1 Prospect Each MLB Contender Can Still Call Up to Impact the Race
September 1 has come and gone, and most of baseball’s top prospects have already been recalled to aid their team’s respective playoff run.
However, many of the organizations still in the hunt for either a division title or for one of two wild card spots still have at least one prospect capable of providing a boost of some variety down the stretch.
For a few teams, though, their prospect pool is depleted, and they will therefore have to rely on those players on their active roster.
So, here is a look at one prospect that each contender can still call up to impact the playoff race.
Atlanta Braves: Andrelton Simmons
After nearly making the team out of spring training despite having never played a game above High-A, Andrelton Simmons was assigned to Double-A to begin the 2012 season.
The Braves called up Simmons in June to replace an ineffective Tyler Pastornicky. The 23-year-old batted .296/.336/.452 with seven doubles, three home runs, 14 strikeouts and eight walks in 115 at-bats spanning 33 games. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken hand on July 9 that put his season in jeopardy.
Thankfully, his recovery has gone as planned, and he was recently assigned to High-A Lynchburg to participate in their playoff run as part of a rehab assignment.
He should be ready to rejoin the Braves in the near future, possibly in the upcoming week.
Washington Nationals: Anthony Rendon
Already on the Nationals’ 40-man roster, Anthony Rendon entered the season with a legitimate shot to reach the major leagues. However, in only his second game of the year for High-A, the 2011 first-rounder suffered a broken ankle—his third ankle injury in as many years.
After a brief rehab assignment at two A-ball levels in August, Rendon was promoted to Double-A, where he’s batted .162/.305/.368 with seven extra-base hits in 21 games.
It’s a long shot, but Rendon’s advanced bat could offer value off the Nats’ bench over the remainder of the season. Take his Double-A stats for what they're worth, but anybody with knowledge of Rendon knows that his bat is nearly big league ready.
St. Louis Cardinals: Oscar Taveras
Although it’s still somewhat unlikely, the Cardinals have internally discussed the possibility of calling up top prospect Oscar Taveras once Double-A Springfield’s season is complete, according Derrick Goold.
It’s hard to predict how much playing time he would receive, but if the Cardinals promote, then they plan on utilizing his phenomenal hit tool.
One of the top hitters in the minor leagues this season, the left-handed-hitting outfielder batted .321/.380/572 with 37 doubles, seven triples, 23 home runs and 94 RBI, 56 strikeouts and 42 walks in 477 at-bats.
Cincinnati Reds: Nobody
Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole
The Pirates, more specifically GM Neil Huntington, have stated outright that they will not promote top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole in September. But it’s hard to fully commit to that notion when he was promoted to Triple-A and has only thrown 132 innings this season.
Not to mention, the Pirates' playoff chances are slowly fading after they were swept at home this past weekend by the Chicago Cubs.
San Francisco Giants: Heath Hembree
After posting video game-like numbers and leading the minor leagues in saves (38) in his professional debut in 2011, Heath Hembree received aggressive promotions up the organizational ladder this season, pitching in 39 games at Triple-A.
With a mid- to upper-90s fastball and power slider, the right-hander has the makings of a future closer. However, he’s struggled with his command this season and missed time in July with a flexor strain—both conditions that have impeded his rise to the major leagues.
Between High-A and Triple-A this season, Hembree posted a 4.19 ERA with 15 saves and a 1.16 WHIP with 43 strikeouts and 21 walks in 43 innings.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Matt Magill
With Chad Billingsley expected to miss the remainder of the season and Clayton Kershaw temporarily sidelined with a hip injury, the Dodgers may need to call upon one of their minor league pitching prospects to fill in.
While they could turn to their top pitching prospect, Zach Lee, for help, altering his development in such a manner is a risky decision. Instead, I think they should look towards right-hander Matt Magill, who’s pitched extremely well this season at Double-A.
Making 26 starts this season, Magill is 11-8 with a 3.75 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP, 168 strikeouts and 61 walks in 146.1 innings.
New York Yankees: Mark Montgomery
With their starting rotation struggling as of late, the Yankees have been forced to rely on their impressive bullpen, putting extra stress on key arms like Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano.
Although they have Chase Whitley at Triple-A, who is close to being big league ready, I believe that they player they should turn to is Mark Montgomery at Double-A Trenton.
Montgomery has all the makings of a future closer with a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout, potentially plus-plus slider. Splitting time between High-A and Double-A, the right-hander is 7-2 with 15 saves, a 1.54 ERA and a .157 BAA, and he has 99 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64.1 innings.
