Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Look At September Call-Ups

Good morning Fackers - at least as good as it can be now that the summer months are officially over. One of the many things that makes baseball unique when compared to other sports is the expansion of rosters each September. Baseball goes through approximately 85% of its season with a 25 man roster. Then, right as the season enters its homestretch, when the games are supposed to matter most, the permitted roster size increases by a whopping 60%. Other sports don't expand their rosters at all.

But I don't have a problem with the practice. I think it's fun when the rosters expand. Teams that are out of it get a look at their prospects, teams that are in it get to bring in some reinforcements to give them a bit more roster flexibility.

Thankfully, the Yankees are in the latter category. So even though others have already weighed in on this elsewhere, I've long been planning to take a look at this once the calendar turned to September. So here's the official Fack Youk look at potential Yankee call-ups.

Only players on the 40 man roster are eligible for recall. Right off the bat, the Yankees lose three of their potential 15 call-ups, as Ian Kennedy, Christian Garcia, and Kevin Cash are all out for the year with injuries. I suppose the Yankees could DFA Cash to open a spot; but I'm not quite sure what the rules are on that is it pertains to an injured player. I'd imagine if they could, they would have already. Why else would they be keeping him around?

A fourth player that can be ruled out is 2007 first round draft pick, Andrew Brackman. The tall righty didn't make his pro debut until this year thanks to Tommy John surgery, and after a decent start to the season, he's absolutely lost it: 2-12 with a 6.26 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 6.8 BB/9, 10 hit batsmen, and an astounding 26 wild pitches. He's spent the whole season with low-A Charleston, so even if he were effective, he'd be a long, long shot for a recall.

Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang are both on the 60 day DL, so they do not count towards the forty man. Brett Gardner is on the 15 day DL (and nearly ready to begin a rehab assignment), so he does count towards the 40 man, and of course will be activated as soon as he's ready.

That leaves ten possibilities. Six of these possibilities are pitchers. Given the Yankees willingness to carry an ungodly amount of pitchers for much of the season, the current uncertainty about Sergio Mitre after Saturday's come-backer, and the plan to intentionally truncate the length of Joba Chamberlain's starts, it's a safe bet that most, if not all, of these pitchers will be recalled. Some of these names are familiar: Jonathan Albaladejo, Mark Melancon, Edwar Ramirez, and Anthony Claggett have all seen time with the big club this year. I expect that Albaladejo and Melancon will be recalled right away. For Ramirez and Claggett, this month could represent their last chance to stick with the organization.

The remaining two pitchers on the 40 man are left-handers who have yet to play in the Major Leagues: Mike Dunn and Wilkins DeLaRosa. Dunn is a fifth year pro who was converted to pitching from the outfield after he struggled through 219 minor league PAs to the tune of .499 OPS. He spent most of his pitching career as a starter before being made a full time reliever last season. He's split this year between AA Trenton and AAA Scranton. He's striking out an impressive 12.1 per 9, but walking an unacceptable 5.7 per 9, including 6.5 per 9 at AAA. He's also allowing an unsightly 1.43 baserunners per inning. Given Phil Coke's recent struggles the team may want another left hander in the pen, and Dunn would be the first choice. If he doesn't get a call up, he's off to the Arizona Fall League.

Like Dunn, DeLaRosa is a converted outfielder, who OPS'd at .621 through 533 PAs in his first two pro seasons. Now in his third year as a pitcher, De La Rosa has spent most of the season in Trenton's rotation after making three starts with high-A Tampa. Combined, he's 5-5 on the year with a 3.17 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He also has experience out of the pen, with 30 of his 63 pro appearances coming in relief. I'm not expecting to see him get called up.

Amongst the position players, Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena are sure bets to be recalled right away. Nearly every team will be recalling a third catcher this month. Cervelli was impressive during his stint earlier this year and certainly deserves another look. Jorge Posada's finger injury makes Cervelli's presence all the more necessary and with Jose Molina's contract expiring at season's end, this will double as a final audition for Frankie. Cervelli was off the Scranton roster with a hand injury for about three weeks earlier in August, but he spent a few rehab games in the Gulf Coast Rookie League and rejoined Scranton a week ago.

Meanwhile, the Yankee bench has been short since Pena was optioned down on August 21st. His absence has left Jerry Hairston Jr as the lone back-up infielder, back-up centerfielder, and he's also been serving as the emergency catcher with Posada's injury. Pena's recall will ease the burden on Hairston a bit and help the Yankees to rest Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano down the stretch.

Shelley Duncan and Juan Miranda are the last two position players on the 40 man roster. If either are recalled, it probably won't be right away. Both Duncan and Miranda were recalled for a day earlier this year, but neither got into a game. However, both do have Major League experience: Duncan in both of the last two years, Miranda with 14 September plate appearances last year. Both have destroyed AAA pitching this year, with 48 HRs between them.

The Yankees may want to showcase Miranda a bit. He's a first baseman exclusively and the Yankees have other plans there for the next seven years or so. But he can hit - .291/.377/.483 in Scranton the last two years - and he's taking up a precious 40 man spot. The Yankees will likely use him to rest Mark Teixeira down the stretch and to dangle him as trade bait for the off-season.

Conceivably, the Yankees could make some moves to add players to the 40 man and recall them this month. Zach Kroenke is another lefty reliever, with a 1.96 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He strikes out less batters per nine than Dunn (7.1), but also walks fewer per nine (3.8). Like Dunn, he's off to Arizona this fall if he's not brought up.

Kevin Russo is primarily a second baseman with experience at third base and, and minimally at shortstop and the outfield corners. He doesn't have much power, but has great on base skills with a .415 OBP this year. As I stated earlier this summer, I'd like to see the organization give him the Ramiro Pena treatment and make a true utility man out of him. That said, he'd be redundant with Hairston and Pena already on the roster, but he's a name to remember as he'll need to be added to the 40 man this off-season. Cody Ransom is also at Scranton, and if the Yankees needed to add another infielder he'd likely have the inside track over Russo.

Austin Jackson is one of the Yanks top prospects, and we've looked at him intermittently over the course of the year. AJax has had a fine year at Scranton as a 22 year-old. Between his performance and the Gardner injury, a September call-up for Jackson seemed like a sure thing earlier this year. But now, given the 40 man situation and the recent indications that the Yankees want to give him another season at AAA, I don't think we'll see him in 2009. He does need to be added to the 40 man after the season though, so there is a chance the Yankees may try to add him now and give him a taste of the Majors.

One last thing to keep in mind is that the minor league seasons don't end for another week and that Scranton currently holds a 2.5 game lead in their division. While the Big Club certainly won't put themselves at a disadvantage to help Scranton's post-season chances, they do need to keep enough warm bodies in AAA until the season wraps.

[UPDATE 9:30 AM: Jon Heyman tweets that it's Melancon, Dunn, Pena, and Cervelli for now (h/t lenNY's Yankees). I'm surprised Albaladejo isn't included. Girardi's comments yesterday were "more than two pitchers"]


  1. Good info! Thanks. Is Kroenke pronounced like greinke but with a K? K is a golden letter for any pitcher! Go Yankees!

  2. Thanks. I believe "Kroenke" is pronounced like "Grienke".

    Given the 40 man situation and the fact that Dunn is apparently getting recalled, I doubt we'll see Kroenke this September though.

    Long term however, my gut feeling is that Kroenke will be better than Dunn. Dunn's BB numbers scare me - a lot. Given the jump in BB/9 he saw in moving from AA to AAA, I imagine he'll struggle even more in jumping from AAA to MLB. I could be wrong though - time will tell.