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Strike Zone

September Callups Preview

by Matthew Pouliot
Updated On: August 28, 2019, 4:50 pm ET

This week’s Strike Zone is focused on September callups. I’ll have the final set of rankings for the year next Wednesday.


American League notes

- If the White Sox were going to promote outfielder Luis Robert, I imagine they would have done it already. The 22-year-old is hitting .302/.350/.637 in 42 games since moving up to Triple-A, putting him at .332/.382/.628 for the year. He just got his 30th homer to go along with his 36 steals. He should absolutely be the No. 1 waiver claim in every mixed league if he happens to get the call, but it’s probably not happening.

- Kyle Tucker has also put together a 30/30 season, with 32 homers and 30 steals for Triple-A Round Rock. Still, his .266/.354/.551 line is a tad disappointing; his .905 OPS ranks 27th among Pacific Coast League qualifiers. Last year, he had a .989 OPS in 100 games in a PCL that wasn’t quite as ridiculous for hitters as it’s been this year. The Astros will call him up, but if they wanted to give him a real crack at Josh Reddick’s job, they could have done it a month ago. Reddick, the one weak link in Houston’s lineup, is batting .261/.301/.376 overall and is actually worse than that against righties. Tucker seems like an obvious offensive upgrade, but it would come at the expense of some defense. I’d like to see the Astros give it a try anyway, but if they were planning to go that route, they probably would have done it before Sept. 1. I’d need some assurance that he’s going to play before dropping anyone decent for him in a mixed league.

- Rather than call up Jo Adell, the Angels are going to send him to the Arizona Fall League. That seems like the right call, given that Adell has hit a modest .242/.301/.326 with 34 strikeouts in 21 games since moving up to Triple-A (his line should be a little better than that, but he lost his only two homers to a rainout).

- I wrote about Ryan Mountcastle as recently as last week, and it seems to me that he’s one of the best bets of any potential September callups to amass some mixed-league fantasy value. However, Joe Trezza, who covers the Orioles for MLB.com, thinks it’s “doubtful” that Mountcastle will get the call. The Orioles will probably highlight his lack of plate discipline, but it all comes down to service time. Mountcastle needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter anyway, so that can’t be used as an excuse for not bringing him up.

Mountcastle’s lack of walks is an issue, and his .308/.340/.528 line for Triple-A Norfolk isn’t all that outstanding given the conditions in the International League this year (though it earned him MVP honors anyway). Still, he seems ready for a shot, and if the Orioles really want him to be more selective at the plate, they’d seem to have an easier time convincing him to do so if he were to struggle in a major league audition.

- Ji-Man Choi has remained aggressively mediocre all year long, so the Rays should go back to Nate Lowe at first base next month. Lowe has hit .305/.400/.512 in 22 games since the near criminal act to demote him earlier this month (he was hitting .294/.365/.510 in 115 PA for the Rays). He’s a decent bet to offer fringy mixed-league value.

- Two-way player Brendan McKay should also be back with the Rays, though perhaps not in a major role in light of his recent shoulder fatigue. Fellow two-way player Jake Cronenworth could also debut. Cronenworth, who mostly plays shortstop, has broken through offensively while hitting .336/.427/.530 in Triple-A, and he’s yet to allow an earned run in 7 1/3 innings on the mound, though the eight walks he’s issued suggest he’s not ready for a major league role there. It’s unlikely he’ll move into the Rays’ starting lineup, but he’s become a very interesting player to watch.

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- Jesus Luzardo would make for a much more interesting pickup if the A’s didn’t also have Sean Manaea in need of a rotation spot as he returns from shoulder surgery. As is, Luzardo is probably going to pitch in relief. Manaea has some mixed-league potential if he gets a start every week, but it sounds like the A’s currently intend to stick with Homer Bailey, making Manaea more of a spot guy initially.

- Oakland is giving Seth Brown a look after he busted out with a .297/.352/.634 line and 37 homers for Triple-A Nashville. Brown is 26 and he’s never been a big OBP guy, but he does offer pretty good defense in left field to go along with the power. It gives him a chance to stick. However, fantasy value seems unlikely, assuming that Ramon Laureano returns from the IL next week as hoped.

- The Yankees just slid top pitching prospect Deivi Garcia into the pen in Triple-A, so it doesn’t look like he’ll be a candidate to start games in September.

- Jays prospect T.J. Zeuch got some attention for throwing a no-hitter for Triple-A Buffalo last week, and he’d seem to be in good position for a callup, given that he missed the first two months of the season and has still thrown just 82 innings on the year. A sinkerballer with a poor strikeout rate, he’s probably not going to make an impact in fantasy leagues, but he could be a solid innings eater for a team that needs one.


National League notes

- If the Dodgers wanted to give infielder Gavin Lux a try, it would have made sense to do it while Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez were on the injured list. The team is healthier now, and while Lux continues to dominate PCL pitching -- he’s batting an incredible .400/.486/.735 in 216 PA -- there just isn’t a clear path to playing time for him right now. I expect he’ll get a callup, but I don’t think he’ll play enough to produce much fantasy value.

