Last week, potential September call-ups on non-contenders were profiled in this space. Those players were primarily guys on 40-man rosters, as history tells us that is typically how non-contenders operate in September. This week, however, some big names who are not yet on their team’s 40-man roster (and some who are) will be profiled as we examine what the contenders may do to try to bolster their rosters for the final month of the season. 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.
New York Yankees
Aaron Judge, RF, 23
Gary Sanchez, DH/C, 22
Rob Refsnyder, 2B, 24
Excitement for Judge’s impending call-up should be tempered, as production and regular playing time are both far from guaranteed. Yes, he has plus-plus raw power, but at 6-foot-7 he has understandably had some issues making contact at the upper levels. The Yankees will undoubtedly view him as a defensive upgrade over Carlos Beltran in right field, but that won’t be enough for him to be thrust into the everyday job in his first month in the big leagues. Sanchez was ranked as a top-100 prospect by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus for four straight years before finally falling off both lists before the start of this season. For this reason it seems like he has been around forever, but he’s still just 22 and has made some major strides at the plate this season, sporting an .865 OPS with six home runs in 33 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Look for him to get rewarded in September with a chance to get his share of pinch-hit at-bats against lefties and the occasional start at DH or catcher down the stretch. If Refsnyder ever had prospect shine, it has mostly worn off, as he was up for a brief cup of coffee, didn’t produce and was quickly sent back down. However, I still think he’s the best option at second base in the organization and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he gets a couple starts per week in September.
Toronto Blue Jays
Dalton Pompey, CF, 22
Pompey was rushed last season and because of that the expectations coming into 2015 were unrealistic. This is still a top-100 prospect, however, and he will almost certainly be back with Toronto for the final month of the season. The best-case scenario for Pompey is a Denard Span-type of leadoff hitter who is a fantasy asset in batting average, runs and stolen bases. The low-end of his projection would be a fourth outfielder who typically gets slotted into the eight or nine hole. There probably won’t be enough at-bats for Pompey to be useful over the final month, but it will serve as an intriguing gauge of his current talent level against big league pitching.
(Technically Drew Hutchison is in the minor leagues at the time this piece was written, but he will be recalled to join the Blue Jays’ rotation before September).
Trey Mancini, 1B, 23
The Orioles, losers of their last five, are hardly realistic contenders at this point, but that may not stop them from rewarding Mancini for his dominance with Double-A Bowie over the second half of the season. He is hitting .350 with nine homers in 70 games at Double-A, and his ability to make consistent contact (16.1 percent K-rate) makes him an appealing option, especially with Chris Davis set to become a free agent.
Kansas City Royals
Miguel Almonte, RHP, 22
If Almonte had been pitching just a bit better at Triple-A Omaha, he could have been the pick for the recently open No. 5 spot in the Royals’ rotation. Instead, that spot went to Kris Medlen, who is certainly worth a flier in deeper formats. That said, Medlen has unfortunately found it very difficult to stay healthy as a starter, so it would not be surprising to see that spot in the rotation open up again before the end of the regular season. In that case, Almonte could once again become an option. Either way, he seems likely to join the big league club initially in a relief role in September where he would be used in the same way as Brandon Finnegan in 2014.
A.J. Reed, 1B/DH, 22
Jonathan Singleton, 1B/DH, 23
Michael Feliz, RHP, 22
If I were to pick one team to have a surprise September call-up to make a difference down the stretch, it would be Houston. Their system is deep at seemingly every position, so there are a variety of directions they could go. However, the spot on the big league roster where they need the most help is first base, and that just happens to be the position of their best hitting prospect. Reed has mashed at every stop this year, most recently slashing .331/.407/.547 with seven home runs in 38 games at Double-A Corpus Christi. Singleton is the far less appealing option for fantasy, and probably for Houston as well, so in the quest to stash an Astro, I think Reed is the guy to target, as he could hit at least five homers over the final month of the season, even in a part-time role. Feliz, like recently recalled Vincent Velasquez, will probably be used in a relief role, but he also has the potential to be used as a spot starter if the Astros care to rest any of the pitchers in the rotation at some point in September. The ratios with both pitchers should be excellent out of the bullpen but saves are unlikely to come their way. If either pitcher (especially Velasquez) was given the chance to start down the stretch they would be worth a flier in deeper formats.
Los Angeles Angels
Kyle Kubitza, 3B, 25
The Angels did not appear in last week’s non-contenders piece, but they would be there now as they are in the midst of a four-game losing streak and now appear to be long shots to even make the wild card game. They have four legitimate big league starting pitchers, and then a bevy of options who are difficult to own in even deep AL-only leagues, so there probably isn’t any useful pitching coming up over the next week. Kubitza is the one guy to watch when rosters expand. He figures to be the Angels’ everyday third baseman in 2016, so this will be a nice chance for him to finish the season on a strong note against big league pitching. The tools aren’t flashy, but he could be a middling option who hits .260 to .280.
