The St. Louis Cardinals enter play on Tuesday with a 71-40 record, 4 games up on the Kansas City Royals for the best record in baseball and 5 games up on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central Division. The Cardinals have been rolling lately thanks to a combined offensive, defensive, and pitching effort.
With the minor league season winding down and September call-up's 3 plus weeks away, I thought I would take a look at which prospects, not currently on the major league roster, could help the big club down the stretch in September.
There are two main factors to take into account when looking at prospects who could see MLB time in September. First, the player must be on the 40-man roster. The easiest route to the show is having a 40-man roster spot in your back pocket. The second factor is positional need and that appears to go to the bullpen as of late. The trade deadline showed that the club is not afraid to keep adding pitchers.
The hard throwing right hander has had 3 major league stints this season and is surely going to receive a call when rosters expand. Over his small sample size of 2015, "Tui" has a 1.80 ERA and a ERA+ of 220, again its just 10 innings, but he has looked good.
Mitch Harris has a 2.08 ERA for Memphis since his demotion in mid July. After underwhelming major league success, Harris returned to the minors to work on his command and he has struck out batters at a clip over 9 per 9 innings. Harris could be a huge benefactor of the 40-man roster rule.
The third reliever of the group who stands a decent chance of a last month call-up is the former free agent signee. Socolovich was the last reliever demoted after all the trades hit and had strong success, going 4-1 with a 1.54 ERA over 23 1/3 innings for the Cardinals this season.
I believe as soon as the rosters expand, if not before, Garcia will find himself back with the big club and no, this does not mean Pete Kozma is going away. Garcia fits the utility middle infielder role so much better, its hard to understand why the organization does not pull the Kozma-to-waivers trigger.
If the Memphis Redbirds fall out of the Pacific Coast League (5 games back now) then Scruggs could re-join the Cardinals on September 1st. His power potential off the bench could be a key spot late in games. Although for 2015, Scruggs has a .757 OPS, which is his lowest total since his rookie minor league year in 2008.
These players may appear on the 40-man roster, but may not see their name called at some point in September
The Cardinals 40-man roster is flooded with catchers. 5 to be exact, but Ohlman will not be the one designated for assignment. The 24-year old has an impressive 135 wRC+ for Springfield and, like Scruggs, could be a nice power bat off the bench. Also remember, the organization likes to reward players who are performing well in the minor leagues.
It has been a really tough year for the former first round pick as he has battled injuries and has been disabled twice this season. Over three starts with the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds, Gonzales has allowed 4, 3, and 4 earned runs over a total of 15 1/3 innings. It appears the lefty is not fully recovered yet, thus why a call-up probably won't happen.
We will go off the grid (or 40-man roster) and say that Jacob Wilson has a decent shot at his first major league call up. Wilson's 17 home runs is a strong total for a potential middle infielder but the comparisons to Dan Uggla will not go away, thanks to a .231/.288/ .425 slash line.
I really debated putting Pham in the likely category thanks to above average speed and defense, but I will keep him in the middle thanks to a player who will appear in the third category. Pham is appearing to have a Quad-A type season after struggling over 44 AB's at the major league level, but hitting the cover off the ball in the minors. Pham could be a strong candidate for Matheny's coveted late inning, defensive replacement.
These players do not appear on the 40-man roster and would only provide a specialized role for the major league club, something that would probably not be worth the 40 addition.
John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall wrote a nice piece on Tilson looking at his health and speed. In the end, Sickels concluded that Tilson is likely headed for a 4th outfield spot on a major league roster at some point. If Tilson were to be a September call-up, it would likely be for his speed and defense. With that said, Tommy Pham provides some of that without the use of another 40-man roster spot.
Reyes has had a sorta coming out party this season and has shot up prospect rankings - likely a mix of MLB promotions and more exposure - and is starting to see his MLB future in the distance. I have always thought he could provide bullpen help for the club this season in a very limited role, but now that looks unlikely. Reyes missed a couple of weeks with a shoulder issue and has had his struggled with Double-A Springfield. I don't see the club using up a 40-man roster spot for 5 innings of major league experience for Reyes. I would love to see it, but don't think it happens.
For the sake of keeping this post brief, I left out others like Tim Cooney, Patrick Wisdom, Dean Anna, Dean Kiekhefer, and many more. All who could have appeared in one of the three tiers above. The Cardinals should use that September 1st roster expansion to their benefit to keep some of their arms (and legs) fresh for the post season run.