Most seasons, I have a decent sense of what to expect from September call-ups. They’re always relatively minor moves, and some people don’t care about them at all, but it’s usually pretty easy to pick out the guys who can come up and play some kind of role on the big league roster. This season seems like a little more of a mystery, both in terms of who gets called up, and what kind of role they might play.
If the Yankees had a can’t-miss reliever in Triple-A, he’d already be here in place of Joba Chamberlain. If they had a standout hitter, they might not have traded for Casey McGehee or Steve Pearce. Instead, the closest thing to an impact call-up might be Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees utility man on Opening Day has been working on his shortstop defense in the minors, and although his minor league numbers are bad, he Yankees know he can hit a little bit at this level. Where he can have the greatest impact, though, is on the bases. He would instantly become the Yankees best pinch runner and a legitimate stolen base threat. Might get some at-bats against lefties, too.
Another outfielder could legitimately help the Yankees — it would give them someone other than Ichiro Suzuki to backup in center, and give them a defensive replacement when Nick Swisher plays first base — and they have two extra outfielders already on the 40-man. Zoilo Almonte has strong numbers this season, but he’s a corner guy in Double-A. Melky Mesa has a terrible batting average and a ton of strikeouts in Triple-A, but he’s a good defensive player with speed. In a limited role, he might make sense. Of course, the best available outfielder is Chris Dickerson, who has outstanding Triple-A numbers, experience in the Bronx and enough big league success to suggest he could legitimately help in a regular platoon role against right-handers. But Dickerson is not on the 40-man. Is it worth adding him for such a bit part? Would the Yankees want to add him anyway to keep him under team control this winter? And if not Dickerson, is it worth pulling Mesa out of regular minor league duty right away, or could additional outfield depth wait until after the minor league playoffs?
An extra catcher is a September 1 tradition, and the Yankees have two to choose from. Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine are both on the 40-man roster, both playing in Triple-A and both capable of playing at the big league level. Romine is the one with greater long-term potential; Cervelli is the one with more immediate familiarity. For the first round of call-ups, Cervelli makes the most sense. Yes, there’s value in giving a prospect like Romine a little more time in the big league clubhouse, but Romine’s played fewer than 30 games this season and there’s more value in letting him continue to play every day until Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s playoff run ends. Cervelli knows what he’s doing up here.
This is another September standard. If nothing else, the Yankees could use another arm to two to eat innings in a mopup role (think about last night’s game, if the Yankees had come back to tie and force extra innings). Problem is, there are only three healthy minor league pitchers currently on the 40-man roster: Cory Wade, Adam Warren and Justin Thomas. All three have been in the big leagues this season — Thomas with the Red Sox — so there’s reason to think they can do the job. Although Warren is the biggest prospect would be the most exciting of the three, it might also make sense to let him keep making minor league starts until the Triple-A postseason ends. Wade is probably the best bet, and Thomas would make sense as a third lefty who’s also stretched out enough to be a multi-inning mopup man. One other name to consider as an immediate impact possibility: Lefty Juan Cedeno. He’s pitched very well this season, and might be worth a 40-man spot in the offseason anyway.
Just out of curiosity
There’s not a lot of wiggle room on the Yankees 40-man roster right now, so “curiosity” call-ups might not happen. But there are three in particular that are worth mentioned (four if you count Cedeno as a guy who fits this category). In Triple-A, the Yankees have four-corners utility man Ronnier Mustelier putting up pretty good numbers, and as an older prospect, it’s worth exploring whether he could be a big league role player next season. Also in Triple-A, Chase Whitley has a 1.10 WHIP as a multi-inning reliever who’s moved quickly through the system. Down in Double-A Trenton, the greatest curiosity of all might be reliever Mark Montgomery, who has 97 strikeouts in 62.1 innings this season and gets compared to Dave Robertson. It’s probably a year too early for Montgomery to make his big league debut, but he has been overwhelming during his two years of pro ball.
Infielders on the 40-man
We’ve already mentioned the two minor league catcher, two minor league outfielders and three healthy minor league pitchers current on the 40-man, but infielders Ramiro Pena, Corban Joseph and David Adams are on the 40-man as well. Pena is a known commodity (good defense, little bit of speed, you know the drill) but Joseph and Adams are a little more intriguing. It might not make sense to call them up right away — might as well let them keep getting at-bats through the minor league playoffs — but both have put up strong numbers this season, with Joseph in particular hitting for surprising power in his Triple-A debut. They’re both pretty limited to second and third base, and if the Yankees think they could play some sort of role next season, it wouldn’t hurt to get their feet wet with a few at-bats down the stretch.
Returning big leaguers
These are the no brainers. Casey McGehee will be added to the roster as soon as Charleston’s season is over. Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Ivan Nova will come off the disabled list as soon as they’re healthy. The only real question mark in this group is Pedro Feliciano. Is he effective enough in his return from shoulder surgery to be a viable big league reliever? If so, the Yankees might as well bring him up to get something out of that contract.
Associated Press photos