How Each Contender's September Call-Ups Will Impact the 2013 Pennant Races
Roster expansion in September can be an exciting time. Stars can emerge from places no one expected, helping to lead a team to the postseason or, with a little luck, a World Series title.
So far, which is admittedly a small sample size of three days, the top contenders in each league haven't made a big splash with their call-ups. Some notable names and high draftees are being brought up, but their impact depends on how much playing time managers give them.
Since managers have spent six months building trust with their 25-man rosters, it can be difficult for these new players to get a fair shake. It can happen, as it did when the Angels used Francisco Rodriguez in 2002.
To keep you up to date on the latest call-ups, as well as which of those players are going to make an impact, here is everything you need to know about the moves the top contenders have made in the American and National Leagues.
Note: Call-ups courtesy of each team's official website.
Boston Red Sox
Players Called Up (through September 4): C Ryan Lavarnway, OF Quintin Berry, IF John McDonald, RHP Rubby De La Rosa
The Red Sox are in an interesting spot. They have a fairly comfortable lead in the AL East, though after 2011 I am sure no one in Boston wants to hear that until a playoff spot is secured. Depending on what the front office and coaching staff want to do, some of these call-ups can get more playing time than that of a typical late-season addition on a contending team.
To me, the most interesting name in this group is Rubby De La Rosa, who was acquired from the Dodgers in that huge trade last August and boasts a power fastball-slider combination that will play well in relief.
One area of concern for the Red Sox is the bullpen. They rank 16th in ERA and 25th in opponents' OPS (.716). De La Rosa could give John Farrell another late-inning option to choose from if he's able to show something during his second stint with the team.
Berry and McDonald are utility players who will serve a function in the final weeks but nothing major. Berry can steal bases and play the outfield. McDonald can play anywhere on the infield except first base, which is why he has played for four different teams this year.
Lavarnway could get some playing time as the No. 2 catcher down the stretch, but I would expect David Ross to remain Boston's backup in the postseason.
Tampa Bay Rays
Players Called Up (through September 4): OF Delmon Young, RHP Josh Lueke, C Chris Gimenez
The Rays have hit the skids losing five straight games against Los Angeles and Oakland, leaving them in a battle with the Athletics, Rangers, Orioles, Yankees and Indians for one of the two wild-card spots.
Despite their issues, the Rays didn't make a lot of moves when rosters expanded. The most notable name called up is Delmon Young, though he isn't exactly the kind of player who is going to help win games.
Young flamed out with the Phillies. Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro would rather keep every aging below-average veteran he possibly for reasons unclear, which should tell you how bad Young was for the team.
Lueke has a good arm with a solid fastball-slider mix but no idea where the ball is going once it leaves his hand. Gimenez is a no-hit, decent defense catcher who will carve out a career as a journeyman.
Players Called Up (Through September 4): C Steve Clevenger, C Chris Snyder, LHP Wei-Yin Chen
In calling up two catchers, the Orioles also released Taylor Teagarden to make room for both Clevenger and Snyder. Not that Matt Wieters is going anywhere because he's a fantastic defender with power, but I wonder if the team is enamored with him and his .288 on-base percentage.
That is more a question for the offseason, because Buck Showalter isn't about to make any kind of change with the team in the midst of a wild-card race.
Chen gives the Orioles another arm to use either in the starting rotation or out of the bullpen, both of which they desperately need. He obviously serves more value as a starter going five or six innings a turn.
While Chen's stuff isn't electric, he does have an above-average fastball and mixes in three off-speed pitches to keep hitters off balance. He's the only player called up, with the possible exception of Kevin Gausman, who can make a difference for Baltimore down the stretch.
New York Yankees
Players Called Up (through September 4): IF David Adams, C J.R. Murphy, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Brett Marshall, RHP Preston Claiborne
David Adams and J.R. Murphy might play a combined three or four games this month. Joe Girardi doesn't have the luxury of throwing them in the lineup while the team chases a playoff spot, nor do they offer anything that would warrant playing time. Adams was so bad earlier this season with a .194/.257/.271 line that it actually made New York miss Alex Rodriguez.
The number of arms the Yankees brought up tells you two things. One, they desperately need more help down the stretch because their starters outside of Hiroki Kuroda have been more miss than hit in 2013.
And secondly, even though it appears things have gotten better in the second half, the Yankees still rank 18th in runs scored since the All-Star break. They need guys who can get outs because they aren't going to score runs the way they used to.
Whether Betances, Marshall, Cabral and Claiborne are the right arms to help out the Yankees remains to be seen, especially with a September schedule that includes 10 straight games against Boston and Baltimore starting on Thursday.
