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Sorting through the September call-up candidates

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Because today is an off day, the Yankees have little reason to make their September call-ups right away. They’ll more likely wait for the Double-A and Triple-A seasons to finish up this afternoon, then make their moves to supplement the big league roster. Here’s an unnecessarily long look at some of the guys who should be on the radar for September call-ups, as well as some of the guys who might seem like September candidates but are far more likely to go unpromoted because of 40-man roster constraints.

Teams always want to add pitching depth in September, and the Yankees have plenty of readily available options to do just that. Not all of these guys will be healthy enough to get a call-up, but it seems safe to assume that at least two or three will join (or rejoin) the team for the final month of the season.

LHP Manny Banuelos
In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, it’s been an up-and-down season for Banuelos. He was bumped up to Triple-A three weeks ago and has pitched four times at that level. His first last five strong innings. His second lasted just three innings with six walks. His third was another three-inning start, this time with five hits. Last time out he went four innings, six hits, three runs, one walk, four strikeouts.  Might be worth getting his feet wet, but might be a bit much to expect much impact.

RHP Jose Campos
Lost for the year after having Tommy John surgery in April. Not a call-up candidate.

RHP Preston Claiborne
Activated from the Triple-A disabled list a little more than a week ago. Seems like a good bet for a call-up if only because he’s a familiar face who’s had some big league success — granted, with some inconsistency — in the past. Only reason not to bring him up would be if the Yankees are going to give his 40-man spot to someone else.

RHP Matt Daley
The Yankees have carried Daley in their bullpen a decent amount this season. He’s a lot like Claiborne in that the only reason not to bring him up would be to immediately give his 40-man spot to someone else. Might depend on whether the Yankees think some of their younger relievers can legitimately help in the short term. If they’re not convinced, they could use Daley in September and still give his spot to someone else over the winter. (Completely forgot Daley’s on the disabled list, which would seem to make him far more of a DFA candidate than a call-up candidate)

RHP Bryan Mitchell
For a long time, Mitchell was far more potential than actual results. But since a mid-season bump to Triple-A, Mitchell’s numbers have been pretty good (with two pretty ugly starts mixed in). Seems telling that on Saturday the Yankees had both Mitchell and Chase Whitley pitch two innings of relief. Seems like the kind of thing they’d do to keep each guy on track for a Tuesday call-up.

RHP Jose Ramirez
Injured and not a call-up candidate. Question is whether the Yankees would be willing to basically give Ramirez a month of big league pay and service time so that they can transfer him to the 60-day disabled list and open his 40-man spot for someone else. Could happen, but it’s a rarity.

RHP Chase Whitley
Probably the biggest call-up lock of the bunch. Whitley was sent down when the Yankees finally needed a full four-man bench, and he’ll almost certainly return to give them another long man in the bullpen. Although the Yankees left Whitley exposed to the Rule 5 last winter, he’s likely done enough this season to keep his 40-man spot through the offseason to enter spring training as a long relief (and possibly rotation) candidate.

Now that Zelous Wheeler is back in the big leagues, the Yankees have six minor league position players on the 40-man roster, and not one of them is an infielder. The question is how many extra catchers and outfielders the Yankees really want/need for the final month of the season. 

OF Zoilo Almonte
Another strong bet for a call-up. Although Almonte is a switch hitter, his potential impact comes as a left-handed power bat who can play the outfield corners and possibly provide some pop. That said, when Almonte’s been up previously this season, Joe Girardi has been hesitant to use him. As a September call-up, he’d probably be a fifth outfielder at best behind fourth outfielder Ichiro Suzuki. Good be to be called up, just not a good bet to see much playing time unless the Yankees fall completely out of the race.

OF Ramon Flores
Two ways to look at this one. On the one hand, Flores had a nice year in Triple-A and has some tools that could come in handy. On the other hand, he missed much of the year with an ankle injury, and aside from one huge game, he really hasn’t hit much since coming off the disabled list. Do the Yankees really have any kind of role for another left-handed outfielder? Especially if Almonte comes up, how is Flores going to get any sort of playing time?

OF Slade Heathcott
Out with yet another injury and not a call-up candidate. Upside is still significant enough that I have to believe the Yankees would strongly prefer not to put him on the 60-day disabled list and start any sort of big league clock, but it’s also becoming hard to ignore the fact that his star has faded considerably. Just hasn’t stayed healthy enough to have any real idea what to expect from him going foward.

C John Ryan Murphy / C Austin Romine
Two different guys, but it’s pretty hard to separate them at this point. Neither put up particularly good numbers in Triple-A this season, but each one has enough big league experience to serve as a dependable third catcher for the final month. On his own, either one would be a lock for September. With both on the roster, the question is whether the Yankees will call up both or simply chose one.

