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Farm Futures: Potential September Call-Ups

James Anderson

James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius/XM radio. He also hosts the RotoWire MiLB/NBA/CFB Podcasts.

Potential September call-ups on contending teams will be profiled in this space next week while this weekís focus will be on potential September call-ups on non-contenders. The teams with less than a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs on Aug. 18, according to Baseball Prospectus, got labeled non-contenders (apologies to fans of the Twins, Rangers, Rays and Nationals). It was important to distinguish between contenders and non-contenders because typically non-contenders only promote players currently on the 40-man roster, while contending teams will often do whatever it takes to win the division or improve their playoff odds in September, which can mean promoting a phenom who is not on the 40-man roster. That said, a few players who are not on the 40-man rosters of the Rangers and Nationals were included as those two teams may really go hard after a playoff spot, even though the odds are not in their favor.

Not every player on the 40-man roster of a non-contender was listed here, just players who could theoretically be interesting in fantasy leagues. For instance, the Indians and Marlins did not have anyone worth mentioning in this piece. These players are listed by team in the order of their fantasy potential over the final month of the season, taking into account talent, likelihood of getting called up and realistic playing time once they are called up.

Boston Red Sox
Garin Cecchini, OF/3B/1B, 24
Sean Coyle, 2B/3B/OF, 23
Brian Johnson, LHP, 24

This is why the Red Sox werenít ranked higher in the Top-10 Farm Systems piece from last week. Yes, Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, Manuel Margot and Javier Guerra could all be fantasy studs, but they arenít very close to contributing. Iím not a fan of Cecchini or Coyle, and while I like Johnson as a potential mid-rotation starter, heís on the minor league DL with an elbow issue and may not pitch in games again this season. Thereís not much to see here.

Tampa Bay Rays
Matt Moore, LHP, 26
Richie Shaffer, 3B/1B/DH, 24
Ryan Brett, 2B/OF/DH, 23
Nick Franklin, 2B/SS/DH, 24
Joey Butler, OF/DH, 29

Top prospect Blake Snell could be an option if the Rays were contending, but with just a 17.9 percent chance of making the playoffs, single-season owners will need to wait until 2016 to see Snellís big league debut. However, if Moore is available in shallower formats, he makes for an excellent high-upside stash. The Rays could certainly opt to shut Moore down at some point before the end of the season, but if he is allowed to make a few starts with the Rays in September he could prove quite useful. Yes, he struggled mightily in six starts in the big leagues this season, but he has been much better at Triple-A and this was a guy with No. 2 starter stuff prior to Tommy John surgery. The hitters listed here are all low-floor/quad-A types, but one of them could theoretically get hot for a month and prove useful.

Minnesota Twins
Byron Buxton, OF, 21
Jorge Polanco, SS/2B, 22
Max Kepler, OF/1B/DH, 22
Alex Meyer, RHP, 25
Kennys Vargas, 1B/DH, 25
Josmil Pinto, C/DH, 26
Oswaldo Arcia, OF/DH, 24

Buxton is the top player to own of all the potential call-ups on non-contenders. He is absolutely raking at Triple-A and could help push some fantasy teams across the finish line in September. Now would seem to be as good a time as any to give Polanco an extended run as the primary shortstop so that the Twins can better evaluate that position heading into the offseason, but concerns about his defense could still limit his playing time. Kepler trails only Buxton in terms of a player who deserves a significant shot this September, as he has been on fire at Double-A. Still, that would mean benching someone like Torii Hunter, which the Twins may not view as a realistic option even though they probably should. Meyer has sneakily been stretched out over his last two outings at Triple-A, tossing 4.1 innings of shutout ball Sunday. However, it still seems like a bit of a stretch that he would be a net positive as a starter from a fantasy perspective even if he was given a shot in September. Vargas could hit five or six homers in September, but itís hard to see where he would get the at-bats to do so. Pinto is a forgotten man, but if he was called up he would immediately offer the most fantasy upside among the Twinsí catchers. Arcia has been one of the biggest fantasy busts of 2015 and is just 2-for-30 over his last 10 games at Triple-A, so while thereís no denying his raw power, itís hard to see where he would get at-bats.

