Yesterday afternoon, the Rangers did what many people wanted them to do since the injury bug hit the starting rotation – call up a starting pitcher from the minor leagues. When it was announced that Koji Uehara would be placed on the disabled list on Saturday, it was announced that they would recall Justin Grimm from Double-A Frisco.
Grimm is a “tweener”. He’s not a top prospect but he has enough upside to become a regular major league player. Most reports of his Major League career prior to the call up have him as a reliever unless he can develop a change up. He wasn’t ranked in Fangraph’s, Baseball Prospectus or Baseball America’s Top 15 Prospects of the Rangers system (he was #16 in BA’s rankings) which may be more of a testament to the system then it is an opinion of Grimm as a prospect. Marc Hulet of Fangraphs recently said that Grimm’s upside is a No. 3 starter which most teams would like to have in a prospect not good enough to crack an organizations top 15.
The surprise is perhaps the fact that Grimm will be making his debut without pitching in Triple-A. This is actually not that bizarre. You only have to look at Toronto’s Drew Hutchison. He was 5-1 in six Double-A starts over the last two seasons and was recalled in April. Since then, he has been up-and-down but has posted a 5-3 record with a 4.66 ERA, or in other words, better than Scott Feldman. Hutchison is actually two years younger than Grimm, but is also a medium-high level prospect and shows that if you can throw strikes, you are going to be in the major leagues sooner rather than later.
And Grimm definitely throws strikes. He only walks 1.64 batters per nine innings and is strike out rates are at 7.8. That’s a recipe for success no matter what level you are pitching at. John Sickels’s Baseball Prospect Book has this to say about Grimm:
His key pitch is the fastball that bores in on hitters at 92-95 MPH. It is
particularly tough on right-handed hitters. His breaking ball, variously described as a
slider or hard curve, is solid, but his changeup is below average and he’s shown little
progress with it. His pitches have a lot of movement and his location is not always
reliable. Current indications are that the Rangers will keep using Grimm as a starter
in the minors to see if the changeup improves, but many scouts think he’ll wind up as
a reliever and possible closer.
So that is definitely something to look for when you watch Grimm on Saturday and let’s face it: the Astros are hardly the best offense in the Major Leagues. I wouldn’t be expecting too much from Grimm, but he’s not a throw-away either. He should provide perfectly serviceable Major League innings and he may have the opportunity to do so. Grimm was not on the 40-man roster, so Neftali Feliz had to be moved to the 60-day disabled list as the Rangers didn’t want to lose any active member off of the roster. Feliz also wasn’t expected to be back for 4-6 weeks so while this does push his timetable back a little bit, it will provide him with an opportunity to rehab in the minor leagues before being activated.
Because of this, when the Rangers send Grimm down, he will use his first option year. That means that they are more likely to give him a long look as opposed to a quick stint with the big club. The team has already used options on Tanner Scheppers, Yoshinori Tateyama and Michael Kirkman which means that if they send them back down, it does not affect their status any more. The other (unlikely) possibility is that Grimm gets sent down for less than 20 days for the rest of the season which would mean that an option is not used, but Grimm would have to be performing pretty well for that to happen, which would probably just be a win-win.
Service time is also a consideration here. The Rangers were reluctant to start the clock on their top prospects like Martin Perez and Neil Ramirez when they weren’t going to stick. Grimm is good enough to tread water and the team won’t mind starting the clock on a player who is more likely to reach his upside sooner.