Potential September Call-Ups Who Could Directly Change MLB Playoff Races
Teams now have less than a week to decide which of their prospects, if any, will be promoted to the major leagues on Sept. 1.
While most clubs typically recall players already on their 40-man roster, teams chasing a playoff berth may be more inclined to think outside the box and take a chance on a prospect not already on the roster.
Last season, some of the game’s top prospects, namely Billy Hamilton and Yordano Ventura, were promoted to the major leagues on Sept. 1 and ultimately made significant contributions to their respective teams over the final month of the season.
This year, we’re unlikely to see playoff contenders call up their big-name, future stars for the stretch run, but there will be numerous lesser-known but deserving prospects promoted when rosters expand Monday.
Today, however, we’re going to narrow our focus to prospects whose seemingly imminent call-ups, based on the latest reports, could improve their team's chances of reaching the postseason. None of these five players profile as everyday players or rotation fixtures down the stretch, but they each have the potential to bolster their respective club's rosters.
Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Marco Gonzales, the Cardinals' first-round pick from 2013, received his first taste of 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 an overall impressive feel for his craft, but it was clear he wasn't ready for the big time just 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. He's been especially tough on same-side hitters, as lefties have batted just .248/.286/.344 against him in 133 plate appearances.
While it’s a foregone conclusion that Gonzales will return to the major leagues in September, his role with the Cardinals down the stretch has yet to be determined. The depth created through the acquisitions of Justin Masterson and John Lackey at the trade deadline suggests Gonzales likely will work out of the bullpen as either a long reliever or late-inning specialist. However, the fact that the Cardinals currently lack a left-handed starting pitcher could lead to spot start or two as needed.
Regardless, Gonzales should fare better in September after spending the last two months pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Terrance Gore, OF, Kansas City Royals
The Royals are looking to add impact speed off their bench down the stretch and hopefully beyond, which is why they’re considering calling up Terrance Gore on Sept. 1, according to a tweet from Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star. Jarrod Dyson has held that role in previous years, but his hot bat and increased playing time in August is forcing the Royals to explore other options.
Gore, 23, has never been known for his bat, with a .237/.343/.271 batting line and 28 extra-base hits in 328 career games over four seasons. However, Gore is an excellent baserunner and a proficient base-stealer, highlighted by his 90.8 percent success rate (167-for-184) as a professional. In his 2013 full-season debut with Low-A Lexington, Gore stole a career-best 68 bases in 76 attempts.
The 5’7”, 165-pound outfielder spent most of the season at High-A Wilmington, where he batted only .218 with a .546 OPS but swiped 36 bags in 40 attempts. He was promoted to Triple-A Omaha earlier this month, likely in anticipation of a September call-up, and has held his own at the minor leagues' highest level, batting .250 with a 10-for-13 success rate on the basepaths through 15 games.
Gore is arguably the fastest player in the minor leagues, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s utilized the same way the Reds used Billy Hamilton last September. Gore focuses on working deep counts and coaxing walks and putting the ball on the ground (including bunts, obviously), which in turn allows him to wreak havoc on the basepaths, a la Hamilton. If used in that role, Gore could easily steal upwards of 10 bases over the final month of the season.
Now do yourself a favor, if you haven’t already, and watch the above video, courtesy of Nathaniel Stoltz.
Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers
Steven Moya, 22, has enjoyed a breakout year in his first taste of Double-A, as he currently paces the Eastern League in home runs (34), RBI (102), extra-base hits (69) and slugging percentage (.554)—all career highs. Furthermore, his 277 total bases and 69 extra-base hits are both single-season franchise records for Erie, and his next RBI will give him the record in that department as well.
The 6’6”, 230-pound outfielder has done most of his damage this season against righties, with a .281/.310/.569 slash line, 21 home runs and 23 doubles in 313 at-bats.
As of now, the Tigers reserves are Bryan Holaday, Andrew Romine, Ezequiel Carrera and Don Kelly, none of whom possess more than a lick of power. Given Moya’s breathtaking thump 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 (and homers) off the bench for the Tigers in September.
Jacob Lindgren, LHP, New York Yankees
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 48 batters in 24.2 innings overall, good for a ridiculous 17.5 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings). Lindgren has been especially nasty as of late, allowing just three hits over eight scoreless innings (four appearances) to go along with 14 strikeouts. On top of that, he’s now fanned multiple batters in 14 of 18 appearances as a professional.
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. While the team’s two left-handed options, Rich Hill and David Huff, have pitched respectably this month, Lindgren is better suited for high-leverage situations and capable of bridging the gap to Dellin Betances and David Robertson.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Twenty-two-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson has enjoyed a historically good season at Triple-A Albuquerque, as he currently leads the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in home runs (33), OPS (1.026), on-base percentage (.435), runs scored (101) and total bases (254). 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.
Amazingly, his day only got better from there, as Dodgers manager Don Mattingly later confirmed that Pederson will be called up on Sept. 1, per Michael Lananna of MLB.com. Prior to the trade deadline, Mattingly stated, via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, that he believes Pederson is the organization’s best long-term defensive center fielder. It certainly isn’t any of the four guys they’ve used at the position this season (per FanGraphs):
|Innings||DRS (Defensive Runs Saved)||UZR/150 (UZR per 150 def. games)|
|Scott Van Slyke||143.1||-2||-21.8|
The Dodgers will need to add Pederson to the 40-man roster when they promote him in September, but by the sound of it, that won’t be an issue. Given his ability to play plus defense at all three outfield positions, Pederson figures to serve primarily as a late-inning defensive replacement down the stretch. At the same time, it doesn’t seem as though Mattingly would hesitate to get the youngster’s power/speed combo and on-base skills in the lineup in the event of an injury to either Crawford, Ethier, Kemp or Puig.