C Gary Sanchez
Still might be the Yankees top hitting prospect this side of Aaron Judge, but his Double-A numbers aren’t overwhelming and the Yankees already have more catchers than they need with Murphy and Romine in the September mix. Maybe the Yankees have seen something from Sanchez and want to reward him, but it seems more likely that they’ll go with one or two of the more experienced young catchers and let Sanchez begin making his big league case next season in Triple-A.

Two players are still taking up spots on the 40-man roster without being healthy enough to join the active roster. Activating either one of these two would essentially count as another September call-up. 

RHP David Phelps
I don’t think Phelps will be ready to come off the disabled list on Tuesday, but I also don’t think he’s so far away that it would be worth putting him on the 60-day. Last pitched on August 3, so going on the 60-day would mean losing Phelps for the season. Little reason to do that unless he has a setback.

RHP Masahiro Tanaka
So far, the Yankees have kept Tanaka on the 15-day disabled list. With rosters expanding, though, and his return pushed back because of his sore arm, Tanaka might as well go on the 60-day at this point. It’s been almost 60-days already. If the Yankees want to add a guy who’s not currently on the 40-man, moving Tanaka to the 60-day would at least temporarily open a spot.

These players are not on the 40-man roster, and they likely have no long-term future with the Yankees. The question is whether the Yankees believe they can play some sort of short-term role to provide a minor boost during the month of September before being almost certainly taken off the roster this winter.

RHP Andrew Bailey
Has been vaguely on the radar since signing a minor league deal with the Yankees in spring training. The former big league closer, though, is recovering from shoulder surgery and does not seem far enough along to be a legitimate call-up candidate. Mark Newman said recently that Bailey is not far enough along to even offer a guess as to when he might be ready to pitch in a game.

RHP Chris Leroux
Been up and down several times and got into two games for the Yankees this season, but he’s no longer on the 40-man roster, and the Yankees can more easily add a guy like Mitchell or Whitley to provide an true long man for the final month. He’s spent some time in the big leagues this season, but September seems unlikely.

RHP Chaz Roe
Got into 21 games with the Diamondbacks last season, but Roe spent all of this season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League where he had a 1.16 WHIP, 14 saves, and 72 strikeouts in 64 innings. The Yankees made a minor trade for him yesterday, and considering the minor league season ends today, it’s worth wondering why they acquired him at all if not for a September call-up that might serve as an audition for next season. He’s 27 years old and was a first-round pick back in 2005.

OF Antoan Richardson
In some other circumstances, Richardson might be a nice September candidate as a versatile outfielder who can switch hit and provide some speed off the bench. He’s had a nice year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, living up to his reputation as a guy who has a knack for getting on base. The Yankees, though, already have Ichiro Suzuki providing outfield depth and speed off the bench.

INF Scott Sizemore
Once again healthy and active in Triple-A, Sizemore has done exactly what he’s supposed to do — he’s hit pretty well against lefties — and he’s gotten some big league time with the Yankees, but the Yankees are no longer desperate for help at second and third, which might rule out the possibility of bringing Sizemore back. Seems kind of pointless to have both him and Wheeler.

OF Chris Young
The Yankees signed the veteran to essentially a five-game minor league tryout. He homered in his third game in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but he’s also struck out a lot. He’s basically an experienced right-handed outfield option. At his best he has some speed and some pop and can play center field, but is a guy who was released by the Mets really going to help the Yankees?

These players have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason or else face the possibility of being taken in the Rule 5 draft. Being Rule 5 eligible gives added incentive to go ahead and add these players to the 40-man right away if the Yankees believe they can play a big league role immediately (it happens occasionally, but not very often). It’s worth noting that several other players will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason — Mason Williams, Cito Culver, Matt Tracy, Zach Nuding — but I’m not listing them here just because they seem to be extreme long shots for September.

OF Tyler Austin
To his credit, Austin really turned things on in the second half. He’s hit .336/.397/.557 in 122 at-bats since the All-Star break, some much-needed good news for a guy whose prospect star was fading. He’s also back to playing right field most of the time. Probably not enough to win him a September call-up, but might be enough to get him onto the 40-man this winter.

RHP Dan Burawa
Was actually Rule 5 eligible last winter as well, but he went unprotected and the Yankees were able to keep him and his big fastball. Burawa’s minor league season, though, has been wildly up and down. He was terrific early in the season in Triple-A, then faded and wound up demoted to Double-A where he pitched well again and just earned a promotion back to Triple-A. Big arm, but seems like a call-up long shot.

RHP Mark Montgomery
When he positively dominated the lower levels, Montgomery emerged as the Yankees top bullpen prospect, earning comparisons to Dave Robertson. In the upper-levels, though, he’s dealt with injuries and underwhelming results. This season, he’s gone from Triple-A to Double-A, where he’s basically spent the past month cutting down on the walks and consistently putting up zeroes again. That said, if he were a call-up candidate, surely he would have been bumped back up to Triple-A by now.

