On Monday, September 1st, the regular rules for the Active List (the 25-man roster) are suspended in Major League Baseball. Any player on a team’s Reserve List (the 40-man) can be added to the Active List through the last game of the MLB season. In practice, it never happens that a full 40 players are on a team’s Active List during the month of September; there’s no reason to give service time (and pay a major league salary) to players who aren’t going to play, and players on the 15-day Disabled List still count against the 40-man Reserve List limit, even though players on the 60-day DL do not.
There are other considerations for not placing a player on the Active List in September. Most eligible or likely players would be coming from Triple-A and Double-A, and if either of those affiliates happen to be in their leagues’ playoffs, a team might determine that snatching a young player away from that atmosphere a week early to sit on a major league bench is not a good development move. Other players who would have to be added to the Reserve List to be added to the Active List might be kept off to avoid a 40-man roster crunch in advance of the Rule 5 draft in December.
As it turns out, the Reno Aces are on a 4-game winning streak and just 1 game back in the Pacific Northern Division of the PCL, chasing their Twitter rivals the Sacramento River Cats. What’s better, the Aces play their final series — a 5-game set — against those very River Cats. If the Aces win 4 or 5 of the games, they move on to the playoffs. If they win 2 or less, they’re out. And if they win exactly 3 games, unfortunately they’d also be out even though they’d finish the season tied with Sacramento; the River Cats currently lead the season series 7-4, and in the event of the Aces winning 3 games, the season series would finish at 9-7 in favor of the River Cats, breaking the tie. But hey, at least the Aces control their own destiny even if they end up haunted by their past.
With those things in mind, lets take a look at some September callup candidates.
OPTIONS FROM THE DISABLED LIST
By my count, there are currently 39 players on the 40-man actually taking up a spot (4 pitchers are on the 60-day DL). But the chances of a player being added to the 40-man for the first time in September are very slim, because it may be that only one player can get moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day (Bronson Arroyo).
Another reason: Hudson is one of two pitchers who may be taken off the 60-day DL during the month. Hudson is the most advanced of those two pitchers; after pitching 4 innings of a rookie-league game on August 5th, Hudson had three more 1-inning outings in the Arizona League (the 4-inning stint was pretty rocky, but the other outings were excellent). For all four of those appearances, Hudson entered the game as the starter to reduce uncertainty.
Now Hudson is with the aforementioned Aces, who have already seen him throw a perfect inning in relief. Hudson is being exposed to the regularly irregular schedule of a reliever with Reno, but as noted above, chances are there are only five games left for Reno to play, which probably means he’ll only get two more outings (he last pitched on Tuesday). We’re hearing that Hudson’s fastball is sticking at 93 and touching 95, that his changeup is also all the way back, and that his slider still needs some work. Obviously, command is an issue after a layoff of two years. But the D-backs have every reason to activate Hudson from the 60-day and give him a chance to pitch some major league innings in September, if only just to make more intelligent decisions in the offseason.
Reynolds is the other of the two 60-day DL guys that could see time in September. A reliever for his entire professional career, from 2007 to the present, Reynolds could go right up to the finish line with his rehab. Although he originally hit the DL in June of 2013, he and the D-backs originally tried to rehab the injury, and Reynolds did not have Tommy John until September 24 of last year. Having a reliever come back in less than 12 months is not unheard of, but it’s still the exception, not the rule. Reynolds only broke through from “okay” to “great” in 2013 as a result of superior command, and so getting extra reps would be a good thing. For that reason, the D-backs might keep a 40-man spot free for him, even if they wouldn’t use it for another few weeks at the earliest. It would also be tempting, however, to keep him on the 60-day DL in order to protect one extra player in advance of the Rule 5 draft. Activating Reynolds if he can be up with the club for 3 weeks would be a no-brainer; activating Reynolds just so he could make one token appearance would be brainless.
Unlike with the 60-day DL guys, who will count against the 40-man as soon as they’re activated, there’s really no decision to make in September about 15-day DL guys. Basically, whether they stay on the DL or not is completely irrelevant. But when A.J. “Action Jackson” Pollock is ready to join the team, he will; and Chris Owings should be coming soon after. Paul Goldschmidt has avoided surgery, but probably won’t be activated before the end of the season. A return is also probably not in the cards for Cody Ross.