- With Jung-Ho Kang proving to be a bust and Colin Moran still struggling defensively at third base, Pirates fans have been waiting all year for Ke’Bryan Hayes to get hot in Triple-A and turn himself into an option at the hot corner. Unfortunately, it’s never happened. Hayes hasn’t been a disaster in hitting .262/.331/.416 for Indianapolis and he’s still just 22 years old, but there’s nothing to suggest he’s ready to be a quality major leaguer right now. The Pirates might give him a taste of the majors anyway. Moran has continued to provide the team with a steady bat, but since he’s made no gains defensively, he can’t be penciled in as a regular for 2020.

- The Nationals’ Carter Kieboom went just 5-for-39 in his first taste of the majors and also struggled mightily defensively while filling in for an injured Trea Turner earlier this season. He should be better equipped to contribute this time around, but it’ll probably be in a limited role with Brian Dozier, Asdrubal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick all doing fine work at the moment. Maybe if someone ahead of him gets hurt he’ll have some mixed-league value.

- It looked like Mauricio Dubon might take over as the Giants’ second baseman when he was picked up from the Brewers at the trade deadline, but not long after the deal came to fruition, the Giants announced they were getting Scooter Gennett from the Reds. Dubon had since split time between second and short for Triple-A Sacramento, and while he slumped some at first, he’d gotten enough recently to give himself a .323/.391/.485 line for his new team. Gennett, meanwhile, was a liability for the Giants, so instead of waiting until Sept. 1, the Giants made the switch Tuesday. Dubon should be the primary second baseman the rest of the way, but since he’ll probably hit low in a subpar lineup, he doesn’t rate as a very good option in shallow leagues. If he surprises, it will likely involve him doing more basestealing than he’s done this year; he went 38-for-53 in 2017, but after missing most of 2018 with a torn ACL, he’d gone just 10-for-18 in the minors this year.

- The Giants’ other big September “callup” will be Johnny Cueto, who has posted a 4.70 ERA and a 15/1 K/BB ratio in 15 1/3 innings while finishing his Tommy John rehab in the minors. All the reports on his stuff have been encouraging, so he could be a nice sleeper pick in mixed leagues next year. For September, though, even if he’s solid, it’ll probably be mostly in four- and five-inning outings, which shouldn’t result in any wins. Logan Webb, who is already up, rates as the better pickup right now.

- There have been calls for the Phillies to try Spencer Howard in their rotation, even though the 22-year-old has made a total of five starts above A-ball. A 2017 second-round pick, Howard has posted impressive results after returning from a shoulder injury in June, and he’s currently sporting a 2.52 ERA and a 32/6 K/BB ratio in 25 innings since moving up to Double-A Reading. It’d be a whole lot to ask him to contribute now -- I think it’d make more sense just to give Enyel De Los Santos a real try in Drew Smyly’s spot -- but if the hope is to catch lightning in a bottle, he does offer upside.

- The Braves still don’t appear very likely to try either Cristian Pache or Drew Waters in the outfield with Ender Inciarte and Nick Markakis out. Waters has had the better showing of the two offensively since moving up to Triple-A Gwinnett, hitting .309/.374/.407 in 91 PA, though that comes with 30 strikeouts. Pache is at .257/.313/.351 in 80 PA, though there still could be an argument for him because of his defense. It’s just too bad he’s not better on the bases; he went 8-for-19 swiping bases in Double-A this year and he hasn’t so much as tried a steal since his promotion.

- Ideally, Jon Duplantier would make some starts for the Diamondbacks next month. However, he hasn’t thrown more than four innings in any outing since returning from shoulder inflammation in early July. His last five-inning appearance came against the Dodgers on June 4. Since being called up to make one relief appearance for the Diamondbacks on Aug. 15, he’s thrown three and two innings in his two outings for Triple-A Reno. Since he’s not stretched out, he doesn’t figure to be a factor in fantasy leagues.

- The Marlins haven’t had a lot of luck rushing position prospects to the majors, so I’m guessing they won’t add Jesus Sanchez, the outfielder acquired from the Rays for Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards at the deadline. Sanchez has improved to .246/.338/.446 in 17 games for Triple-A New Orleans after hitting just .206/.282/.317 in 18 games for the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate in Durham. Including his Double-A numbers, he’s at .260/.325/.398 for the year, which isn’t bad at all for a 21-year-old. He is already on the 40-man, but he’s not nearly a finished product.

Other options for the Marlins include Monte Harrison and Magneuris Sierra. Harrison, 23, got off to a pretty good start this year before hurting his wrist and requiring surgery. He just returned Sunday, so it’d be really pushing it to promote him to the majors next week. However, he probably has a better shot than Sanchez of getting a starting job in the first half of next year. Sierra has had two very disappointing seasons since being acquired from the Cardinals in the Marcell Ozuna trade, but he has hit .290/.327/.473 with three homers and eight steals for New Orleans this month. It’s doubtful that he’d hit in the majors, but the steals could make him an option in deeper leagues.

Matthew Pouliot

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of NBC Sports Edge and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.