Notable omission: Jose Berrios, RHP, 21

He probably should have been up in July when he could have possibly helped carry the Twins into the playoffs. However, since he is not already up, itís hard to see him getting called up at all this season because he is not on the 40-man roster. It will be interesting to see how the Twins handle Berrios next season, as he could reasonably be considered the best starting pitcher on the team by the end of spring training.

Detroit Tigers
Steven Moya, OF/DH, 24
Wynton Bernard, OF, 24

This is an uninspiring duo, which should not come as a surprise, as the Tigers having a bottom-five system in baseball. Moya seems like a lock to be a September call-up, though after failing to get better at making contact and seeing his ISO drop from .280 at Double-A last year to .172 at Triple-A this year, his stock has crashed. In super deep leagues he could be worth a flier if the only category that matters is home runs. Bernard is less likely to be called up, but perhaps more interesting, as he has 80 stolen bases over the past two seasons across Low-A and Double-A and is hitting .277 this season.

Chicago White Sox
Micah Johnson, 2B, 24
Frankie Montas, RHP, 22
Erik Johnson, RHP, 25
Matt Davidson, 3B, 24

Johnson is currently on a minor league rehab assignment as he recovers from a hamstring issue, but he should be ready to contribute in September. He could steal 5-to-10 bases in September even if he only starts four days per week. Montas would top this list if there was an obvious avenue for him to get into Chicagoís rotation. They should probably just move to a six-man rotation in September, and in that case Montas would offer value in most formats due to his ability to miss bats. Johnson would be the less sexy option if the White Sox made room in their September rotation, but he would still be a potential streaming candidate in the right matchup. Davidson is currently in a heated battle with Adam Walker for this seasonís strikeout crown across all of organized baseball, but he still has the raw power to hit four or five out in September, given the black hole at third base on the big league roster. However, that power would probably also come with a sub-.200 batting average.

Texas Rangers
Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, 21
Leonys Martin, OF, 27
Luke Jackson, RHP, 23

Gallo has a woeful .203 batting average and 68 strikeouts in 41 games at Triple-A Round Rock, so owners should not expect him to thrive if he does receive a September call-up. That said, he still has 80 power and could hit seven or eight homers in a month even if that comes with a sub-.200 batting average. Martin could have a broken hand, in which case he probably wonít return this season. However, there is still a slight chance he could steal a few bases over the seasonís final two weeks. Jackson has the stuff to be a late-inning reliever, and while that probably wonít happen this year, it would be nice if he got another chance in the big leagues if the Rangersí playoff hopes fade.

Non-40-man option: Nomar Mazara, OF, 20

Mazara, who was just promoted to Triple-A, was one of the best players in the Texas League this year and he turned 20 on April 26. A prototypical right fielder with plus power from the left side and an excellent approach for a player his age, Mazara will likely be called up in September if Texas can stay hot and remain in the race for a playoff spot.

Seattle Mariners
Chris Taylor, SS/2B, 24

This was a borderline inclusion, as Taylor should find it hard to get playing time if he is recalled, though he has been hitting well at Triple-A. Ketel Marte and Brad Miller would still both be preferable options (in that order) if healthy.

Oakland Aís
Sean Nolin, LHP, 25
Renato Nunez, 3B/1B/DH, 21
A.J. Griffin, RHP, 27

In Nolin and Nunez, the Aís have two very different potential contributors in September. Nolin, a pitcher who is old for the minor leagues, was just activated from the minor league DL, while Nunez, a position player who is young for his level (Double-A), was just placed on the minor league DL with a hamstring issue. If Nolin can get stretched out over the next couple weeks he would offer an upgrade over Felix Doubront at the back of Oaklandís rotation, and he could be good enough to be useful in mid-sized mixed leagues. Nunez, who was bumped from the top-200 prospect list this season as it grows increasingly likely that he may profile best on the short side of a platoon, still has enough power to be interesting in daily leagues against lefties if he got the call. Griffin is a big-time longshot as he is still on the minor league DL with a shoulder injury. The Aís also have a bevvy of relievers who will be called up in September and could theoretically get into the saves mix, but it is pretty impossible to predict how that will shake out.

