Let’s take a look at one player from each organization in the AL West that deserves to have their contract selected.
Houston Astros: Drew Ferguson
Outfielder Drew Ferguson, now 26, was drafted by the Astros in the 19th round of the 2015 draft. He made his way up to Triple-A in 2017 but hasn’t made it past that level yet. There was some hope for Ferguson this past offseason when he was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 2018 Rule 5 draft, but he was returned to the Astros organization this past spring. In 77 games at Triple-A this season, Ferguson is slashing .294/.401/.464 with 39 runs knocked in on 78 hits, including eight home runs. He has walked 43 times and struck out 74, while stealing 15 bases on 19 attempts.
As always, there's a couple things holding back Ferguson from the majors. First of all, the Astros’ 40-man roster is full and Ferguson is not on it, so it would take a move such as someone being transferred to the 60-day injured list or designated for assignment to bring Ferguson to the majors. Second, there is a bit of a logjam in the major league outfield, where the team holds four true outfielders (Josh Reddick, Michael Brantley, and George Springer) while also having two bench players who could move to the outfield if necessary (Tony Kemp and Myles Straw).
Los Angeles Angels: Jo Adell
Jo Adell, just 20 years old, was the Angels’ first-round selection in the 2017 MLB draft. He currently is the Angels’ No. 1 prospect and the best outfield prospect in all of baseball. Additionally, he is the fourth best prospect in the league. Adell opened the season in High-A but appeared in just six games before a promotion to Double-A. So far at that level, he has appeared in 30 games, slashing an impressive .363/.433/.628 with 18 runs knocked in on 41 hits, including 12 doubles and six homers. At Double-A, he has picked up 25 strikeouts and 11 walks. He has also been successful on all five of his stolen base attempts.
Adell is not on the Angels’ 40-man roster, so a corresponding move would have to be made. (The roster is at 40 already.) In addition to that obstacle, Adell is only in Double-A, and with there being no reason to rush a valuable and promising prospect, it seems unlikely that Adell would bypass Triple-A and go straight to the majors. However, it does seem like a call up to Salt Lake is imminent for Adell. Los Angeles’ current outfielder is headlined by Mike Trout, and then Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun, who are followed by Brian Goodwin. When Adell’s time comes, he will be ready to contribute immediately and add to a stacked Angels roster.
Oakland Athletics: Jorge Mateo
Jorge Mateo, 24, is the A’s eighth best prospect. A one-time international signing of the Yankees in 2012, Mateo was dealt to Oakland in 2017 as the top prospect headlining the Sonny Gray deal. A 2019 mid-season All-Star and Futures Game nominee, Mateo has played in 85 games at the Triple-A level this season, slashing .300/.335/.518 with 62 runs knocked in on 117 hits, including 20 doubles, a whipping 13 triples, and 13 homers. Mateo has struck out 102 times this year, but has walked just 18 times. He has stolen two-thirds (18 of 27) of the bases he has attempted to swipe.
Mateo is on the 40-man roster, which would make it quite simple for him to be promoted to the majors. But, as MLB.com’s Martin Gallegos writes, while “Mateo has played well enough to warrant a callup, there just isn’t a spot for him at the moment.” Gallegos adds that “the A’s will likely allow Mateo to keep playing every day in Vegas before bringing him up when rosters expand in September.” So while that's still a few months away, at least there is a target date for Mateo.
Seattle Mariners: Jake Fraley
Jake Fraley, 24, was a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2016 draft. Traded to Seattle in the Mike Zunino trade, Fraley is currently listed as the 14th best prospect in the Mariners organization. Fraley opened the season at Double-A, where he appeared in 61 games, slashing an impressive .313/.386/.539. He was named to three honors this season by the Texas League: Player of the Month in May, Player of the Week in early June, and Mid-Season All-Star. He was called up to Triple-A on June 20 and has since slashed .284/.337/.593 with 21 runs knocked in on 23 hits, including four doubles, three triples, and five home runs, striking out 21 times while drawing seven walks. He has also stolen four bases on five attempts in Triple-A.
Fraley is not on the 40-man roster, but that list currently holds just 39 players, so Fraley would simply need his contract selected (plus a player sent to the 10-day injured list or the minors) to get his shot at the bigs. Mallex Smith, Domingo Santana, and Dylan Moore make up Seattle’s starting outfield, with Braden Bishop and Mitch Haniger on the injured list. Those five guys make up a solid depth chart, so Fraley might not get a crack at the majors until September.
Texas Rangers: Scott Heineman
Scott Heineman, 26, was an 11th-round pick by the Rangers in 2015. He’s been with the organization ever since. Heineman finished the 2018 season in Triple-A with impressive stats, but he opened the 2019 season on the 60-day injured list. This led to several rehab assignments in the minors, and eventually a July reassignment sending him to the minors for good. In 23 games at Triple-A Nashville this year, Heineman is slashing an impressive .364/.442/.591 with 12 runs knocked in on 32 hits, including four doubles, four homers, and a pair of triples. He has struck out 23 times, has drawn a dozen walks, and stole four bases on five attempts.
Heineman’s stats would make it seem like his is ready for the majors, but there is somewhat of a logjam in the outfield. Hunter Pence was activated recently from the injured list, and there was such a logjam that Willie Calhoun was sent to the minors. Calhoun is obviously a more proven player than Heineman, which shows that if a spot opens up in the majors, Calhoun will likely be the first one called upon. However, it would seem that Heineman is not too far behind. He’s on the 40-man roster and proving he should be on the 25-man roster, too.