Major League Baseball rosters expand on September 1, enabling teams to carry up to 40 players, provided they are on the 40-man roster. If you’re rusty on the mechanics of the 40-man and protecting players from the winter Rule V Draft, check out this mlb.com summary. In terms of guessing at what Arizona might do this year, the main consideration has to do with whether the team must protect some if its minor league prospects this winter – guys like Archie Bradley haven’t been professionals long enough to require a 40-man spot to keep them out of the Rule V.
But there are plenty of options. After David Holmberg’s recent callup, he’s on the 40-man, but players like Daniel Hudson do not occupy a spot because they are on the 60-day DL. Arizona currently has all 40 roster spots filled, including 22 pitchers, 3 catchers, 8 infielders and 7 outfielders. Cody Ross could easily be moved to the 60-day DL to create another spot (as could Matt Reynolds), but let’s first look at the other 14 players who have 40-man spots without being on the current active 25-man.
All stats below were current as of the morning of August 28. Also note that because Reno plays its final regular-season game on September 2, we might get a couple of promotions shortly thereafter, rather than on the morning of the first.
David Hernandez is the likeliest of this group to see his way back to Chase the moment rosters expand. Since getting optioned to Reno, Hernandez has appeared in six games, pitching 6.2 innings and letting up only 2 hits with zero runs allowed. Control and (especially) command were the reasons Hernandez was temporarily removed from the roster, and it’s not clear that those issues have been ameliorated to any degree; he’s walked five with Reno, for a 6.45 BB/9 (as compared to the 3.72 BB/9 he posted with Arizona this year). Small sample size and I haven’t seen him pitch for Reno, but if the Dbacks don’t want to put him in game situations, he can do bullpens with the big league coaches (and mop up some extra innings if the opportunity arises).
Tony Sipp is another likely addition. Like Hernandez, Sipp has not given up a run with Reno. Also like Hernandez, Sipp has walked more than you’d prefer, even though Sipp has looked better (4 BB/9, as compared to a 4.96 BB/9 with Arizona). The strikeouts are there (9 K in 9 innings), and Sipp could probably also benefit from big league support.
Zeke Spruill ranks next on the likelihood list for me. If not for his start on Monday for Reno, it might have been Spruill, rather than Holmberg, to have made the start yesterday. But the Cahill-in-relief situation was known on Sunday morning, and Spruill wasn’t held out of his start – and at any rate, his Monday performance did not inspire (2.2 IP, 9 ER on 10 H and 3 BB). The knock on Spruill has been that he has only two average-or-better pitches, so I could see Arizona using September to try to answer the question of whether Spruill would be an asset for the major league club in relief. One big question that affects the callup possibility and role of Spruill and the two guys next on the list is whether Arizona would consider using a six-man rotation in September — that was the word late last night. If the Dbacks fall farther out of the playoff chase, that could be an easy decision in light of Patrick Corbin’s innings total.
David Holmberg is also a strong possibility, now that he’s on the 40-man — but he was optioned back to Mobile, rather than to Reno, and with the Dbacks AA team making a playoff run, the organization could choose to keep him there for the sake of his own development. What he would add to the active roster is also a worthy question; Holmberg only pitched past the fifth inning in AA for 2 of his last 7 starts, and lasted 3.2 with the big club on Tuesday (80 pitches). So if Holmberg gets called back up, I wouldn’t expect him to displace anyone in the starting rotation – he could be a sixth starter, but my guess is that he’ll become the new long man in the bullpen, freeing up Josh Collmenter for higher-leverage appearances.
Tyler Skaggs could also get called up for the sixth time this season. He didn’t pitch in his last stint on the active roster, but since his last major league appearance, Skaggs has had rocky results: 13 ER in 22.2 IP for a 5.16 ERA, walking 9 and letting up 29 hits. If Holmberg doesn’t act as a long man in September, we could get Skaggs in that role. If the radar gun is any guide, Skaggs is showing serious signs of fatigue – but to work up his stamina from next year, Arizona may want to get him more innings. Skaggs threw 151.2 total innings in 2012, and has followed that up with only 143 innings so far this year. I would think that the team would want to get him to a platform of 170 or so, if possible, to position him for a full year of major league starts next year. It would be easiest to get Skaggs up to that level if he were part of a six-man rotation. Still, if the team is in contention through most or all of September, I’d like to see Arizona use him as a temporary short reliever. The velocity isn’t there on his fastball, but that extraordinary curveball could still be hell for batters late in games.
