It's that time of year again in Major League Baseball. Rosters expand from 25 men to 40 on September 1, and with that comes numerous September call-ups as teams who are out of contention look for chances to give young guys some experience, and those who are in contention try to fill some holes on their roster, usually in the bullpen.
The Yankees fall into the latter category, and here we'll look at five guys in their minor league system with a good chance to get called upon to join the big league club once rosters expand.
This is the name everyone expects to see on this list. He has been widely considered the Yankees top prospect for awhile now, and throughout the season, many fans have been clamoring for the Yanks to give Montero a shot.
Unfortunately, Montero didn't make it easy for himself. He got off to a hot start in April, but then went through a prolonged slump in May and June, batting just .254 over those two months and amassing only six homers through June. However, he turned it around in July, and has had an insane August, with eight homers and a triple-slash line of 318/.383/.635.
If Montero gets called up, he won't see time anywhere other than DH. His defense at catcher has always been suspect, and the Yankees have no reason to give him a start there when they have Russell Martin and Francisco Cervelli. They haven't gotten great production out of the DH slot as of late, with Andruw Jones, Jorge Posada, and Eric Chavez all seeing time there. Assuming none out of those three picks up their game any time soon, Montero could finally get his chance.
Before last year, Betances was a pitcher who had always struggled with his control, which is why the 2.32 BB/9 he posted over two levels in the minors in 2010 was such a surprise. While it looked like a possible sign of a turnaround in Dellin's command, his walk rate jumped back up to 4.7 BB/9 this year in AA, and since his call up to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre squad, it has ballooned even further to 7.31.
Still, Betances retains his elite strikeout ability. His K/9 sits at just above 10 for the season, and this gives him some potential as a reliever this season. Aside from David Robertson, who has been fantastic, the Yanks don't have any righties coming out of the pen who have put up great strikeout numbers this year. Perhaps they'll look past the shaky control and give Betances the chance to be that guy.
We admit, we're cheating a bit here. Noesi had been with the big league club until just a few days ago, when he was sent down to AAA in order to make room on the roster for Freddy Garcia.
Still, Noesi likely won't be down in the minors for long. He's been a serviceable reliever for the Yankees this season, posting a 2-0 record and a 3.42 ERA. While he is rarely used in high-tension situations — he has only two holds to his name — he does act as a guy who can come in to the game for an inning or two, when the Yanks are either up big or down big, in order to preserve the arms of the rest of the bullpen.
Maxwell, at age 27, is no longer much of a prospect. He spent five years in the Nationals system, including three separate stints in the majors; during those seasons, he never recorded a batting average higher than .269, and his career average of .201 puts him right at the Mendoza line. So why would the Yankees, who acquired Justin this offseason, decide to call him up?
Well, Maxwell is having by far the best season of his career at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this year. In just 48 games he has racked up 16 homers and 11 steals, and his OPS of .945 is over one hundred points higher than the one he posted for AAA Syracuse last year. Chris Dickerson, his likely competition for a call-up, is having a horrendous year in the minors, with two homers and an OPS of .676 over 56 games.
Given that the Yankees have a solid outfield in place, along with a good backup in Andruw Jones, Maxwell may struggle to get any real playing time if he is called up. He could see some time at DH, or also be used as a pinch runner due to his speed.
Whelan, who has been at AAA for the last three years, is having a career season. He has served as Scranton/W-B's closer this season, and has compiled 23 saves to go along with a sparkling ERA of 1.93 and a strikeout rate just a smidge under a batter per inning (8.94 per 9). Although he has had some control problems in the past (4.5 BB/9 last year) Whelan appears to have figured it out this year, posting a K/BB of 4.08, which is far and away a career best.
Because he has been used exclusively as a reliever for the entire season, he seems like the ideal call-up.