RHP Branden Pinder
Having basically jumped ahead of guys like Burawa and Montgomery, Pinder was making a decent case for a call-up before he landed on the disabled list a little more than a week ago. Might not have been a strong September candidate anyway. Going to be more interesting to see whether he’s protected this winter.

UT Jose Pirela
Pretty sure Pirela isn’t simply Rule 5 eligible, he should be eligible for free agency after spending the past seven seasons playing pro ball in the United States. A terrific year in Triple-A has put Pirela back on the prospect map as a guy capable of playing basically any position except pitcher and catcher. Question is whether the Yankees believe he’s worth a 40-man spot. In the short-term, could basically do exactly what Zelous Wheeler is doing? In the long term, is it worth a roster spot for a guy who’s upside might be no higher than big league bench player?

1B Kyle Roller
Easily overlooked throughout his career, Roller has stayed relevant because he’s kept hitting. This year the Yankees bumped him up to Triple-A and he has the most home runs of any minor leaguer currently in the organization (Pete O’Brien had more). He’s a left-handed hitter, but defensively he’s limited to first base, which makes him neither a strong bench player nor a great Rule 5 candidate.

LHP Nik Turley
The starting pitcher for today’s Triple-A finale, Turley was on the 40-man roster until a spring arm problem forced him to miss time and ultimately cost him a roster spot. Since coming off the disabled list, he’s been good at times and not so good at other times. Not so long ago, the Yankees liked him enough to give him a roster spot. How much has that situation changed? A lot of walks this year, which isn’t a great sign.

SHP Pat Venditte
Almost didn’t list him because it’s still hard to know what to make of the famous switch pitcher. His Triple-A numbers are pretty good this year — better against lefties than against righties — and he’s been better in the second half of the season. But do the Yankees take him seriously as a big league option? If they liked him as a possible left-on-left specialist, why didn’t he get that Rich Hill call-up earlier this month?

Here are a few young player who have already made it into the upper levels of the system, and to at least some degree have played well enough to deserve call-up consideration. In each case, though, giving one of these players a September call-up would fill a 40-man roster spot earlier than necessary, potentially forcing the Yankees to leave another prospect exposed to the Rule 5 or forcing them to DFA a player they could otherwise keep. The question in each case is whether the one-month impact of each player would be worth creating an unnecessary 40-man logjam.

OF Taylor Dugas
Yes, he’s undersized, but at some point that won’t matter if he keeps hitting. In a year when so many upper-level outfielders either struggled or got hurt, Dugas hit his way onto the radar. He was an eighth-round pick, so it’s not like he entered the system as a completely nobody.

OF Adonis Garcia
Checked with a Yankees official just to make sure, and Garcia is still not Rule 5 eligible. He’s been a nice offensive player in Triple-A, showing both power and speed. He’s also been able to play all three outfield positions, plus some third base. But is it really worth putting him on the 40-man just to give him a few big league at-bats in September?

LHP James Pazos
Maybe a reach to suggest he deserves serious consideration, but Pazos is a lefty who went to the Arizona Fall League last offseason and has pitched well in Double-A this year (lefties have hit just .178 against him). Before getting Josh Outman, the Yankees might have been more desperate for a left-handed reliever, and Pazos might have been a stronger candidate if he were already Rule 5 eligible.

2B Rob Refsnyder
Surely the most popular September call-up candidate, but also a guy who’s almost certainly not going to get one. Could win a big league job next year, and will likely compete for a job in spring training, but it’s hard to imagine the Yankees clogging their 40-man just to let Refsnyder get his feet wet.

RHP Nick Rumbelow
I’m mentioning him largely because he’s in Triple-A and has pitched well aside from one four-hit, four-run outing last weekend. This is just his first full season of pro ball, though. Makes more sense to have him on the 2015 radar rather than the September radar.

LHP Jacob Lindgren
Let’s call him the second-most popular September candidate after Refsnyder. But again, he doesn’t have to be protected, and now that Outman is in the mix, there’s less sense of desperation in looking for a left-handed reliever. Could be interesting next spring to see how many non-40-man guys are seriously competing for big league roster spots.

LHP Tyler Webb
Three rounds after the Yankees took Rumbelow out of LSU, the Yankees took Webb out of the University of South Carolina. The Yankees pushed Webb to Triple-A in July, and he instantly jumped onto the big league roster as a potential left-handed reliever. But Triple-A lefties have hit .320 against him, and he just like with Lindgren, it’s hard to see the Yankees creating 40-man issues now that they have Outman in the mix.

Associated Press photos (except the Refsnyder shot, which is from my friends at the Scranton Times-Tribune)