OPTIONS FROM THE 40-MAN
As of this writing, there are players not on the Active List who are on the Reserve List and not on a major league DL: Mike Bolsinger, Charles Brewer, Andrew Chafin, Joe Paterson, Bo Schultz, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed, Brett Jackson, and Roger Kieschnick. All are easy options for the D-backs, since like the 15-day DL guys, moving them to the bigs won’t require a 40-man move.
Jackson hasn’t yet played in the majors this year, but after trading for him just two weeks ago, Tony La Russa and others might want to see how he does against big league pitching. Since hitting a bomb against his former Triple-A club on August 20th, Jackson hasn’t really gotten a chance to play; Pollock is taking the center field reps, and Jackson has been used mostly as a defensive replacement in right field. If Jackson is called up, he might face the same issue of losing out on playing time to Pollock. Still, there’s only one other outfielder who is an easy promote, and the D-backs could justify this move.
Kieschnick is that other outfielder, but unlike Brett Jackson, he’s already had some time on the Active Roster this season. If Jackson isn’t called up, Kieschnick definitely will be; there’s just no reason beyond some extra money to keep him out of the clubhouse, even if Pollock also squeezes the outfield rotation. There’s no compelling reason to get Kieschnick more playing time. But that just makes him a luxury for Kirk Gibson; he’d be there for extra depth, but it would also be totally fine Gibson didn’t find him any playing time at all. Kieschnick is little more than an extra guy and probably won’t be on the 40-man by the November deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft.
Again, even with Owings likely to get playing time in September, there’s little reason to keep Ahmed off of the Active List. The alternative to finding Ahmed some playing time is having him watch the games from his couch at home, and it’s unlikely he’ll be kept down with Triple-A enough next season to keep him from having a full year of MLB service time before the end of the 2015 season.
Despite getting hit in the face by a batted ball (sounds like he partially deflected it with his glove), Bolsinger did not miss a start. If Trevor Cahill does actually get moved before September 1, Bolsinger or Charles Brewer could be the first call-up before rosters actually get expanded. Bolsinger returning to the Active List is about the surest possibility referenced in this article.
Like Chase Anderson before him, Brewer has been on the 40-man for a while now, and he’s not getting any younger. It’s been over a year since his 4-game stint in the majors, and after putting up some mediocre numbers in Triple-A in 2012 and 2013, and having a terrible April and early May with Reno this year (38 ER in just 47 IP), he ended up getting some time at Double-A. He holds a 5.24 ERA in 120.1 Triple-A innings this year, but he is now coming off four straight starts with at least 6 IP and 2 ER or less, including an eight-inning, 10 K gem last night. It’s decision time on Brewer, who probably will not survive the offseason without being released or traded unless he’s given a chance to show something in September and he actually does that.
Chafin is one of my favorite options. Still pitching in the Reno rotation, Chafin shined in a spot start with Arizona earlier this month. Like everyone else in the Reno rotation, though, he’s struggled to keep his ERA under 5 (5.34 ERA in 87.2 IP). Reynolds could be the key lefty in the 2014 bullpen, but his progress is far from a sure thing; and as even casual fans have probably picked up, Oliver Perez isn’t a matchups guy. Innings counts can be misleading for Chafin, because he’s been a particularly inefficient pitcher, but he’s actually pitched 10 fewer innings than he threw last year (147.2 to last year’s 157.1). He should have plenty in the tank, and I’d really like to see Chafin pitch out of the MLB bullpen in September now that he’s on the 40-man anyway. Homegrown bullpens are safe bullpens, because young relievers can be optioned to work out kinks.
Like Chafin, Schultz has seen limited time in the majors already this season, and has shown enough to warrant more of a look. No spring chicken, Schultz was in indy ball in 2011, rising from High-A to Triple-A with the D-backs in just two seasons before joining the major league team for the Australia trip in March. Schultz has not been a results guy so far this season (6.34 ERA in 130.2 IP with Reno, 7 ER in his 8 IP with the D-backs). He’s still got the raw stuff, throwing harder than anyone on the MLB team not named Matt Stites, but we’re well past the point of experimenting with Schultz as a starter. It’s time to see what he can do as a relief pitcher, and there should be opportunities for that in September.
