Top 25 Minor League Players to Watch When MLB Rosters Expand Sept. 1
Starting Sept. 1, MLB rosters will expand, and organizations' top prospects will get the chance to display their talents on the major league level.
While some of these prospects are "trying out" with hopes of making a major league roster starting next season, other prospects will find themselves in the heart of a pennant race, hoping to play a major role down the stretch.
All of these prospects have the talent to play in the majors, but we'll find out soon enough if they can handle the pressure of being a major leaguer.
These are the top 25 minor league players to watch when MLB rosters expand Sept. 1.
Is your favorite prospect on here?
Let's find out.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
It's almost time for the September call-ups.
Domonic Brown, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, OF
MLB Parent Team: Philadelphia Phillies
After the Philadelphia Phillies' starting center fielder, Shane Victorino, landed on the DL, the top prospect in the minor leagues, 22-year-old outfielder Domonic Brown, was called up to the majors.
In his debut, Brown recorded two hits and an RBI, proving that his dominance in 93 total minor league games this season, including a .327 batting average, to go along with 20 home runs, 68 RBI, 17 stolen bases, and a .980 OPS, was no fluke.
Brown was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game in Anaheim but left early when his hamstring tightened up after he beat out an infield single.
With Victorino sidelined with an oblique strain, the Phillies could go with Jayson Werth in center and Brown in right. Or they could ease him into the lineup by using defensive-minded Ben Francisco as their primary center fielder.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has said in the past that he's confident Brown can hit in the majors, so with Victorino sidelined, expect Brown to see a decent amount of playing time.
Manager Charlie Manuel believes Victorino may not be at full strength for three weeks; therefore Victorino will return a little before the Sept. 1 call-up. Brown might be sent down to the minors for only a few days but will be recalled when the rosters expand.
If the Phillies outfield is at full strength, Brown will be watching from the bench. But with his speed and quickness, he can play a pivotal role as a pinch runner.
Anyone remember Dave Roberts?
I can guarantee that all Yankee fans do.
Dayan Viciedo, Charlotte Knights, 3B
MLB Parent Team: Chicago White Sox
Currently with the White Sox organization, 21-year-old prospect Dayan Viciedo has excelled since he was called up to the majors on June 17, hitting .328 with three home runs, seven RBI, 13 runs, and a stolen base in 67 at-bats.
While with the Charlotte Knights, Viciedo also excelled, hitting .290 while leading the team with 14 home runs and 34 RBI.
When third baseman Mark Teahen fractured his right middle finger on May 30 fielding a ground ball against the Tampa Bay Rays, an injury which required surgery, he was batting a disappointing .255 but appeared to be coming around offensively with 11 hits in 12 games prior to the injury, going 14-for-38 (.368) over that stretch.
Teahen is scheduled to return in roughly one week. Therefore, Viciedo might be in danger of being sent down when Teahen returns.
When the minor league season began, Viciedo could have never imagined playing baseball in the midst of a meaningful pennant race for the White Sox this early in his career, as Chicago currently leads the AL Central division by a game and a half over the Minnesota Twins.
Now, he's not only living his dream but is also becoming a major threat in the White Sox' lineup.
Something that Viciedo never imagined but certainly always believed he was capable of doing.
It would be a shame to see him sent down to the minors. He deserves to stay.
Desmond Jennings, Durham Bulls, OF
MLB Parent Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Desmond Jennings has all the talent in the world, but barring an injury to Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, or Ben Zobrist, Jennings will not be seeing any time in the outfield down the stretch.
In 132 total games in 2009 with AA Montgomery and AAA Durham, Jennings hit .318 with 11 home runs, 92 runs, 62 RBI, 52 stolen bases, and recorded a .888 OPS.
Although Jennings' numbers have dipped in 2010, his speed and ability to beat out infield grounders might earn him a spot on the roster come September.
His playing style reminds you of Crawford, but since the Rays have the original, he might not play significant innings until next season.
