It's that time of year again, time to play that favorite game in the baseball's final month: Who will get the call?
The call, of course, is the one to the big leagues, the one all Minor Leaguers wait for. Come Sept. 1, when Major League teams can expand their rosters to 40 strong, many prospects get their first summons to the Majors.
Just who will get the invitation is a little difficult to ascertain. But there are certain variables that can figure into who will and who won't get called up on Sept. 1:
1. Major League team contention:
If a team feels it has a chance at extending its year into the postseason, it may be less likely to call up Minor Leaguers en masse, and it certainly won't give any meaningful playing time to those it does call up.
2. Minor League team contention:
While the needs of the big-league club almost always trump anything else, there will often be hesitation to pull a player out of the playoffs in the Minors. Postseason play down on the farm begins in early September, and if there isn't a real necessity to call someone up, there's a feeling among development folks that the experience of staying with your teammates to try to win a championship is one that shouldn't be missed. So some players may not be called up before the middle of September, if at all.
3. Roster status:
A player already on a 40-man roster is more likely to get called up. The reason is simple: A roster move doesn't have to be made to bring that player up. For some teams, that may not matter because they have room on the 40-man or they have a player they don't mind exposing by removing him from the roster. But some players won't get the call simply because teams don't want to make a roster move of that magnitude.
A corollary to this deals with service time. Once a player gets called to the big leagues, his service clock starts, each tick moving him closer to arbitrarion, then free agency. The chance to have a player for an extra year before being arbitration eligible may entice some teams to keep some Minor Leaguers down.
Several key candidates to get called up have already been brought up to the bigs, with contending teams wanting to add them to the roster so they'd be eligible for postseason play. Andrew Miller -- the Tigers' first pick in this year's First-Year Player Draft -- is the biggest example, but the White Sox brought up outfielder Jerry Owens, the Red Sox needed second baseman Dustin Pedroia and the Rockies summoned catcher Chris Iannetta.
The most intriguing name on the possible callup list was the Devil Rays' Delmon Young. Young made some waves last year at this time when he wasn't a September callup, and he had some sharp words for his organization. This season has been marred by a bat-throwing incident and the ensuing 50-game suspension. The Rays ended any mystery or controversy when they brought up Young on Monday to replace the injured Jonny Gomes.
Here are some other possibilities for September callups, using only those who have yet to play in the big leagues (a guy like Matt Kemp will certainly be back):
Josh Anderson, OF, Astros:
He had to repeat Double-A, but he responded with a strong year and can flat-out run. His Corpus Christi club is playoff-bound, but the Astros' postseason chances are slim and he's not on the 40-man roster.
Homer Bailey, RHP, Reds:
His name has been rumored for weeks now. Chattanooga is playoff-bound and Bailey has just a half-season above Class A. He's not on the 40-man roster yet, and with the Reds right in the thick of things, it'll be interesting to see if they pull the trigger.
Jeff Clement, C, Mariners:
An early injury probably precludes him from being called up, but he's in Triple-A and was drafted a year ago with the hopes of him moving quickly. It's not clear where he would play, with Kenji Johjima entrenched, but the M's could make room for his bat if they really wanted to.
John Danks, LHP, Rangers:
The vaunted DVD trio -- Danks, Edinson Volquez and Thomas Diamond -- hasn't collectively lived up to expectations completely, though Volquez has been up and down and Diamond has had some success at Double-A. But Danks has figured some things out at Triple-A of late and could provide a lift as the Rangers try to compete for that American League West crown.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox:
In just his first full season, he's shown a knack for getting on base and using his speed to be a game-changer. His Portland club is likely headed to the Eastern League playoffs, but his speed could help re-ignite Boston's playoff hopes.
Josh Fields, 3B, White Sox:
He wouldn't play much with Joe Crede there, but he's certainly earned the callup. He could stick with Charlotte for its playoff run in the International League, then join the big club for the final couple of weeks.
Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals:
The organization is saying he won't get called up, even though he turned down an invitation to play for Team USA in Olympic Qualifying. This may be a service clock issue, where they don't want to put him on the 40-man and move him closer to arbitration/free agency. That, combined with Mark Teahen's renaissance and Gordon's Wichita Wranglers heading to the postseason, could mean KC fans will have to wait until 2007 to see the Royals' top 2005 pick.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Indians:
The Tribe already brought up Andy Marte, the likely starter next year. But Kouzmanoff has done nothing but hit around .390 all year (at two levels) and could get some at-bats at third, first and DH to see if he's got Major Leaguer written all over him.
Andy LaRoche, 3B, Dodgers:
The Dodgers lead the National League West, but they certainly have shown no hesitation to have the kids help out. LaRoche is one of the few upper-level prospects who hasn't been up yet, so why not get that out of the way in a few days?
Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays:
It's always nice when a player gets promoted, then puts up better numbers. He's the top bat in the Jays system now. They've got nothing to lose at this point, and Lind's club in Syracuse isn't going anywhere, either.
Greg Miller, LHP, Dodgers:
Once arguably the best left-handed pitching prospect in the game, Miller has been turned into a reliever due to several arm issues. But he's one who has been very effective. He could have an impact as a lefty out of the 'pen down the stretch.
Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks:
He's the future behind the plate for the D-Backs, but Tucson is headed to the playoffs and Montero has had less than a half-season at the Triple-A level.
David Murphy, OF, Red Sox:
He had to go back to Double-A to start the year and he didn't sulk, instead putting up good numbers and earning a promotion to Triple-A fairly quickly. Now he's knocking on the door, and the Sox could use his help in the outfield in September.
Hunter Pence, OF, Astros:
Also a non-40-man guy with Corpus Christi, Pence has some serious power and could provide a lift off the bench with some pop.
Felix Pie, OF, Cubs:
Has the time finally come? He would've been called up last year had he not gotten hurt. But Iowa is in the middle of a playoff race and the Cubs could just wait until the I-Cubs' run is over.
Humberto Sanchez, RHP, Tigers:
He could be a nice right-handed complement to Miller in the 'pen, though his future is as a starter. Sanchez has pitched well since his promotion to Triple-A. But he's had some health issues in the past, and the Tigers may want Sanchez to stick with Toledo if it makes the playoffs, then call it a very successful season.
Ryan Sweeney, OF, White Sox:
The perennial Spring Training super-performer has had a pretty good year, coming on strong and even showing some of the power everyone has wanted to see. Like Fields, he could stay in Triple-A to help Charlotte try to win a title, then come to Chicago after that.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies:
It's just his first full year, but he's finished strong with Tulsa and appears just about ready. With the Rockies all but officially out of it, now could be the time to see what they have in Tulo. On the other hand, his Tulsa club is headed to the Texas League playoffs.
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