Selecting the 2014 All-September Call-Up Team, Position by Position
With Major League Baseball rosters everywhere expanding now that September is here, it's easy to get lost in all the extra names that are on jerseys and in box scores each night.
But you don't have to be overwhelmed! If you're simply in search of the new players who are the best young talent to pay attention to, then click on. For what follows is a run-through of the All-September Call-Up Team, which lays out the very best prospects recently brought up at each position.
To be considered, players must meet a few criteria. First, they must still be prospect eligible, meaning they have not exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the majors.
That disqualifies the likes of right-hander Jimmy Nelson of the Milwaukee Brewers, lefty James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners or Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, each of whom is making his way back to the bigs this month.
Second, players must have been called up or be on the verge of a call-up—whether for their MLB debut or return to the majors—in September or the week prior.
And while this list is built around a specific month, the focus is on highlighting prospects more for their overall potential going forward rather than merely their production to come over the next three-plus weeks.
Catcher: Christian Bethancourt, Atlanta Braves
Known for his stellar defense, including a don't-dare-run-on arm, Christian Bethancourt is up to help the Atlanta Braves make their playoff push, according to Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
The just-turned 23-year-old was with the big league club for a baker's dozen games back in June and July when Evan Gattis was out of commission, and Bethancourt hit a subpar .240/.283/.260 in 50 at-bats.
"This guy's going to be our catcher of the future," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Bethancourt when he was sent back down to Triple-A in July, via David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He’s just going to have to wait his turn, which is probably hard for young players to realize that. But he was very impressive defensively, I thought he got better offensively."
Bethancourt indeed fared better in his first shot at Gwinnett (.283/.308/.408), but his bat is only really relevant insofar as it is just good enough to keep him in the majors so his D can make an impact. That's something to monitor this month.
Honorable Mention(s): J.R. Murphy, New York Yankees; James McCann, Detroit Tigers; Max Stassi, Houston Astros; Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds
1st Base: Kyle Parker, Colorado Rockies
The caliber of first base prospects who have been brought up in September isn't exactly riveting, so Kyle Parker takes this spot by default as much as anything else.
Parker, a 2010 first-rounder who will turn 25 at the end of the month, is known more for being the former quarterback at Clemson and the first player in NCAA Division I history to throw 20 touchdown passes and hit 20 home runs in the same school year, which he did in 2009-10.
Not that the righty slugger hasn't held his own on the diamond since turning pro. Having converted from outfield to first base, Parker has averaged 20.5 homers in his four minor league seasons, and he's now on his third stint with the Colorado Rockies this season. Alas, he's just 1-for-9 in The Show so far, so maybe third time's a charm.
Honorable Mention(s): Jesus Aguilar, Cleveland Indians; Ryan Rua, Texas Rangers; Andy Wilkins, Chicago White Sox; Andrew Lambo, Pittsburgh Pirates
2nd Base: Dilson Herrera, New York Mets
When Dilson Herrera debuted just shy of September—way, way back on Aug. 29—to help cover second base for the injured Daniel Murphy, he became the youngest player in MLB at 20 years, 179 days. Oh, and Herrera skipped over Triple-A, too, coming up straight from Double-A Binghamton.
He showed he wasn't overwhelmed much, though, by hitting a home run and a triple (highlight above) in his fourth game, which just so happened to be Sept. 1, the first day roster maximums jumped from 25 to 40 players.
Acquired in the August 2013 waiver trade that sent Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Herrera was having a fantastic first season in the New York Mets system, triple-slashing .323/.379/.479 with 51 extra-base hits and 23 steals.
That kind of performance has solidified his role as the club's second baseman of the future—and the present, too, at least while Murphy is out.
Honorable Mention(s): Enrique Hernandez, Miami Marlins; Cory Spangenberg, San Diego Padres; Christian Colon, Kansas City Royals
3rd Base: Maikel Franco, Philadelphia Phillies
Despite a horrific start to 2014 after his breakout 2013 campaign, Maikel Franco was able to turn things around enough to get a September shot.