Considering rookies don't usually see a lot of time when teams are in the middle of a hotly contested pennant race, Jennings might be seeing very limited action when he's called up in a few weeks from now.
But let's not forget that at times this season, Upton has struggled.
Maybe the sight of Jennings on the bench will ignite a spark under Upton, and he'll finally become the player the Rays know he's capable of being.
Except for dominating the month of June, hitting for a .353 average, Jennings has struggled in every other month this season, hitting below .250.
His lack of consistency at the plate might stop him from being called up this season, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Jeremy Hellickson, Durham Bulls, SP
MLB Parent Team: Tampa Bay Rays
With a staff consisting of David Price, Matt Garza, James Shields, and Wade Davis, the Rays certainly do not need any more great young pitching, but it appears they found another pitching phenom in Jeremy Hellickson.
Hellickson, who has been compared to Roy Oswalt, dazzled the Minnesota Twins in his major league debut, striking out six, walking two, and allowing two runs and three hits in seven innings.
While dominating Triple-A Durham, Hellickson established himself as one of the best pitchers in the International League, recording a win-loss record of 12-3 to go along with a ERA of 2.45 and compiling 123 strikeouts in 117.2 innings.
However, barring an injury to any of the current starters, it's going to be difficult for Hellickson to break into the starting rotation for the final two months of the season. If there is an injury, though, manager Joe Maddon now has a dependable option he can rely on.
Hellickson's time in the majors was brief, as he was already optioned back to the minors after the game. The spot start was designed to give the entire rotation extra rest, but it also set up Hellickson to join the Rays' bullpen later this season.
If he continues to pitch like this, Hellickson will be a major factor for the Rays, not only for the regular season, but when it matters the most—in the playoffs.
Jhoulys Chacin, Colorado Springs Sky Sox, RP
MLB Parent Team: Colorado Rockies
Optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs this past weekend in order for Taylor Buchholz to be recalled and join the bullpen, Jhoulys Chacin was anything but impressive during his stint in the majors.
According to multiple reports, the Rockies are encouraged by what they have seen from him, but they want him to go back to the minors in order to build his arm strength.
Making 12 starts with the Rockies, going 5-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 74 strikeouts over 71.2 innings, Chacin clearly has major upside. Once he returns, he could be ready to become a full-time starter in the majors.
But for now, Chacin will have roughly three weeks to work on his stuff in the minors.
Then when it's time for the September call-ups, Chacin will get another opportunity to display his talents.
Hopefully with a different outcome.
Logan Morrison, New Orleans Zephyrs, 1B
MLB Parent Team: Florida Marlins
The Florida Marlins believe their future is now.
First it was right fielder Mike Stanton, who was promoted in June.
Now it's left fielder Logan Morrison, who was called up to replace Chris Coghlan, who went on the 15-day disabled list with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
Morrison, who made his home debut Tuesday night against Philadelphia, now joins fellow rookies Stanton and first baseman Gaby Sanchez in the starting lineup.
Although Morrison has struggled with the bat since being called up, he's proven that if he can stay on the field, he's going to hit.
He's hitting for average at Triple-A (.307), his on-base percentage is outstanding (.427), and his OPS is impressive (.914).
Belting only six home runs and recording 45 RBI in 238 at-bats, the power numbers are not great, but Morrison will only improve now that he's been given the chance to improve at the major league level.
Having gone 16-11 since July 1, this young Marlins teams might have one more playoff push in them, but if not, wait till next season.
The 2011 Marlins might be one of the best teams in the league, and if not, they will certainly be one of the most exciting teams to watch.
Cameron Maybin, New Orleans Zephyrs, OF
MLB Parent Team: Florida Marlins
With the young talent that is currently in the Marlins organization, including players such as Mike Stanton, Gaby Sanchez, and Chris Coghlan, to go along with superstars Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, the Marlins can be major contenders starting next season.
But for 23-year-old Cameron Maybin, he's hoping his future with the Marlins begins again on Sept. 1, 2010, when the rosters expand.
