September Call-Up Snubs Who Will Make MLB Debuts in 2014
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Just because a prospect didn't get a September call-up—costing them some service time and a nice big-league paycheck or two to close out the year—doesn't mean they're being punished. After all, top prospects are typically handled with caution, especially pitchers who have already logged a sizable amount of innings throughout the season.
Sure, it would be nice for a team's fan base to get an early look at a player who is expected to be a huge part of that team's future. But it would also be nice for that pitcher to come into the following season with a fresh arm after not being overworked the previous season.
And it would certainly be beneficial for a hitting prospect to get his feet wet against big league pitching. Because of 40-man roster implications, however, a prospect not yet eligible to be drafted in the Rule 5 draft during the upcoming offseason is often excluded from the September call-ups in order for the organization to maintain roster flexibility.
Several recent call-ups making their debuts this month have a chance to be in the majors for good, and a few will be Rookie of the Year candidates in 2014—but that's also the case for plenty of others who are going home after the minor league season ends.
Here are eight notable 2013 September call-ups snubs who figure to debut next season.
Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs
Heading into this season, a 2015 ETA for Javier Baez seemed fairly realistic. The 21-year-old struggled after a late-season promotion to High-A last season (.644 OPS in 23 games), but it was determined that he would be returning to the same league to start the 2013 season.
But by early August, talks of a late-season big-league promotion for the former first-round draft pick were increasing, as he had put up huge numbers in the Florida State League to that point in the season and continued his hitting assault after a promotion to Double-A.
Although Baez is making it clear that he's taken a big step forward and is closer to reaching the majors than originally anticipated, the Cubs decided against a September call-up for him and will be content to shut him down after a monster season in which he posted a combined .920 OPS with 37 homers (.983 OPS, 20 HR in 54 Double-A games; .873 OPS, 17 HR in 76 High-A games).
They also know that they'll need to figure out where he fits on the major league roster, possibly by the time spring training begins. Does Starlin Castro move over to second base? Does Baez jump Mike Olt in the pecking order to fill the third base void?
Baez's bat has given the Cubs the proverbial "good problem to have" heading into 2014.
Archie Bradley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks
While the D'backs never completely ruled out top pitching prospect Archie Bradley from a September call-up, they made it clear that he'd only get the call to Arizona if he could help in the pennant race. But as the major-league club fell further out of the playoff chase, it became apparent that the 21-year-old would be shutting it down after the Double-A playoffs.
General manager Kevin Towers will now conceive an offseason plan with the knowledge that Bradley—who finished the regular season with a 1.84 ERA, 4.1 BB/9 and 9.6 K/9 between Double-A (21 starts) and High-A (five starts)—is talented enough to potentially win a major-league rotation spot next spring.
With five good starters already penciled into the 2014 rotation and another top prospect, Tyler Skaggs, also being in the mix, the D'backs could certainly be patient with Bradley. Towers could also be aggressive and trade a starter in anticipation that Bradley will be one of the team's five-best starting pitching options next April.
Rafael Montero, SP, New York Mets
Whether ace Matt Harvey opts against Tommy John surgery or not, history tells us that his chances of pitching in 2014 with a partially torn elbow ligament aren't good. As a result, the Mets will look to add at least one more starter this offseason to a rotation that includes Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee.
If general manager Sandy Alderson is content with adding just one more pitcher to the mix, Rafael Montero is probably a big reason why. The 22-year-old doesn't have the top-of-the-rotation potential that Harvey and Wheeler had—or even that of fellow prospect Noah Syndergaard, who could also push for a promotion by mid-2014—but it's becoming clear that he could be a pretty good major league pitcher very soon. After all, he posted a 2.78 ERA with a 2.0 BB/9 and 8.7 K/9 in 27 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season.
With Montero's innings total falling just short of 160 innings after a playoff start last week, the Mets are content with allowing veterans like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang fill out the major-league rotation in September while their young pitching prospect begins what will likely be his last offseason as a minor leaguer.
Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
With an outfield surplus in Pittsburgh and a playoff spot looking to be a near lock, the "call up Gregory Polanco" craze never really got started this season. However, don't let that fool you into believing he's not close to contributing in the majors.