Players Called Up (through September 4): OF Nick Castellanos, RHP Evan Reed, RHP Danny Worth
Of all the players called up on September 1, Nick Castellanos is the best prospect. He has the ceiling of a potential All-Star with a tremendous hit tool and above-average power. The Tigers are playing him out of place in left field defensively for the wizard at third base known as Miguel Cabrera.
Unfortunately, based on Jim Leyland's comments, it sounds like Castellanos will be a part-time player. There's nothing wrong with that, especially since the Tigers are in the midst of a pennant race, but it isn't very exciting.
Reed and Worth are journeymen relievers with good arms and no track record in the big leagues despite being in their late 20s. But the Tigers always need bullpen help, so perhaps one of the two will catch on in the final month.
Players Called Up (through September 4): RHP Preston Guilmet, LHP Nick Hagadone, RHP Blake Wood, IF Jose Ramirez, C Kelly Shoppach, LHP Clay Rapada, RHP Josh Tomlin, RHP Vinnie Pestano, RHP C.C. Lee, RHP Carlos Carrasco
It speaks to how desperate the Indians are that they have called up this many players right out of the chute. Hagadone, Pestano and Carrasco aren't exactly new since they have pitched in Cleveland at various points this season.
Tomlin is returning from Tommy John surgery and could give Terry Francona some much needed innings as a spot starter or long reliever, but the stuff was so fringy that the results may not be pretty.
Guilmet is a control reliever with a 90 mph fastball. Wood has a live arm with little idea of where the ball is going.
The most intriguing name of the bunch is Jose Ramirez. He doesn't turn 21 until September 17 and has no power, but the speed is plus and he has a solid idea of what to do at the plate. At the very least, Ramirez can be a pinch runner when the Indians need a run late.
Kansas City Royals
Players Called Up (through September 4): LHP Francisley Bueno, C Brett Hayes
What the Royals are doing doesn't necessarily lend itself to being aggressive with promotions. It also doesn't help that, with a few exceptions here and there, they don't have a lot to pluck from the system who can help push them into the playoffs.
One name I was a little surprised didn't get a look for the Royals is Yordano Ventura, but they have depth in the rotation and the bullpen is actually one of the most underrated units in the American League.
If you get the sense I am stalling talking about the players called up, it's because I am. Bueno is a command left-handed reliever with a fastball that might touch 90 on a good day. Hayes is the kind of catcher who will hang around the big leagues for a long time because he has some defensive prowess behind the plate but can't hit.
The Royals are going to rise or fall based on what is already in tow, because the players being brought up won't add anything of substantial value.
Players Called Up (through September 4): 1B/OF Jim Adduci, RHP Cory Burns, C Robinson Chirinos, LHP Joseph Ortiz, LHP Michael Kirkman
The Rangers have used the expanded rosters to give aging players from the minors a chance to taste the MLB lifestyle. Jim Adduci has been in the minors for 10 years. He was a 42nd round draft pick by the Marlins in 2003, so the fact he's made it this far is a great story.
Michael Kirkman and Joseph Ortiz could provide some swing innings in blowout games down the stretch, but neither player has the stuff or control to be an impact arm in the final month and/or postseason.
Cory Burns also fits into that same category, though his control is a bit better than Kirkman or Ortiz. The stuff is fringe-average, so he has to be extra fine locating the ball, especially playing in that ball park.
Robinson Chirinos has some value as a solid defender who can get on base. He won't hit for average or power, but his eye at the plate can provide a little upside for the Rangers on days they give A.J. Pierzynski rest.
Players Called Up (through September 4): OF Michael Choice, IF Jemile Weeks, IF Andy Parrino, LHP Pedro Figueroa
The big name in this group is Michael Choice, who was the No. 10 pick in the 2010 draft. He has good power, though the swing and miss parts of his game make it difficult to tap into it. His approach is good, making adjustments during games and taking walks.
Still just 23, Choice has time to adjust to big league pitching this year before taking over in center field full-time next season.
Weeks had an awful 2012 season that led to him being demoted and spending all of this year in Triple-A. The 26-year-old has very little strength to drive the ball, nor is he a strong defender at second base. It's hard to think of a role Weeks fills for Oakland in the final month.
Parrino is a 27-year-old no-hit shortstop. The news isn't all bad, as he is capable of playing a decent shortstop and can move to third or second if needed.
If Pedro Figueroa could throw strikes, he would be a very good reliever because the stuff is electric. He can sling a fastball in there at 95 with a hard slider in the high 80s from the left side. There's just no telling where the ball is going out of his hand.
Players Called Up (through September 4): OF Jose Constanza, RHP Kameron Loe, RHP Freddy Garcia, OF Todd Cunningham
The players being called up by the Braves will have a chance to make more of an impact than any other team's because they have essentially lapped the field in the National League East.
We are already seeing what manager Fredi Gonzalez has planned, with Kameron Loe starting Wednesday's game against New York to give Julio Teheran extra rest.