Washington Nationals
Wilmer Difo, SS/2B, 23
A.J. Cole, RHP, 23

Difo would seem to be a lock to be called up in September, but his role upon being recalled is much less certain. I view him as the Nationalsí long-term answer at second base, assuming they view Trea Turner as the better option at shortstop, and now might be a good time to let Difo take over as the primary second baseman. However, manager Matt Williams certainly seems to view Difo as a utility/bench option, so it may take a new manager in Washington for Difo to get a fair shake at the keystone. Joe Ross should stick in the rotation for at least a few more starts, but if the Nationalsí playoff hopes really fade, it is possible Cole could finish the season as the teamís fifth starter. He looks more like a No. 4 starter at this point, but Cole could be useful in deeper leagues if he were to get a handful of starts down the stretch.

Non-40-man options: Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, 21 and Lucas Giolito, RHP, 21

Both Lopez and Giolito profile as outstanding additions to the Nationalsí bullpen down the stretch, but I think Lopez makes a bit more sense in that role this season as there is a non-zero chance he could end up as a reliever long term (though I still love him as a starting pitching prospect). Neither pitcher has an innings count that suggests they would be viable options in the rotation at this point in the season, but both flame throwers could be nearly unhittable in the late innings.

Atlanta Braves
Christian Bethancourt, C, 23
Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, 23

Bethancourt is one of the hottest hitters in all the minors, and while his .363 BABIP needs to be factored in, a .328/.363/.489 slash line for an excellent defensive catcher is nothing to sneeze at. Look for Bethancourt to get a few starts per week for Atlanta in September in advance of him taking over as the primary option in 2016. A week or two ago Jenkins might have been one of my favorite minor league arms to stash in advance of a September call-up, but now that he was placed on the minor league DL with arm fatigue it appears a lot less likely that he joins the big league rotation this season. Look for him to make an impact there early next season.

Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Altherr, OF, 24
Kelly Dugan, OF, 24
Jesse Biddle, LHP, 23

Altherr, an athletic 6-foot-5 center fielder, is a bit of a late-bloomer, but he has been excellent this season by slashing .293/.367/.487 with 14 home runs and 16 steals in 111 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He probably wouldnít play every day if he gets the call in September, but he could get enough at-bats to put up useful counting stats in deeper leagues. Dugan is basically a lesser version of Altherr, but if he got the call and Altherr did not, Dugan could still get a few starts each week. This may come as a surprise, but I would not be surprised at all if Biddle made more starts for the Phillies in September than Aaron Nola. While Nola is the best pitcher in the organization, he is already at 139 innings in his first full professional season, so it would make sense for the Phillies to shut him down at some point. That said, Biddle will likely be quite terrible once he joins the big league rotation, as he has 27 strikeouts and 23 walks in 35 innings at Triple-A this season.

Note: Altherr was recalled after this piece was written.

Cincinnati Reds
Brandon Finnegan, LHP, 22
Michael Lorenzen, RHP, 23
Kyle Waldrop, OF/1B, 23
Yorman Rodriguez, OF, 23
Amir Garrett, LHP, 23

Finnegan, the top prospect the Reds received in the Johnny Cueto deal, is sitting at just 65.1 innings on the season and he tossed five innings of shutout ball in his last outing at Triple-A, so he is one of the top minor league starters to watch among non-contenders. Lorenzenís prospect stock has taken a major hit over the past couple months, as he was recently demoted from the big league rotation, but it would not be surprising if he made a couple more starts in September. If Waldrop wasnít in the midst of a horrid 1-for-35 stretch at Triple-A Louisville, he would be somewhat intriguing, but even if he were swinging a hot bat there is not an obvious spot for him to play on the big league roster. Rodriguez would have been a lock to be recalled in September, but that may no longer be the case after he was placed on the minor league DL a few weeks ago with a left calf strain. Meanwhile, the player with the most long-term upside on this list, Garrett, is only at High-A, so itís certainly a stretch to suggest he could get some starts in the big leagues down the stretch. Still, itís worth noting he is on the 40-man, so stranger things have happened.

