September Call-Ups: Ranking the Top 25 MLB Prospects Most Likely to Be Promoted
Even though a majority of the game's top prospects have already received promotions, teams will receive an infusion of fresh, young talent on Sept. 1 when the active roster expands from 25 to 40 players.
With roughly five weeks remaining in the regular season, expanding rosters will allow teams to address their needs at the major league level by essentially plucking specific talent from within their farm systems. In general, it's an opportunity for every organization to add bench and bullpen depth by utilizing its full 40-man roster.
In anticipation of what should be a flurry of promotions starting next Monday, we've got you covered with a look at the top prospects ticketed for the major leagues for the season's final month. The rankings for this article are based primarily on Prospect Pipeline's midseason top 50 update, though factors such as 2014 performances, 40-man roster status and teams' specific needs at the major league level were also considered.
Here are the top 25 prospects most likely to be called up on Sept. 1.
25. Christian Walker, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
2014 Stats (AA/AAA): .289/.360/.490, 49 XBH (25 HR), 93 RBI, 54 BB, 124 K (131 G)
Christian Walker's 25 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 hit for both average and power between the Double- and Triple-A levels.
He isn't on the Orioles' 40-man roster, but Walker's right-handed power and ability to hit same-side pitching (.858 OPS, 17 HR) could merit a look in September.
24. Kyle Parker, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats (AAA): .286/.335/.447, 44 XBH (14 HR), 70 RBI, 33 BB, 93 K (120 G)
Kyle Parker has received two cups of coffee with the Rockies this season but failed to capitalize on the opportunities by going 1-for-9 with five strikeouts. The 24-year-old has continued to scuffle since returning to Triple-A Colorado Springs, as he’s batting .264/.308/.378 with four home runs and 29 strikeouts over his last 37 games.
In general, strikeouts have been an issue for Parker, who owns an 18.6 percent strikeout rate over the last two seasons compared to just a 7.0 percent walk rate. This also is the first season in which Parker won't finish with 20-plus home runs, which is surprising considering he's spent the year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
The regression in both his plate discipline and power is a product of facing advanced sequencing for the first time in Triple-A, though he should improve in both areas with MLB experience.
The Rockies envision Parker's right-handed power at first base in the long run, but he's likely to also see some playing time in right field next month in deference to Justin Morneau.
23. J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats (AA): .299/.368/.466, 38 XBH (8 HR), 61 RBI, 17 SB, 38 BB, 56 K (91 G)
MLB: .200/.238/.200, 5 RBI, BB, 4 K (7 G)
J.T. Realmuto always has held a spot in my heart, and not just because he batted .595 with 28 home runs in 42 games as a high school senior while also setting national records with 88 hits and 119 RBI.
The 23-year-old went through a learning year in 2013 at Double-A Jacksonville, but he's improved across the board this year in his second tour of the Southern League, raising his OPS by more than 150 points. Realmuto has always possessed a knack for making consistent contact, but he's now driving the ball with authority to all fields.
Realmuto's spot on the Marlins' 40-man roster led to an earlier-than-expected call-up this season when Jarrod Saltalamacchia went down with a concussion, and the athletic backstop held his own by going 4-for-20 with five RBI in seven games. Realmuto will return to the major leagues in September and should see occasional playing time, though that depends on where the Marlins stand in the NL wild-card race.
22. Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers
2014 Stats (AA): .271/.298/.550, 66 XBH (34 HR), 101 RBI, 15 SB, 20 BB, 151 K (126 G)
Steven Moya's ability to stay healthy this season has allowed him to establish new career highs in home runs (34) and RBI (101), both of which currently pace the Double-A Southern League (by a lot). His plate discipline is still a mess (29 and 3.8 percent strikeout and walk rates, respectively) and hurts his projection at the highest level, but the 6'6" slugger's power is undeniable.
The 23-year-old has also improved against same-side pitching this season, with a .266/.290/.538 batting line and 23 extra-base hits, but his 55-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties suggests he's probably better suited for a platoon role.
Given his 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.
21. Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (AAA): 113.1 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .252 BAA, 44 BB, 89 K (21 G/20 GS)
Most viewed Barnes as one of the game's better right-handed pitching prospects after his eye-opening full-season debut in 2012, when he posted a 2.86 ERA and 133-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 119.2 innings between both A-ball levels.
