September Call Up Intrigue; American League Edition

Aug 30, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Taijuan Walker (27) pitches during the third inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our September Call Up series today by looking at the most intriguing September promotion for each American League team. You can catch the National League version here.

1. Houston Astros; CF George Springer

Jul 14, 2013; Flushing , NY, USA; World infielder Ji-Man Choi (51) catches the ball as USA infielder George Springer (4) during the 2013 All Star Futures Game at Citi Field. USA defeated World 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

An super human amalgamation of lean agile legs and a thick powerful upper body, Springer has put up never before seen feats of athleticism in the minors this year. He came up just three homers short of the first minor league 40/40 season in the last 50 years, as he launched 37 home runs and stole 45 bases, with a .303 average to boot. He’ll remain in the minors until the AAA playoffs end, but when he arrives, the slick fielding center fielder will be able to inject this lackadaisical Astros ball club with a burst of young energy. The Astros have attempted a rebuilding effort like no other in Major League history, decimating their aging major league team, and collecting a hoard of young talent. 23 year old pitchers Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer are already here, and Springer is just the next piece of what could eventually be one of the best young teams in the majors.

2. Seattle Mariners: SP Taijuan Walker

While not a September call up strictly speaking – he was promoted in the last week of August – Walker represents the future of this Mariners ball club. The organization has a wealth of burgeoning young pitching at the upper levels of the minors with names like James Paxton and Danny Hultzen, and the high velocity Walker leads the pack. Unusually poised for his age, the 2010 first round pick, now 20, will have a shot to distinguish himself down the stretch. He’ll be in good hands too – under the tutelage of veteran ace Felix Hernandez – and he could pave the way for a new wave of Seattle pitching.

3. Los Angeles Angels: SP Tommy Hanson

Jul 28, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tommy Hanson (48) prepares to deliver a pitch against the Oakland Athletics in the third inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

With a barren farm system, ravaged by trades and lost draft picks, the Angels do not have very many high potential prospects coming up this month. Instead, their most intriguing player will likely be veteran Tommy Hanson, who will report to Los Angeles in the middle of September at end of the minor league playoffs. Hanson, 26, was once a top prospect in the Braves organization and had brief success in the majors,  even finishing third in rookie of the year balloting in 2009, but has since had his career derailed by injury and ineffectiveness. Traded to the Angels this past offseason for Jordan Walden, Hanson got hurt and struggled yet again before being sent down to the minors. He hasn’t shown much improvement in AAA, and this September could be his last chance to salvage his Angels – and possibly MLB – career. If he continues to get lit up, Hanson will likely be non tendered and force to settle for a minor league contract come season’s end.

4. Oakland Athletics; OF Michael Choice

Unlike the previous teams on this list, the A’s will try to use their September call ups to give them an edge in the tight AL West division race. General Manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin always seem to squeeze the most out of each individual player, and he should do the same with former first round pick Michael Choice. Choice, 23, is a solid hitting outfield prospect, with high on base ability and moderate power. He hasn’t been able to come close to the 30 homers he put up in A+ ball in 2011, but he hit .300 this year with 14 homers and a .390 OBP. The former first rounder will likely start the month as a right handed complement to Seth Smith and Brandon Moss in the outfield and at DH, but with Smith struggling mightily, Choice could play his way into a starting spot going into the postseason.

5. Texas Rangers; RP Neftali Feliz

May 13, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Feliz is certainly not a call up, he has accrued over three years of service time in the majors and – outside of rehab – hasn’t tossed a minor league inning since 2009, but Feliz was activated from the disabled list yesterday, just in time to be eligible for the post season roster. Now 25, Neftali once served as the dynamic closer of the Rangers, shutting the door out of the pen in both their 2010 and 2011 pennant runs before management tried to move him into  a starting role. After experiencing some mild success in that capacity, Feliz got hurt, and underwent Tommy John surgery, missing over a year in the process. Now he’s back throwing heat out of the bullpen, and could be one of the Ranger’s best weapons down the stretch and into the post season.

6. Minnesota Twins; CF Alex Presley

Picked up in the Justin Morneau trade, the 27 year old Presley may be getting his last month to prove himself as a starting outfielder. He’s shown positive numbers in the minors, with an OPS of at least .800 every year since 2010, and he had a solid rookie season in 2011, but he struggled mightily last year and he’s already exceeded the age limit to be a prospect. Still, he’s fast with an average bat and a good glove in center, so Ron Gardenhire will have no problem starting him for the rest of the month over current center fielder Clete Thomas, an anemic .231 hitter with no power to speak of.

7. Chicago White Sox; SP Charlie Leesman

Sep 1, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Charlie Leesman (61) pitches during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

A talented lefty with a low 90′s sinker and a plus plus changeup with downward movement that yields tons of ground balls, Leesman has had success the past couple seasons in the minors. While his peripherals are nothing to write home about, his 2.47 ERA in AAA last year ranked second in the international league. With the Chisox lacking rotation depth, Leesman will be given ample oppurtunity to start this September and potentially win a rotation spot for next season. If he can’t reign in his control, however, the White Sox may just have found their replacement for Jessie Crain.

