While the Blue Jays have one of the most stocked farm systems in all of baseball, don't expect them to make a splash when it comes to September call-ups. Most, if not all of Toronto's major league ready prospects are already in the show.
Twenty-four year old right fielder Eric Thames has been up since May, while pitchers Henderson Alvarez and Joel Carreno got the call in August. Same goes for third baseman Brett Lawrie, who has been on a tear since his promotion, and catcher Brian Jeroloman, who despite joining the team following the Hill and MacDonald for Johnson deal, has yet to see any game action.
Expect the initial group of Blue Jays September call-ups to include mainly players with at least some prior major league experience.
Even though prospects like Adeiny Hechavarria and newly crowned Eastern League MVP Travis d'Arnaud have been getting a tremendous amount of attention as of late, they'll be helping the organization in another way during the early part of September―the Blue Jays double-A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, have all but clinched a playoff spot and are expected to make a run at the league championship.
Alex Anthopoulos has previously stated that Hechavarria would benefit greatly from returning to AA following the completion of the AAA season in order to get a taste of post-season baseball.
For d'Arnaud, the Jays would be remiss to take the team's leader with the playoffs right around the corner. The latest possible date for the completion of the Eastern League playoffs is September 17.
That would leave only a week and a half of games for Hechavarria and d'Arnaud to get their first taste of the big leagues. Although unlikely, I wouldn't be surprised to see those two get a handful of at-bats over the season's final 10 games or so.
But until then, Toronto appears set to call up a quartet of players who have already seen the majors at some point in their careers. Among them are an impressive career turnaround, an amazing comeback story, a "can't miss prospect" who has been off-target this season, and a young player who has yet to prove that his gaudy AAA numbers can translate to the majors.
First up is Adam Loewen, a British Columbia native and former major league pitcher who, in 2008, began his transition to position player.
He signed with the Blue Jays in 2009 and has taken a rather traditional route back to the majors, playing a full season in each of single-, double- and triple-A. Each year, he's improved his BA, OBP, SLG, HR and RBI. In 128 games for AAA Las Vegas this year, he's hitting .305 with 63 extra-base hits.
He's not on the 40-man roster, but still deserves a look in September with outfielders Colby Rasmus and Rajai Davis still on the shelf. Loewen is out of minor league options and a productive September with the big club would go a long way to determine his future in the majors.
Next we have Dustin McGowan, another player who's out of options but is expected to make his return to the majors this September. Like Loewen, McGowan is not on the 40-man roster, so in order to see either of these players get the call, corresponding moves would have to be made.
After being drafted in the first round in 2000, McGowan made his major league debut five years later at the age of 23. He was a highly touted prospect, being ranked in the top-50 by Baseball America three times, reaching as high as 18th in 2004.
It took what felt like forever to Jays fans for McGowan to make the majors. He did so in 2005 and spent his first three seasons bouncing between the minors and the Jays, burning up his options.
He broke through in 2007, going 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA and 144 strikeouts and 61 walks in 169.2 innings. He was on his way to another impressive season in 2008 when he was sidelined in early June with a shoulder injury which would later require surgery.
Then in 2009, while on the cusp of making his return, he had surgery to repair articular cartilage damage in his knee. In 2010, it was more shoulder surgery.
Despite this, McGowan nor the Jays ever gave up and he's now scheduled to finally rejoin the rotation in September. Under control through 2012, McGowan, 29, could still pitch his way into the Jays long-term plans. After all that time spent under the knife, it's amazing McGowan is still in the picture.
Kyle Drabek is expected by many to make his return to the majors in September. If true, it's a bad move by the Jays. As terrible as Drabek was in Toronto this year (I went over Drabek's major league struggles here), he's been even worse in AAA.
In 14 starts with Las Vegas, Drabek has a 7.41 ERA, a WHIP of 2.11 and an even 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Eight times this season (between Las Vegas and Toronto), he has failed to pitch past the fourth inning. In his most recent AAA start on August 29, he lasted just three innings, giving up nine earned runs.
Those don't sound like the numbers of a pitcher who's ready for another crack at the show.
Toronto can't begin another season banking on Drabek being a contributing member of the rotation. He should, perhaps, suffer the same fate as the pitcher he was traded for: Roy Halladay.
In 2001, after 33 major league starts (57 appearances), Halladay was sent all the way down to single-A Dunedin to rebuild his delivery, and the rest is history.
While I'm not insinuating that such a demotion would transform Drabek into the next Doc, a demotion to a lower class could do wonders for the young right-hander.
With all the promising young pitching prospects in the organization, the Jays can afford to be patient with Drabek.
And finally, there's David Cooper. Cooper had a cup of coffee with the Jays very early in 2011. During his first taste of the big leagues, he hit .121 with two extra-base hits in 13 games (41 plate appearances).
Despite his poor showing, Cooper has hit well enough in Las Vegas to deserve a look in September. He leads the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in batting average (.371), on-base percentage (.440) and doubles (49).
Unfortunately for Cooper, he is blocked by Adam Lind. And Lind, despite his inconsistency, appears to be the Jays first baseman for the foreseeable future.
Cooper definitely deserves the call and should get a decent look at designated hitter. With the possibility of Edwin Encarnacion not returning and the struggles of Travis Snider, Cooper could play his way into a prominent role in 2012.
If his major league numbers don't improve much from his previous stint, he could forever be brandished as a "quadruple-A player"―someone who is too good for AAA but not quite good enough for the majors.