Jose Constanza is a solid defender in center field with plus speed. He could end up on the postseason roster because of his ability to steal a base late in a game.
Freddy Garcia continues to hang around despite no evidence whatsoever that he can get MLB hitters out. At least the Braves aren't as desperate as the Orioles, who had to give him 10 starts because they had no one else to step in.
Cunningham is a fourth outfielder, at best. He can spell Justin Upton and B.J. Upton on days they need a break.
Players Called Up (through September 4): RHP Jason Grilli, LHP Jeff Locke, C Tony Sanchez, OF Andrew Lambo, RHP Jared Hughes
Jason Grilli doesn't really qualify as a call-up because he was rehabbing an injury and was always going to be brought up. The only question was when, which we found out to be a little sooner than expected.
Jeff Locke, who I need to remind you was an All-Star, got demoted to Double-A because he couldn't get anybody out in the second half. He might be an option for a spot start if/when the Pirates clinch a playoff spot, but I don't want him anywhere near a mound before then.
Tony Sanchez is a former top-five pick, mostly because he would take an under-slot deal. He's had a solid season repeating Triple-A and already had a brief call-up earlier this season. His ceiling is more of a backup than starter, but Sanchez could hang around for a long time in that role.
Andrew Lambo and Jared Hughes are filler, basically in the same position as Locke. They might get a few moment here and there but nothing substantial enough to be impactful.
St. Louis Cardinals
Players Called Up (through September 4): RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Carlos Martinez, LHP Tyler Lyons, SS Ryan Jackson, C Audry Perez
No team, contender or otherwise, will be able to match the level of talent the Cardinals are bringing up for the stretch run. Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez are top-100 prospects, while Ryan Jackson should be starting at shortstop.
Wacha already made his presence felt with six shutout innings against Cincinnati on Tuesday. Martinez brings his electric arm back to the big leagues for the third time, likely in a relief role.
Jackson has long been a favorite of mine, though I don't mean that to read like he is an impact player. He is an above-average defender at shortstop with a better hit tool and far better approach at the plate than Pete Kozma, who is hitting .212/.268/.268.
I would like to see Mike Matheny give Jackson a shot to be the starting shortstop for the Cardinals, but it's hard to envision it happening now. If they have lived with Kozma's black hole in the lineup this long, what's one more month?
Tyler Lyons is a finesse lefty who can hit his spots and get outs, which is a valuable commodity this time of year.
Audry Perez plays catcher, which in St. Louis means you aren't going to see the field unless Yadier Molina decides he wants a day off.
Players Called Up (through September 4): OF Billy Hamilton, C Corky Miller, IF Neftali Soto
Non-prospect fans finally got a taste of Billy Hamilton on Tuesday night in the Reds' 1-0 victory over St. Louis. The speedster pinch-ran for Ryan Ludwick in the seventh inning. He immediately drew three throws to the bag before stealing second on the first pitch Seth Maness threw and scored later on Todd Frazier's double.
Hamilton's incredible speed can change games and is a big reason he probably should be on the postseason roster if/when Cincinnati gets that far. Manager Dusty Baker doesn't like to play rookies, so I wouldn't anticipate Hamilton starting much over the final four weeks.
Neftali Soto could be an interesting bat off the bench because of his plus raw power. His inability to make consistent contact and square up velocity does limit the ceiling, but the Reds aren't exactly brimming with talent at third base right now.
Corky Miller is a 37-year-old journeyman catcher getting another shot in the big leagues with the team that originally signed him when he was undrafted in 1998. He knows how to call a game, which could get him in here or there. But don't be surprised if his biggest role is as a mentor to young catcher Devin Mesoraco.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Players Called Up (through September 4): C Drew Butera, OF Scott Van Slyke, SS Dee Gordon, RHP Stephen Fife, RHP Peter Moylan, RHP Chris Withrow
The Dodgers don't have much to choose from in a system that is thin at the top, which is why you see three bench players and two relievers with big league experience. They are also going to get Matt Kemp back soon, and he will need time to get his timing back.
I think the one player being brought up who could make have some impact is Dee Gordon. He can't hit because there is no strength in his slender frame, nor does he possess much bat speed. But other than Billy Hamilton, whose speed is otherworldly, Gordon might be among the fastest players in baseball.
If Don Mattingly gives Gordon a chance to run in spots, it could benefit this offense. There's a limited ceiling to being a pinch-run only player, but it does open up some things.
Peter Moylan was once a successful reliever with the Braves before injuries took their toll on his arm. Chris Withrow has a great arm, but his fastball can flatten out and be hit far more often than someone with that kind of stuff should be.
Drew Butera and Scott Van Slyke are depth options for Mattingly to use in spots.
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