The month of September is fast approaching and with it, the expansion of Major League rosters to up to 40 players. Rarely do teams actually call up 40 men, with some teams adding just one or two relievers and others bringing up most of the AAA squad for try outs. The Indians will likely fall somewhere between these extremes this year as a long shot play-off contender. While they don’t want to go all rookie and sacrifice placing the best team on the field, there are a few players they would like to look at now, before they put together a more legitimate title shot in 2015. Listed below are a few players of interest who could make an appearance in the final month of the 2014 regular season.
There are a few players almost guaranteed spots on the team as they have already used up a MiLB option to play with the Indians this season. These players are also on the 40 man roster already, so no corresponding moves will have to be made. With nothing to lose, these players would even benefit from joining the team and sitting on the bench for the rest of the year, just absorbing the Major League experience. Once the AAA season ends, expect the returns of Austin Adams, Zach McAllister and Jesus Aguilar. Of these, Aguilar is the most interesting as he provides more power potential than anyone currently on the team and hits from the right side of the plate. Both Adams and McAllister should join the bullpen and could be depth options, but since that is generally a positive aspect of the team right now, don’t expect them in any close games.
Also on the 40 man roster, but not in Cleveland are Justin Sellers, Nick Maronde, Bryan Price, Scott Barnes, Carlos Moncrief and Erik Gonzalez. Of these, only Sellers has played with the Indians this year and he was incredibly unimpressive, fouling two easy double play balls in the same game and batting just 3/16. Price and Barnes are both relievers who have had decent years in AAA, but were generally unimpressive, especially considering their ages. With the amount of roster moves involving the bullpen this season, the Indians would likely have used them already if they ever were going to. There is still a chance one or both could be advanced, but they would likely not be used. Maronde was a midseason pick-up, who pitched in the Angels bullpen for three seasons, but has pitched just nine innings for the Scrappers, not making past advanced ‘A’ to this point.
Moncrief has decent power, leading the Clippers in doubles (30) with 11 homers to go with it, but is likely not Major League ready. Like in the bullpen, the Indians have made a lot of outfield roster changes, including bringing up Tyler Holt from AA, but never came close to bringing up Moncrief, who could bring some needed power to the team. It would be nice to see him make his Major League debut this September, but don’t expect it. Gonzalez was just promoted to AA and while he has been excellent (.361/.392/.485), he is no where near ready and is blocked by a few players in the next section.
Major League Quality
Most of the top hitting Clippers have already been mentioned, but there are three more hitters that deserve a shot with the Indians that are not on the 40 man roster. The Indians only have 37 players on the 40 man, so two call-ups could simply be added without another move being made. The final roster spot is reserved for Jason Giambi, who is expected to be activated from the 60 Day DL once rosters expand despite his 6/42 start to the season.
The three deserving Clippers hitters who should be considered for a short call-up are Giovanny Urshela, James Ramsey and Francisco Lindor. Urshela started the season in AA and his been on the prospect radar for years (he was ranked 18th by BurningRiverBaseball in 2013 and 14th in 2014) and is finally ready for the big time. He has batted .281/.341/.503 and despite spending less than the full season with the Clippers, he’s the leader in triples and is second in RBI and third in home runs on the team. He has also been fantastic defensively (.979 fielding percent at third base in 88 games) and he can play first and short stop as well in a pinch. If he was called-up, he would become the Indians top defensive third baseman immediately. While it is often random whether or not a minor leaguer’s offense continues at the Major League level, defense generally projects well and there is no reason to think he will see a negative drop.
Ramsey was the prize in the Justin Masterson deal with St. Louis and despite playing just 17 games with the Clippers, he is already looking like a future star, batting .288/.382/.485 since making the jump from the AA Springfield Cardinals. Given the Indians current outfield injury struggles, with David Murphy, Ryan Raburn and Nick Swisher currently on the DL and Michael Bourn just off it, Ramsey could actually see some playing time if he is called up. If he is not, it isn’t a big deal either as the Indians may prefer to delay his MLB service time with Holt and Zach Walters already getting Major League at bats.
The final AAA hitter looking for a call-up is the one all Indians fans want to see most. Francisco Lindor is already a Gold Glove quality short stop (.990 fielding percent in Columbus), known for making extraordinary plays on defense. He has been the Indians top prospect for a few years now and is considered the sixth best in all of baseball by Baseball Prospectus. Like Urshela, he should be fine while on defense at the Major League level, but he has struggled at the plate. He has batted .275/.354/.377 in his four year minor league career, but he has batted just .239 at the AAA level this year. If he is called up, it will likely not be until the Clippers are done with their inevitable long post-season run as they currently lead the IL West by six games with just 13 games left in the season.
Almost certainly any September call-ups will come from those players listed above, but there are a few other pitchers who are deserving of a look. The only AA player on the radar was just promoted to AAA this past week and he is Shawn Armstrong. Armstrong and Kyle Crockett dominated the Eastern League early in the season and while Crockett was brought up to the Majors, Armstrong has stayed with the Rubber Ducks. After 51 innings (2.12 ERA) and 68 strike outs in Akron, he was promoted and could be a player who could actually help out the Tribe bullpen this year and next.
Most of the major AAA starters have already seen Major League playing time, but a couple have been successful without much talk. Starters Tyler Cloyd (3.98 ERA in 153.2 IP), Kyle Davis (3.91 ERA in 112.2 IP) and left handed reliever Mike Zagurski (3.05 ERA, 55 IP, 77 K) have all been good enough for a look this year and all have former Major League experience. All are at least 27 years old and have contract decisions to be made at the end of the season. Those decisions could be made a little easier with just a few appearances during the final month of the season.