New York Mets
Dilson Herrera, 2B, 21
Steven Matz is the obvious stash option on the Mets, but he is already on the big league roster, albeit on the 15-day DL rehabbing from a lat injury. Herrera should get at least a few starts per week at second base, especially while Lucas Duda is on the DL and Daniel Murphy is getting starts at first base. Herrera really has nothing to prove in the minor leagues, but the composition of the big league roster has kept him down for most of the year. He is slashing .341/.392/.516 with seven home runs and nine steals in 68 games in the Pacific Coast League and if he were to get hot he could offer significant value in deeper leagues down the stretch. Brandon Nimmo, 22, could join the roster in September, but he would be lucky to see one start per week.
St. Louis Cardinals
Marco Gonzales, LHP, 23
Alex Reyes, RHP, 20
Gonzales once again appears to be next in line should a spot open up in the Cardinals’ rotation due to an injury, and with Jaime Garcia in the mix that is certainly a real possibility. He would be a solid bet for wins if he were to get some starts in September, but he lacks the upside of the next guy on the list. The Cardinals have been careful with Reyes’ innings this season, as he sits at 91 compared to 109.1 last year. This certainly suggests that he factors into their plans for September and beyond. Unfortunately for fantasy purposes, Reyes will likely be used as a reliever, where he could be nearly unhittable but would be unlikely to get any saves. Still, he could offer something in the neighborhood of 12 or 13 strikeouts per nine innings as a reliever, which could be useful in deeper leagues.
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, 22
Josh Bell, 1B, 23
Glasnow is the most obvious pitcher to stash in single-season leagues, as his innings (96.2 compared to 124.1 last season) and the back of Pittsburgh’s rotation (Jeff Locke and J.A. Happ) point to him getting five or six starts with the big league club in September. Walks have been a bit of an issue for Glasnow at Triple-A, but his stuff is so electric that he can still be quite effective with fringe-average control. Where he should really shine is in the strikeout department, as he could be good for more than a strikeout per inning as a starter down the stretch. Bell would be an obvious option here if the Pirates didn’t have Pedro Alvarez and Mike Morse already vying for at-bats at first base. While Bell is certainly the better option long term, he would probably be the third option there if he does join the club in September.
Javier Baez, SS/2B/3B, 22
Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/SS/OF, 23
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B/DH, 22
Baez has more September upside than any hitter mentioned in this column, as his elite raw power and the potential opening for playing time mesh to offer a very intriguing fantasy package. Obviously the risks are well-documented, but Baez’s tools should still be enough for fantasy owners to be salivating at the prospect of him joining the mix for starts at second base and possibly shortstop down the stretch. He is slashing .315/.383/.542 with 13 homers and 16 steals in 63 games at Triple-A. In addition, he has a 24.7 percent K-rate, which is fantastic by his standards. The time to add Baez is now, as he has the chance to power teams to their fantasy championships in September. Alcantara seems to be pigeonholed as a strict utility option for the Cubs at this point, so extracting reliable fantasy production from him in September is much less likely. In addition, unlike Baez, Alcantara has not necessarily handled Triple-A pitching as one would have expected. He is slashing .234/.283/.414 with 12 homers and 14 steals, and seems to be selling out for power to the point where the overall returns are less than ideal. In fact, he is striking out at a higher rate (25.2 percent) than Baez, so his overall prospect stock is really trending down compared to that of his teammate at Iowa. Vogelbach is less of a sure thing to get added to the big league roster, but he would provide an excellent bench bat and backup first baseman who the Cubs could attempt to showcase in hopes of finding a trade partner for him (and possibly Alcantara) over the winter.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager, SS/3B, 21
Jose Peraza, 2B/SS/OF, 21
Julio Urias, LHP, 19
Seager will finally get his chance in the big leagues in September, but the role will likely be that of a backup at third base and shortstop, meaning it’s unlikely he pays off the way fantasy owners who added him a month or two ago had hoped. Should Justin Turner or Jimmy Rollins get hurt, Seager would then be a must own in most formats, but it’s hard to bank on an injury over the span of a month. Javier Baez, not Seager or Aaron Judge, would be my pick if I could only stash one minor league hitter on a contender. Peraza will be the Dodgers’ designated pinch-runner in September and beyond, but he is unlikely to see many starts. Still, he could offer four or five steals for those desperate for cheap speed in the final month. Urias is far from a lock to get a taste of the big leagues in September, and if he does, it will be as a reliever. The bullpen is probably the Dodgers’ biggest weakness, and Urias could offer a nasty lefty to help spell some of the other relievers over the final four-plus weeks of the season. His ratios and strikeouts project to be elite out of the bullpen, and 2016 will be the year he challenges for a rotation spot sometime in the summer.
San Francisco Giants
Mac Williamson, OF, 25
Perhaps more than any contender, the Giants are what they are right now. There is not a power arm coming, nor is there an impact outfielder set to join the team in September. That said, they may give Williamson the chance to show he is close to the latter, especially given the injuries to Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence. It’s possible that Williamson could be a second division left fielder, but it seems more likely that he will be a fourth outfielder/quad-A hitter. He could get a couple starts per week if he gets the call, and if were to get hot that could turn into four or five starts per week before the end of the regular season.