Surprising MLB Prospects Making a Late Push for September Call-Ups
With rosters set to expand from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1, it's only a matter of time until there's an influx of fresh, young players arriving in the major leagues.
Today, however, we'll be breaking down another batch of prospects who could be in the major leagues by the end of the year, provided they turn strong finishes to the minor league season at their respective levels.
With that being said, here are seven prospects making a late push for a September call-up based on their performance so far this season.
Chris Reed, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Chris Reed was the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick back in 2011, selected with the No. 16 overall pick out of Stanford and signed for $1.589 million.
Though Reed was primarily a reliever in college, the Dodgers decided to deploy the 24-year-old left-hander as a starter, and by the end of the 2012 season he was pitching at Double-A Chattanooga. Since then, Reed has spent most of the last two years at that level, posting a 3.54 ERA over 274.2 total innings.
However, though he’s achieved favorable results overall, Reed’s control and command hasn’t progressed as hoped, as evidenced by his 222-118 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that span. Still, after 310 total innings at Chattanooga over parts of the last three seasons, Reed finally was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque last week, where he’s gone 0-2 with an 11.05 ERA in 7.1 innings over his first two starts.
If the Dodgers decided to promote Reed in September, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the team will use him out of the bullpen, where his deceptive delivery, mid-90s fastball and hard slider could make him effective in short bursts.
Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
Though he was viewed as the likely No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft for the better part of three years, NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon ultimately was selected by the Chicago White Sox third overall.
After making his professional debut on July 22 in the rookie-level Arizona League, Rodon has rattled off three consecutive scoreless appearances at High-A Winston-Salem during which he’s posted a 12-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 8.2 innings and allowed just six hits.
On Saturday, the White Sox promoted Rodon to Triple-A Charlotte (via Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune), bypassing the Double-A level entirely, which apparently was part of the team’s pre-draft developmental timeline for the southpaw. He’ll make his first start for Charlotte on Tuesday.
According to Scott Merkin of MLB.com, there’s a “better-than-average chance” the White Sox will promote Rodon to the major leagues in September, just as they did with Chris Sale in 2010. If that does happen, the left-hander is likely to work out of the bullpen so as to limit his innings.
Christian Walker, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
Christian Walker’s 24 home runs this season are a huge improvement on the 11 long balls he hit last year in 103 games. In general, the 23-year-old has improved across the board at the plate against advanced pitching, as he’s batting .297/.368/.501 with 47 extra-base hits, 91 RBI and a 112-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 124 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
Known for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, Walker has also made strides this season against right-handers, with a .301/.368/.503 batting line (.872 OPS) and 16 home runs in 361 plate appearances. Meanwhile, he’s still batting a solid .288/.367/.497 with eight home runs in 177 plate appearances against southpaws.
Walker has been hot lately, with a .320 batting average, two homers and two doubles during over his last 13 games, and he’s recorded a hit in all but two of those contests. Walker isn’t on the Orioles’ 40-man roster, but his right-handed power and overall consistency could merit a look in September.
Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Daniel Norris has blossomed into one of the game’s premier left-handed pitching prospects this season, as a mechanical adjustment made late last season has fueled his success this year against advanced hitters.
The 21-year-old was recently promoted to Triple-A Buffalo after a dominant showing at both High-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. The southpaw has been outstanding in both starts in the International League, striking out a total of 23 batters while allowing just five hits over 11.2 scoreless innings. On Friday, Norris fanned 13 batters and allowed one run over 5.2 innings against Lehigh Valley.
Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos recently stated that Norris could potentially work out of the team’s bullpen in September, per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith. The southpaw should fare well in the role given his ability to miss bats (11.7 K/9), limit hard contact (.211 BAA) and keep the ball in the yard (0.40 HR/9).
Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers
Steven Moya’s 80-grade raw power has long ranked among the best in the minor leagues—up there with the likes of Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo—but a rash of injuries have caused the soon-to-be 23-year-old to fall behind the developmental curve, which is why he’s experiencing Double-A for the first time this year in his sixth professional season.
The 6’6” left-handed hitter still lacks any semblance of plate discipline and has fanned 29 percent of the time this season, but his ability to stay healthy has allowed him establish new career highs in home runs (30), RBI (93), OPS (.828) and stolen bases (15).
Furthermore, Moya has also improved against same-side pitching this season, with a .272/.302/.513 batting line and 12 home runs, but his 50-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio during that span suggests there’s still considerable room for improvement. Meanwhile, Moya has continued to mash against righties this year to the tune of an .821 OPS and 18 home runs.
Given Moya’s light-tower power from the left side and current spot on Detroit’s 40-man roster, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a few looks off the Tigers’ bench in September.
Ryan Rua, 3B/1B, Texas Rangers
Ryan Rua, 24, has continued to surpass expectations this season after a breakout 2013 campaign in which he posted an .872 OPS with 32 home runs and 26 doubles in 127 games between Low-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco.
This year, the right-handed batter has improved across the board against advanced pitching, with a .295/.370/.480 batting line, 17 home runs, 24 doubles and 66 RBI in 118 games between Frisco and Triple-A Round Rock. Since his promotion to Round Rock in late June, Rua has batted .288/.363/.488 with 19 extra-base hits (seven home runs), 28 RBI and a 35-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 47 games.
Rua will need to be added to the Rangers’ 40-man roster following the season to avoid the Rule 5 draft, so the organization could get a head start on the process and offer him a look in the major leagues this September.
Preston Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
Preston Tucker has quickly hit his way through Houston's system since his selection in the seventh round out of Florida in 2012. The 24-year-old is batting .273/.342/.484 with 24 home runs, 31 doubles and 82 RBI through 125 games this season between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City.
In his 2013 full-season debut, the left-handed hitter batted .297/.368/.505 with 25 homers, 32 doubles and 103 RBI in 135 games between the High-A and Double-A levels.
Though he lacks impact tools, there’s still something to be said for Tucker’s consistency with the bat. Overall, he projects as an everyday corner outfielder with 20-homer power and above-average contact skills, though he faces stiff competition for regular playing time moving forward given Houston’s slew of impact outfielders such as George Springer, Jake Marisnick and Domingo Santana.