clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The potential September call-ups to watch

Eight players could open eyes next month.

Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball's rules are both simple and incredibly intricate. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Three outs end an inning. Three strikes, and you're out. Four balls, and you're awarded first base. There's all sorts of other things that can happen, but at its most basic form, baseball is simple. There are 25 players on a roster, there are nine spots in a lineup, and there may or may not be a designated hitter involved. You're free to use those 25 spots as you see fit, but there's some basic conventional wisdom in modern roster construction. A team carries two catchers, five starting pitchers, a gaggle of relievers, starting players for each position, and a few versatile backups.

This of course is why September roster expansions were created. When the calendar flips to September 1st, teams are allowed to carry any player on the 40-man roster. Suddenly, managers have more toys to play with both on their bench and in their bullpens. Because the managers can play with platoon split-ideal matchups more, the game is changed and takes a lot longer as a result of all the pitching changes. Fun!

So, if we're going to have a bunch of extra players kicking around in a few weeks, let's take a look at which of these guys could impact their teams in substantial way. I've split them into two groups; players who could help contending teams, and prospects that could appear for non-contenders but are worth a look. Robert Stephenson of the Reds would have made that second list, but he left his start yesterday with an apparently injury. Such is life.

Players on Contending Clubs

  • Javier Baez, Cubs: Baez lost his rookie eligibility when he had a stint with the Cubbies last year, and it didn't go well. Baez, despite slugging nine homers, struck out in an absurd 41 percent of his plate appearances. Baez has always had strikeout problems in the minors (30 percent K rate at Triple-A last year) and it was no surprise to see that exploited at the highest level of competition. However, Baez has markedly improved his offensive game this year. A Triple-A wOBA of .354 from last year has improved to .390, and his strikeout rate has dropped to 26.1%. He's also drawing positive grades for his work at second base, and with Addison Russell now entrenched at shortstop and Starlin Castro's bat going MIA, this could be Baez's chance to make a statement in the big leagues.
  • Gary Sanchez, Yankees: Sanchez has been kicking around on prospects lists for a long time even though he's still just 22 years old. He's also shifted into a higher gear at the plate. After a .358 Double-A wOBA and a spot as the starting catcher at the Futures Game, Sanchez was bumped up to Triple-A and he's simply demolishing the level. It's only been 22 games, but Sanchez is hitting .351/.416/.584 with 4 home runs. Sanchez is still unpolished behind the plate in terms of blocking balls and framing, but I've personally seen him use his cannon of an arm to throw out runners by wide margins many times. His future may not lie behind the plate when all is said and done, but Sanchez is an intriguing talent and will likely be the spare catcher for the Yankees come September.
  • A.J. Cole, Nationals: Cole has appeared in three games with the Nats, working 9.1 innings and posting a 2.88 FIP. Cole has taken a step back at Triple-A (only 6.13 strikeouts per nine innings), but his stuff is electric and probably plays up greatly in a relief role. The Nats would benefit greatly from him morphing into a good reliever as they try to stop the bleeding and slow down the suddenly energized Mets.
  • Dalton Pompey, Blue Jays: The relentless Jays have thrust themselves into first place by acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, David Price and Ben Revere. The presence of Revere (and the newfound usefulness of Kevin Pillar) makes a return to the big leagues for Pompey an interesting idea. Pompey is still very toolsy, and despite posting a miserable wRC+ and being sent back to Double-A after being named the opening day center fielder, he could be very useful off the bench. 
Players on Non-Contenders
  • Erik Johnson, White Sox: Before the start of the 2014 season, Johnson looked to be part of the solution to the White Sox's pitching woes. He lasted only five starts in the Majors, pitching to a ghastly 6.46 ERA and walking 13.8 percent of opposing batters. He then proceeded to pitch poorly back at Triple-A, as well. A year later, Johnson has a 2.68 FIP at Triple-A and started the level's All-Star Game. It would be very interesting to see him return to the big leagues successfully, and he would give the Sox another potential rotation piece for next year. Frankie Montas should also resurface in September.
  • Hector Olivera, Braves: A Cuban defector signed by the Dodgers over the winter, Olivera was dealt to Atlanta in the trade that landed Los Angeles Alex Wood and Jose Peraza. Olivera is an infielder and had hit fairly well in very limited action in the Dodgers' system before the trade. Atlanta has nothing to lose in bringing up Olivera to see what they've got in him, as Jace Peterson (87 wRC+) and Adonis Garcia (110 wRC+ in very limited action) aren't exactly dynamos.
  • Brandon Drury, Diamondbacks: Drury doesn't offer much in the way of game power yet, but the young third baseman boasts considerable on-base skills (.367 OBP at Triple-A) and has hit for average at every stop. He figures to see action as a reserve and possibly even start a few games for the Diamondbacks in September. It's important to remember that Drury's inflated offensive numbers at Triple-A are possibly the result of the Pacific Coast League's insane offensive environment, but Drury has never posted a walk rate under 12 percent at any level. He's a polished hitter and will force his way into the big leagues on somebody's roster next year.
  • Alex Meyer, Twins: There was a time when the Twins were contenders. Then, the world remembered they're the Twins. Still, Minnesota has a lot of young talent down on the farm, and Meyer is a big part of that. He appeared very briefly for 2.2 innings this summer and got lit up (5 earned runs in that span), and struggled upon returning to the minor leagues. Meyer has been largely removed from a starting role at this point, which is probably for the better as he lacks the control to be a starter. His electric fastball and slider play up dramatically in relief, however, where he has the potential to be a true strikeout artist. His 9.70 K/9 in Triple-A this season is actually uncharacteristically low for Meyer. He's a high-ceiling, low-floor gamble of a prospect, but the stuff is too good to not try out in September.
Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He also covers the Yankeesand their Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder, at Pinstripe Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.