Since then, however, Barnes hasn't progressed as expected, turning in shaky performances across the Double- and Triple-A levels over the last two years.
Thankfully, the 24-year-old Barnes seemingly has figured things out during the second half, as he's pitched to a 1.63 ERA and .150 opponents' batting average over 38.2 innings (six starts) at Triple-A Pawtucket.
The Red Sox will need to add Barnes to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, so it wouldn't be surprising for him to receive a start or two in September.
20. Jacob Lindgren, LHP, New York Yankees
2014 Stats (Rk/A/A+/AA): 22.2 IP, 0.79 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, .125 BAA, 9 BB, 44 K (17 G)
Jacob Lindgren was one of college baseball's better relievers this spring at Mississippi State, and his ability to miss bats at a high rate and potentially reach the major leagues in a hurry led to his selection by the New York Yankees in the second round (No. 55 overall) of this year's draft.
The 21-year-old left-hander is currently pitching at his fourth level (Double-A Trenton) since signing, and he's now struck out 44 batters in 22.2 innings overall, good for a ridiculous 17.5 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings). Lindgren has the kind of pure stuff—highlighted by a devastating, swing-and-miss slider—to make an impact out of the Yankees bullpen before the end of the season.
Based on his utter dominance, we should see Lindgren in the major leagues come September.
19. Randal Grichuk, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats (AAA): .262/.314/.498, 50 XBH (25 HR), 71 RBI, 28 BB, 105 K (107 G)
MLB: .136/.191/.273, 3 XBH, 3 BB, 15 K (19 G)
Randal Grichuk, 23, has had two uneventful cups of coffee with the Cardinals this season, combining to hit .136/.191/.273 with three extra-base hits and 15 strikeouts in 48 plate appearances. However, Grichuk did impress in the outfield during both stints, saving three runs with his defense while showing off his range at all three positions.
Grichuk will return to the major leagues in September when rosters expand and will likely see playing time against left-handed pitching thanks to his .325/.376/.724 batting line and 12 home runs in 123 at-bats versus southpaws this season.
18. Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves
2014 Stats (AAA): .268/.292/.393, 24 XBH (7 HR), 43 RBI, 12 BB, 54 K (84 G)
MLB: .240/.283/.260, 2B, 2 BB, 14 K (13 G)
Christian Bethancourt has appeared in 13 games with the Braves this season, batting .240/.283/.260 with 14 strikeouts during that span. The 22-year-old hasn't progressed offensively this year as hoped after a strong finish in 2013, but his superb defense will have him back in the major leagues on Sept. 1.
Bethancourt recently landed on Triple-A Gwinnett's disabled list with a left hand contusion, though the injury isn't believed to be serious or likely to affect his chances of a call-up.
17. Alex Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (Rk/A+/AAA): .332/.373/.600, 37 XBH (14 HR), 52 RBI, 15 BB, 48 K (72 G)
MLB: 0-for-1, K (2 G)
Alex Guerrero missed two months of the season after Miguel Olivo bit off a chunk of his ear during a scuffle in the Albuquerque dugout in late May. The Cuban infielder, who signed a four-year, $28 million free-agent contract last October (including a $10 million signing bonus), has put up solid numbers since returning from the disabled list, with a .297/.338/.493 batting line, 18 extra-base hits and 23 RBI in 39 games.
Though second base is his primary position, Guerrero will always be a bat-first player with minimal defensive value. However, it is worth noting that Guerrero has also spent time at third base (four games), shortstop (seven) and left field (eight), meaning the Dodgers could be considering him in a utility role for September.
16. Christian Binford, RHP, Kansas City Royals
2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 135.2 IP, 2.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .245 BAA, 19 BB, 134 K (24 G/22 GS)
After breezing through the High- and Double-A levels this season (2.69 ERA, 130-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130.2 innings), Binford recently received a promotion to Triple-A Omaha, where he's allowed three runs on 10 hits over five innings (two appearances).
The Royals moved up Binford to Triple-A and put him in the bullpen to give them another potential late-inning option for their run to the playoffs.
