The minor league season is winding down, leaving roster expansion for September as the next milestone. Billy Hamilton recently broke Vince Coleman's single-season record for steals and could get the call to serve largely as a pinch-runner during the Reds' pennant chase. Meanwhile, despite the fact that he is raking, it turns out the Padres might not have room for Jedd Gyorko on their 40-man roster after all. The Royals' Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi have been knocking on the door since mid-season, but could remain in the minors until 2013 as well, particularly with their Triple-A squad battling in the playoffs. One never knows what certain clubs are thinking, though, as witnessed by the sooner-than-expected promotions of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado earlier in 2012.
With that in mind, let's see who else could be in line for a September cup of coffee, or who will be left to make their big-league debut in 2013 and beyond. Behold, this week's Minor League Barometer.
Eury Perez, OF, WAS – The chic name being thrown around for a Nats promotion is Anthony Rendon, Washington's 2011 first-round selection. Rendon has battled injury problems during his brief professional career, though, coming into the draft with a shoulder injury and subsequently breaking his ankle in April this year. Although he has been quickly bumped to Double-A, he is batting just .152 in 13 games at this level. Perez is the more likely callup, a speedy outfielder who is slashing .331/.373/.391 with 19 steals in 38 games since being promoted to Triple-A Syracuse. Perez would give the Nats a legitimate stolen base threat to accompany the power bats in their lineup. Although it might be tough for him to get a ton of at-bats with the big club, he should get the call shortly.
Adam Eaton, OF, ARZ – What does a guy have to do to get some love? Knocked at every stop in the minors, all Eaton has done is produce. He is batting a robust .379/.452/.536 with seven home runs, 45 RBI and 37 steals through 116 games for Triple-A Reno. The 23-year-old lefty has shown impeccable plate discipline as well as above-average speed. The Diamondbacks also appear to be out of contention for the playoffs, barring a repeat of 2011's September playoff theatrics. The only issue for Eaton is the crowded Arizona outfield, which has Chris Young, Justin Upton, Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra. Still, it's going to be hard to keep him down for much longer with that batting average. And while we're on the D-Backs, Trevor Bauer should come back in September too.
Darin Ruf, 1B, PHI – Perhaps no hitter in the minors has been hotter in August than Ruf, the 26-year-old power-hitting first baseman who is batting .359/.431/.922 with 18 home runs and 29 RBI this month for Double-A Reading. A 20th-round selection in 2009 out of Creighton University, Ruf had a standout 2011 season but has really kicked it up a notch in 2012. Overall, he is hitting .317/.408/.622 with 36 home runs and 96 RBI in 132 games. Ruf is obviously a bit older than most prospects, and the Phils have Ryan Howard manning first base. However, they have discussed bringing him up in September with the team out of the playoff race, and he could be an intriguing pickup if his hot streak continues. Also keep an eye out for Tyler Cloyd to possibly get promoted by the Phils; the 25-year-old righty is 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA at Triple-A this season.
Jenrry Mejia, P, NYM – Once considered an elite prospect, Mejia fell off the prospect map after Tommy John surgery but has resurfaced in 2012. The Mets continue to vacillate as to whether he will be a starter or reliever. However, for the rest of this season he is pitching out of the rotation and is expected to make a few starts for New York in September. Although he struggled in his last start, the 22-year-old allowed just two earned runs in his five previous starts, a span of 24.1 innings. Mejia could certainly help NL-Only squads at the very least; should he succeed as a starter, the Mets may have to consider an eventual move back to the rotation. Watch out for a debut from fellow starter Jeurys Familia as well; Familia has an electric fastball but also might project best as a reliever.
Jarred Cosart, P, HOU – The Astros rushed Jordan Lyles to the bigs in 2011, and as a result he has still not found his footing. Houston has been a bit more deliberate with Cosart, arguably the top pitching prospect in the system. After posting a 3.52 ERA and 68:38 K:BB ratio in 87 innings at Double-A, Cosart was moved to Triple-A, where he has compiled a 3.32 ERA and 21:10 K:BB ratio in 21.2 innings. He has battled injury problems once again, though, with only five appearances since May 8. However, in three starts since returning, he has induced a plethora of groundballs to the tune of a 1.50 GO:AO ratio. After an only average 2011 campaign, Cosart appears headed in the right direction, giving the Astros an interesting decision. Do they let him start in September for an awful squad and risk hurting his newfound confidence? Or do they wait until 2013 to start fresh? The likely answer is the latter, but we'll find out for sure in a few short days.