The barely 22-year-old was wallowing through the first two months while hitting just .234 with four homers and 20 RBI in 51 games.
Over the last two months, however, Franco batted .324 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI in 55 contests, which propelled him to this neat "pheat," per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News: "[T]he 22-year-old was penciled into the lineup of his major league game, becoming the youngest position player to start a game for the Phillies since a 21-year-old Jimmy Rollins took his spot as shortstop at Veterans Stadium 14 years ago this month."
Honorable Mention(s): Jason Rogers, Milwaukee Brewers
Shortstop: Alexander Guerrero, Los Angeles Dodgers
OK, so putting Alexander Guerrero as the shortstop here is kind of cheating, but that's only because there's just not much to get excited about at the position otherwise. (Apologies to the Honorable Mentions below, who may be more likely to stick at short but also are much less intriguing overall.)
While the 27-year-old Cuban, who signed a four-year, $28 million pact with the Los Angeles Dodgers last October, isn't considered a shortstop at the major league level, he likely would have been in the bigs already had it not been for that ugly incident in which then-teammate Miguel Olivo bit off part of his ear.
That cost Guerrero nearly two full months from mid-May to mid-July at a time when he could have chipped in while shortstop Hanley Ramirez and third baseman Juan Uribe were battling injuries and ailments often.
Missing out hurt him (as did getting his ear chomped, no doubt), but Guerrero showed what he's capable of with the bat, slashing .329/.364/.613 with 15 homers in only 65 games at Triple-A. And while he saw most of his action at second base, he did get some run at short, as well as third base and in the outfield.
If Guerrero proves he can handle a few positions with the Dodgers, his versatility will only be that much more useful because his offensive skills look legitimate.
Honorable Mention(s): Hernan Perez, Detroit Tigers; Luis Sardinas, Texas Rangers; Erisbel Arruebarrena, Los Angeles Dodgers
Outfield: Jorge Soler, Chicago Cubs
Sure, Jorge Soler debuted on Aug. 27, a bit earlier than September—and did so in a big way—but he's being counted here. Hey, hitting .500 with three home runs through one's first six MLB games tends to grant one an exception or two.
Like Guerrero, Soler is Cuban-born and known for his bat. But the Chicago Cubs outfielder's profile and potential are much, much loftier.
For one thing, Soler is only 22. For another, he made it through hamstring issues early on to compile a ridiculous 1.132 OPS across three levels of the minors, primarily Double- and Triple-A.
Given his out-of-the-gate success for the Cubs, including seven extra-base hits and a two-homer game already, Soler deserves the top spot in the outfield, even if he missed nearly half the season with injury and technically was called up just prior to September.
Outfield: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers
Having flown up prospect rankings the past two years, Joc Pederson had quite the campaign in 2014, adding more than a few feats to his growing resume, as Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com writes:
The 22-year-old outfielder grabbed headlines this season as he tried to become the Pacific Coast League's first member of the 30 home run/30 stolen base club since 1934. He did just that on Aug. 24 when he stole his 30th base for Triple-A Albuquerque.
The left-handed slugger finishes his first Triple-A season hitting 303/.435/.582 with 33 home runs, 78 RBIs and 30 stolen bases. He led the PCL in homers, OBP and OPS en route to capturing the circuit's MVP and Rookie of the Year honors. He played all three outfield spots but worked primarily in center field with the Isotopes.
After pinch-hitting Monday and striking out in his first big league at-bat, the lefty-swinging Pederson started in center and notched his first major league hit Tuesday.
Manager Don Mattingly indicated recently, per True Blue LA's Eric Stephen, that despite his prospect status, Pederson won't necessarily play more than a typical September call-up. But he got the nod there over the slumping Yasiel Puig, at least on Tuesday, according to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.
Because Pederson is the best defensive center fielder on the club, he should see some action—perhaps as a late-inning defensive replacement?—even in the Dodgers' overcrowded outfield.