Since a midseason promotion to Double-A, Montgomery has fanned 38 batters in 24 innings.
Baltimore Orioles: L.J. Hoes
The Orioles were dealt a serious blow on Saturday when they lost outfielder Nick Markakis for the rest of the 2012 regular season with a broken thumb.
Replacing the left-handed hitter's production will be nearly impossible. Although he offers little power, recalling outfielder L.J. Hoes may be a wise decision.
Splitting time between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season, the right-handed hitter is batting .287/.372/.388 with 147 hits, 35 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases, with 76 strikeouts and 65 walks in 133 games.
Tampa Bay Rays: Nobody
After recalling right-hander Chris Archer to fill an for ailing David Price’s spot in the rotation—and he was excellent against the Rangers on Saturday—the Rays' prospect pool is scarce.
The only somewhat-intriguing call-up would be shortstop Hak-Ju Lee. However, he’s not on the 40-man roster and has had a disappointing overall season.
Chicago White Sox: Charlie Leesman
Charlie Leesman never overly impresses anyone, but he’s a crafty left-hander who simply knows how to pitch. In his first season at Triple-A, he’s posted his best statistical season since entering the White Sox’s system in 2008.
Considering the recent elbow injury to Gavin Floyd, as well as left-hander Jose Quintana’s recent ineffectiveness, Leesman may be next in line for a September start.
This season at Triple-A, the southpaw is 12-10 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 135 innings (26 games started).
Detroit Tigers: Bruce Rondon
With a fastball that regularly sits in the 99-102 MPH range, Bruce Rondon has refined his command this season and has the makings of a future closer. He’s been fast-tracked to the majors this season, beginning the year at High-A and now sporting a 2.25 ERA with two saves in nine games at Triple-A Toledo.
The Tigers will need Rondon in their 2013 bullpen, as he’s a cheap power arm capable of closing. And I would imagine that if he performs well in September, the team could look to move Jose Valverde this offseason.
Between three levels this season (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A), the right-hander is 2-1 with 29 saves, 1.53 ERA and .172 BAA, with 66 strikeouts and 26 walks in 53 innings.
Texas Rangers: Wilmer Font
At this point, the Rangers have basically recalled all of their top prospects: SS Jurickson Profar, 3B/1B/RF Mike Olt, LHP Martin Perez, RHP Tanner Scheppers and OF Leonys Martin.
However, they do have right-hander Wilmer Font at Double-A Frisco, one of the top strikeout artists in their system. After beginning the season as a starting pitcher—he made 19 starts for High-A Myrtle Beach—Font has worked exclusively as a start since a midseason promotion to Double-A.
Splitting the season between High-A and Double-A, Font is 4-5 with a 4.03 ERA, .194 BAA, a whopping 138 strikeouts and 44 walks in 98.1 innings.
Since the promotion to Double-A, he’s 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA, a .170 BAA, 29 strikeouts and seven walks in 15 innings.
Los Angeles Angels: Luis Jimenez
After calling up RHP Steven Geltz, LHP Nick Maronde, LHP Andrew Taylor and SS Andrew Romine, the Angels have already plucked the prospects capable of aiding their playoff run from their farm system.
Luis Jimenez is that rare breed of hard-swinging hitter who somehow doesn’t post concerning strikeout rates, though his walk rates leave something to be desired. For a corner infielder, his power is only an average tool. However, his 38 doubles this season suggests that there may be more there.
Relative to most third basemen, the 24-year-old is a surprisingly good runner with 20/20 potential in the major leagues. His defense leaves something to be desired, but it’s noticeably improved from last season.
Playing in 122 games for Triple-A Salt Like this season, Jimenez batted .309/.334/.495 with 38 doubles, 16 home runs, 85 RBI and 17 stolen bases with 70 strikeouts and 19 walks.
Oakland Athletics: Grant Green
Drafted as a shortstop in 2009, Green has played just about every position this season; basically, he’s done everything but pitch, catch or play first base. His power hasn’t developed as hoped, but he still has a decent bat. He’ll likely see time at multiple positions this September.
It’s possible that Green could be the team’s second or third baseman next season—both positions where they’ve been especially weak in 2012. Given his lack of power, second base would be the more logical fit of the two and offer the most value.
In 125 games at Triple-A this season, Green batted .296/.338/.458 with 28 doubles, 15 home runs, 75 RBI and 13 stolen bases.