Predicting the Impact of MLB's Top 10 September Call-Ups
With rosters set to expand from 25 to 40 players on Monday, September call-up fever is officially in the air.
In the last week we’ve looked this year’s potential call-ups in a variety of ways, including an overall ranking, position-by-position breakdown and, more recently, a deeper look at prospects capable of improving their teams’ playoff chances.
And with roster expansion still a long weekend away, we’ll be rolling out even more call-up-related content in the coming days.
The rankings for this article were based on those released earlier in the week in our look at the top 25 call-up candidates. However, instead of simply identifying the best prospects, this article strives to focus on players who have been rumored to be in the mix for a call-up as well as those facing an imminent promotion thanks to a spot on the 40-man roster.
With all that being said, here are our predictions for the potential impacts of baseball’s top 10 prospects next month.
10. Alex Guerrero, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
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 coming off the disabled list, with a .300/.337/.525 batting line, 21 extra-base hits (six home runs) and 25 RBI in 42 games.
Though second base is his primary position (52 games played), Guerrero will always be a bat-first player with minimal defensive value. Other than the keystone, Guerrero has also spent time at third base (four games), shortstop (seven) and left field (nine), meaning the Dodgers could be considering him in a utility role for September.
However, my best guess is that the 27-year-old’s playing time will depend on how much he hits in those initial opportunities.
9. Domingo Santana, OF, Houston Astros
Domingo Santana, who turned 22 earlier this August, has moved at a level-per-year pace through the Astros’ system after coming over from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011 as part of a prospect package for Hunter Pence.
Santana has consistently posted strong numbers as a younger player at advanced levels during his career. This year, in his age-21 season, he’s batting .299/.385/.477 with 15 home runs and 77 RBI through 116 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
His hit tool is still suspect due to a penchant for whiffing (28.3 percent strikeout rate this season), but it’s worth noting that his walk rate has improved (12.1 percent) despite facing better sequencing in Triple-A. Meanwhile, power will always be Santana’s calling card; and he has plenty of it, with the potential to hit around 20 home runs annually at the highest level.
Santana received two cups of coffee with the Astros not too long ago, but he's still looking for 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, though it probably won’t happen until Oklahoma City’s postseason run comes to an end.
The Astros’ outfield will be crowded next month, but I’m sure the organization would like to see Santana get a taste of success in the majors before the end of the season.
8. Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox
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, evidenced by his .262/.340/.374 batting line, 29 extra-base hits (seven home runs) and 94-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 110 games.
That being said, the left-handed hitter has picked a good time to catch fire, with a .349/.429/.535 batting line, 12 extra-base hits and 21 RBI in 23 games this month.
When he's called up in September, which likely will depend on whether Pawtucket makes the International League playoffs, 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 an extended look next month and showcase his potential to other teams.
7. Maikel Franco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies
Maikel Franco was assigned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after a disappointing showing during spring training, but he continued to struggle and batted just .209/.267/.318 line with five home runs in 78 games over the first three months of the season.
The 22-year-old has raked since the beginning of July, though, with an impressive .332/.349/.604 batting line, 30 extra-base hits (11 home runs) and 46 RBI over his last 50 games.
Franco hasn't exactly made a strong overall case for a call-up this year, 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, especially if they plan on giving Cody Asche, the team’s closest thing an everyday third baseman at the present, a look in left field.
If Franco’s second-half hot streak carries over to the major leagues next month, then it wouldn’t be surprising if third base becomes his position to lose headed into 2015.
6. Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins
Andrew Heaney’s first trip of the major leagues this season didn’t go as expected, as the 23-year-old posted a 6.53 ERA and yielded five home runs in 20.2 innings (four starts).
To make matters worse, the left-hander struggled in July after a demotion from the major leagues, registering a 5.03 ERA in 19.2 innings over four starts back at Triple-A New Orleans. Heaney has pitched significantly better as of late, though, with a 3.13 ERA, .207 batting average against and 33-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 31.2 innings over his last five starts.
