The month of September is here, which means we’ve officially reached the stretch run of the regular season. It also means we’ve reached the point when MLB teams can expand their rosters to include any player on the 40-man roster.
A lot of roster shuffling is already taking place as teams try to make room for players they want to promote. Among them are players returning from injuries, such as Clayton Kershaw, who pitched a gem Friday night. You’ll also see veterans getting one more — and perhaps one final — shot in the big leagues. Of most interest to most fans, there are several notable prospects getting the call as well.
These moves aren’t just limited to Sept. 1. They will continue on all throughout the month as the minor league playoffs wrap up, but there’s no shortage of interesting names that have already received the call. We’re going to focus on the five players we believe are the most interesting, and in some cases could make the biggest impact when it matters most.
Alex Verdugo – Los Angeles Dodgers
Verdugo is the Dodgers top outfield prospect and he’s going to play a lot according to manager Dave Roberts. The 21-year-old was in the lineup Friday night and has earned a long look despite the Dodgers already having a deep outfield.
In 117 games in Triple-A this season, Verdugo hit .314/.389/.436 with six homers, 27 doubles, four triples, 67 runs scored and nine steals. As the numbers suggest, power isn’t necessarily his game, but more should be expected as he continues his development. His overall approach at the plate is advanced enough that he appears to be major-league ready.
The Dodgers clearly love what they have in Verdugo. That’s why they were dead set against trading him at the deadline. His promotion also indicates the Dodgers aren’t counting on Joc Pederson to be a contributor again this season. Pederson was demoted in August and will remain in Triple-A for the time being.
Francisco Mejia – Cleveland Indians
The Indians were reportedly prepared to trade Mejia at the trade deadline last season to Milwaukee before their deal to acquire Jonathan Lucroy fell apart. Now baseball’s top ranked catching prospect will get his first crack at the majors as the Indians bid for their second straight AL Central.
The 21-year-old was promoted from Double-A Akron, where he was batting .297 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 92 games. He was named to the Eastern League midseason and postseason All-Star teams and is already ticketed for the Arizona Fall League, where the Indians will give him some work at third base to improve his versatility.
Those plans indicate Mejia’s role will be limited as they attempt to figure out where he’ll ultimately fit best. But if he comes out swinging a hot bat, he’ll be a difficult guy to keep out of the lineup.
Jack Flaherty – St. Louis Cardinals
This was the Cardinals plan all along after trading Mike Leake to the Mariners earlier this week. The 21-year-old right-hander has been dominant in the minors this season and has the look of a pitcher who is ready to contribute at the big league level.
Flaherty threw 148 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this season and posted a remarkable 147/35 K/BB. His 2.18 ERA is also good. He didn’t fare so well in his MLB debut on Friday night, allowing five runs on eight hits to the Giants over four innings. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back.
Franklin Barreto – Oakland A’s
Barreto struggled during a two-week stint with the A’s earlier this summer, hitting just .190 while filling in for an injured Jed Lowrie. Of course, one of his few hits was a walk-off home run against the White Sox.
He figures to get a longer look now with the A’s season lost and his numbers on the rise during a strong second half. The 21-year-old shortstop hit .349 during August and looked like the top prospect many have projected him to be.
Perhaps the biggest question the A’s will attempt to answer this month is whether Barreto can be a real solution at shortstop. There’s been talk that he could end up moving to second base, but he has a chance to quiet that starting right now.
Pedro Alvarez – Baltimoe Orioles
Alvarez isn’t a prospect anymore. Instead, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft is looking to revive his career after failing to make the Orioles out of spring training. Alvarez provided a nice power boost for Baltimore last season, connecting for 22 homers, but didn’t offer enough otherwise to blow the Orioles or anyone else away. He was a free agent over the winter and ended up back in Baltimore, where he’s patiently been waiting for this opportunity.
Now it’s here, and the Orioles do plan on giving him at-bats. Manager Buck Showalter plans to use Alvarez as a designated hitter and pinch hitter down the stretch. The at-bats all figure to be important too with Baltimore battling for a wild card spot. Without question they’ll be important to Alvarez. This is his opportunity to show them or someone else that he still belongs.
It’s promotions like this that make September call-ups all the more interesting.
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