The 21-year-old right-hander is not on the Royals' 40-man roster, so it's unlikely that he will be promoted before September, if at all. However, the fact that he’s in Triple-A at least makes it a possibility for the aspiring AL Central champions.
15. Domingo Santana, OF, Houston Astros
2014 Stats (AAA): .296/.378/.472, 42 XBH (15 HR), 71 RBI, 55 BB, 138 K (113 G)
MLB: 0-for-17, BB, 14 K (6 G)
Domingo Santana, who turned 22 this month, is on pace to put up career-best numbers across the board this season despite being one of the youngest everyday players at the Triple-A level. His hit tool is still suspect due to his penchant for whiffing (28.7 percent strikeout rate this season), but the right-handed batter's power is legit and should translate to 20-plus home runs annually at the highest level.
Santana has received two cups of coffee with the Astros this season, but he's still in search of his first major league hit after going 0-for-17 with 14 strikeouts. However, there's a good chance he'll get that first knock in September when he rejoins the Astros.
14. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox
2014 Stats (AAA): .257/.336/.367, 27 XBH (7 HR), 51 RBI, 11 SB, 41 BB, 89 K (107 G)
MLB: 1-for-2, 2B, RBI, K
Garin Cecchini received an unexpected call-up earlier this season and picked up his first big league hit in his only game, a ringing double off the Green Monster. Beyond that, Cecchini, 23, has scuffled at Triple-A Pawtucket for most of the season, as his numbers are down across the board.
That being said, the left-handed hitter has picked a good time to get hot, with a .324/.405/.527 batting line, 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBI in 20 games this month. When he's called up in September, Cecchini should see occasional playing time at third base, likely spelling Will Middlebrooks at times against right-handed pitching. However, if the Red Sox are considering trading Cecchini this offseason, then it makes sense for them to offer him a longer look down the stretch.
13. Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 122 IP, 2.43 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .238 BAA, 27 BB, 117 K (21 GS)
MLB: 14 IP, 7.07 ERA, 2.29 WHIP, .344 BAA, 11 BB, 10 K (3 GS)
Marco Gonzales, the Cardinals' first-round pick from 2013, received a look in the major leagues in late June, but he posted a rough 7.07 ERA, 2.29 WHIP and 10-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 innings (three starts). The 22-year-old left-hander showcased his impressive changeup and overall impressive feel for his craft, but it was clear he wasn't ready for the big time yet.
Since his demotion to Triple-A Memphis, Gonzales has pitched to a much-improved 3.35 ERA and 39-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 45.2 innings and completed at least five innings in all but one of his eight starts. The southpaw will return to the major leagues in September, and he's likely to work in long relief with the potential for a spot start or two.
12. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals
2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 129 IP, 3.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .280 BAA, 29 BB, 103 K (24 GS)
A.J. Cole, 22, opened the season at Double-A Harrisburg, posting a 2.92 ERA and a 61-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 71 innings over 14 starts. He received a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse in late June.
While the right-hander had registered a solid 3.29 ERA over 52 innings in the International League through Aug. 15, he only fanned 37 batters against 12 walks during that span, while opposing hitters batted .296 with seven home runs (.827 OPS, for those wondering).
Cole won't carve out a consistent role with the Nationals until 2015 (at the earliest), but a September call-up to work out of the team's bullpen is a distinct possibility.
11. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
2014 Stats (AAA): .256/.297/.420, 48 XBH (14 HR), 69 RBI, 28 BB, 79 K (125 G)
Maikel Franco entered spring training with an outside chance of making the Phillies' Opening Day roster, but ultimately the team assigned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after he hit .184 over 16 games.
Unfortunately, his struggles didn't end with spring training, as he posted a disappointing .209/.267/.318 line with five home runs in 78 games spanning the first three months of the season.
Since the beginning of July, however, Franco has looked more like his 2013 self with a .330/.345/.581 batting line, 27 extra-base hits (nine HR) and 38 RBI over his last 47 games.
Franco, who just turned 22, hasn't exactly made a strong case for a call-up this year overall, which is why general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. hasn't fully committed to the idea of promoting him in September, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News. However, the Phillies have nothing to lose by at least auditioning him at the hot corner over the season's final month.