Dominating the minors but too inconsistent to be an everyday player in the majors, Maybin lost his starting job in 2009 and yet again this past season.
The up-and-down ride between the minors and the big leagues has been the story of his young career.
But after left fielder Chris Coghlan was injured, many wondered who would replace him in the outfield. The Marlins brass decided Logan Morrison and Emilio Bonifacio would take over in left field instead of promoting Maybin.
He has the talent to be a star in this league. It's only a matter of time until he puts it all together.
Allen Craig, Memphis Redbirds, OF
MLB Parent Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Goodbye Ryan Ludwick. Hello Allen Craig.
Since the St. Louis Cardinals traded Ludwick to the San Diego Padres, only Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus are the two certainties of a young and inexperienced Cardinals outfield with newly promoted John Jay patrolling right field.
Without Ludwick, the Cardinals have to rely on Jay, who since being called up has been nothing short of impressive, hitting three home runs and driving in 13 to go along with a .366 batting average in 123 at-bats.
But the chances are Jay is not going to sustain this type of performance till the end of the season and, similar to all rookies, will hit a rookie slump sometime in the near future.
Once that happens, there will be a glaring hole in the outfield, and the Cardinals will look towards Craig to fill the void.
But Craig might be called upon to play sooner than most people would have expected, as news broke that Cardinals third baseman David Freese injured his right ankle during a Double-A rehab assignment and will have surgery that will end his season.
So who will the Cardinals call upon to replace Freese?
The Cardinals could either keep Felipe Lopez as the everyday third baseman, add Ty Wigginton from the Baltimore Orioles, or allow Craig, who according to MLB scouts has a limited arm and range, to get a shot at third.
But with Craig never having played the position before, the Cardinals might be hesitant to place the rookie at third for the remainder of the season.
Craig was recalled by the Cardinals on Tuesday and, batting in the fifth spot in the lineup, recorded two hits and a RBI.
At Memphis this season, Craig was batting .322 to go along with 76 RBI in 77 games played. He will not only platoon in right field for the Cardinals with the left-handed hitting Jay, but come playoff time, Craig might be the Cardinals' starting right fielder.
Before Freese went down, all signs pointed towards Craig being promoted to fill out the Cardinals' bench once the rosters expand.
Now, he might just find himself in the midst of a September pennant race—an opportunity he will certainly seize.
Jesus Montero, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, C
MLB Parent Team: New York Yankees
The Yankees' future behind the plate lies in the hands of the Yankees' No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America, Jesus Montero.
Well, hopefully come Sept. 1, Montero will be able to display his talents in the majors.
Montero is dominating Triple-A, and although Francisco Cervelli is currently the Yankees' backup catcher, Montero can be a great addition when the Yankees expand their rosters.
In all likelihood, the Yankees will be the first team in the American League to clinch a playoff berth. Therefore, manager Joe Girardi will be able to rest Jorge Posada, allowing him to get healthy for the playoffs.
Since the acquisition of Lance Berkman, if Posada wants playing time, Girardi expects Posada to play every five out of seven days. But let's be realistic, as those appear to be unfair expectations for the 38-year-old, who has already spent some time on the disabled list during this season.
If Posada needs some time off, the Yankees can use call upon Montero to be the backup catcher. The Yankees do not need Montero's offense to make a push for the playoffs. They are doing fine without him, but Montero will allow Posada to rest, and maybe Girardi will even give him some at-bats at DH.
He may or may not have an impact on the field, but when Posada is leading the charge in the playoffs, Yankee fans will have Montero to thank for that.
Because it is the days off in September that are going to make the difference.
Brandon Laird, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, 3B
MLB Parent Team: New York Yankees
While playing for the Trenton Thunder in Double-A, Brandon Laird excelled at this level, belting 23 home runs with 90 RBI and recording an .878 OPS and a .291 batting average.
