Monday, August 22, 2011

September Impact Call-Ups: IL North

Despite Ryan Lavarnway making his debut for the Red Sox on August 18th, the Paw Sox have a few bodies that could help Boston’s stretch run. Left-handed relievers carry exceptional value at a time when playing matchups becomes so important. Just as the rival Yankees utilized Damaso Marte in 2009 to mitigate Ryan Howard, Theo Epstein must surely consider the impact of adding Felix Doubront and Hideki Okajima as both have experience in the Boston bullpen. Having an option besides Franklin Morales may be the difference between the Divisional Title and a Wild Card berth. Doubront has been up and down but his stuff is promising enough to garner consideration and Okajima has been steady for the Paw Sox in 2011. Positionally, Ryan Kalish may figure into things but I don’t see him getting enough playing time to be a difference-maker.

Lehigh Valley
Michael Schwimer has been fantastic for the Iron Pigs and made his Major League debut on 8/21. The towering 6"8' right hander was carrying a 1.88 ERA in relief and will be a nice addition to the best pitching staff in baseball. Due to Domonic Brown’s demotion to AAA 3 weeks ago, it would appear as if he is the top candidate to help the Phillies. Teammate Brandon Moss may move ahead of him in the pecking order, however, as the Phillies could use a left-handed bat with power who is currently producing. As Brown has struggled in his demotion (.179 BA in 67 PA), Moss has hit .280 since July 1 with 10 HR and 29 RBI. The Phillies are absolutely loaded so it’s difficult to see anyone getting the call and usurping someone’s starting job. Charlie Manuel needs bodies that can perform when called upon. With Brown faltering, great opportunity exists for Moss to impress.

Scranton Wilkes-Barre
Jesus Montero’s name doesn’t appear on the Yankees 40-Man roster but could figure into things come September. The 21 year old has had his name tossed around the call-up rumor mill since May. As Jorge Posada and Russell Martin struggle at the plate, Montero’s power bat could be the perfect addition to the Yankee lineup. The Killer B’s: Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman, don’t figure to be going anywhere according to Yankees GM Brian Cashman. As with the rival Red Sox, New York’s biggest weakness in the bullpen is their lack of quality left-handers. Boone Logan has thrown together a career year in 2011 but the thought of carrying him alone should be worrisome. Banuelos is the only lefty of the bunch but the Yankees aren’t keen on rushing his development at this point.

The Chiefs don’t feature much in terms of 2011 impact talent. Cole Kimball would figure to lead the list of arms but a torn labrum has him out until the 2012 All-Star Break. Bryce Harper won’t be making his MLB debut this season although he should find himself in AAA next year. Perhaps the best bat of the bunch belongs to Chris Marrero who is hitting .301 with 14 HR and 69 RBI in 2011. Michael Morse provides the obvious roadblock but you’d think that management would reward the 23 year old with the call. Steven Strasburg could also return for the Nats in September. The youngster was hit hard on 8/17, surrendering 5 ER and 4 H in 1.2 IP. The front office will be very careful with him from here on out as he attempts to regain confidence in his arm.

The New York Mets farm system has played a significant part in the club’s 2011 season. Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, and Dillon Gee have all been serviceable for Terry Collins as the Mets have dealt with a string of unfortunate injuries. Johan Santana’s recovery has been marred by setbacks and injury ridden Carlos Beltran is now gone to the Bay. Top prospect Jenrry Mejia had Tommy John surgery after many claim Jerry Manuel overused him in 2010. Recently promoted Nick Evans (.313 AVG, 8 HR, 32 RBI) figures to see time for the remainder of the season. Of the players left in AAA, Chris Schwinden’s breakout year figures to earn him a call-up in September. Although he has faltered somewhat in July and into August, Schwinden has earned a start or two against Major League level hitting as the Mets prepare for 2012.

Where do I begin? The club began 2011 with 3 promising prospects who figured to see time in Minnesota before the end of the year. Ben Revere was the beneficiary of the Twins injury problems and has cemented himself into the starting lineup with the trade of Delmon Young. Trevor Plouffe, whose name is no stranger to Beyond Fenway, has finally landed himself in the Twin Cities with Alexi Casilla’s injury. Seeing time all over the field, Plouffe’s power is needed in a light Twins lineup. It remains to be seen what the organization’s plans are for him in 2012. Ron Gardenhire has gone on record wishing that Plouffe will play winter ball to cement himself anywhere on the field. Kyle Gibson’s season has been a disappointing one, physically derailed by injury and statistically by inconsistency. He should be ready to go in 2012 and I expect him to be called up at some point before the All-Star Break. It seems unlikely that he will crack the rotation out of Spring Training but stranger things have happened.

The rest of Rochester’s group figures to play a very limited role in Minnesota. Dustin Martin, not a part of the 40 man roster, has earned the right to see time as much as Brian Dinkelman and Rene Tosoni did early in the year. Chuck James could move back into a bullpen role with the Twins and he deserves it more than anyone. A 1.86 ERA with 58 K to 22 BB makes James the best arm in Rochester and the most likely to aid the Twins in September. Unfortunately for the Twinkies, Target Field won’t get to see baseball in October.

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