If the Atlanta Braves had a prospect worthy of a September call-up, he would already be up with the big league club. Atlanta has squeezed the prospect tree dry this season, already using 10 rookies to bolster different parts of their team throughout the year.
The story of the Braves September call-ups will be about expanding the bench and the bullpen, but some of those extra players could make their way onto Atlanta’s postseason roster, much like reliever David Hale did last year.
In the Braves’ search for a better bench, they may call up a trio of outfielders from Triple-A Gwinnett. Todd Cunningham, Joey Terdoslavich and the ol’ bat-licker himself, Jose Constanza, should all see some time with the Braves this September.
None of these guys have hit the cover off the ball this year, but both Cunningham and Constanza have hit better of late. Over the past month, Constanza is hitting .333 with little power, but Cunningham has posted a slash line of .333/.400/.495. That’s the kind of production the Braves expected out of Cunningham when they drafted him 23 spots ahead of Andrelton Simmons in the second round of the 2010 draft.
The Braves are always looking for the hot hand in September, and if Cunningham continues his good work at the plate, Atlanta could benefit from the extra punch he provides off the bench.
Two lefties for the pen
Ryan Buchter waited a long time to finally make a major league roster, and this past April he finally made the Braves opening day roster. He sat in the bullpen for a few games, never made it into a game and was sent down to Triple-A in favor of veteran reliever Pedro Beato.
Then in June, Buchter finally, finally got his chance because of injuries in Atlanta. He made it into one game, in the 12th inning, pitched a scoreless inning and picked up a win. He was sent back down to the minors a few days later.
Buchter isn’t striking batters out like he did last year, when he struck out almost 15 batters per nine innings, but his 8.68 K/9 rate this season is still a good one, especially when he’s able to hold left-handed batters to a .202 batting average. He’s also riding a bit of a hot hand, having posted a 1.80 ERA in the past month.
While a pure LOOGY might not be a good use of a 25-man roster spot, when the roster expands to a possible 40, Buchter should be of some use in the Atlanta pen.
Chasen Shreve was much more effective in his fortnight with Atlanta at the end of July, and he’s continued that effectiveness since moving down to Triple-A. He had a 1.80 ERA in five games with the Braves and since then has posted a 1.42 ERA at Gwinnett.
Shreve will almost certainly be called up by the Braves when rosters expand and could continue to emerge as an important left-handed setup man down the stretch, getting both left-handed and right-handed batters out.
Two righties for the pen
The Braves had hoped to get setup man Shae Simmons back from injury before September, but his last rehab start at Triple-A didn’t go so well. Simmons didn’t record an out while facing four batters, all of whom scored.
The Braves may slow down his rehab and give him more time in the minors to burn off the cobwebs.
Fellow flamethrower Juan Jaime should be rejoining Simmons in the Atlanta pen in September. Jaime has been up and down several times this season and has been effective in stretches. His 100-mph heat would be mighty tough to leave off an expanded roster.
If they get healthy in time
The Atlanta press couldn’t stop talking about catcher Christian Bethancourt when he filled in for an injured Evan Gattis a month ago. He was dubbed the heir apparent at catcher, and the implication was that we’d see a lot of him in Atlanta this September.
Those plans may have to be put on hold, as Bethancourt was placed on the disabled list this week with a left hand contusion. There has been no official word from the club about when he might be ready to rejoin the team, and that puts his status for inclusion on the September roster in jeopardy.
The hottest prospect in the Braves system, speedy second baseman Jose Peraza, was on a trajectory to make the Braves call him up for the season’s final month. Peraza had already been promoted from High-A to Double-A this year and proceeded to hit .341 in 42 games for the Mississippi Braves. He would have brought with him the best base-stealing speed in the Atlanta system, already having swiped 60 bags this year.
After being held out of several games last week with a left groin strain, Peraza was placed on the disabled list this week. His ability to go full speed for the season’s final month is also in jeopardy.
With Bethancourt and Peraza expected to be big parts of the Atlanta Braves for years to come, the organization will want to keep them healthy for next year and not risk a nagging injury turning into a more serious one.
The Braves recently signed veteran utility infielder Donnie Murphy and assigned him to Triple-A. While he’s not a household name, he’s the kind of player the Braves like to have on their team—similar to Elliot Johnson last season.
Pitcher Gus Schlosser began the year with the Braves, but since being sent down at the end of April, it’s been all downhill. His ERA this year at Triple-A is 4.35, and in the past month it’s more than a run higher at 5.48.
Both of those players are long shots to see time in Atlanta next month. September call-up time will be mostly uneventful for the Braves, with a host of familiar but useful pieces joining the team.