10. Eddie Butler, RHP, Colorado Rockies
2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 111.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .251 BAA, 36 BB, 67 K (19 GS)
MLB: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 2 K (1 GS)
Eddie Butler had a forgettable debut in early June, as he gave up six runs over 5.1 innings in a start against the Dodgers. The 23-year-old right-hander showed good stuff in the outing, but he still yielded 10 hits and three walks while tallying just two strikeouts. Following the game, the Rockies placed Butler on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
Butler hasn't pitched particularly well since coming off the shelf in mid-July either, as he's posted an ugly 6.05 ERA and just 25 strikeouts in 38.2 innings covering seven starts, the last six of them coming at Double-A Tulsa. However, as long as he's healthy, the promising right-hander should still make at least one more start for the Rockies next month, especially with the state of their starting rotation.
9. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
2014 Stats (AA/AAA): 125 IP, 3.17 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .228 BAA, 31 BB, 134 K (22 G/21 GS)
MLB: 20.2 IP, 6.53 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, .300 BAA, 6 BB, 13 K (4 GS)
Andrew Heaney, 23, struggled in July after a demotion from the major leagues, posting a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings over four starts back at Triple-A New Orleans. However, the left-hander has pitched better as of late, with a 2.81 ERA, .185 batting average against and 29-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25.2 innings over his last four starts.
Heaney will almost definitely rejoin the Marlins in September, and he'll look to improve upon the 6.53 ERA he previously registered over four starts in the major leagues. At the same time, there's no guarantee about his role (starter versus reliever) with the Marlins still in the hunt for the wild card.
8. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 118.2 IP, 2.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .206 BAA, 39 BB, 157 K (24 GS)
Daniel Norris received a midseason promotion to Double-A New Hampshire after beginning the year at High-A Dunedin of the Florida State League, and now it appears that he may make his major league debut in September when the rosters expand, per Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith.
The 21-year-old left-hander has dominated in his first three starts with Triple-A Buffalo, registering a 1.08 ERA and 32-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 16.2 innings. He's respectively struck out 10, 13 and nine batters in each outing.
Norris likely will work out of the bullpen if promoted so as to manage his innings, but the southpaw is a big part of the youth movement the Blue Jays may undergo in the next few years.
7. Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins
2014 Stats (AAA): 123.1 IP, 3.43 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, .235 BAA, 60 BB, 149 K (25 GS)
Alex Meyer, 24, has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. The 6'9" right-hander has held opposing hitters to a paltry .235 batting average while posting a 10.9 strikeout-per-nine rate in 123.1 innings. His command still needs some refinement, hence the career-worst 4.4 BB/9 (walks per nine innings) rate, and he'll get hit around when working up in the zone with his fastball, but the stuff is ready for the highest level.
With a 2.94 ERA and 66 strikeouts over his last 52 innings spanning 10 starts, it's time for the Minnesota Twins to turn him loose on major league hitters in September and see what he can do, even if that means breaking him in with work out of the bullpen.
The Twins have been noncommittal when discussing his chances of a promotion, though it'd be surprising if the right-hander didn't spend the final month of the season in The Show.
6. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2014 Stats (AAA): .300/.432/.580, 99 R, 51 XBH (32 HR), 74 RBI, 30 SB, 95 BB, 143 K (116 G)
Joc Pederson would be a starter for pretty much every other team in baseball, but the Dodgers outfield is overloaded with players under long-term, expensive contracts. However, his time is coming soon.
The 22-year-old outfielder has enjoyed a historically good season at Triple-A Albuquerque, and on Saturday he became the first Pacific Coast League player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season since Frank Demaree in 1934.
More importantly, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly confirmed on that same day that Pederson will be called up on Sept. 1, per Michael Lananna of MLB.com.
5. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
2014 Stats (Rk/A+/AAA): 19.2 IP, 2.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .181 BAA, 10 BB, 31 K (8 G/5 GS)
The White Sox promoted Carlos Rodon to Triple-A Charlotte last week after he made his professional debut on July 22 in the rookie-level Arizona League and then rattled off three consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run at High-A Winston-Salem.
The 21-year-old has been outstanding at the minor leagues' highest level, allowing two runs on two hits and five walks with 11 strikeouts over seven innings (two starts). In his latest outing, the left-hander yielded one run on one hit and struck out eight batters (including the last six batters he faced) over four innings.
