September 1 marks the annual date when major league rosters expand from 25 to 40 active players. The opportunity it poses varies circumstantially from team to team, but it always promises a chance to see some fresh faces in our favorite familiar uniforms.
The Mets will use the final month of the season to gauge the the value of recalled players.
The September call-ups vary substantially. Some old. Some young.
Do they factor into the future plans of the franchise? Could they be a potential trading chip? Ideally, the major league exposure that the recalls receive this September will engender some answers.
The expanded roster is comprised of players being tested at the major league level for the first time, players hoping to play their way into a 2014 roster spot and others who are fighting for their very career lives in baseball.
A spat of recent injuries—of which has impacted the pitching staff most acutely—has essentially served to expedite the process for the Mets. Already fielding a team dominated by young and inexperienced assets, the Mets options were relatively limited this September, but the roster still had some filling out to do.
Recognizable names like Lucas Duda and Anthony Recker have already managed to reemerge in Queens prior to September call-ups. Defensive wizard, Matt den Dekker, earned his first big league start on Thursday, August 29.
The Mets plan on waiting for the conclusion of the minor league playoffs to make their remaining call-ups.
What follows, is a full scouting report for each player most likely to be—or already—recalled this September.
Note: All major league stats courtesy of ESPN.com. All minor league stats courtesy of MiLB.com
Tejada was signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent in 2006, before making his big league debut as a 20-year-old.
After a stellar 2012 (.289/.333/.351) at the age of 22, the light hitting, but sure-handed shortstop earned the 2013 Opening Day starting job. When the talented Panamanian arrived at Spring Training late and out of shape, whispers of complacency began to emerge.
As did the fact that his starting job was in greater jeopardy than he may have realized.
Fly-ball happy at the dish and suddenly a liability with the glove, Tejada hit the disabled list in May. Rather than assuming his former position with the big league club, he was activated on July 6 and immediately demoted to Las Vegas where he has remained since.
His overall numbers in the hitter-friendly confines of the Mets’ AAA affiliate leave something to be desired. But if timing means anything, a September promotion couldn’t come at a better time. In his past 10 games, Tejada has mashed to the tune of .385/.444/.590.
Tejada figures to split shortstop duties with Omar Quintanilla in September, but—still just 23 years old—it’s fair to assume that he will receive the bulk of the playing time at the shortstop position where the organization is especially thin at all levels.
If he can prove to Mets brass that his early-season issues are behind him, the 2014 starting job is his for the taking.
Zach Lutz was a Mets’ fifth round draft pick in 2007, out of Alvernia College in Pennsylvania.
Despite limited major league experience, at 27-years-old he is a little too old to retain his prospect status. But the infielder has certainly demonstrated an ability to hit.
In four AAA seasons Lutz has posted a .879 OPS, primarily at third base.
After hitting 13 home runs at Las Vegas this season, Lutz was among the Mets’ first wave of September call-ups. While Duda will get the majority of the starts at first base for the remainder of the season, Lutz provides some pop off the bench and can also expect to see some starts at third base.
His lefty-righty splits are rather pronounced, but if Lutz’s .915 OPS against RHP in 2013 is any indication, he may have some platoon value.
Because the Mets already have superior—if not similar—options in Duda, Ike Davis and Josh Satin, Lutz is unlikely to factor into the future plans of the franchise. With a strong September, however, he could prove a moderately attractive potential piece to a team looking for a right-handed corner infielder off the bench.
Greg Burke was drafted in the 42nd round of the 2000 draft by the Mets, but opted to attend Duke instead.
He began his professional baseball career as an undrafted free agent in 2005.
At the age of 30, the New Jersey native will receive his first major league opportunity since 2009 with the San Diego Padres. But his age can be misleading.
Burke has thrown just 75 career major league innings, but it wasn’t until he reinvented himself after the 2011 season—becoming a submarine tossing reliever—that his potential was finally realized.