Shelby Miller, P, STL – Entering 2012, one would have already expected Miller to be in the Birds' MLB rotation by this time. Although he scuffled at the beginning of the season, Miller has been stellar his past 10 starts for Triple-A Memphis. Over that span, Miller has posted a 3.40 ERA and 65:11 K:BB ratio in 55.2 innings. Opposing batters have hit just .220 against him during this recent hot streak. On the downside for Miller, the Cardinals are once again surging toward a possible playoff spot, and are unlikely to throw a rookie out there as a starter in September. Miller could be used as Lance Lynn was in 2011, but his value as a reliever in 2012 clearly would be limited. More likely, 2013 will be the year Shelby makes his mark with the Cards.
Chris Archer, P, TB – Archer has already had a couple of MLB starts, and they were decent too. However, the Rays are also fighting for their playoff lives, and barring injury there is no place for Archer. That's too bad, since over his last 10 starts, the 23-year-old righty has notched a 2.10 ERA and 47:17 K:BB ratio in 51.1 innings. Opposing batters are hitting a putrid .196 against him during that time period. Still, Archer may also have to wait until 2013 to stick in a major-league rotation.
Kyle McPherson, P, PIT – With the Bucs sputtering, McPherson could provide a welcome lift to their staff in September. After tossing two scoreless innings out of the bullpen in his big-league debut about a month ago, McPherson has since dominated Triple-A. In three starts, the 24-year-old righty has a 0.98 ERA and 17:4 K:BB ratio over a span of 18.1 innings. Control is McPherson's calling card; he has walked just 18 batters in 69 total innings this season. In 2011, he walked 27 batters in 161 combined innings. His standout command, combined with his ability to miss bats, makes him an intriguing hurler should the Pirates decide to put him in the rotation next month.
Brad Peacock, P, OAK – Peacock has had a disappointing 2012 campaign for the Athletics. Coming over to Oakland as part of the Gio Gonzalez deal, Peacock was expected to make a push for a rotation slot at the big-league level this season. Instead, he toiled at Triple-A for the entire season, posting a bloated 5.62 ERA in 133 innings. He continues to show strikeout stuff, amassing 137 Ks over that span; however, he walked 64 batters while also surrendering 13 home runs. In addition, he recently took a line drive off of his pitching elbow and has been shut down for the season. Although x-rays came back negative, 2012 has clearly been a season to forget for the 24-year-old righty.
Danny Hultzen, P, SEA – In this writer's opinion, the M's would be rushing Hultzen if he made a September debut. He has been inconsistent since his promotion to Triple-A, posting a 5.14 ERA and 51:33 K:BB ratio in 42 innings. His control has been subpar to say the least, as he has walked at least three batters in eight of his 10 starts for Triple-A Tacoma. In his last start Aug. 24, the 22-year-old lefty could not even make it out of the first inning, as he allowed four runs on two hits and issued four walks in the process. Hultzen remains an elite pitching prospect, but the M's might be better served to wait until 2013 to give Hultzen a rotation spot.
Alex Castellanos, OF, LAD – Through almost no fault of his own, Castellanos will not play anything close to a significant role with the Dodgers in September, and perhaps not even to start 2013 either. The 26-year-old outfielder is batting .344/.436/.622 with 17 home runs, 52 RBI and 16 steals through 87 games for Triple-A Albuquerque. While he did only hit .136 during a brief 12-game stint in LA earlier this season, the recent trade for Adrian Gonzalez also brings over Carl Crawford, who should return sometime in 2013. For now, the LA outfield has Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Shane Victorino. Although the Dodgers did jettison Jerry Sands and Ivan DeJesus in the trade, the outfield remains too crowded for Castellanos to contribute.
Nick Castellanos, 3B, DET – Tigers manager Jim Leyland is on record as not loving September call-ups. This does not bode well for Castellanos, a pure hitter who also would not have a position at the big-league level due to the presence of Miguel Cabrera at third, as well as a revolving door at designated hitter. Add in that Castellanos has struck out 64 times in 72 games for Double-A Erie while drawing just 14 walks, and the 20-year-old likely will not see the majors until 2013. He remains an excellent prospect, but will simply get more seasoning in the interim.