A lot of people don’t really appreciate the whole 40-man roster expansion that happens each September. For those of you who aren’t in “the know” or have better things to do than stalk Jon Heyman’s Twitter and compare stats at Fangraphs, I’ll give you the quick low-down on what I’m talking about.
A. Every MLB team has a 25-man roster and a 40-man roster (which includes the whole 25-man group).
B. From opening day through Aug. 31st, each club can only have 25 men on their active roster.
C. On September 1st and from there on out (the rest of the regular season, that is) the team can have as many player from their 40-man on the active roster as they like.
D. Players called up after Aug. 31st are ineligible for the postseason; unless they’re replacing an injured player (or if there are other extenuating circumstances).
You probably think “why don’t they just call up everyone on the 40?” Well, some guys have 40-man spots built into the contracts they sign right out of the draft, and aren’t exactly MLB-ready. (Ex. This year’s number one draft pick, Bryce Harper, is on the Nats’ 40-man, but he’s only seventeen.) September call-ups usually serve one of two purposes (or both): 1. They’ll help the big league club down the stretch as they try to make the playoffs. 2. The team isn’t going to the playoffs no matter what (see Pirates, Pittsburgh) and the team just wants to give their prospects face time in the big leagues.
There are six September call-ups that I’d say are pretty darn interesting to watch. But I’m not talking about Aroldis Chapman– his 3-digit heat came up in August, technically, and he’s getting enough press as it is. Also, of course there’s other players that will set the league ablaze, or rack up some fantasy points, or yada, yada, yada, but I just want to talk about these six (in no particular order):
1. Craig Kimbrel. Atlanta’s 22 year old reliever and probable closer of the future is back in the bigs for the 4th time this year. The native of Alabama was a 3rd round pick in 2008, and threw his first big league pitch back in May. He’s got a live arm and was striking out 13.4 batters per 9 in the minors. Atlanta’s bullpen is stacked as is, with the likes of Billy Wagner, Takashi Saito, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty, etc. Thus, Kimbrel might not be pitching every night; still, a fun young arm to watch in the midst of a pennant race. In his three September appearances to date, he’s thrown three scoreless/hitless/walkless innings, while striking out six. That 1.63 ERA in the minors with his 1.13 WHIP seems to be translating pretty easily to the big, bad, NL East.
2. Freddie Freeman. Another Brave, the just-21-year-old hasn’t impressed with the stick in his thirteen big league Abs, recording just one hit. Of course, that’s only 13 Abs, and he has been used in more of a pinch-hitter role, which takes time to get used to. Freeman can hit; look at what he did in the minors this year with a .319 AVG/ .378 OBP/ .521 SLG. Plus, he smacked 18 homers in his 461 at-bats. The former third-baseman flashes the leather at first, as validated by a Baseball America survey of International League (the division of the minor leagues he played in) managers that voted him the best defensive first-baseman in their league. A 2nd round pick in ’07, Freeman seems to still be keeping things in perspective, as any rookie should. He’s recently talked about how much fun, and awe, comes with playing for the infamous Bobby Cox. While the Braves have recent trade pickup Derrek Lee manning first, look for an occasional Freeman start, and frequent pinch-hitting appearances.
3. Jeremy Jeffress. Brewers fans haven’t had much to cheer for this year, but fans of the Sausage Races and choreographed walk-off home run routines have to be energized by the arrival of Jeremy Jeffress. The former first-rounder has had his fair share of trouble with minor league drug rules; not for steroid usage, but instead, marijuana. Jeremy has served two suspensions in the minors, totaling 150 games, and one more strike will ban him from the game forever. The right-hander from Virginia made a scoreless debut on September 1st, and has appeared in three other games since. He works with a mid-90’s fastball, and a slider that breaks hard. He compliments those pitches with a curveball with phenomenal movement at high 70’s speeds. Over the A, A+, and AA levels this season, he recorded a 2.23 ERA and a 0.928 WHIP. He walked 3.3 batters per nine, while striking out 12 per nine. He hasn’t allowed a homer all year; with this kind of skill, he might just dethrone Jon Axford in the next year or two as Milwaukee’s closer.
4. Brandon Allen. Not many first-basemen steal 14 bases while only getting caught four times over the course of a minor league season. But, that’s just what the 24-year-old Allen did this year. Allen has big-league experience, having played 32 games with the D-Backs last year, but nonetheless, he’s someone to watch. After hitting 25 HRs with a .261/.405/.528 hitting line over 371 minor-league Abs, the native of Montgomery, Texas, has kept on swinging in the bigs. In his 2010 debut on September first, he went two for three with a grand slam. Overall, through 22 at-bats, Allen has a .273/.333/.500 line, with three extra-base hits. One concern with the lefty-swinging Allen is strikeouts, as he’s already recorded eight. He seems to be comparable to Adam Dunn in that he won’t hit for high average, but gets on-base and racks up extra-bases. Dunn probably has more power, Allen more speed, so don’t hug to that comparison too religiously. The former fifth-round pick could get a full-time role next year if his team doesn’t pick up Adam LaRoche’s 2011 option.
5. Carlos Carrasco. Arguably the biggest Cleveland-bound piece in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Philadelphia last July, Carrasco has yet to disappoint. The 23-year-old didn’t dominate triple-A, but his 3.65 ERA and 1.23 WHIP were complimented by a 8 K/9 rate and a 2.8 BB/9. Since arriving in the bigs, Carrasco has been as good as advertised. In his season debut he threw 7.1 inning of three run ball against a potent White Sox offense; two starts later, he has a 2.18 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP to go along with 14 Ks in 20 2/3 innings. Carrasco uses a low-90’s fastball, a mid 80s slider, and an 80 MPH change to baffle opposing batters; as soon as next year, Carrasco might be a staple in Cleveland’s rotation, so get a glimpse of him before he’s “officially” a big deal.
6. Yuneski Maya. The Nationals’ $8 million, four-year investment in Maya, a Cuban defector, wasn’t met with much fanfare in July. The 29-year-old righty is known for pinpoint command that he uses to hit the corners of the strike-zone, although that command didn’t show up to his debut. Maya’s stuff won’t blow hitters away (he works a low 90s fastball, with a change-up and a slider in the low 80s, and a curveball in the low 70s), but his Cuban stats suggest he, at the least, knows how to pitch to victory. In his last season of Cuban ball, Maya went 13-4 with seven complete games and a 2.22 ERA. The Cuban league is comparable to a double or triple A league in the states, so allow Maya time to adjust to the bigs. He’s made two starts thus far in September, going five and six innings respectively. A 6.55 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and just 5 Ks doesn’t look good on the surface, but give the man a little time to adjust. I’m convinced that once he gets his feet wet this September, we’ll see a more confident number two or three type starter when April rolls around.
Editor’s Note: This sports column is a regular feature from “The Nightcap” crew, a group of 5Cers who air a weekly radio sports talk show on KSPC. You can listen in online at KSPCstream.com or KSPC.org (click “Hear us Online via Live365”) every Monday from 8-10 PM. Want to join the radio show this year? We are looking for new people! Email us at [email protected]!