Milwaukee Brewers
Domingo Santana, OF, 23
Luis Sardinas, SS/2B, 22
Tyler Wagner, RHP, 24

Santana is slashing .368/.394/.500 since coming over in the Carlos Gomez deal, and while he has 15 strikeouts in 17 games with Triple-A Colorado Springs, thatís actually not bad by his standards. At the very least he should be able to get a start or two per week in left field when a lefty is on the mound, and he has the power to hit a few home runs in September in a limited role. Given how terrible the Brewersí big league second basemen have been this season it would seem likely that Sardinas will get a few starts each week in September. He will probably bat near the bottom of the order, but there could be some batting average and stolen base value in NL-only leagues. Wagner has a 2.33 ERA and 1.15 WHIP at Double-A this season, and since heís on the 40-man roster he would be my pick to replace Tyler Cravy in the big league rotation in September. That said, Wagner is probably a No. 4 or No. 5 big league starter in the end, so the fantasy upside over the final month of the season is pretty limited, assuming he gets the call. For the record, I would have said the same about Taylor Jungmann though, so who knows?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Brandon Drury, 2B/3B, 22
Zack Godley, RHP, 25
Socrates Brito, OF, 22

Jake Lamb has been pretty excellent this season as a two-win player (according to Fangraphs) in just 68 games, prompting the Diamondbacks to give Drury more starts between Double-A and Triple-A at second base (58) than at the hot corner (54). This all sets up for him to take over at the keystone as the primary option in September after Chris Owings and Aaron Hill have been replacement-level players, at best, this season. For this reason Drury has to be considered one of the top position players to add in fantasy prior to roster expansion. While Godley was excellent in three starts with the Diamondbacks in July, he is also sitting at 110.2 innings this season after only notching 55.1 innings last year, so he may be shut down before rosters expand. Brito has been excellent this season, slashing .304/.341/.444 with seven home runs and 18 steals at Double-A Mobile, but there is probably no room in the D-Backsí outfield for him to get more than a start or two per week if he joins the team in September.

San Diego Padres
Casey Kelly, RHP, 25
Rymer Liriano, OF, 24
Alex Dickerson, OF/1B, 25
Robbie Erlin, LHP, 24

Not many prospects have seen their stock go up and down over the past six years as much as Kelly. He was a top-30 prospect prior to 2010, he fell down lists but remained on them until 2014 and now he is back to pitching well with a chance to join the Padresí rotation this September. If Colin Rea falls out of favor or one of the four veterans gets hurt, Kelly immediately becomes interesting in deeper formats thanks to the home ballpark. Given the apparent lack of importance on center field defense in San Diego, Liriano could theoretically be thrown into that mix in September, but he belongs in right field long term, so that really makes little sense. He should still be among those to join the team when rosters expand, seeing a couple starts per week, and should anything happen to Justin Upton or Matt Kemp, Liriano has the tools to be useful in many formats. Dickerson will find it difficult to get at-bats as a corner outfielder in San Diego, but he will nonetheless probably be added to the roster. Long term, he has a quad-A profile, as he lacks the offensive punch to handle an outfield corner or first base. I have always loved Erlin so it is hard for me to believe he has been fully healthy en route to a 5.85 ERA this season. That said, it is hard to get too excited even if he gets a few starts down the stretch, particularly at home, given his struggles this season.

Colorado Rockies
Wilin Rosario, 1B, 26
Jairo Diaz, RHP, 24
Miguel Castro, RHP, 20

Rosario should at least take on the short side of a first base platoon when rosters expand, and that might be enough for him to be useful in some deeper formats. It will also be a mini audition for Rosario, as he could open 2016 with a share of the first base job. Diaz throws gas and has 15 strikeouts while allowing zero runs over his last 10 innings with Triple-A Albuquerque, so he has probably earned a promotion, though it may be a year or two before he assumes his natural role as the Rockiesí closer. Castro is the more well-known of these two potential future closers for Colorado, and while I prefer Diaz by a nose as a future closer candidate, the two are close in terms of value. It would not be surprising to see either guy get a handful of saves in September and it would also not be surprising if neither guy pitched in the ninth inning at all. Reliever prospects are just very tough to predict.