For the Philadelphia Phillies, this year's September call-ups will likely take on a different meaning.
In the past, the Phillies used their September call-ups to bolster the team with needs they believed had to be filled before penciling in the final playoff roster. This year however playoffs are not on the radar and as a result, the way Ruben Amaro and company view their roster additions will be much different.
It is unlikely Amaro and the Phils will make many call-ups based on the fact that so many of their position spots for next year already have guys auditioning for the roles. There are several players such as Eric Kratz (back-up catcher) and Kevin Frandsen (starting 3B) that have shown they at least deserve a chance to fight to earn these roles in spring training. There are others still such as Domonic Brown who has shown improvement and who the organization really hopes can be the starting left fielder.
Essentially, the team has a lot on its plate when it comes to talent evaluation and as Amaro has said and demonstrated in the past, he will not bring up players if the team does not have plans to get them significant playing time.
For the Phillies this really does not leave many spots open for September auditions. Just like last season when just five players got called up to the major league roster, a similar situation could occur this year.
While it is necessary that Amaro looks at what he currently has in the farm system, the patterns of the team in the past have shown that there isn't always willingness to call-up some of their prospects because being added to the 40-man roster officially starts their major league clock in terms of arbitration dues.
That said there are a few players already on the 40-man roster that the Phillies would benefit from giving a second look. There are also two other notable names that would certainly be worth adding to the 40-man roster just so the team can see if their minor league success can translate to the major league level.
Going off of last year's model of just five call-ups, here are the five September call-ups the Phillies are likely to make in 2012.
In 2011, Justin DeFratus was one of the five players that the Phillies decided to call up to the major league squad. He pitched in just five games with the team but was very successful, giving up just one earned run and striking out three. He did however walk another three and hit one batter in just four innings pitched.
Although he needs to work a bit on control, had it not been for an offseason injury it looked almost certain that DeFratus would start the season as a member of the Phillies bullpen.
DeFratus was drafted by the Phillies in the eleventh round of the 2007 Amateur Player Draft. Since that time he has had success at the AA and AAA level. After rehabbing his injury in the A Gulf Coast League, DeFratus returned to Lehigh Valley to pitch for the IronPigs.
In his time with the Pigs, DeFratus has put up very good numbers. In 19.2 innings pitched he has given up six earned runs and walked just six. On the contrast however, his strikeout numbers have slightly increased to a little more than one an inning as he currently sits at 20 K's on the season.
Since DeFratus was already in line to earn a spot in this bullpen, there would really be no reason to not give him a call-up.
Add to the fact that the bullpen this year has been one big revolving door of auditions and try-outs, it is almost certain that DeFratus will be the next name to try to stick. The Phils already promoted their top prospect from the 2010 Cliff Lee trade as they finally deemed Phillippe Aumont major league ready. Adding DeFratus to the mix could remedy the pen for next season and if he performs well, fill a whole as the set-up man currently held by the slumping Antonio Bastardo.
The youngest member of the Phillies 40-man roster, Cesar Hernandez could find himself getting a September call-up in just a few days.
Hernandez was acquired by the Phils from Venezuela and has spent four years climbing the ranks of their minor league system. At Reading, he posted career numbers and received the designation as an Eastern League All-Star. Shortly after that game, Hernandez was promoted to AAA Lehigh Valley.
Since being promoted, Hernandez's numbers have suffered a bit but that could be for any variety of reasons. He really hasn't had enough at-bats for the average to necessarily even out. At the same time, he has continued to steal bases and get extra base hits.
Hernandez is a huge asset for the Phillies in the future. Not only does he possess solid speed but he is also a good defensive player and an average offensive player. He is also just 22-years-old, a whole seven years younger than the current utility guy, Michael Martinez.
If given a call-up, Hernandez will likely get a shot to earn the job as utility infielder in spring training next year. Even if he doesn't get a call-up this is still a possibility. Noting his recent promotion to AAA however it seems clear that Amaro and the rest of the organization want to take a look at this guy and with Utley's injury having the team more inclined to rest him, this could be a good time for the organization to evaluate Hernandez before next season.
With Nate Schierholtz not quite ready to return from the disabled list and Domonic Brown's knee seeming to cause him more trouble than both he and the organization expected, Tyson Gilles could be a beneficiary and could get a September call-up.
Before Schierholtz's stint on the DL and before Brown left Tuesday night's game after showing an evident problem tracking down a double in left field, I would have left Gilles off of this list. Now however and considering the injury situation, it could be a good time for the team to see what exactly they have in Gilles.
Still at Reading, the potential for Gilles seems to dip with each season that he spends in the minors. As the center piece in the same trade that brought Aumont to Philly, much was expected of Gilles and so far, he hasn't been as advertised.
