Philip Humber and Notable Impact Players Returning to MLB Contenders
September 1 is among the most important dates on the MLB calendar. Always falling with only weeks remaining in the regular season, it allows teams to expand their big league rosters from 25 to 40.
All franchises call-up promising prospects whose minor league seasons have ended to determine whether they have a chance at making next year's "Top 25."
Unique to winning teams, however, is the activation of injured regulars. Those who have fallen out of contention are more inclined to shut down hurting players for September because frankly, they aren't playing for much. But the roster expansion is very convenient for the competitors who can bring proven players back into the fold while retaining the reserves as well.
There are merely 13 clubs with a chance to play into October this season (all others are 8+ games out of one of the eight spots), and those getting reinforcements certainly have an advantage. These are the notable additions since the month began.
Geoff Blum (UTIL): Arizona Diamondbacks
In this photo, we see Geoff Blum in his Spring Training get-up because sadly, the majority of his 2011 at-bats came in March.
Blum's 13th Major League season has easily been the most frustrating of his career. He injured his right knee during an exhibition game, and while working his way through rehab in mid-April, he suffered a setback that required surgery. The 37-year-old joined the D-backs immediately after the All-Star break, but then a break of another nature forced him back on the DL. A fractured pinky finger shelved him in August and now Blum has returned to the desert yet again.
The NL West leaders feature a young batting order that includes terrific 20-somethings like Miguel Montero, Ryan Roberts, Justin Upton and Chris Young.
Blum won't be a regular considering his career-long troubles against lefties. Nonetheless, he'll add to the well-seasoned bench--Henry Blanco, Lyle Overbay and John McDonald--which I believe will be another strength for these surprise contenders.
Carlos Guillen (2B): Detroit Tigers
Guillen is healthy, too, but clearly in decline.
Although a key contributor to the Tigers' World Series run in 2006, his OPS has dropped for the fifth consecutive season. His range in the field has also suffered, necessitating a move from shortstop.
Nonetheless, Guillen is an important addition for Detroit. Even if it hasn't showed in the numbers, he has more power left than Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago, Wil Rhymes, or any other option they have at 2nd base.
I believe that his presence makes the Tigers' lineup slightly more potent than Chicago's.
Carlos Gomez (CF): Milwaukee Brewers
Gomez returns to the 1st place Brewers to add some much-needed outfield depth. While you can't ignore the fact that Milwaukee has taken off with Nyjer Morgan starting every day, centerfield is best handled as a platoon between the two.
Both have their strengths: Morgan is a great contact hitter, aggressive baserunner and interesting personality; Gomez has more power, especially against lefties, and provides equivalent baserunning and cleaner defense.
The National League style of play will give Gomez the opportunity to finish games that Morgan started, or at least affect the offense in the later innings as a pinch-hitter/pinch-runner.
Adrian Beltre (3B): Texas Rangers
The Rangers' 3rd baseman missed nearly six weeks with a hamstring strain. Although he hasn't been in 2010 form since joining Texas this season, Beltre has still done a lot damage at the plate. His return will bolster a line-up that was already very deep #1 - #9!
Beltre's value is best measured by his consistency. His splits reveal no weaknesses: left/right, day/night, April/May/June/July, the stats are the same.
The Los Angeles Angels have stuck around in the AL West and they have head-to-head meetings with Texas later this month. Beltre can help the Rangers pull away.
Kevin Youkilis (3B): Boston Red Sox
Youkilis plays a similar role in Boston.
Like Beltre, he lengthens his team's lineup. Although his batting average and OPS are among the lowest of his career, Youk still shows great patience at the plate and reliable hands at 3rd.
His swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park and he was sorely missed during the Yankee series earlier this week (Boston lost two of three). Expect Youkilis to be a big contributor when the Red Sox play a 10-game homestand in mid-September.
Philip Humber (RHP): Chicago White Sox
Humber went on the DL after being struck above the eye by a line drive. His return comes at an opportune time, as the White Sox wrap up a series against the division-leading Tigers on Sunday, and match up with them again later this month.
Judging by his 2nd half struggles--winless since July 2--some fans are surely skeptical that he improves the starting rotation. However, Humber is far preferable to Zach Stewart, who got beat up in his last two outings.
It's important for Humber to continue throwing strikes as he has all season, but to show more confidence in his fastball. A 90 mile per hour 4-seamer is enough to succeed provided that he locates it on the corners of the plate. There's no reason for him to fall in love with his off-speed stuff.
Entering 2011, Humber wasn't supposed to make such an impact, but his pitching down the stretch could potentially push Chicago to the top of the AL Central.