Impressively, Burke was able to maintain a fastball in the 90s despite a new deceptive delivery known to typically decrease pitch velocity.
If the Mets need a strikeout this September, you can bet that Burke will be one of the Mets top options out of the bullpen. In 31.2 innings at Las Vegas this year, Burke is averaging 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
The acquisition of Herrera got the majority of the attention, but Black is no stranger to high praise. According to MLB.com, the 25-year-old relief pitcher immediately becomes the Mets’ 14th ranked prospect and someone that the team hopes will be a part of a formidable bullpen for years to come.
Just watched all 81 pitches thrown by Vic Black in MLB this season. Highlight was blowing 98 MPH fastball by Matt Holliday— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) August 28, 2013
The right-handed reliever stands at a solid 6’4”, 215 pounds. He is capable of reaching up to 99 mph with movement on his fastball and also features a strong slider that generates plenty of swings-and-misses.
Interestingly, Black was originally drafted by the Mets late in 2007 before prudently choosing to refine his game and eventually becoming a Pirates’ supplemental first round pick.
In 46.2 AAA innings this year, Black has 17 saves, 63 strikeouts, a 2.51 ERA and has held opponents to a .169 batting average.
While he may not be the most exciting name to hear recalled, Mets fan are familiar with Baxter who became a reliable bench player for the Mets in 2012—posting a respectable .263/.365/.413 in 89 games.
In 2013, he has bounced back and forth between AAA and the big league club, struggling for the better part of 59 major league appearances.
The 28-year-old outfielder will provide a capable bat off off the bench—as his .293/.386/.534 line at AAA Las Vegas can attest—but he’s not young. For the most part, the Mets already know what they have in Baxter.
This September, he will provide the Mets a capable defensive outfielder with some speed and a decent ability to get on base.
Tim Byrdak—the oldest of the Mets’ call-ups—has been in Queens since the 2011 season.
After tearing the anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder last year, it seemed unlikely that the 39-year-old reliever would ever pitch in the major leagues again.
Byrdak proved the doubters wrong when he began a rehab assignment on June 22, before finally being recalled this September.
After allowing no runs in eight innings at AAA, Byrdak will join the Mets’ as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. Since 2010, he has limited left-handed hitters to a .598 OPS. He is expected to be used in the same—albeit more limited—capacity in the season’s final month.
In two seasons with the Mets, Byrdak has averaged 11.2 and 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings, respectively, giving Collins one more effective lefty out of the bullpen.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis was taken by the Mets in the third round of the 2008 draft and rose relatively quickly through the minor league ranks.
The talent seems to be there—he was ranked the Mets’ fourth best prospect by MLB.com as recently as 2011—but the results have been lacking.
The 26-year-old Nieuwenhuis has struggled when given a big league opportunity. Despite some undeniable pop—he slugged .505 as a 23-year-old at AAA in 2011—his hit tool has yet to translate into success at the highest professional level.
In 138 major league games since 2012, the outfielder has accumulated a paltry .672 OPS.
Unless Nieuwenhuis begins to make more consistent contact, there are just too many holes in his current game be of value to a major league team. He plays a decent outfield, but he must cut down on strikeouts and learn to draw more walks if he is to stick around in the big leagues.
At this point in time—and at his age—it isn’t unfair to surmise that Nieuwenhuis is about as good as he is going to get. This September may be his last chance to prove otherwise.
As a converted started pitcher, Walters has seen his fastball velocity reach 96 mph consistently since moving to the bullpen.
In 56 AA innings, the 25-year-old righty has a highly laudable 2.09 ERA to go along with 60 strikeouts—nearly four times more than the 16 walks he has surrendered.
Walters is a former seventh round draft pick taken by the Mets in 2010. Given his age and recent dominance, he seems ready to make the multi-level jump and should slide seamlessly into the big league bullpen.
With a strong performance this September, Sandy Alderson will be delighted to know that he has one less spot to fill in the 2014 bullpen.