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Previewing the September call-ups

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Who will we see this month?

Altoona Curve v Portland Sea Dogs Photo by Zachary Roy/Getty Images

Today is September 1, which means rosters are expanding around the league. It is, on its face, an absurd rule that teams suddenly get to add 15 players to their roster for the most important month of the season. There are good reasons for expanding the roster — allowing young players a taste of the majors, allowing rebuilding teams to see what they have in potential helps for the following year, limiting injury risk as players tire — but it makes for strange baseball. Next season, these rules will change with rosters only expanding to 28 instead of the full 40. For 2019, though, we still play by the old rules.

Every team always benefits from getting these reinforcements at the start of September, but it seems particularly helpful for the Red Sox right now. They’ve had pitching depth issues all year, and especially of late with all of the injuries to their rotation. Now, they’ll have some extra arms available in their bullpen to avoid overwork, particularly in blowout games in either direction. Alex Cora should also get some extra help on the position player side as well.

So, with that in mind let’s look at the players who could be called up. Remember that not everyone will be called up on Sunday, as Pawtucket still needs bodies to finish up their season.

On the 40-man

Of course, the most obvious candidates to come up in September are the ones who are already on the 40-man roster. Let’s have a quick look at all of those guys.

  • Colten Brewer will be up at some point. The righty made the team out of camp and for different times this year was used as one of the key relievers in this bullpen. He has not been consistent enough to hold down that kind of role, but as long as his control is solid he’s fine as a depth, middle relief piece.
  • Trevor Kelley was a bit of a surprise call-up earlier this year, but his time in the majors did not last long. He hasn’t been quite as strong in Triple-A after his promotion, either. The side armer is not not a sure thing to be called up this month.
  • Travis Lakins is a guy I would be surprised if he’s not up on Sunday. Lakins hasn’t been great in Triple-A or in his short major-league stints, but he’s shown some potential here and there and has looked better of late in the minors. He also provides an arm who can go multiple innings, which is always helpful.
  • Bobby Poyner is another guy who could very well be up as soon as Sunday. Poyner’s position in the organization has taken a bit of a step back this year with the emergence of Darwinzon Hernandez and Josh Taylor. That said, the latter has been showing some signs of fatigue of late and having another southpaw in the bullpen can only help matters.
  • Denyi Reyes is probably not going to pitch this month. He’s spent the entire year in Double-A, and after a rough stretch earlier in the year he’s been largely great over the last couple months. I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see him up in the majors to be around the team in September, but I’d be surprised if he got anything more than a possible token appearance in the last week of the year if/when they are eliminate from postseason contention.
  • Mike Shawaryn is definitely going to be up this month, and potentially as soon as Sunday. The team has been stretching him out over the last few weeks, and it will be interesting to see if he fits into the rotation plans even after the team signed Jhoulys Chacín to a minor-league deal.
  • Hector Velázquez is an interesting name. Given his contributions at the major-league level I would suspect he’ll be up sooner than later. That said, he’s struggled a bunch this year and if they need to designate some players he could be a darkhorse to be on the chopping block. I’d bet against it, but stranger things have happened.
  • Ryan Weber is similar to Velázquez and redundant with guys like Velázquez, Shawaryn, Brian Johnson and Josh Smith. That said, I think he’ll be up as a long relief/mop-up type for the last few weeks of the year.
  • Joey Curletta is the most anonymous player on the 40-man roster. A waiver claim earlier this year, the first baseman has spent the year in Portland and hasn’t been all that impressive. There’s basically no chance he’s up this month.
  • Tzu-Wei Lin was seen as the future top bench option in the infield starting next year. He’s seemingly been passed by Marco Hernández, not to mention a potential return for Brock Holt, but Lin still has the talent. He’ll be up this year to prove his struggles this summer were just a fluke.

Not on the 40-man

This is where things get much more interesting. The Red Sox have plenty of players who could potentially see some time in the majors this year who are not yet on the 40-man roster. I’ll run through a few of them in no particular order.

  • Bobby Dalbec is certainly the guy most fans want to see. He should be up this month as he provides the right-handed bat that Alex Cora talks about so much, and becomes even more attractive with Michael Chavis’ recent setback on his rehab. The former fifth round pick is also Rule 5 eligible this winter so he’ll have to be added to the 40-man this winter either way. Might as well make it happen now.
  • Juan Centeno is a good bet to be up this month. Teams basically always carry a third catcher with the expanded rosters, and Centeno makes the most sense for that role. Óscar Hernández got the call earlier this year in this situation, but that was because it was a short-term situation and they didn’t want to risk losing Centeno on waivers. That won’t be a concern in September.
  • Gorkys Hernández was a relatively high-profile minor-league signing this past winter as a career major leaguer. The former Giant hasn’t gotten a chance in the majors as the Red Sox have stayed healthy in the outfield this year, but he is another right-handed bat who could be added in September. He has dominated left-handed pitching this year. If he’s not called up, he’ll become a free agent this winter. The Red Sox could see this as a chance to potentially keep him around as a bench piece in 2020.
  • Bryce Brentz is another right-handed bat who could provide some pop against lefties. I’d be surprised if he gets the call, but others have mentioned him as a possibility so maybe I’m misreading this situation.
  • Tanner Houck is an interesting possibility on the pitching side. If you asked me a week or two ago I would have said yes, but now I lean towards no. For one thing, he is set to pitch in the Arizona Fall League which starts in a couple weeks. On top of that, the Red Sox already have a bunch of right-handed middle relievers coming up, and Houck hasn’t shown such great immediate upside to add him to the mix. He’ll be up in 2020, but I don’t think it’ll happen this year.
  • Kyle Hart and Teddy Stankiewicz are in similar situations. As with Houck, I saw one or the other as a decent possibility earlier this month. Now, after the team has stretched Shawaryn out and signed Chacín, there is less need for starting pitching depth. I would guess no on both of these guys, but am still holding out vague hope to maybe see Hart.

Making Room

Of course, if the Red Sox are to call up some players that are not currently on the 40-man, they will need to make room for them. Right now, the team’s 40 is full, so corresponding moves would have to be made for any of these call-ups. My guess is that three non-40-man players will be promoted in Dalbec, Centeno and Hernández. Both Heath Hembree and Steven Wright are on the 10-day IL, and their returns this year seem questionable at best. The Red Sox could just move them to the 60-day IL to open two spots. They could potentially do the same for Chris Sale, though it seems like they want to keep open the outside chance of him pitching late in the year if the Red Sox make a run in September. If I’m reading that situation correctly, someone would have to be designated for assignment. My guess on that would be Curletta.

We’ll keep you posted with September news as it happens.