Tomorrow is the first day of the utter madness that is September baseball. For better or worse, in-game strategy is thrown on its head for the final month of the regular season due to active rosters expanding from 25 roster spots to 40. For a rebuilding team like the Phillies, this can be an exciting time as it often means prospects will be called up for their first taste of the major leagues. This year, however, due to trades and starting rotation woes, most of the Phillies’ would-be September call-ups — Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Darnell Sweeney, Aaron Altherr — are already wearing red pinstripes.
As a result, Phillies beats writers indicated that the September call-up list tomorrow will be relatively small.
Mackanin said there will probably be 3 players called up when rosters expand tomorrow w/1-2 more brought up after minor league season ends.
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 31, 2015
Given that the Phillies already have players competing with each other for playing time in the infield (primarly Sweeney and Cesar Hernandez) and outfield (Altherr, Odubel Herrera, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, and Jeff Francoeur) expect call-ups this month to consist primarily if not exclusively of pitchers and perhaps a third catcher.
Third catcher — Adding a third catcher for September is a luxury most teams embrace as it provides greater in-game roster flexibility. For example, with a third catcher on the bench, the Phillies will be able to get Cameron Rupp extra at-bats as a pinch hitter during games started by Carlos Ruiz without using up their only extra catcher. The two main candidates for this roster spot are fringe prospect Gabriel Lino and former-Phillie Erik Kratz.
Lino is a 22-year-old catcher acquired from Baltimore in the 2012 Jim Thome trade who found success at Double-A Reading this season batting .266/.333/.431 in 32 games before hitting a brick wall after his midseason promotion to Triple-A Lehigh Valley (191 PA, .217/.247/.272). If Lino gets the nod, it will be because they want to add him to the 40-man to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
The more likely Iron Pig to join the Phillies is Erik Kratz. Kratz has been living out of a suitcase this season — he made the opening day roster for the Kansas City Royals, was claimed on waivers by the Boston Red Sox and released a week later, signed with the Seattle Mariners, was released two weeks later and then signed a minor league deal with the Phillies on July 17th. In a month and a half with Lehigh Valey, he’s batting an impressive .284/.402/.527 through 92 plate appearances.
Prediction: Welcome back to Philly, Erik “Turkey Bacon” Kratz.
Pitchers — Judging by Montemurro’s tweet, if the Phillies add a catcher as I expect, they presumably expect to promote two pitchers tomorrow. There are three primary candidates for those spots, all of whom are already on the 40-man roster and none of whom are terribly surprising or exciting: Dalier Hinojosa, Ken Roberts, and Nefi Ogando.
Hinojosa has already done a brief stint for the Phillies with impressive results (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K). The 29-year-old Cuban’s stat line for Lehigh Valley has been less impressive — 13 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 5 BB, 13 K — although 7 of his 8 runs allowed came over just two outings.
The Phillies claimed 27-year-old lefty reliever Ken Roberts off waivers from the Colorado Rockies on Sunday. Roberts hasn’t been terribly successful in either Triple-A (31.2 IP, 5.12 ERA, 19.9 K%, 2.8 BB%) or Colorado (9.1 IP, 5.79 ERA, 11.6 K%, 4.7 BB%) this season but his current status as the only healthy lefty reliever on the 40-man other than Adam Loewen gives him an inside track on a roster spot.
Ogando is the baby of this trio at age 26. He was with the Phillies over the weekend, but failed to log any innings. He’s a flame thrower with a promising slider, but control issues. His stat line across Double-A and Triple-A this season: 59 IP, 3.05 ERA, 20.1 K%, 11.8 BB%.
Prediction: If you’d asked me this morning, I would have expected all three of these arms to be called up tomorrow or soon thereafter. Roberts is the lock due to the need for lefty arms and a strong case can be made for both Hinojosa (ability to throw multiple innings) and Ogando (still a fringe prospect). If they really do promote just two pitchers as reports seem to indicate, drawing the names Hinojosa or Ogando out of a hat would be as good a guess as any.
Delayed call-ups — As Montemurro’s tweet indicates, another player or two could join the Phillies after the completion of the minor league season. It makes sense that the player(s) to which this refers are with Double-A Reading given the fact that the Reading squad is currently headed for postseason play and the likelihood that they intend to keep that roster in tact as a result. The key prospects in Reading — J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, and Andrew Knapp — are a) still developing and b) not Rule 5 eligible this offseason; therefore, they are highly unlikely to be given a 40-man spot at this time. The names to keep an eye on instead: Edubray Ramos and Jimmy Cordero.
Both Ramos (age 22) and Cordero (age 23) are Rule 5 eligible this season and likely candidates to be added to the 40-man roster. Ramos had a stellar start to his 2015 season in Hi-A Clearwater (49.1 IP, 1.46 ERA, 26.0 K%, 3.3 BB%) but has struggled with his control since his promotion to Reading (17.1 IP, 3.63 ERA, 18.7 K%, 12.0 BB%). Cordero came over from Toronto in the Ben Revere deal and has been lighting up the radar gun regularly with 100+ MPH fastballs while putting up an impressive stat line (14 IP, 2.57 ERA, 21.8 K%, 7.3 BB%).
Prediction: Jimmy Cordero. I saw both Cordero and Ramos pitch in a Reading game earlier this month and Cordero looked polished whereas Ramos’ control issues were glaring. If called up, Cordero is likely to be the most interesting September addition for the Phillies.
Let’s take a brief moment to mourn the September call-ups that should have been. Kelly Dugan turns 25 next month and has just one option year remaining. Once again an inability to remain healthy shortened his season with his 2015 debut not coming until June due to a stress fracture in his right foot. After putting up impressive numbers throughout his minor league career, he put up a BABIP-inflated, powerless slash line in Reading (192 PA, .315/.391/.393) before stumbling mightily in Triple-A (113 PA, .198/.268/.287). Next year is likely the last chance for Dugan in the Phillies organization.
Believe it or not, Tommy Joseph just turned 24 last month, but his prospect status is all but gone. Concussions forced him off catcher this year and for the past two weeks he’s been playing first base for the Iron Pigs. Like Dugan he has one remaining option year and his opportunities with the Phillies organization are quickly drawing to a close.
Long shot names
A few other guys who could be on the Phillies September radar include Rule 5 eligible reliever Colton Murray, starting pitchers that you may have heard of previously such as David Buchanan or Severino Gonzalez, and Reading left-handed starting pitcher, Joely Rodriguez, who could be used in relief if necessary. Rodriguez came over from Pittsburgh in the Antonio Bastardo and is already on the 40-man roster.
September Call-Up Preview
Author: Corinne Landrey
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