Heaney will almost definitely rejoin the Marlins in September, especially with Triple-A New Orleans well out of playoff contention. That being said, it’s difficult to say with any certainty what his exact role (starter versus reliever) will be down the stretch. However, it’s safe to assume the Marlins' ultimate decision will be tied to the team’s chances of clinching a playoff berth Wild Card.
5. Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
It’s been a busy season for Daniel Norris.
Norris received a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire after breezing through the Florida State League to begin the year. The 21-year-old left-hander didn’t stay there long, though, as the Blue Jays decided to move him up to Triple-A Buffalo after just eight starts.
Well, after three dominant outings at the minor’s highest level (and one not-so-good one), it now appears that Norris may make his major league debut in September when the rosters expand, per Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith.
On the season, Norris is 12-2 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 160-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 122.2 innings (25 starts) across all three levels.
The Blue Jays would not be rushing Norris up the ladder like this if they didn’t plan on using him in the major leagues next month. Chances are he’ll work out of the bullpen so as to manage his workload, but if a playoff spot is on the line, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Norris making a start or two down the stretch.
4. Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Joc Pederson, 22, is wrapping up a historically good season at Triple-A Albuquerque, as he currently leads the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in home runs (33), OPS (1.028), on-base percentage (.437), runs scored (103), walks (98) 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.
Meanwhile, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly already has confirmed that Pederson will be called up on Sept. 1, per Michael Lananna of MLB.com. Prior to the trade deadline, Mattingly even went so far as to state, via Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, that he believes Pederson is the organization’s best long-term defensive center fielder.
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 Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp or Yasiel Puig.
3. Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox
To say that Carlos Rodon is being fast-tracked to the major leagues is an understatement.
The No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, Rodon has already reached Triple-A Charlotte this season after brief stops in the Rookie-level Arizona League and High-A Winston-Salem.
So far, the 21-year-old has been outstanding at the minor league’s 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 five of the last six batters he faced) over four innings.
Earlier this month, Scott Merkin of MLB.com reported there was a "better-than-average chance" the White Sox will promote Rodon to the major leagues in September, just as they did with Sale five years prior.
Since then, the front office has tried to temper expectations regarding a potential Rodon call-up, with general manager Rick Hahn recently discussing the situation on the Mully and Hanley Show (h/t MLB Trade Rumors).
However, based on the organization’s handling of Rodon thus far, all signs point to the promising southpaw receiving his first taste of the major leagues next month.
Rodon will likely work out of the bullpen if promoted in September, though a start or two shouldn’t be ruled out. That being said, the southpaw will be a huge upgrade in either role.
2. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Taijuan Walker seemed primed to open 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).
The right-hander was pitching well back at Tacoma—2.37 ERA over his last 19 innings, to be exact—before scuffling on Monday, when he allowed five runs on nine hits over six innings against Kris Bryant and Triple-A Iowa.
With only 82.1 innings under his belt this season and Triple-A Tacoma not headed to the playoffs, the Mariners will have some flexibility with Walker when he’s called up in September.
If he shoves it in his final start with Tacoma, the Mariners might be more inclined to consider him for some spot starts down the stretch. But should the organization not go down that road, then Walker has the potential to make a serious impact out of the bullpen, where his stuff will play up and his command will be less of an issue.
1. Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Francisco Lindor, 20, took another huge step forward in his development this season by hitting for both average and modest power at a pair of advanced levels, and he’s once again showed a discerning eye at the plate while stealing bases with efficiency.
Overall, the switch-hitting Lindor is batting .276/.338/.384 with 29 extra-base hits (10 home runs), 60 RBI, 28 stolen bases (in 43 attempts) and a 92-47 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 122 games between the 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 dealing Asdrubal Cabrera to the Washington Nationals at the deadline, the stage has been set for Lindor to debut in September.
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. Upon his arrival, the young glove wizard will immediately rank as one of the premier defensive shortstops in the major leagues.
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