Since being promoted to Triple-A, in eight at-bats, Laird has six hits, two home runs, and four RBI, proving that he deserves to be part of the New York Yankees' September call-ups.
Although Laird will not be replacing Alex Rodriguez at third base, he'll get the chance to spend some time in the majors while being on a roster that is competing for a division title and is in the heat of an AL pennant race.
This will undoubtedly be an experience that not only can, but will go a long way for his career.
Zach Britton, Norfolk Tides, SP
MLB Parent Team: Baltimore Orioles
All signs are pointing towards Orioles pitching prospect Zach Britton being called up from Triple-A Norfolk come September.
Beginning the season with Double-A Bowie, where he went 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 15 games (14 starts), the 22-year-old lefty has posted a record of 1-1 with a 2.56 ERA since being promoted to Norfolk.
Drafted in the third round of the 2006 amateur draft, Britton will finally get perform on the major league level.
The time has come to see what he's really made of.
Josh Bell, Norfolk Tides, 3B
MLB Parent Team: Baltimore Orioles
After Baltimore traded Miguel Tejada to the San Diego Padres, Josh Bell got the early call-up from the Orioles and will now see regular playing time at the hot corner until the end of the season.
Having the reputation of being a free swinger, in 81 games played with Norfolk, Bell recorded 81 strikeouts in 78 games played.
Unfortunately for Bell, he has carried his strikeout problems with him to the majors, recording 10 strikeouts in 26 at-bats, and is hitting for both a .192 batting average and OBP.
With the hiring of new manager Buck Showalter, a new era of Orioles baseball is beginning, and Bell is hoping to be a part of it.
But if he continues to display this type of performance, he'll certainly continue his baseball career, but it will only be in the minors.
Mike Trout, Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, CF
MLB Parent Team: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Currently destroying the Midwest League for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, he has the talent, speed, and athleticism to make the jump from Single-A to the majors before the season ends.
But when he does get promoted, he will not be spending much time in Double and Triple-A, as a place on the Angels roster will be waiting for him next season.
Did you even watch the Futures Game?
It's certainly a long shot that he'll be in the majors this year, but there is no debating who the organization's best young player is.
His name is Mike Trout.
Martin Perez, Frisco RoughRiders, LHP
MLB Parent Team: Texas Rangers
According to ESPN's Keith Law, Rangers LHP Martin Perez is currently No. 5 on his list of top 25 prospects.
Despite needing to work on his control, Perez is a highly regarded prospect amongst other clubs and has been quite impressive in the minors.
Perez is 4-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for Double-A Frisco, including 86 strikeouts in 85 innings pitched.
Not only has Perez been compared to Johan Santana and Greg Maddux, but his fastball is regularly clocked at 92 MPH, and he throws an excellent sharp breaking curveball and a change-up.
Despite Perez' dreadful statistics, it sounds to me like the president of the Texas Rangers, Nolan Ryan, will be using Perez out of the bullpen sometime in the near future.
So at least on paper, Perez has the "stuff" to be a dominant pitcher on the next level.
Time will tell if his talents translate into success.
Chris Carter, Sacramento River Cats, 1B
MLB Parent Team: Oakland Athletics
Acquired by the A's in the Dan Haren trade, Chris Carter has demonstrated his power in the minors by belting 24 home runs and driving in 76 runs in 107 games played.
But according to MLB.com, A's general manager Billy Beane is still uncommitted about calling up Carter to the show.
Having the ability to generate extraordinary power to all fields, Carter, who is only 23 years old, may have already been called up by the A’s if not for his .251 batting average and 120 strikeouts.
Currently sitting eight games back of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, barring a miraculous final couple of months of the season, the A's will miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
But in a lineup where Kurt Suzuki leads the team with 12 home runs, Kevin Kouzmanoff leads the team with 54 RBI, and no player has compiled better than a .294 batting average, Carter may be called up before the end of August, as the A's are desperately seeking to add much needed power to a lackluster lineup.
Carter might just be that guy.
