September callups are coming! Though they’re not what they used to be.
Active rosters will expand by two spots on Sept. 1, allowing teams to bring up a pair of reinforcements for the final month of the season. That’s a stark difference from the past, when the floodgates would open for the entire 40-man roster to come up, but it’s still a development worth discussing.
Another change worth noting is the minor league season is running late this year. Usually it finishes in early September, but due to a delayed start it will go through to the end of the month, so there are still competitive games to keep prospects busy on the farm. It also means that callups made later in the month won’t have been waiting a week or two since their last live action.
Who might the Oakland A’s choose to call up on Wednesday? Here’s their current roster. (Update: See bottom of article for a roster move that happened right after publish.)
Sean Manaea (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
Cole Irvin (L)
James Kaprielian (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Daulton Jefferies (R)
IL: Chris Bassitt (R)
60-IL: Mike Fiers (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Andrew Chafin (L)
Jake Diekman (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Sergio Romo (R)
Deolis Guerra (R)
A.J. Puk (L)
Burch Smith (R)
60-IL: Trevor Rosenthal (R)
Sean Murphy (R)
Yan Gomes (R)
1B: Matt Olson (L)
2B: Jed Lowrie (S)
SS: Elvis Andrus (R)
3B: Matt Chapman (R)
UT: Josh Harrison (R)
UT: Tony Kemp (L)
DH: Mitch Moreland (L)
Mark Canha (R)
Starling Marte (R)
Chad Pinder (R)
IL: Stephen Piscotty (R)
IL: Seth Brown (L)
Two players are on the 10-day injured list. Seth Brown (COVID-19) can’t come back until Sept. 6 at the earliest, and Chris Bassitt (facial surgery) is a long shot but could possibly return in late-September.
Here are some potential options. There’s plenty of space on the 40-man roster, and Stephen Piscotty can still be moved to the 60-day IL after season-ending wrist surgery, so adding a non-roster player isn’t an obstacle.
The A’s already have an extra pitcher right now, since they called up starter Daulton Jefferies to replace the outfielder Brown. That gives them 14 total, including six starters, so perhaps they’ll call up two hitters (including eventually Brown) and Jefferies will effectively be like a September pitcher callup.
If they decide to bring up a reliever in addition to Jefferies, then the top choices are mostly ones we’ve seen before. Righty Domingo Acevedo and lefties Reymin Guduan, Adam Kolarek, and Sam Moll are all still at Triple-A Las Vegas, with Kolarek and Moll still on the 40-man. Non-roster veteran starter Homer Bailey hasn’t appeared in three weeks due to injury, and none of the younger prospects have compelling numbers, including 40-man members Grant Holmes and Miguel Romero.
Maybe the A’s will choose to carry a third catcher? Right now they have a great tandem in Murphy and Gomes, both of whom are good defenders who can also hit, and even though they both bat right-handed they still form a sensible platoon based on their splits.
There’s no immediate need to add another body to that mix. The value of a third catcher would be allowing both Murphy and Gomes to play on the same day with one of them as the DH, or using one as a pinch-hitter, while still having a spare backstop on the bench just in case. In that scenario, Aramis Garcia and Austin Allen are both in Vegas and on the 40-man.
Garcia spent most of the year in Oakland before Gomes was acquired, with a plus glove but not much bat. Allen has also played a few short stints for the A’s in the past, and in Triple-A right now he has 20 homers and a reasonably low strikeout rate.
On the infield, Vimael Machin is on the 40-man and has been called up a couple times already this year. Top prospect Nick Allen is in Vegas now after winning an Olympic silver medal, but he’s batting .135 through 15 games so far.
In the outfield, Skye Bolt is sizzling since returning to the minors in mid-July, while fellow 40-man member Luis Barrera has begun to pick up his hitting after struggling most of the summer.
And of course, the name we’ve all been waiting for. Khris Davis is slugging nearly nine hundred in Triple-A, with nine homers in 66 plate appearances. He went deep in six straight games.
- Davis, AAA: .328/.379/.885, 187 wRC+, 9 HR, 6.1% BB, 19.7% Ks
He’s not on the 40-man, but that’s not an issue.
Really there are two separate questions to consider. One is who will come up on Sept. 1, and the other is what two extra players might be here on Sept. 10 or 20 or 30.
For example, Brown could return at some point. That’s not a guarantee, as there’s no telling how long recovery can take from a symptomatic COVID-19 case, but if he’s able then he’s clearly atop the depth chart. But he definitely won’t be back tomorrow, so to the first question he’s a hard no but to the second question he could be an eventual yes.
Long-term, personally I would opt for two hitters. The addition of Jefferies added enough length to the bullpen already, and I’m unenthused by the remaining options. I don’t think there’s any need for a third catcher, because there are already two good ones and there are better plans for the DH spot — such as bringing up Davis.
I’d give one spot to Davis and see if he can bounce back in the majors. The other could be Bolt to take Brown’s spot as an outfielder who can bat lefty, or Machin if it helps give the veteran infielders a break from defense, even though neither Bolt nor Machin has hit at all in their brief MLB stints. The A’s are deeper in the infield right now, and this roster spot was most recently used by an outfielder, and Bolt is currently extra hot in the minors, so he might make more sense. Davis and Bolt, then.
But that’s long-term thinking, and there’s no indication the team has plans to bring up Davis right away the moment that rosters expand. There’s still all month to make adjustments. What about just tomorrow, Wednesday, Sept. 1?
C Austin Allen, OF Skye Bolt and pitchers Grant Holmes, Sam Moll and Adam Kolarek are in Detroit. Two of those players would be activated tomorrow when rosters expand, others taxi squad for Toronto trip. #Athletics— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) August 31, 2021
That cuts things down quite a bit! At the very least, my long-term vision won’t come to fruition right away.
Based on that list, Bolt seems like a virtual lock as the only non-catcher hitter. Allen’s presence doesn’t tell us anything one way or other because there has to be a catcher on the taxi squad, so he might just be there for that purpose.
The pitchers are all on the 40-man roster, so there aren’t any surprise clues there. Moll was in the majors most recently, and has excellent numbers in the minors since going down this month, so if they’re adding a spare pitcher for the road trip then he’s the smart bet. Holmes and Kolarek are both having bad years, though they’ve each shown improvement in August so don’t rule them out entirely.
My guess is Bolt and Moll tomorrow. But whatever happens, it’s only the first day and players can continue to move up and down all month, so there’s still room to debate who should be on the roster for the rest of September — and there’s still time to hope for a return by Davis.
Just 28 minutes after publishing this article, the A’s placed Mitch Moreland on the 10-day injured list with left wrist tendinitis. They called up Bolt in his place.
So, let’s update the above discussion, since Bolt no longer needs a spot because he’s already up.
Losing Moreland only strengthens the case for Davis, since Moreland was the primary reason why Davis was blocked from DH at-bats. Or, the absence of Moreland could mean more chances for Jed Lowrie to DH instead of playing second base, which would open up more space on the infield depth chart for Machin to come up. Both Davis and Machin are currently listed in Las Vegas’ lineup tonight.
Now that Bolt is in the majors, what two other players do you think the A’s should call up tomorrow?