Outfield: Dalton Pompey, Toronto Blue Jays
A 16th-round selection in 2010, Dalton Pompey shoved his way onto the prospect map with an impressive all-around season, his fourth full one as a pro.
The 21-year-old built on a solid 2013 in A-ball by slashing .317/.392/.469 with 40 extra-base knocks and 43 stolen bases across High-, Double- and Triple-A this year. That was enough to earn him a promotion to a fourth level—the majors—despite spending just 12 games at Buffalo.
As Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com regarding the decision to bring up Pompey, among others:
There was a group of guys that were all deserving to be up here, but at some point, you do have to cut it off. It does come down to do you think these guys are going to be able to factor and get playing time? That's where it came down. We made decisions based on who we felt gave us the best chance to win games.
Given Pompey's relative lack of experience at Triple-A, it's likely this is merely a reward for an outstanding season, and he'll return to the high minors to start 2015. But the athletic center fielder isn't far off from a job in Toronto, and incumbent Colby Rasmus is a free-agent-to-be, so there's a chance this could be an audition of sorts.
Honorable Mention(s): Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers; Domingo Santana, Houston Astros; Randal Grichuk, St. Louis Cardinals; Steven Souza, Washington Nationals; Yorman Rodriguez, Cincinnati Reds
Starting Pitcher: Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Carlos Rodon, the third overall pick by the Chicago White Sox this past June, is rumored to be a candidate to debut this month, per Scott Merkin of MLB.com, but a move hasn't been made yet, and there are too many other top pitching prospects who have been called up to give this spot to one who remains at Triple-A.
The pick, then, is Taijuan Walker, who isn't just some by-default choice. Expected to be in the Seattle Mariners rotation from Opening Day, the 22-year-old's season instead was marked by injury early on and inconsistency once he made it back on the mound. But Walker, who made three midseason starts for the pitching-rich M's, also threw well enough that he could have started for just about any other team for much of 2014.
Walker's ERA in the minors was a so-so 4.37, but much of his time was spent in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he still struck out more than a batter (74) per inning (73.0).
Called up (for the third time) right when rosters expanded on Sept. 1, Walker hurled six frames of six-hit, one-run ball (see above) against the Oakland Athletics in relief of Chris Young, who was battered for five runs without making it out of the first.
"I didn't want to see him today," manager Lloyd McClendon said via Greg Johns of MLB.com after Walker needed to come in Monday, "but he did a nice job. He threw the ball pretty darn good."
For now, Walker likely will pitch out of the pen, but he's going to be used because the M's need all the help they can get as they battle those same A's, as well as the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, for one of the two wild-card spots in the AL.
With a strong showing, Walker should sew up what he nearly had this season: a place in Seattle's five-man.
Honorable Mention(s): Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays; Andrew Heaney, LHP, Miami Marlins; Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox; Marco Gonzales, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals; Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Relief Pitcher: Cam Bedrosian, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
While Cam Bedrosian hasn't had the same success this year in the majors as he has in the minors, his power arm has helped get him noticed to the point where he's now on his fourth stint with the Los Angeles Angels in 2014.
A former first-round pick in 2010, Bedrosian has allowed 17 hits and 10 earned runs in 12.1 innings in the bigs. In the minors? Well, he's given up one fewer hit (16) and the same number of earned runs (10)—in 45.0 innings across three levels. He also sported an 82-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
No wonder the Angels have continued to give Bedrosian chances. Well, that, and they've also had bullpen issues at times and endured season-ending injuries to key pitchers Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs.
"Given where we are, given our roster," manager Mike Scioscia told Chris Abshire of MLB.com, "there's no doubt we needed to add some arms."
While Bedrosian has closer stuff, the club probably won't use him much in high-leverage innings until he proves he can do the job against big league batters. The Angels, after all, are trying to lock up the top seed in the AL and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Honorable Mention(s): Carlos Contreras, RHP, Cincinnati Reds; Heath Hembree, RHP, Boston Red Sox; Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies; R.J. Alvarez, RHP, San Diego Padres; Yimi Garcia, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
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