10 MLB September Call-Ups Who Could Be Secret Weapons of Playoff Push
From Taijuan Walker to Joc Pederson, there were lots of big-time MLB prospects who earned September call-ups.
While many will be relegated to relief roles and pinch-hitting opportunities, there are players who will get the chance to be secret weapons during the playoff chase. The list of 10 players is dominated by rising stars with limited big league experience, but there is room for one veteran who has a track record of delivering clutch hits.
Billy Burns, OF, Oakland Athletics
Billy Burns can absolutely fly.
The 25-year-old racked up 54 steals in 60 attempts while splitting the season between the Oakland Athletics' Double-A and Triple-A affiliates. Back in April, Burns scored all the way from second base on a sacrifice fly.
That game-changing speed could come into use now that the outfielder has arrived in Oakland, per MLB.com. With the club's lineup seemingly having forgotten how to hit, it's possible that Burns could use his wheels as a pinch-runner to instigate a rally or two.
Brandon Finnegan, RP, Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals bullpen has been lights out, and it looks like it just got even better.
After the Royals snapped up Brandon Finnegan with the No. 17 pick in the 2014 MLB draft, the left-hander has landed in the big leagues less than three months later, as Pete Grathoff of The Kansas City Star reports. Finnegan, who posted a 1.33 ERA in 13 outings across High-A and Double-A, labelled his promotion "crazy."
As Kansas City's manager Ned Yost told Grathoff, the 21-year-old could have a part to play as the Royals battle for the American League Central crown.
"All the reports that we got were this kid can help us."
Marco Gonzales, RP, St. Louis Cardinals
On August 30, Marco Gonzlaes surrendered just a single run over six frames as he recorded his first major league win. Afterward, the starter described the milestone as "awesome," as you can watch in the MLB.com video above.
However, since the 22-year-old was the 26th man as part of a special double-header roster, Gonzales was promptly sent back to the minor leagues. The Cardinals then summoned Gonzales just a few days later on September 2 once the roster had expanded, per MLB.com.
For now, the 2013 first-round pick will be working out of the bullpen for the St. Louis Cardinals. It's not unreasonable to think that the lefty could get the call for another start in September.
Hunter Strickland, RP, San Francisco Giants
Hunter Strickland throws gas.
The rookie reliever cracked triple digits on the radar gun in his first outing for the San Francisco Giants on September 1, per Alex Pavlovich of the Bay Area News Group. The 25-year-old started the 2014 season in High-A before moving up to Double-A, where he punched out 48 hitters in 35.2 innings.
Now he's with the Giants. Manager Bruce Bochy told Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that he could utilize the right-hander in "leveraged situations."
Steven Souza Jr., OF, Washington Nationals
Steven Souza Jr. torched the minor leagues in 2014.
The 25-year-old scooped up the International League MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards, as he hit .350 with a 1.022 OPS, 18 home runs and 25 steals. The outfielder, who played in 13 games earlier in the year for the Washington Nationals, was one of the six players that the club called up, per James Wagner of the Washington Post. With the ability to hit for power and steal a base, Souza has the ability to impact the game in a variety of ways for manager Matt Williams' squad.
Joey Terdoslavich, 1B/OF, Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves haven't received much offensive production off the bench in 2014.
According to Mark Bowman of MLB.com, the recently promoted Joey Terdoslavich could just turn into the "reliable pinch-hitter that they have lacked all season." With a .256 average and a .722 OPS in Triple-A, Terdoslavich's overall numbers aren't exactly overwhelming. However, the switch-hitter did club seven home runs in August before getting the call to Atlanta.
Taijuan Walker, RP, Seattle Mariners
For now, Taijuan Walker is working out of the bullpen for the Seattle Mariners. However, the 22-year-old's role could soon be changing, as manager Lloyd McClendon explained via Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times on September 1.
“Hopefully he’ll get to the point where he’s so dominating so that he’s in the rotation, but we’ll see."
The day that McClendon made that comment, Walker worked six innings of relief, allowing just one run while striking out five. After that impressive showing, McClendon could plug the right-hander into the rotation spot of the suddenly struggling Chris Young, as Greg Johns of MLB.com notes.
Jason Giambi, DH, Cleveland Indians
The clock is ticking on Jason Giambi's big league career.
Now 43 years old, the designated hitter has appeared in just 17 contests for the Cleveland Indians in 2014, as left knee inflammation has kept him sidelined for much of the season. Before Giambi returned to the roster at the beginning of September, the veteran went out on a rehab assignment with Cleveland's Double-A club. Giambi had a great time on his trip to the farm, as he explained via Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer.
"They were in a pennant race, and it was a lot of fun. It reminds me of why you played this game in the first place."
It's difficult to know just what to expect from Giambi in the final month of the season. Still, it's not out of the question to think that the left-handed hitter could just have one more big game-winning hit to contribute. After all, last September Giambi launched a walk-off home run against the Chicago White Sox in the final week of the season.
Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers
With the Detroit Tigers looking to track down the Kansas City Royals in the AL Central, there are no guarantees that Steven Moya will get much playing time in September.
However, so far, the outfielder has been making excellent use of his opportunities. Moya has hit safely in his first two major league at-bats. In the minors, the 23-year-old provided all sorts of production. While playing for Detroit's Double-A affiliate, the left-handed hitter connected on 35 home runs in 2014. That pop could make Moya a late-inning weapon off the Tigers' bench.
Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Joc Pederson had a monster season in Triple-A.
The 22-year-old hit 33 home runs and stole 30 bases on his way to earning the Pacific Coast League MVP Award. This September, he'll have the chance to make his mark with the Los Angeles Dodgers as the club looks to maintain its edge over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
As manager Don Mattingly told Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times earlier this week, Pederson will get the opportunity to spell the struggling Yasiel Puig. Since Mattingly made that announcement, Pederson has started back-to-back games in center field.
Note: All stats courtesy of MLB.com. All videos courtesy of MLB.com and YouTube.com.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!