If Joe Paterson is not up with the team in September, I’m going to wonder what the organization knows that I don’t. Unlike the other guys on this list, Paterson has been pitching almost exclusively out of the bullpen for Reno, and he would seem to be a more reliable LHP option for the Dbacks than Tony Sipp. Paterson last pitched more than 6 games in a major league season when he was a rookie in 2011, when he tallied 34 innings in 62 appearances to the tune of a 2.91 ERA. Yes, his brief time with the club last year was terrible (11 ER in 2.2 IP). But at Reno, his success this year really stands out (2.19 ERA in 45 games, 49.1 IP). Paterson may be a guy that the organization keeps with Reno until the AAA season concludes, but you’d think we’d see him at some point this September.
Chase Anderson is on the 40-man due to Rule V considerations, because he was older than 18 when he signed and last season (his first and only at Mobile) was his fourth as a pro. It seems likely that he won’t make the cut this time around, because although his season at Mobile looked good (21 starts, 104 IP, 2.86 ERA), his season at Reno has not (25 games, 13 starts; 85.1 IP, 5.91 ERA). Last offseason, Baseball America considered Anderson’s changeup to be the best in the organization, but one plus pitch does not a successful pro pitcher make. I can’t see Arizona calling up Anderson.
Charles Brewer also got protected last winter with a 40-man slot, but despite a decent showing with Arizona earlier this year (6 IP, 2 ER), he’s probably just an organizational arm for the Dbacks now. He’s now pitched more than 130 innings for Reno for the second season in a row, but has only reduced his 5.99 ERA from 2012 to 5.09 in 2013. Like Anderson, it’s fairly likely that Brewer will get left unprotected this winter.
That just leaves the injury guys, but there isn’t much to say. J.J. Putz will be activated as soon as he’s fully healed from the finger dislocation, and if Matt Reynolds can throw, he’ll probably throw. As recently as August 19, Kirk Gibson said that there was a chance that Reynolds would pitch for Arizona by season’s end. The decisions on both injured pitchers will be made independently of any other considerations, I would think.
There’s really no reason to promote Keon Broxton, who has spent the year at AA after moving slowly through the system (3 years split between Low A South Bend and High A Visalia). He’s been ranked “best athlete” in the Arizona system three years running by Baseball America, but he doesn’t have anything to offer the club right now. Broxton isn’t much of a base stealer (just 5 this year, although he has 86 total in the minors), and Tony Campana offers the team anything Broxton offers, except that Campana can hit a little (Broxton is hitting .221 at Mobile). Broxton will probably be left unprotected this winter.
But if Broxton isn’t coming up, what about the only other outfielder on the 40-man still in the minors, Alfredo Marte? Marte spent time in the bigs earlier this year, with 47 PAs in 22 games. Although Marte only managed a .186 average in the majors, he’s had a .272 BA at Reno this year. Marte spent a year and a half with Visalia, hitting .299 in a half-season stint in 2011. Once promoted to Mobile, he scuffled a bit, but managed a .294 average there last year. Marte has slowly clawed his way into future consideration, but I still don’t see what Marte offers the club in September, and it’s worth noting that Reno needs Marte at least until the 2nd (they have three outfielders on the roster right now). Like Broxton, Marte has not been a base-stealer this year. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Marte called up, but due to the versatility of Martin Prado, it’s the next guy below who may function as the extra outfielder.
Davidson is the only infielder on the 40-man but not on the 25-man right now. He’s likely to get only sporadic at bats for the duration of the season, but there’s no reason not to have him on the squad with the AAA season winding down. Davidson will be back.
