Who should be the Twins’ September Call-Ups?
When you’re a fan of a team that’s hunting for a playoff spot, you look forward to October. When you’re a fan of a team that’s fighting to avoid the worst record in the American League, you look forward to September.
No, unfortunately, there isn’t a special September playoff series for bad teams. We look forward to September because that’s when Major League active rosters expand, thus allowing the Twins (and the other 29 MLB squads) to bring some of their prospects up to play in the Big Leagues. Contenders might be afraid to use too many young, untested players with so much on the line, but bad teams usually take this opportunity to audition some of their future stars.
Yesterday, Cody Christie wrote that Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia have played well enough at AA New Britain to earn a call-up next month. He also brought up an important point, that Hicks might be left behind, since he is not on the Twins’ 40 man roster. That inspired this writer to take a look at all of the players who areon the 40 man roster and think about which players we might see this fall.
Some caveats for this discussion. First, New Britain is likely to make it to the Eastern League playoffs, and AAA Rochester is just four games behind in the International League wild card race. If those teams make the playoffs, the Twins are not likely to call up their players until it’s over. Both leagues conclude regular season play in early September and then conduct two best-of-five series to determine a winner, so the playoffs could last until mid-September. Second, while my assessments are primarily based on player performance, the Twins could be thinking of other factors in making their call-up decisions, such as accumulation of service time or effect on player development. Finally, of the 14 players on the 40 man roster who aren’t currently with the Twins, two (Matt Capps and Anthony Swarzak) are injured Major Leaguers. That leaves us with 12 players to consider.
Deolis Guerra, Carlos Gutierrez, Pedro Hernandez, Liam Hendriks, Lester Oliveros, Kyle Waldrop
To be honest, there aren’t a lot of exciting names on this list.
Waldrop has logged four innings with the Twins so far in 2012, so it’s likely he’ll return in September at some point. It’s doubtful that any of the other relievers will come to Minnesota. Guerra looked like he had finally turned around his career early in this season, but since a promotion to AAA, he’s had an ugly 5.40 ERA and 1.42 WHIP. Gutierrez has been sidelined since shoulder surgery in mid-July, so he’s not an option. Oliveros was pitching well at Rochester until late July, but he too had a run-in with a surgeon, and he’s out for the season.
As for the starters, Hendriks has been devastating to International League hitters, accumulating a 9-2 record and 1.99 ERA so far. He has not had nearly as much success in the Big Leagues this year, but given the hodge-podge nature of the Twins’ starting rotation, he’s probably going to get another shot in the Majors in September, if not before then. Last year he was with the Twins in September, and he earned a 6.17 ERA in four starts. Hernandez, the pitcher acquired in the Francisco Liriano trade, has made two starts for Rochester, one good and one not-so-good. Unless the Twins are worried about his workload for some reason, there’s probably no reason not to bring him up.
Eduardo Escobar, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Chris Parmelee
Parmelee is almost 100% guaranteed to be back with the Twins in September. This summer, Parmelee seems to have dedicated himself to trying to make the people who sent him to the minors feel stupid. He has a .360/.471/.703 AAA slash line, which is even better than the .355/.443/.592 he hit for the Twins last September. The only thing that could prevent Parmelee from being a September call-up is if the Twins feel the need to bring him up before then.
Escobar, the other leg of the Liriano deal, is another likely September Twin. He was already playing in MLB for Chicago prior to the trade, albeit as a bench player.
Nishioka is a tougher call. If the fans made this call, it’s pretty obvious that Nishioka would not be back. And even from an objective point of view, it seems like he has burned the last bridge back to the Major Leagues. But the Twins are known for trying to squeeze every dime’s worth of value out of their players, so we cannot completely rule him out as a possibility.
Arcia, Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni
My personal opinion is that Arcia will join the Twins as soon as New Britain’s postseason is done. I do not base this on any inside information or even strong logic; I just get the sense that his AA performance is too good to ignore. The Twins should let him have a few at bats against Major League pitching so that they have a better idea how soon he’ll be able to handle Minnesota’s right field spot.
Benson reached MLB last September, but his career has taken a big step back since. Assigned to AAA at the beginning of the year, Benson hit just .179 there, got demoted to AA, then broke his hand. He’s back from the injury, but he still hasn’t broken the Mendoza Line for New Britain. It’s hard to argue that Benson has earned a call-up this year or that facing MLB pitchers again would be good for his confidence.
Tosoni was never as highly-rates as Benson as a prospect, but his 2012 has been eerily similar: assigned to AAA, demoted, injured, and slumping. Unless the Twins develop a big need for outfield depth, he probably won’t return this year.