A pennant race in the MLB can be affected by guys you have never even heard of. We've seen it happen before, and I'm sure it will happen again this season.
Starting on September 1, teams all around the league will reward minor leaguers with the opportunity to help the team out on the big league level. The list may include young phenoms, former stars, and underdogs who never were supposed to make it. Any of these players can impact an entire pennant race.
Think back to 2002. In the thick of the Wild Card race, a fire-balling reliever and slap-hitting speedster by the names of Francisco Rodriguez and Chone Figgins helped the then-Anaheim Angels reach the playoffs and, evidently, win the World Series in seven games.
Or in 2008, when Tampa Bay called up David Price, who became a lights-out reliever en route to the Rays reaching the World Series.
Players with even minimal roles can impact the league in September. Who will be this year's unlikely heroes, helping teams win pennants and improving records? Let's find out.
OK, so I'm cheating a bit with this pick.
Sale, 21, was the first 2010 draft pick to reach the majors when the White Sox brought him up in early August.
In 11 relief appearances in the Minors, the 6'6", 175-pound southpaw had a 2.13 era with 19 strikeouts in only 10.1 innings pitched. He can become a reliable arm in a White Sox bullpen that has been shaky at times and cost the team games.
With one young phenom injured, Chris Sale can step in and become the replacement for the White Sox.
It isn't a guarantee that Braves first base prospect Freddie Freeman will be called up for September, but the team sure could use him in holding off the Phillies for the NL East pennant.
With Chipper Jones on the DL for the remainder of the season, Freeman could be a compliment to the power bat off the bench of Brooks Conrad.
Hitting .319 with 18 homers and 87 RBI at Triple-A Gwinnet, it would only make sense for the Braves to call up Freeman. He is very reliable with the glove, as well, and wouldn't hurt Atlanta in that regard if given a start from time-to-time.
With Kris Medlen on the DL, the Braves have a gap in their bullpen. While most September call ups couldn't immediately fill that role, Michael Dunn should be able to.
He has already been with the Atlanta this season, appearing in 11 games and not allowing a single run. Not many call ups have the track record of Dunn in either the majors or the minors.
His only problem comes in the form of walks; he has issued 11 in only 8.1 innings this season. Considering how the Braves will normally use him as a lefty specialist against only one or two hitters, he will need to cut these down in order to continue his success.
But considering how his walks have been down while with Gwinnet, it may not be as big of a problem as expected. The Braves will need him to record some big outs down the stretch.
Drafted in with the seventh overall selection in 2008 by the Reds, Yonder Alonso has definitely become ready for the bright lights of Great American Ballpark.
The Cuban prospect was drafted as a first baseman and played no other position through his first two seasons in the minors. Then when the organization realized that he had no chance behind a sweet-swinging Canadian, they tested him out in the outfield. In 17 games in left field with Triple-A Louisville this season, Alonso was errorless and even had two assists. That shouldn't be a worry for the Reds.
Alonso could see more time than most call ups on contending teams. Manager Dusty Baker could start him in the outfield against righties from time-to-time, trading off with Jim Edmonds in that category. He will also be a valuable pinch hitter for Cincinnati, who is currently a whole five games up on St. Louis in the NL Central.
On a team filled with first basemen (Huff, Posey, and Ishikawa), the Giants could use a solid third baseman who can man the outfield.
Guzman has appeared in 55 games at third and 38 as an outfielder this season. A call up of Guzman could give manager Bruce Bochy more freedom to use or save Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholtz, or either Juan Uribe or Edgar Renteria off the bench without having to worry about using them later. Guzman could even come through with a spot start on occasion.
In Triple-A Fresno, he is hitting .309/.365/.488 with 17 homers and 66 RBI. Those numbers easily translate to a fair amount of hits with the Giants, especially if he gets the playing time.
With the Giants 1.5 games behind of Philadelphia in the wild-card race, Guzman and fellow standout call ups could determine the outcome of the race.
Though his power numbers are down this season, the son of former Major Leaguer John Sr. can impact a game with any swing, and has shown the ability to do so.
On his first swing in the majors he crushed his first him and first home run off of Andy Pettitte. Since then he has been relegated to minor league duty, but we could see more of him this September.
With Ross Gload currently on the DL, Mayberry would step in and fill that bat off the bench for the Phightin's. Though he would not start very much, he could give the team an extra push toward October and their third consecutive NL pennant.
Currently Philadelphia sits at 73-57, two games behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves and is 1.5 games ahead of San Francisco in the wild-card standings.
After being unhittable in May and most of June, the Rangers prospect has lost his control and is struggling. Overall this season he has a 4.57 ERA, primarily as a reliever for Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The minor league season ends on September 6, and Scheppers would most likely not get called up until then or later, if even.
There are questions surrounding him, but a call up would do only good for the Rangers.
Listed as an honorable mention by ESPN.com blogger Jason Grey on his top 10 prospects to watch for the rest of the season, Scheppers would get to work with pitching coach Mike Maddux on his mechanics and delivery.
Not only that, but he would gain valuable Major League experience while with Texas.
And with the AL West seemingly locked up, he could help improve the Rangers' seeding while resting bullpen guys such as Neftali Feliz and Frank Francisco.
Albaladejo, who has appeared minimally in the Yankees bullpen this season, has flourished in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.
The closer with New York's Triple-A affiliate, Albaladejo holds a 1.42 ERA in 63.1 innings. Think that's impressive? Then I probably shouldn't mention his 43 saves or 82 strikeouts to only 18 walks.
And we all know how the Yankees can never use too much help in the bullpen.
Albaladejo should jump right into the mix, pitching in the sixth and seventh innings in close games or the eighth or ninth when winning by three or more.
If you want to talk about speed, this kid has plenty to burn. (Ron Washington: "Oooh, speed!?!")
In just 419 games in the minors, Jennings has accumulated 171 steals while only getting caught 33 times for an 84 percent success rate. And at Double-A and Triple-A combined last season, he hit .318, with 11 home runs and 52 RBI. He also has above average plate discipline, striking out in only 13 percent of his at-bats over his minor league career.
In other words, the Rays' outfield prospect can do it all.
We all know how much manager Joe Maddon likes to run with his Rays (they lead the league in stolen bases), and Desmond Jennings will add even further to the team speed that already has the likes of Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Ben Zobrist, and Evan Longoria.
Late in games, Jennings could be one of the most valuable call ups to any contender. With all of his tools, Tampa could use him in any scenario.
And in case you couldn't tell, I really like that picture.
News has now been released that Cincinnati top prospect Aroldis Chapman will be called up on Tuesday. The move will take place before September so that he is available for the Reds postseason roster.
We may even see his exciting MLB debut in the upcoming series with the Brewers.
In 95.2 innings with the Triple-A Louisville Bats, the young Cuban star has an incredible 125 strikeouts. His fastball was clocked at 105 mph this weekend (though I'm not completely sold on that story). He also has 9-6 record and 3.57 ERA to go along with his strikeouts.
He will primarily be used in middle relief and could become the David Price of the group.
The fire-balling lefty would pose quite a threat out of the bullpen in October. How would you like to face a guy who can throw 100 mph for two innings in the middle to late innings? Exactly.
And if the Reds need a spot starter just in case, Chapman's your man.