MLB September Call-Ups Who Can Shake Up the Playoff Picture
This MLB season has produced a youth infusion unlike any other in recent memory, with almost every team calling up their top prospects and watching them make an immediate impact.
While studs like Kris Bryant, Miguel Sano, Carlos Correa and Noah Syndergaard have already broken through to the big leagues, more prospects will find their ways in the majors when rosters expand. Many September call-ups will have the opportunity to influence the playoff races in each respective league and make a positive first impression moving forward.
This article does not include any players returning from an injury, such as Toronto's Marcus Stroman or New York's Steven Matz, though their returns will be huge for each ballclub. Rather, it focuses solely on minor league players who have been called up recently or are expected to be called up in the coming days.
Here are the top 15 players who can make an impact on the playoff picture.
15. Kevin Plawecki, New York Mets
Catcher Kevin Plawecki struggled in his first stint in the major leagues, hitting .228 in 62 games. He's shown the ability to be a good bat, however, as he batted .309 with 64 RBI last season across Double and Triple-A.
With Adam Rubin of ESPN reporting that Plawecki has been called up, he can make an impact as a reserve to catcher Travis d'Arnaud.
While everyone knows d'Arnaud is the better catcher, he has struggled with injuries throughout his career. The 26-year-old has been limited to just 40 games this season due to various stints on the DL.
Since the Mets have built a comfortable 5.5-game lead over the Nationals in the NL East, Plawecki can fill in more often for d'Arnaud so he is fresh and healthy for the playoffs.
Keeping d'Arnaud off the disabled list heading into the postseason should be one of the Mets' greatest concerns, as he has 30 RBI in just 40 games and makes their lineup much more potent. Plawecki hasn't proven that he can be a reliable hitter in the big leagues thus far, but he has potential and can serve a key purpose in September.
14. Marco Gonzales, St. Louis Cardinals
Brian Walton of Scout.com envisions a September call-up for left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales.
Gonzales pitched 10 games with the Cardinals last season, though he was much more effective as a reliever. He held opponents to a .133 average in five bullpen appearances in 2014 and could be a weapon for the Cardinals pen this season as well.
Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness have appeared in a league-high 65 games thus far and could use a break. Randy Choate's 63 appearances aren't far behind, either.
The Cardinals' youth infusion truly never stops, as talented prospects from all positions wind up helping the big league club in one way or another.
Gonzales, the talented lefty, appears set to make an impact in September. He can provide much-needed rest for the other Cardinals relievers, as the team currently boasts the best record in baseball at 84-46.
13. Sean Newcomb, Los Angeles Angels
Calling up top pitching prospects has worked for the Mets and could help the struggling Angels in September.
After all, they've seen the type of impact a young arm can have, as they've watched Andrew Heaney go 5-2 for them in 12 starts this season.
Twenty-two-year-old Sean Newcomb is the Angels' top prospect according to MLB.com, and he has dominated in all three of his minor league stops in 2015. He's a combined 9-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 131 innings.
With the Angels now trailing the second wild card spot by 3.5 games, why hold Newcomb back?
Although he has never pitched higher than Double-A, he could be the type of infusion needed to spark a run in the Halos. They've recently hit a wall, so taking a bold chance like this could pay big dividends if it allows them to make the postseason.
There's always concern about the number of innings a young pitcher tosses due to the fear of Tommy John surgery. But I'm of the mindset that you should go for a championship whenever you get the chance, because you never know when the opportunity will arise again.
Remember when the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg in 2012? They had a legitimate chance to win the World Series and blew it. If the Angels think Newcomb can help this season, call him up.
12. Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins
Despite the solid season of Eduardo Escobar, Fox Sports North is reporting that shortstop Jorge Polanco is the most likely candidate to be called up by the Twins.
Polanco has played four games with the big league club this season but may see an expanded role moving forward. He has hit .286 with 50 RBI and 18 steals in the minors this year.
The speed element would certainly help the Twins, who struggle to swipe bases.
While Escobar had arguably the best month of his season in August, he has just two steals on the year. As a team, Minnesota ranks No. 22 in baseball with just 57 steals.
The Twins are also No. 29 in on-base percentage, and Escobar has just a .301 OBP.
Since he can upgrade their lineup in two different categories, Polanco is worth a shot. He may be a difference-maker for the Twins in their pursuit of the Rangers for the second wild card in the American League.
11. Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals
Rant Sports' Bryan Zarpentine suspects that Tanner Roark may find himself in the Nationals starting rotation if Joe Ross hits his innings limit this season.