Honestly, the fact that I feel cornered into writing a paragraph about Spruill is making me wish I hadn’t set out to write this post in the first place. Spruill was mediocre with Arizona in six games last year, and almost as mediocre with the team in two games this year. He has a 1.42 ERA in August, and has a 3.57 ERA with Reno as a reliever overall; he was horrendous again in the Triple-A rotation (7.22 ERA in 52.1 IP). We know now that Spruill is not good enough to start. We know he’s not necessarily too bad to relieve. As noted, the August numbers (from a long relief role) look pretty good. The D-backs could be just as obligated to give Spruill a September look as I was to write this paragraph, but they may only feel just as happy about it.
OK, last one, and it’s a fun one. What the flying blue hell are the D-backs doing with Paterson? He’s the guy in the class photo that no one can remember, taking up a 40-man spot even though he was never called up even when things got desperate this year. Paterson has more MLB innings than the last four pitchers above combined, but has thrown a grand total of 5 innings since the end of the 2011 season, and he hasn’t pitched in the majors at all since June 2013. What the hell? Chafin may overtake him as a lefty relief option, but he’s currently the top lefty reliever in the system, and his numbers look a hell of a lot better than Eury de la Rosa’s. Much better. His ERA in a matchups role has swelled to a whopping 3.18 this season with Reno, but it was 1.89 last year. I just don’t get it. Maybe this is a situation in which the D-backs have held onto him just because they feel like they made a big investment by successfully keeping him after making him a Rule 5 selection… but that’s no excuse. Either Paterson is a sunk loss at this point, or his a bone fide option. But given recent history, your guess is better than mine about whether he might get called up in September.
OPTIONS FROM BEYOND THE 40-MAN
Technically, the D-backs could call up 2014 first round pick Touki Toussaint in September if they wanted to. They won’t, for a very wide variety of very good reasons, but if they did, all they’d have to do is add him to the 40-man. Any player signed at the age of 19 or older (June 5th being the cutoff) is eligible for the Rule 5 draft 4 years after signing; any player signed at the age of 18 or younger isn’t eligible to be picked in the Rule 5 until the 5th draft after signing.
Bradley is not yet on the 40-man and doesn’t have to be to be protected in this year’s Rule 5; he was signed at the age of 18 according to the rules, and the Rule 5 this year is just the 4th after he signed. That’s a not-trivial reason to keep him from pitching in the majors in September (as it would burn an extra spot), and it looks like the decision to not pitch him in the majors has already been made; he will be joining the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League this year after injury has kept him from pitching a full season’s worth of innings. Too bad, but a reasonable decision. Jimmie Sherfy could also have been an option, but will also be playing in the AFL.
Barrett, on the other hand, is a very realistic option. A reliever for his whole professional career, he could still be hidden from the Rule 5 draft for one more year without being put on the 40-man. But after a reasonably good showing with Reno (3.81 ERA in 26 IP) after a good showing with Mobile (2.39 ERA in 26.1 IP), the D-backs could use this information-gathering portion of the season to gather some information about whether he can miss bats in the majors. Walks might always plague Barrett (his walks per 9 rates have been over 4 at both minor league stops this year), but if he can miss bats in the bigs the way he’s missed bats at Reno (just 19 hits in those 26 innings), he could be a key contributor in the Arizona bullpen in 2015.
From the Triple-A and Double-A rosters, it doesn’t seem like there are any likely September candidates beyond Barrett and the men already on the 40-man. It’s way too early for Braden Shipley and Aaron Blair, who both can pass through two more Rule 5 drafts automatically protected, and the organization’s other top prospects are either in the low minors or already graduated to the roster, like Jake Lamb. Which is fine; there are plenty of other options on the 40-man to result in an unusually high number of September callups.
So who would you call up? I think Hudson is a shoe-in but I don’t feel the same way about Reynolds. Pollock, Owings, Ahmed, Bolsinger, Chafin and Schultz all seem like very good choices and very good bets. I’d like to see Jackson, Brewer and Paterson get the call, but Kieschnick and Spruill would also not be surprises. One thing’s for sure, though: the bench will have a lot less free space on it come September 2nd.
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