September Call-Up Preview
Baseball has this absurd annual tradition of expanding rosters each September. It’s ludicrous that the final pushes for playoff positions occur with baseball being played under an entirely different set of rules than those used for the first five months of the season, but that’s baseball for you. It’s a quirky sport ruled by tradition and one of those traditions is that teams are allowed to put enough players on the active roster to field four teams and still have four players left over. No team uses all 15 extra roster slots in September, but all teams will use some of those slots. So who will get the call for the Phillies?
The bulk of the new additions to the Phillies roster will be pitchers. Starting pitchers Vince Velasquez and Jake Thompson are likely to be shut down within the next week or so which means the rotation will need reinforcements. Plus, loading up the bullpen with extra is a time-honored September addition. So let’s start there with a look at what pitchers we can expect to see this month:
With two rotation spots opening up, we’re all but guaranteed to see some old friends this month. David Buchanan and Phil Klein are the two starting pitchers currently on the 40-man roster who could be called up and Alec Asher is the one who will return to the 40-man roster when his PED suspension ends this weekend. Asher is the most likely to see time in Philadelphia this month if only because he needs playing time and the only competitive league he’ll be able to play in is the majors because his PED suspension makes him ineligible for major or minor league postseason play.
The next spot is a little trickier to fill because Triple-A Lehigh Valley is likely to clinch a playoff spot this week and their playoff run could extend through the first two weeks of September. Given that Klein and Buchanan are both 27-year-olds with minimal major league value, the major league team may be content to take whichever one Lehigh Valley needs less for the postseason run. Although Klein got lit up in his one spot start for the Phillies, he has been lights out for Lehigh Valley since coming over from Texas in June. I’ll wager he stays in Triple-A and Buchanan gets the call when the Phillies need an extra starter.
There are a few long-shot rotation candidates who could conceivably get a look this September: Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, and Ricardo Pinto. They are three starting pitcher prospects who are most likely to be added to the 40-man roster this winter. All three have minor league postseason play in their immediate futures (Pivetta and Lively with Lehigh Valley and Pinto with Reading), but their looming 40-man additions make them obvious candidates if the rotation succumbs to another injury or the team decides to go to a six-man rotation. I’ll rank their likelihood of a call-up as: Lively, Pivetta, (big gap) Pinto. Lively has pitched well at Triple-A for half a season now which may be enough to make him one of the few true “prospects” the Phillies call up before the end of the season.
There’s not much exciting here. The Phillies have four relievers on their 40-man who we’ve already seen this year and could see again in September: Elvis Araujo, Luis Garcia, Dalier Hinojosa, and Colton Murray. Also on the roster is a lefty reliever named Patrick Schuster the Phillies claimed from Oakland a few weeks ago. All five of those pitchers are currently pitching for playoff-bound Lehigh Valley. As a result, I expect the Phillies to call up just two right when rosters expand and then add additional depth once their playoffs end. My guess is they’ll let the IronPigs keep their closer, Luis Garcia, and call up a lefty (either Araujo or Schuster) and a righty (Hinojosa or Murray).
The one caveat to my proclamation of unexciting bullpen options is that a preseason favorite prospect, Jimmy Cordero, is back. After missing much of the season to a shoulder injury, Cordero had a bit of a slow start once he returned to games as his elite velocity didn’t return right away. Now, however, he’s reportedly back to touching triple-digit velocity with his fastball. He’s slated to play in the Dominican Republic when the season ends, but the Phillies could conceivably give him a brief taste of the majors between his playoff-run with Reading and his winter league. I’m not counting on it, but I’m certainly rooting for it.
Teams add third catchers in September because it adds tremendous roster flexibility. Want to use Cameron Rupp to pinch hit when A.J. Ellis is in the lineup? With a third catcher on the team that’s easy to do. However, the Phillies are lacking for obvious third catcher candidates. As his ever so brief cameo in the Phillies dugout reminded us, Jorge Alfaro is the third catcher currently on the 40-man roster. Andrew Knapp is Rule 5 eligible this winter and all but guaranteed a 40-man spot as a result. However, Alfaro and Knapp are the starting catchers for Reading and Lehigh Valley respectively. Do the Phillies want to prevent either from participating in the playoffs? My guess is we’ll see either Alfaro or Knapp take on that third catcher role once the minor league playoffs conclude.
As for the other positions, we’ll once again get a return of familiar faces. Andres Blanco will be back as soon as he is healthy enough and Cody Asche and Darin Ruf could return to give the Phillies added position player depth. New faces will be harder to come by, however. The prospects who could be added include: Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, and J.P. Crawford. I’d immediately cross Crawford off the list because he doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man this winter. Cozens, while he has obliterated the Eastern League this season, is still an unfinished product with an alarmingly high propensity for strikeouts. I’d imagine they let Cozens finish out the year on a high note with Double-A and then have him work towards the majors next year.
Which leaves Nick Williams. He looked like a lock to be in the majors by this point, but he’s been in an awful slump of late. He’s still young — turns 23 next week — so it’s not any sort of major setback if he doesn’t get the call this month. There may be value in having him start fresh next year and play his way onto the big league club, but there also could be value in giving him a bit of a taste of what the major leagues are like before he heads home for the winter. I’d call him up, but it’s not my call and if the decision makers wanted him up, I think he’d be up already.
Call-ups made on September 2nd (the Phillies have an off day tomorrow): Elvis Araujo, Dalier Hinojosa
Call-ups made later this month: Alec Asher, David Buchanan, Luis Garcia, Colton Murray, Patrick Schuster, Cody Asche, Andres Blanco, Andrew Knapp