Billy Hamilton reached base five times in his first career start on Wednesday night.
It’s been a big week for September call-ups, especially those involved in a playoff race.
Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura got the party started on Tuesday night, making his major league debut in a must-win game against the Cleveland Indians. Boasting a fastball that sat in the upper 90s and bumped 102 mph, the 22-year-old allowed one run on five hits with three strikeouts over 5.2 innings.
On Wednesday night, it was the Billy Hamilton Show in Houston, as the Reds speedster turned in a historic performance in his first major league start. Batting ninth and playing center field, Hamilton went 3-for-4 with a double, RBI and a pair of walks and runs scored. He also stole four bases (not a typo), becoming the first player in the Live Ball Era to accomplish the feat in their first career start.
It’s performances such as Hamilton's and Ventura’s that allow us to dream about their potential impact on a playoff series.
Here’s a look at several other prospects that could impact the 2013 MLB postseason.
In his first week with the Reds, Hamilton entered the game as pinch runner on four separate occasions and promptly stole a base each time. He also scored three runs.
However, it wasn’t until September 10 that Hamilton received his first at-bat. Facing right-hander Edwin Jackson in the seventh inning with the Reds trailing the Cubs, 9-1, the 22-year-old switch-hitter lined a 1-1 fastball to shortstop.
And then came Hamilton’s first major league start on Wednesday night against the Astros. Playing center field and batting ninth, the speedster went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored, RBI, two walks and—wait for it—four stolen bases. Yes, he was as electrifying as it sounds.
Hamilton has quickly proven to be a legitimate weapon off the bench for the Reds and, more importantly, a huge asset in a playoff series. And after his breakout performance on Wednesday night, it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the speedy outfielder doesn’t make the Reds’ postseason roster.
After an outstanding finish to his season at Triple-A Omaha, Yordano Ventura seemed to be a candidate to work out of the Royals bullpen when the rosters expanded on September 1. However, the organization decided to keep him in the minor leagues with Triple-A Omaha playing in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) playoffs. After a solid outing in Game 2 last Wednesday, the Royals decided to promote Ventura to the major leagues at the beginning of this week.
On Tuesday, the 22-year-old flame-thrower allowed one run on five hits and two walks over 5.2 impressive frames in his major league debut. He struck out three batters in the outing, showcasing a fastball that averaged 97.7 mph and registered as high as 102.5 mph at one point, according to BrooksBaseball.net.
After logging 109.1 innings in 2012, Ventura’s career-high workload this season is somewhat concerning. Before the promotion, he had already logged 134.2 frames in the minor leagues (not including the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs); so, the right-hander is venturing into uncharted territory. If the Royals decide to limit his workload for the postseason, Ventura still has huge upside out of the bullpen as either a middle or long reliever.
The Tigers included Nick Castellanos among their call-ups on September 1 after the top prospect turned in a good, but not great, season at Triple-A Toledo.
It didn’t take long for Castellanos to get his feet wet, as the 21-year-old made his big league debut as a pinch hitter later that day against the Indians, taking over in left field for the final few innings and going 0-for-2 at the plate.
Castellanos received his first start on September 7 against the Royals and picked up the first hit and run scored of his career as part of a 1-for-2 effort. In Detroit’s series against the White Sox last week, he made a pair of starts and collected a knock in each contest.
Since then, however, the outfielder hasn’t seen much action with only one at-bat (as a pinch hitter) in the past week. However, once the Tigers inevitably clinch the AL Central, Castellanos should receive increased playing time and, more importantly, have an opportunity to prove he belongs on the postseason roster.
Choice made his major league debut on September 2 against the Rangers, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored as the A’s designated hitter. He received his first career start the following day and picked up his first big league hit as a part of a 1-for-3 effort.
However, Choice has received minimal playing time and has appeared in only three games since September 7. That being said, he does have two hits in his last three at-bats, the latest being a pinch-hit single on Monday against the Angels. More importantly, he picked up both knocks against a right-handed pitcher.
Choice fared almost as well against same-side pitching (.825 OPS) as he did southpaws (.871 OPS) this season at Triple-A Sacramento, so he’s not necessarily a platoon guy. Therefore, I think he’ll receive more at-bats over the final weeks of the season and potentially hit his way onto the A’s postseason roster.
A third-round draft pick in 2009 out of Princeton, Hale quietly moved through the Braves’ system at exactly a one-year-per-level pace. He spent the entire 2013 season at Triple-A Gwinnett, posting a 3.22 ERA and 77/36 K/BB ratio in 114.2 innings before getting the call to join the Braves this past weekend.
Making his major league debut at home against the San Diego Padres, Hale, an Atlanta native, was outstanding, allowing four hits and a walk over five scoreless innings. The 25-year-old also set a franchise record with nine strikeouts, overtaking Kenshin Kawakami and Bob Dresser, who each tallied eight in 2009 and 1902, respectively.
Hale obviously has no spot in the Braves’ postseason starting rotation. However, the right-hander pitched well enough in his debut to warrant another spot start before the end of the regular season. And if Hale can continue to miss bats with his low-90s sinker and sharp slider, then I think the team will find a way to utilize him out of the bullpen.