Ross is currently at a combined 142.2 IP, which isn't a monumental increase from his 2014 total of 121.2. Still, if the Nationals want to be cautious, Roark has proven that he can be a reliable option in the rotation.
Although his stuff isn't flashy and he isn't necessarily an "exciting" pitcher, Roark won 15 games for the Nats last season, finishing second on the team. His 2.85 ERA was more than respectable, and he proved that if called upon, he could pitch well enough to keep his team in the game.
While the Nationals initially believed they were putting together a dream starting rotation for 2015, things haven't exactly panned out that way. They now trail the Mets by 5.5 games in the NL East and could need reinforcements in the rotation at some point during the rest of the season.
10. Eric Young Jr., New York Mets
Eric Young Jr., who was recently re-acquired for cash, has been named as a September call-up, per Adam Rubin of ESPN.
On a team that suddenly has depth at all positions, Young provides the only thing lacking from the current roster: speed.
The Mets are No. 27 in stolen bases and their team-leader is Curtis Granderson with 11. He's the only player on the team with double-digit steals.
Due to their depth, Young will likely be used as a pinch runner late in games. Still, he has the ability to wreak havoc on the base paths, as evidenced by his 68 steals in 191 games as a member of the Mets from 2013 to 2014. He'll be able to create runs in later innings for a Mets offense that is suddenly explosive.
The Royals proved last season just how lethal the speed factor can be, playing small ball and manufacturing runs with their legs. The Mets, though they can put up crooked numbers as well, can steal a page from their playbook and become more versatile on offense.
9. Josh Fields, Houston Astros
A 30-year-old September call-up may not be the sexiest move, but Josh Fields can certainly help the Astros down the stretch.
With Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reporting that he is expected to be called up, it's important to remember that Fields has pitched to a 2.20 ERA this season. Additionally, he has not given up a run in his last 13 appearances.
Fields, who had a career 4.66 ERA prior to this season, has been a revelation for the Astros this year. He's been a true contributor to their 2.70 bullpen ERA, which ranks No. 2 in the AL and No. 4 in baseball.
He'll provide an already-solid bullpen with another reliable arm, providing better reinforcements behind their starting rotation.
8. Chris Heston, San Francisco Giants
Chris Heston has been recalled to take the place of the injured Matt Cain in the Giants starting rotation.
He's thrown the second-most innings—149.1—of any rookie in baseball this season and was one of the more consistent starting pitchers on the Giants before being sent down. The highlight of his season was his no-hitter against the Mets on June 9.
“I just got out of the zone,” Heston said of his struggles before demotion, according to John Shea of SFgate.com. “I wasn’t throwing strikes. It’s not my game. My game is to have them put the ball in play and let the defense make plays for me.”
Heston, whose 11 wins are second on the team, can provide some reliable innings for the Giants in September. With Mike Leake back from injury and Tim Hudson on the way, perhaps the Giants can pitch well enough on a consistent basis to allow them to make a run for a wild card.
7. Jett Bandy, Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have lost eight of their last 10 games and appear to be falling out of the wild card race. There's still plenty of time to make up lost ground, but they're going to need to start hitting better in order to string together wins.
Enter Jett Bandy.
Bandy is hitting .291 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI in 86 games for Triple-A Salt Lake. He would be an instant upgrade behind the dish, replacing struggling catchers Chris Ianetta and Carlos Perez.
The Mike Trout and Albert Pujols show could only go on for so long without some other contributors, and Bandy's arrival could help give the offense a boost.
With the catcher position as a glaring need, why not try to build from within over the final month of the season? Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Angels scored three runs or fewer in 19 of 28 games in August.
6. Rob Refsnyder, New York Yankees
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman foreshadowed some big changes to the Yankees roster in the coming days.
"I hate to say it, but I'm not going to care about Scranton," Cashman said, according to Lou DiPietro of YES Network. "I'm going to care about New York. I'm not bringing anybody unless they can help New York, period, but if there's somebody down there we think can help, they're coming."
Second baseman Rob Refsnyder can certainly help New York, which continuously rolls out Stephen Drew and his meager .201 batting average. While Drew's glove is above average, the Yankees need an offensive upgrade at the position, despite his 16 home runs.
Refsnyder appeared in only four games this season before being sent back down. He is a career .289 minor league hitter and boasts a .380 on-base percentage. Both areas would be upgrades at second base, a position that has become an offensive liability on a nightly basis for the Yanks.
With New York trailing Toronto by 1.5 games in the division and not having a clear-cut ace for a wild card playoff, the Yankees desperately need to win the AL East to secure a postseason berth.