8. Kansas City Royals; Wade Davis

Acquired from the Rays in the James Shields deal, Davis struggled mightily in his return to the rotation. After posting a 5.67 ERA through 24 starts, Davis was removed from the rotation and banished to the minors. He’ll return this month in a bullpen capacity, a position he pitched well in last season, and if he throws well, he has an outside shot at avoiding a non tender this December.

9. Cleveland Indians; RP Preston Guilmet

Sep 2, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Preston Guilmet (36) pitches during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Indians, believe it or not, are just 3.5 games out of the second wild card spot and still very much in contention. With a bullpen that ranks 22nd in the league in ERA and 5th in blown saves, Cleveland could use all the help it can get out of the pen, which is why they called up Guilmet. With a career ERA of 2.57 and K/9 of 9.8 in the minors, including a 1.68 and 10.1 this year at AAA, the young righthander profiles as a future set up man who can help immediately. Guilmet may very well become the guy manager Terry Francona turns to in tough spots down the stretch, perhaps even in the postseason

10. Detroit Tigers; 3B Nick Castellanos

With Miguel Cabrera hurt, top prospsect Nick Castellanos will finally get a shot to prove himself in the majors. He obviously can’t replace the best hitter in the game, but with a smooth line drive swing and above average power in the minors, he should be able to bring at least league average production. When Cabrera returns, Castellanos, who’s played both third base and the outfield in the minors, will likely move out to left, where he can spot a struggling Andy Dirks. If his September audition goes well, the young hitter will get the opportunity to heighten his stock in the postseason, and from there, the 2014 starting lineup.

11. Toronto Blue Jays; Kyle Drabek

It was not long ago that Drabek was one of the top prospects in baseball, deemed worthy enough to be traded for Cy Young award winner Roy Halladay. Since, his career has gone downhill as he’s been lit up during his two brief rotation stints in 2011 and 2012. Now, still only 25, Drabek gets his first major league opportunity of the season after 11 starts and a 5.83 K/BB ratio in the minors. The young starter still has a chance, and with the Blue Jays currently lacking any dependable starter with an ERA below 3.9, Drabek will be given every opportunity to prove himself for next years rotation. It was not long ago that Kyle and teammate Ricky Romero stood as two of the best pitchers in baseball, but now each stand as september call ups with one last opportunity at redemption.

12. New York Yankees; Delin Betances

Sep 1, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Dellin Betances (61) pitches against the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For two years, Delin Betances was a top starting pitcher in the Yankee’s farm system, ranked as one of the top 70 prospects. Then 2012 came and the youngster unraveled, walking 99 batters over just 131 innings, en route to a 6.44 ERA. One year later, Betances has worked his way back as a reliever, striking out 11.6 batters per nine in AAA before receiving a promotion to the show. The Yankes are in the playoff hunt and Delin will have more than enough high pressure situations to prove himself. With Mariano Rivera leaving once and for all at the end of the season, the hard throwing Betances could find himself as an unsuspecting heir come 2014.

13. Baltimore Orioles;2B Jonathan Schoop

Ranked by Keith Law as the 50th best prospect in the game, Schoop is a powerful infielder who could find himself home in the friendly confines of the Orioles’ Camden Yards. While he’s played both middle infield positions in the minors, the 21 year old hitter will likely play second base this September, both due to his limited range and the lack of production Baltimore has received from current second basemen Alexi Casilla and Brian Roberts, who have combined to hit .240 with 3 home runs through 279 at bats. Schoop should be an upgrade, as he he hit .278 with 14 home runs in just over half a season this year in the minors. With a good month, Schoop could play his way into a starting job in 2014, after the oft injured Roberts finally leaves Baltimore for free agency.

14. Tampa Bay Rays; OF/DH Delmon Young

Jul 30, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Delmon Young (3) hits an RBI single during the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been over a decade since the Rays selected Young with the first overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft, and Young has traveled a long road since then, coming up second in rookie of the year balloting, getting traded, finishing 10th in MVP voting,  getting traded again, becoming a post season hero, almost falling out of baseball, miraculously signed, unceremoniously released, and then finally being picked up again by the Tampa Rays. Universally denounced by scouts, this may be Young’s last chance to salvage his career. He’s incredibly slow and his defense has, according to baseball reference, cost his teams just under 10 wins over the course of his relatively brief career, thus regulating him to a DH role. He’ll get plenty of at bats, however, as the Rays lack a healthy and consistently productive DH. A good month and postseason just might be able to give Young’s stock a little spark and let him remain in the Majors.

15. Baltimore Orioles: RHP Rubby De La Rosa

Brought over in the mega deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford to Los Angeles, De La Rosa is a talented righthander with a fastball that can touch 100 on the gun. He struggled to reign in his command as a starter in AAA this year, but he’ll be able to show his skill as a reliever, his probable role going forward. With the Red Sox in the thick of the playoff hunt and nursing a 5 game lead over the Rays, the young flamethrower will likely be heavily used down the stretch and in the postseason.

 

 

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