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Previewing the Red Sox September Call-Ups

Who will be on the expanded roster?

Travis Lakins
Kelly O’Connor; sittingstill.smugmug.com

We are only two days away from the final month of the season, which is bananas. It seems like just yesterday we were talking about Blake Swihart’s incredible start to spring training. The Red Sox have rolled through this season, though they have hit a bit of a rough patch of late. We shouldn’t make excuses for the (relatively) poor play and there are multiple factors at hand, but part of the problem appears to be fatigue. Simply put, a lot of these guys just seem gassed.

The good news: Help is on the way. With September comes expanded rosters, and while this is a bizarre rule that has a weird effect on postseason chases, it also gives teams a chance for rest down the stretch. As long as the Red Sox can keep the distance between themselves and New York — certainly not a given — then they should be able to incorporate some of these call-ups in to get strategic rest of the regulars. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at the players who could join the Red Sox roster in the coming month. This list will not include guys like Eduardo Rodriguez, Chris Sale, Rafael Devers and other injured players returning to the roster. They are a different beast.

On the 40-man

Most of the players who join the September roster are going to be familiar names. These are all the minor-leaguers who are currently on the 40-man roster. Not all will be called up, and not all will stay on the 40-man, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

  • Tzu-Wei Lin is the best position player on the 40-man roster who is not in the majors, which is both a compliment to Lin and a statement showing the lack of position player depth for the organization. Injuries have played a role here, and next year’s depth chart should look better, but it’s not great right now. That’s not to say Lin won’t help, as he’s a potential late-game defensive sub who can also come in late in a game to pinch run. He probably won’t draw many starts, but he should see some late-game appearances.
Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
  • Sam Travis is probably the second best position player on the 40-man, which....yikes. I’ve made my opinions on Travis pretty clear the last few years and really don’t think he’s long for this roster. I don’t think that exit comes this year, though, and he’ll probably come up and get a start or two late in the year against left-handed pitching. Beyond that, there’s not much impact.
  • Tony Renda was added to the 40-man relatively recently, and he could provide more infield depth. He’s had a solid year at Triple-A and scored a big run against the Yankees in that four-game sweep. That said, I actually don’t think he’ll make it on the roster this September as he could be the odd man out as they try to make room for more additions.
  • William Cuevas has emerged as the top starting pitching depth in Pawtucket this year after Jalen Beeks was traded away. There are other options, but Cuevas has quietly been outstanding at Triple-A and has already gotten some run in the majors. If the Sox clinch the division early it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a start towards the end of the year.
  • Justin Haley is also in the conversation. He seems to have a lower ceiling than Cuevas, and Cuevas doesn’t really have a high ceiling. Haley is solid, but I think he serves as a long reliever this September.
  • Chandler Shepherd is among the most intriguing potential September call-ups. He hasn’t had a chance to make his major-league debut just yet, but he has the potential to make a real impact. He’s pitched as a reliever and a starter in the minors, and he’s had some success throughout his professional career. I’m not really sure what the plan is with Shepherd, but I’d like to see him get some run as a two-inning reliever.
  • Marcus Walden is another long reliever who has gotten some run in the majors this year. I don’t see it happening, but it’s possible he could be another 40-man casualty depending on how many players they’d like to add who aren’t already on the roster.
  • Bobby Poyner will finally get back up to the majors, and he deserves a shot to make a run at a playoff roster spot, though I wouldn’t expect it to actually happen.
Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
  • Robby Scott, somewhat sneakily, has actually been more impressive in Triple-A of late. I’m still more intrigued by Poyner, but that’s mostly because I’ve already seen Scott for an extended period of time and the unknown is always more intriguing.

Not on the 40-man

There are a few players who aren’t on the 40-man that could get the call this September. For what it’s worth, the Red Sox 40-man roster currently stands at 39, so there is room for one addition without another move needed to counter it. If they want to add more than one name, someone from the list above would have to be removed from the roster and exposed to waivers.

  • Travis Lakins is the player to be most excited about and the player in whom I’m most confident getting the call. The righty has always had impressive stuff, but the former Ohio State ace couldn’t quite put it together and stay healthy as a starter. The team converted him to relief early this year, and the results have been great. He dominated Double-A and hasn’t missed a beat in Triple-A. Obviously, the majors is an entirely different beast but given the Red Sox’ struggles in relief of late, Lakins could feasbily compete for a legitimately important role in this bullpen by the end of the year.
  • Durbin Feltman is the other reliever everyone is talking about, but I don’t think he’ll get the call. Don’t get me wrong, he appears to be super talented and has dominated pro ball this year, but he still hasn’t moved beyond High-A. It wouldn’t be unheard of to make that jump to the majors, but it’s also not something on which I’d bet. I could certainly see him competing for a spot out of spring training next year, though.
  • Speaking of exciting players everyone wants to see, Michael Chavis has been red-hot since coming back from his 80-game suspension and is proving that 2017 was no mirage. The corner infielder could potentially provide a big right-handed bat off the bench and it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him get the call, but I think it’s more likely to come next year. I just don’t know that he’ll play a big enough role to justify removing someone from the 40-man. I’d love to see it happen, though.
  • I do believe there will be another player added, and that’s Brandon Phillips. The veteran had a chance to opt for free agency after the Ian Kinsler trade and declined to do so. He wants to win a ring, and I think the team indicated they’d call him up in September to help him towards that goal. Phillips will provide strong veteran leadership and some late-game glovework to boot, but I don’t really see him making a real impact down the stretch.
  • Rusney Castillo will not be called up. The what-if question with Castillo is fascinating to me, but unfortunately we won’t get the answer since his salary would be added to the luxury tax calculation for the rest of his deal and the team wouldn’t be able to get it off their books again.

Ultimately, I think Lakins and Phillips will get the call up in September, with Renda losing his spot on the 40-man. What say you?