Michael Taylor, Sacramento River Cats, LF
MLB Parent Team: Oakland Athletics
Acquired from Philadelphia in the multi-team Cliff Lee-Roy Halladay deal, Michael Taylor is batting .318 in July with 21 RBI and 17 runs in 22 games for the Sacramento River Cats.
Taylor, who is one of Oakland's top prospects, was mentioned as a possibility to replace OF Ryan Sweeney, who was placed on the DL last week with a season-ending knee surgery, but the A's opted to sign Michael Choice instead.
Taylor is an excellent athlete with physical strength, has a strong throwing arm, and brings decent speed to the basepaths. He could certainly help ignite a powerless A's offense.
The A's should add him to their starting lineup starting in September. This would be the smart decision.
Kila Ka'aihue, Omaha Royals, 1B
MLB Parent Team: Kansas City Royals
With Royals first baseman Billy Butler manning the position, the Royals may have to find a new position for Kila Ka'aihue to play, but based on his performance in the minors, that shouldn't be too difficult.
Playing in Omaha, he batted .319 with a .463 on-base percentage in 2010 while belting 24 home runs on the season, as well as leading the team with 78 RBI.
This past weekend, the Royals placed relief pitcher Robinson Tejeda on the disabled list and recalled Ka’aihue, pointing towards a possible waivers trade of designated hitter Jose Guillen.
If so, Ka’aihue and current first baseman Billy Butler would split duties in the infield and at DH. If not, Ka’aihue will probably spend time in a pinch-hitting role for the remainder of the season.
At 26 years old, he’s entering his prime, and hopefully the Royals will find a place for him in the starting lineup, because with his talent on a "talentless" team, he deserves a spot in the starting lineup.
Aroldis Chapman, Louisville Bats, SP
MLB Parent Team: Cincinnati Reds
This past offseason, the Reds made major news by signing Aroldis Chapman, the free agent Cuban star, to a six-year contract worth $30.25 million.
It's no secret Chapman is a rare talent and has electric stuff, but he still needs to spend time in the minors, allowing him the opportunity to refine his game.
According to MLB scouts, Chapman's fastball has been clocked as high as 103 MPH (during the 2010 season in the minor leagues), but he usually stays in the mid to high 90s, to go along with an above average slider and an average change-up.
While in the minors, Chapman has shown lack of control issues and lack of a solid third pitch, noting that these issues could affect his ability to be a major league starter.
Despite reports in early June from Reds general manager Walt Jocketty that Chapman will not be called up, with his blazing fastball, Chapman can be a major addition to a Reds bullpen that has struggled during the 2010 regular season, pitching to a 3.97 ERA and holding opponents to only a .249 batting average.
When the New York Yankees called up Joba Chamberlain in 2007, they caught lightning in a bottle, as Chamberlain pitched to a 0.38 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP, and 34 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched.
Chapman might not be able to replicate Chamberlain's performance, but he can certainly help. He'll most likely be in the starting rotation when the 2011 season begins, but if he's able to perform down the stretch, it will not only do wonders for his confidence, but can also be a major asset for the Reds' chances of making the playoffs and playing meaningful baseball in October.
It's not often a rookie plays a major role in October.
Chapman will finally get the opportunity to do so.
Chuck Lofgren, Nashville Sounds, SP
MLB Parent Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Only 23 years old, Chuck Lofgren, who has struggled in the minors, going 7-5, may be called up by the Brewers in the next few weeks.
Since the starting pitching in Milwaukee has not done well in 2010, ranking near the bottom of the National League in ERA, opponents batting average, and wins, Lofgren has the ability to be a great addition to the rotation, and the bullpen too.
It's not like their season can get any worse.
Brendan Katin, Nashville Sounds, OF
MLB Parent Team: Milwaukee Brewers
Batting .255 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in Triple-A Nashville, the 26-year-old slugger is another prospect in the Brewers organization who should be called up in September.
What do the Brewers have to lose?