And last but not least, you can take this one to the bank: Tuffy will be back once rosters expand. His defense was excellent in his MLB stint, and he’s on the 40-man anyway. Flexibility is what expanded rosters are all about on contending teams, and Wil Nieves could get used in more pinch-hitting situations with Tuffy available to spell Miguel Montero. Whether or not Tuffy will be on the 40-man by the time the winter meetings roll around is an entirely different question, of course…
Players not currently on the 40-man
As indicated above, the Diamondbacks have a full 40-man but could free up one or two spots relatively easily. Archie Bradley is the popular choice, but the merits of calling him up are extremely debatable, because he doesn’t need to be on the 40-man to be protected this winter, and because he may be nearing an innings threshold. After 136 innings in his first full pro season last year (South Bend), Bradley now has 147. Bradley’s stock skyrocketed this year because of progress in addressing control issues that were his primary limitation, but control issues have reared their head again lately. Before Bradley’s outstanding August 2 start (9 IP, 1 BB), Bradley had a 7 walk game to finish off July – and in his last three starts (15.1 IP), he’s walked 14. The short outings of late are due to pitch counts, rather than innings, so his total of 147 seems lower than it should be in terms of gauging when Arizona may shut him down. There’s probably only time for one more start for Bradley this season with Mobile (possibly Friday), but my guess is that he’ll just be shut down.
But Bradley isn’t the only possibility. The most interesting debate is probably whether to promote Chris Owings, who is not on the 40-man roster but who will need to be by November to be spared Rule V exposure. I’m not as optimistic on Owings as most, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Owings would get plucked this winter if left exposed. As with Davidson, Owings would probably get only sporadic at bats this September, unless Arizona falls out of playoff contention. In the short term, I do believe Arizona is committed to Didi Gregorius, and Cliff Pennington will probably soak up most of the other SS at bats. But there may be a “why not” reason to promote Owings, as the organization is unlikely to care too much about his service clock (and he could still start next season at Reno). At the same time, there’s some feeling that maybe Owings is playing over his head – and if GM Kevin Towers is considering a trade, Owings could do little to help but more than a little to damage his value as an asset. I could see this going either way, but if Aaron Hill’s groin barks at him again or if there’s another injury in the infield, I would bet on Owings getting a spot.
Earlier this season I thought that Anthony Meo would be an intriguing relief possibility for September, but he’s only struggled more since getting demoted from Mobile to Visalia to transition to relief work. At any rate, Meo is sheltered from the Rule V Draft for another year. The fringe possibility I’d most like to see is Andrew Chafin, who could be a very important part of the major league bullpen by this point next year – but all of his appearances in the minors have been as a starter, and he’s already jumped more than 30 innings from last year’s total (122.1 IP) to this year (152.1 IP). More telling is that Chafin is slated to join the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League.
Last off the wall thought: Juan Rivera is toiling away at Reno, and if the organization wants to burn a 40-man spot on another outfielder temporarily, he’s definitely an option. Rivera, 35, spent 2011 and 2012 with the Dodgers, playing about half time and hitting enough to justify a bench spot. He’s taken advantage of the hitter-friendly PCL this season, with a .311/.355/.449 line – and he could provide some punch if needed. Maybe he has some unfinished business with LA that the Diamondbacks can help him with?
The Diamondbacks have a lot of depth they could call on with expanded rosters in September, but the vast majority of that depth is one or two ticks below what you’d want to rely on regularly. There are some obvious pitching options, but nothing too tricky on the position player side – and the options that aren’t sure things don’t have too much upside (especially if you count Bradley out).
Arizona made liberal use of the expanded roster last September, activating three guys (Bloomquist, Collmenter, Takashi Saito) and calling up two others (Konrad Schmidt, Tyler Graham) on the first of that month. Adam Eaton was called up shortly thereafter, with Mike Jacobs and A.J. Pollock joining the team later in the month. The team won’t be shy about adding several guys as soon as practicable.
My guess: within two days of September 1, we’ll see Hernandez, Sipp, Spruill, Skaggs, and Paterson added, with all of those guys likely to play out the string through the end of September except for Skaggs (who could get shut down early). Putz will join the team when he’s ready, and Holmberg also looks like a pretty good bet to join the roster, but maybe not until after Mobile exits the Southern League playoffs. Davidson and Gosewisch are the surest possibilities of all. Owings is the only puzzle, really, and I think it’s a coin flip that will involve the health of other infielders.
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