck out 19 and walked six while pitching to a 3.00 ERA. He’s a starter to watch but do keep in mind that he’s raw, as he’s moved up the ranks quickly after starting at A-Ball at the beginning of last year. He subsequently carved up Double-AA ball before making the move to Triple-AAA for three starts this year and dominating there too.
Walker Buehler (RHP L.A. Dodgers)
The Dodgers promoted the 23-year-old to the majors late last year to pitch out of the bullpen. In order to both prep him for the majors as well as protect his prized arm, Buehler was moved from the rotation to the bullpen in early August, shortly after his elevation from Double-A to Triple-A. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in August 2015—shortly after his selection in the 1st round of the draft—he returned late in the 2016 season. Few could expect him to regain his velocity and crisp breaking pitches in such a short time, but Buehler has vastly exceeded expectations. He was always a top prospect in college, but his arm injury caused him to fall in the draft. The time away seems to have helped him, as he’s back to throwing in the 94-97 mph range. With an athletic delivery that he consistently repeats, he peppers all quadrants of the strike zone with quality pitches. His fastball borders on double-plus status while both his curveball and slider/cutter also have plus moments. Buehler easily and frequently misses bats with most of his pitches and he works quickly and efficiently, thus preserving his arm. His fastball not only has plus velocity, but it exhibits late movement that makes it almost impossible to make hard contact against. There are some concerns about his durability due to his slight build and previous Tommy John surgery. However, he makes pitching look easy and has such advanced command and control that he has an extremely bright future. The expectation is for Buehler to pitch at or near the top of the rotation for many years to come. This prized prospect was handled with care, but dominance in minors eventually led to brief MLB trial last year and he’ll now make his starting debut here. An obvious gem that is priced like one but cannot be recommended at these prices at such an early stage of his career.
Jaime Barria (RHP - LAA)
Needing starters, the Angels announced that 21-year-old Jaime Barria will make his major league debut when he starts on April 11 against the Rangers. It's a rapid rise for the youngster who went from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A in 2017, having success along the way with a four-pitch mix that is not plus, but effective enough. The 6'1", 210-pound right-hander will likely only be a back-end of the rotation starter, but that is valuable to the Angels too. Barria's fastball tops out at 94 mph, but he pounds the zone with it. His change-up is solid, as is his low-80s mph curve, and he works in a slider. His strikeout history shows that he won't get a lot of strikeouts, but he can get enough to be effective with his four-pitch mix. He certainly won't hurt himself with walks for his control has always been sharp. He is strong and durable, useful traits for a team looking for healthy pitchers. Yet if he doesn't succeed this time around, he's young enough to head back down to Triple-A and get more innings there. The Angels aren't hoping for a lot with Barria, and other starters are ready to help out soon, but this is a major league arm sooner or later. It's just a matter of how effective he can be, but a No. 5 or No. 4 starter would be very helpful. Just expect league average results instead of dominance, and that's what Barria can deliver. In six minor league seasons his ERA is 4.22 with a 1.23 WHIP in 394.1 IP.
2017 STATS: Salt Lake (AAA) – 3 g, 3 gs, 2-0, 2.45 ERA, 14.2 IP, 1.8 BB’s.9, 8 K’s/9, 0 HR, .208 oppBA
2017 STATS: Mobile (AA) – 12 g, 12 gs, 1-6, 3.21 ERA, 61.2 IP, 2.2 BB’s/9, 6.9 K’s/9, 8 HR, .256 oppBA
Andrew Kittredge (RHP - TAM)
Andrew Kittredge made the Tampa Bay bullpen out of a spring training where he struck out 12 of the 53 batters he faced while walking only two. The 28-year-old right-hander had a terrific 2017 in Triple-A Durham before being called up by the Rays and putting up decent numbers in 15 innings. Now he joins a starting totation that was originally four and that will be asked to work harder than most. Although Kittredge has four pitches, he is mostly a fastball/slider pitcher. His fastball can reach 94 mph while his slider sits in the mid-80s. Early in his minor league career he put up ugly WHIPs from elevated hit and walk rates, but his skills have come together to put up decent numbers since last year. He has a career 3.99 ERA, 9.7 K’s/9, 2.9 BB/9 in 411.0 IP minor-league innings. Just keep in mind he’s a reliever that has just two starts over his last 46 appearances, thus making the risk too high.
2017 STATS: Tampa Bay (MLB) – 15g, 0gs, 0-1, 1.76 ERA, 15.1 IP, 8.2 K’s/9, 2 HR, .220 oppBA
2017 STATS: Durham (AAA) – 41g, 2gs, 6-1, 1.45 ERA, 68.1 IP, 10.3 K’s/9, 2 HR, .200 oppBA