5. Carl Edwards Jr., Chicago Cubs
The Cubs may continue their youth movement and call up their top pitching prospect, Carl Edwards Jr.
"He’s put himself in position to do it. Even in short stints in the big leagues in spring training this year, he’s proven his stuff will play against these guys," Cubs VP Jason McLeod told Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
Edwards has been used primarily as a reliever this season and projects to be used in that same role if called up. He has a 2.87 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 53.1 innings in the minors in 2015.
A power righty arm out of the pen would be a huge addition for the Cubs, who have relied on veterans Rafael Soriano, Tommy Hunter and Jason Motte a bit too much this season.
Edwards would be yet another exciting young player for the north side to root for and could be the missing link that could propel the Cubs to their first World Series since 1908.
4. Radhames Liz, Pittsburgh Pirates
It seems as if there are numerous cases of starting pitchers finding great success in the bullpen, such as Wade Davis and Zach Britton. There are fewer cases of the opposite being true.
Radhames Liz, however, has been far more dominant after being converted to a starter.
In 10 games as a starter with Triple-A Indianapolis, Liz has a 1.67 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. He has also given up only 36 hits, making his stuff appear to be far more dominant since his conversion.
Although the Pirates are anchored by Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano at the front end of the rotation, there are some question marks about the rest of the starters. A.J. Burnett is currently on the DL and both Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton sport ERAs above four.
Liz would be a solid addition to the rotation for the Pirates, who have a large cushion in the wild card but trail the Cardinals by 4.5 games in the NL Central.
3. Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins
Fox Sports had pitcher Jose Berrios in the mix for a spot start a few weeks ago, so a September call-up certainly makes sense.
Although the Twins have struck gold with prospect Miguel Sano and have another blue-chip hitter in Byron Buxton, their starting pitching has mostly been composed of reclamation projects. Starters Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey fit into that category, while Ervin Santana is also a well-traveled veteran.
Jose Berrios could change all of that.
Berrios could be a sign of a future in which the Twins pitching isn't too far behind their impressive lineup. He could also be the type of call-up who can lead the Twins on a run that gets them into the postseason.
The 21-year-old is 12-5 with a 2.95 ERA in the minors this year and should translate well to Target Field, as he has swing-and-miss stuff, as evidenced by his 165 strikeouts. He's even been more impressive in Triple-A this season, showing that he's ready for the next level.
The Twins are just 1.5 games behind for the second wild card spot and should take a chance with Berrios in September.
2. Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
With all of the Cubs' great young stars, many people have casually forgotten about Javier Baez. They'll quickly remember him soon, since manager Joe Maddon seems to have lofty plans for him in September.
“There’s a lot of things he can do to help you win right now,” Maddon said, per Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago.
Baez hit just .169 as a 21-year-old call-up last season and struck out an obscene number of times. The addition of Addison Russell at last year's trade deadline and his emergence as a starter this season have put Baez on the back burner, so to speak.
Still, he has a lot of potential and can help the current Cubs team right now.
Baez has hit .328 in the minors this season and has driven in 62 runs in 74 games. He also has 15 or more steals in four consecutive minor league seasons, displaying his ability to swipe a bag.
The poor play of Starlin Castro, who has fallen out of both favor and the lineup, has created an opportunity for Baez to avenge himself from last season's struggles. He can show everyone why he was hyped as a prospect and give the Cubs something else to look forward to next season.
My gut tells me that Baez will play well in September and help the Cubs win games. They're having that type of season, and he has a lot on the line.
1. Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has said that the thought of Corey Seager being called up has "gone through" his head, according to Bleacher Report columnist Anthony Witrado.
It's actually stunning that Seager hasn't been called up yet, as he appears to be one of baseball's best young prospects and could have helped the Dodgers this season.
Rated the No. 5 prospect prior to this season by Baseball America, Seager has hit .292 with 18 HR and 71 RBI this season in the minors.
He would have been an immediate upgrade to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who has struggled mightily in his lone season in Los Angeles. Seager has actually played 14 games at third base for Triple-A and could potentially fill in at the hot corner if called up.
With Rollins underperforming and Justin Turner hitting .154 in August since returning from the disabled list, a Seager call-up makes perfect sense. He can play both positions on the left side of the infield and give the Dodgers some much-needed offense.
Although the Dodgers have a 3.5 game lead in the NL West, they would currently be on the outside of the wild card picture. The Giants can't be counted out until they're officially eliminated, meaning the Dodgers still have to play at a high level until they clinch.
Without much wiggle room, the Dodgers should make the overdue call-up of Seager official. He can provide instant offense and ensure the Dodgers make the postseason for the third consecutive season.