The 21-year-old center fielder continues to remain on the fast track to the majors after an impressive season that ended with a late-season promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis. Overall, Polanco posted a .791 OPS with 12 homers, 30 doubles, 38 stolen bases, 53 walks and 73 strikeouts in the minors this season (57 games in High-A, 68 games in Double-A and two games in Triple-A).
Where he fits in 2014 isn't clear, although it is likely that he'll remain in Triple-A Indianapolis while Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata fill the outfield in Pittsburgh to begin the season. Tabata has to be looking over his shoulder, though, because it's only a matter of time before the left-handed hitting Polanco takes the right field job from him, giving Pittsburgh a dynamic top-of-the-order bat between Marte and McCutchen.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Miguel Sano may not have the tools to become a big-league third baseman, but the Twins will have to come to a quick decision regarding where he will play in the majors because his bat sure looks close to being ready.
In fact, the 20-year-old probably might not be far off from becoming an impact middle-of-the-order force in Minnesota, although the Twins didn't feel it necessary to throw him into the big-league mix just yet.
A move to first base or a corner outfield spot is a possibility for Sano, who finished the regular season with a .992 OPS, 35 homers and 30 doubles between High-A (56 games) and Double-A (67 games). If he can make enough progress at a new position, there's a chance he can break camp with the team in April.
A more likely scenario could have him working on his new position—or continue working at becoming a better defender at third base, if the team feels he can stick there—in Triple-A for a few months in anticipation of a mid-season call-up in 2014.
George Springer, CF, Houston Astros
There may not have been another minor leaguer more deserving of a September call-up than George Springer, who finished the regular season with a combined 37 homers and 45 stolen bases between Double-A (73 games) and Triple-A (62 games) this year.
Much of this had to with the fact that the former first-round pick won't need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, and the Astros didn't feel it was necessary to use a spot on him until it was absolutely necessary. So, he was not included amongst the eight players who were added to the team's active roster this month.
Springer's big-league arrival, however, could very well come on Opening Day of 2014. Or, if they so choose, the Astros could push back his arbitration clock by keeping him in Triple-A for a few more months.
Either way, expect the talented 23-year-old to be manning center field on a regular basis in Houston by next year's All-Star break, as the Astros begin to unveil a talented core of prospects that could help boost the team back into contention by 2015.
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Talks of a Jameson Taillon promotion surfaced as the Pirates' starting pitcher for Sunday, Sept. 1 was originally listed as "TBD."
The 21-year-old did start on that day, tossing six strong innings. However, that performance took place for Triple-A Indianapolis, while journeyman lefty Kris Johnson made the spot-start for Pittsburgh, allowing five earned runs in two innings in a critical loss against the Cardinals.
With the opportunity lost, Taillon's big-league debut won't come until sometime in 2014. He'll pitch in the Arizona Fall League this offseason, pushing his innings total close to 200 on the year and ensuring that he'll be ready for a full workload next season.
Don't count Taillon out from making the roster out of spring camp next season, either, especially if the team loses A.J. Burnett and fails to replace him this winter. However, a mid-June promotion—much like the one top rookie prospect Gerrit Cole received this season—is more realistic.
Yordano Ventura, SP, Kansas City Royals
Royals fans grew restless in 2012, as top prospect Wil Myers put up huge numbers in the upper minors and never received the call to the big leagues. Instead, he has burst onto the big-league scene this year, posting an .825 OPS with 11 homers in 68 games...for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Myers' success for another organization after an offseason trade probably makes it more likely that the Royals will hang onto their current top prospect who is closest to reaching the majors: hard-throwing right-hander Yordano Ventura.
In fact, he'll be in the mix for an Opening Day rotation spot after a stellar 2013 season (3.14 ERA, 134.2 IP, 119 H, 53 BB, 155 K between Double-A and Triple-A). At the very least, Ventura will be the first in line when Kansas City has a need for a starting pitcher next season.
Like Myers, the 22-year-old Ventura was passed over for a September promotion, although it seems like the right move considering that he's already set a career-high for innings pitched, after tossing only 109.1 innings in 2012. Furthermore, at 5'11" and 180 pounds, Ventura doesn't have the look of a workhorse starter, so the Royals will likely be very careful with their prized pitching prospect.