Haven't we heard that before?
Anthony Slama, Rochester Red Wings, RP
MLB Parent Team: Minnesota Twins
After optioning Alex Burnett to Triple-A Rochester on July 19, the Minnesota Twins recalled Anthony Slama to take his place in the bullpen.
After posting a 1.71 ERA in 43 appearances, including 17 saves for Rochester, Slama, who also recorded 33 strikeouts in 52.2 innings while holding opponents to a remarkable .164 batting average, will mostly be used as a middle reliever in the bullpen.
He might have gotten a chance at some save opportunities, but since acquiring closer Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals, the closer role for the Twins has been solidified.
The 26-year-old has struggled in four appearances this season, pitching to an 8.10 ERA and a 2.70 WHIP.
If he wants to remain in the majors, Slama must straighten himself out. Otherwise his stint with the Twins will soon be coming to an end.
Dustin Ackley, Tacoma Rainiers, 2B
MLB Parent Team: Seattle Mariners
Selected second overall in the 2009 MLB draft by the Mariners, Dustin Ackley is currently playing in Triple-A for the Tacoma Rainiers.
Although he is a natural outfielder, Ackley was forced to play first base his junior season at the University of North Carolina after having Tommy John surgery in August of 2008, and since then he's converted into a second baseman, his current position.
While playing in Tacoma, Ackley has been extremely impressive—not only hitting for average (.277), but with a .395 OBP (which would rank top five in the majors), Ackley has consistently found himself on base.
Despite lacking power and having decent speed, Ackley is a natural born hitter, with exceptional bat control and quick bat speed, displaying the ability to hit to all fields.
In all likelihood, Ackley will settle in as the No. 2 hitter behind Ichiro Suzuki in the Mariners’ lineup by early 2011, and he has the talent to become a future batting champion if he continues to progress.
Now it's only a matter of time until that happens.
Fernando Martinez, Buffalo Bisons, OF
MLB Parent Team: New York Mets
The 21-year-old outfielder put up an impressive .877 OPS over nearly 200 plate appearances in Triple-A last season, but as all Met fans would love to forget, Fernando Martinez struggled when he got his first taste of the majors, hitting an abysmal .172 with one home run and eight RBI in 100 plate appearances.
Although he struggled in 2009, and despite his struggles in Triple-A this season, the Mets should give Martinez another chance.
But what a difference a week makes, as Martinez has been on fire, going 9-for-18 with two doubles and two home runs over that time. So while Jason Bay is on the disabled list, instead of marching Jeff Francoeur out there every day, the Mets should start their prized prospect in left field.
He is not going to start next season if Carlos Beltran and Angel Pagan are still around, so now is the time.
Don't be surprised if once again the Mets make the wrong decision and keep Martinez in the minors for the remainder of the season, because as we've grown accustomed to seeing, the Mets organization just never does the right thing.
Ruben Tejada, Buffalo Bisons, SS
MLB Parent Team: New York Mets
All Mets fan will agree that although Tejada struggled at the plate, batting .212 with five RBI in 104 at-bats this season, he performed well in the field while filling in for the injured Luis Castillo and Jose Reyes.
He might not be better than Castillo, but he deserves to be playing over him, so come September, would you rather see Tejada or Castillo?
I'll let you be the judge.
John Lindsey, Albuquerque Isotopes, 1B
MLB Parent Team: Los Angeles Dodgers
Leading the Pacific Coast League with a .372 batting average, at the age of 33, John Lindsey has been a journeyman his entire baseball career.
From signing a minor league contract with the Florida Marlins in January of 2009 to being assigned to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes to start the 2010 season, it would be nice to see Lindsey get a shot at the majors.
He might not be talented enough to play in the bigs, but it would undoubtedly be a feel-good story, and sometimes those are the best ones.
Currently nine games back in the NL West division, it appears the Dodgers are falling out of the NL West race.
Let's hope manager Joe Torre gives Lindsey a shot.
It would be great to see.