According to Scott Merkin of MLB.com, there's a "better-than-average chance" the White Sox will promote Rodon to the major leagues the same year they drafted him, 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, though a start or two shouldn't be ruled out. Regardless, he's one of the more interesting call-up candidates with roster expansion less than a week away.
4. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2014 Stats (A+/AA/AAA): 76.1 IP, 4.13 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .229 BAA, 25 BB, 85 K (15 GS)
MLB: 15 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, .176 BAA, 13 BB, 14 K (3 GS)
Most expected Taijuan Walker to begin the season in the Mariners' starting rotation after he received a late-season call-up in 2013, but Seattle ultimately assigned him to Triple-A after a shaky performance during spring training. The 22-year-old right-hander then suffered a shoulder injury during his second start of the season and didn't return to action until late May.
Walker made three starts for the Mariners between June 30 and July 23, registering a 3.60 ERA and .133 batting average against over 15 innings, but he struggled with his control and walked (13) nearly as many batters as he struck out (14).
However, the right-hander now has thrown well over his last three starts back at Tacoma, with a 2.37 ERA and 29-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 19 innings, holding opposing batters to a .182 average during that span. More importantly, he seems primed for success when he inevitably returns to the major leagues in September. If he's at his best, Walker could offer the M's rotation a huge boost down the stretch.
3. Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
2014 Stats (Rk/AA/AAA): 82.2 IP, 3.92 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, .246 BAA, 44 BB, 75 K (17 GS)
Archie Bradley has spent a majority of the season on the disabled list due to a mild flexor strain in his right elbow, but the 22-year-old is now healthy and pitching at full strength. Bradley's last 11 outings have come at Double-A Mobile, where he's posted a solid 3.31 ERA in 54.1 innings but struggled to consistently pound the strike zone (46-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 61 percent strike rate).
Bradley has logged only 82.2 innings this season due to his time spent on the disabled list, which means he won't run into any workload concerns. Manager Kirk Gibson recently mentioned that the Diamondbacks could switch to a six-man rotation in September, leading Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic to speculate that the team will add Bradley to the rotation.
If that is the case, three or four starts in The Show during the season's final month would be a healthy challenge for the promising right-hander.
2. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
2014 Stats (AA/AAA): .280/.343/.391, 28 XBH (10 HR), 60 RBI, 28 SB, 46 BB, 87 K (118 G)
Francisco Lindor continued his surge toward the major leagues this season, as he's once again hit for both average and modest power, shown a discerning eye at the plate and stolen bases with efficiency. More importantly, he's done so as a 20-year-old at Double- and Triple-A levels.
It's long been believed that the Cleveland Indians would promote Lindor to the major leagues at some point this season. After promoting him to Triple-A in July and then trading Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals at the deadline, the Indians appear set to turn Lindor loose at the highest level in September.
Upon his arrival, the young glove wizard will immediately rank as one of the premier defensive shortstops in the major leagues. Yes, that's really how good he is.
Lindor is set to take over as the Tribe's everyday shortstop in 2015, so it makes sense for the Indians to break him in in the major leagues over the final month of this season.
1. Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs
2014 Stats (AA/AAA): .333/.443/.682, 113 R, 77 XBH (43 HR), 108 RBI, 15 SB, 83 BB, 152 K (131 G)
At this point, there isn't much left to say about Kris Bryant.
The right-handed-hitting slugger clubbed his minor league-leading 43rd home run of the season Sunday, which also was his 21st in 63 games since reaching Triple-A Iowa.
Cubs president Theo Epstein previously stated, via ESPNChicago.com's Jesse Rogers, that he doesn’t "foresee" Bryant playing in the major leagues this season. However, with the rest of his big-name Triple-A teammates like Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez and Kyle Hendricks now in the major leagues, and outfielder Jorge Soler set to join the team Wednesday, per CSNChicago.com's David Kaplan, it doesn't seem crazy to think the Cubs might still promote Bryant in September.
Bryant, 22, is more than deserving of a call-up next month. If the Cubs decide to hold off on promoting Bryant until 2015, it's likely because the organization is firmly sticking to its preseason developmental timeline for the prodigious slugger.
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