That said, in his time at Reading this season, Gilles has broken through a little bit. He is hitting .306 on the season and has displaying developing power and speed. While he is still a work in progress, he has the raw talents. The only problem at this point might be that his development is not in line with his age, possibly a result of injuries forcing him to miss significant time.
The only reason Gilles sits on the major league roster is because he is rule five eligible. Even though the Phils know he isn't quite ready they aren't willing to part with him either.
Next season they will have to decide if they want to keep Gilles on the 40-man roster. With it believed that he won't really get much better and that his biggest asset, his speed, will only decline with age, now could be the time to give Gillies some major league experience.
To some people, calling up Tyler Cloyd, the stud pitcher from Lehigh Valley, makes perfect sense. After all his numbers should speak for themselves. On the flip side, there are doubters of Cloyd's stating his lack of velocity will only lead to him being lit up at the major league level.
Whichever side people are taking, there is one thing that everyone can agree upon and that is that Tyler Cloyd is certainly a commodity that this organization needs to address.
Cloyd was drafted in the 18th round of the 2008 Amateur Player Draft. From 2008-10 he struggled at the A level. He spent two years basically learning how to effectively pitch. Because he is a guy that doesn't have speed, his biggest obstacle to success was working on his command.
In 2011, Cloyd got his shot at Reading and in a turnaround, really began to post solid numbers. Although his velocity still stuck around 86-88 MPH on the fastball, Cloyd's command had improved tremendously. All of it resulted in a nice 9-4 record between both Clearwater and Reading.
For Cloyd, 2012 was really his breakthrough year. He went 3-0 in his first four starts with Reading and posted a 1.80 ERA. Surprisingly, he also added 20 strikeouts. Because of his early success and perhaps with the Phillies' future implications in mind, Cloyd was promoted to AAA where things really took off.
On the year Cloyd is 12-1 with a 2.35 at Lehigh Valley. He was recently named the International League's Most Valuable Pitcher.
Although I fully expect Cloyd to get a September call-up, the question really comes down to how the club would use him. With the top three aces untouchable, only two spots on the rotation remain. With his recent improvement and very good numbers as of late, it seems Kyle Kendrick will get one of these spots. Vance Worley will likely come back for the fifth spot.
Where Cloyd could come in however is if the team decides to shut down Worley and give him a head start on the offseason surgery he needs to repair the bone chips in his elbow.
Either way, with how he has pitched this season it would be a travesty if he didn't at least get a chance to see how his stuff would translate to the major leagues.
Perhaps the most interesting player as of late has been the Reading Phillies first baseman Darin Ruf.
Before this season it is unlikely many ever heard of this guy.
He was drafted by the Phils in the 20th round of the 2009 Amateur Player Draft out of Creighton University. He spent his first season with the Gulf Coast and NY/Penn Leagues hitting greater than .300 at both levels. In 2010, Ruf also hit for average at both Lakewood and Clearwater while displaying potential as a power hitter.
He was back in Clearwater in 2011 and once again hit greater than .300 (.308) and slammed 17 home runs. It was clear at this point that the Phillies had something in this guy and that he had the potential to be a power hitter who could also to hit for average.
For this reason, Ruf was promoted to Reading in 2012, the first real test of potential major league talent. With most of his development completed and his ceiling likely reached, Ruf has put together an incredible AA campaign.
He is currently third in the Eastern League in average (.317), first in RBI's (96) and first in HR (37).
With those 37 home runs, Ruf not only shattered his previous high but also tied the Reading record, something he now shares with another former first baseman, Ryan Howard.
What is incredible about Ruf's numbers is how he has simply exploded in the last month of the AA season. 19 of his 37 home runs have come in August and he is hitting well over .350 as well. There is no doubt he will start next season at Lehigh Valley.
The biggest obstacle blocking the 26-year-old Ruf right now is Howard. Howard is signed for at a few more years and by that time, Ruf will be around 29 or 30 and in the midst of seeing his peak career years wasted in the minors.
This is also the case when it comes to calling him up. The initial thought is for Ruf to play another position. After all, he is a right handed power bat which is something the Phils sorely need. The problem however is that so far, Ruf has been inept in playing left field and it is unlikely he could adapt to third base either.
Still it is hard to believe that Manuel and Amaro would pass on the chance to see this guy play at the major league level. He is rule five eligible next year so they will have to make the decision on whether or not to place him on the 40-man roster anyway. Plus, if he performs well at the major league level he can either become a valuable trade piece or a nice bat off of the bench.
Also worth noting is that Reading is currently in the race for a playoff spot. It looks that they will make the playoffs and they will certainly need Ruf. In the past, the organization has been mindful and respectful of Reading and Lehigh's playoff pushes when it comes to call-ups. For this reason, if Ruf does get called up, it likely won't come until Reading's playoff run is over.