With September right around the corner, MLB rosters will soon expand and any player on the 40-man roster can also be on the team's active roster. The Astros have a number of candidates to be called up in a few days. Which players from the minors might we be seeing at the major league level over the last month of the season?
Manager Brad Mills has said that the team would like to add pitching and a catcher to the roster. General manager Ed Wade has also has been repeatedly unwilling to rule out a call-up of top prospect Jordan Lyles, to the dismay of myself and my fellow bloggers. Certain to return if healthy are relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom and second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who begin rehab assignments in the upper minors this week.
Extra bench bats are always welcome, even if they don't see much playing time, so expect the Astros to call up at least one other position player as well. Keep in mind, however, that the team will be hesitant to make 40-man moves, so that greatly reduces the likelihood of adding any player not among those on the roster.
What individual players might be on Brad Mills' shopping list to fortify the team?
Brian Bogusevic, OF. "Bogey's" versatility will make him an appealing candidate for a callup in September. He can play all three outfield positions as well as first base, and he can do a little bit of everything on offense. He's an above average baserunner, can hit the ball out of the park occasionally, and has above average on-base skills, having shown an excellent propensity to draw a walk over the last two months of the season. He's already on the 40-man roster and would provide a lefthanded bat off the bench.
Chris Sampson, RHP. The organization's veteran groundball reliever already saw significant major league playing time this season before running into a wall and being sent down to Round Rock to work on his mechanics. He has performed well there, and should return to the major league team when the rosters expand to add another bullpen option.
Wesley Wright, LHP. With plenty of ML experience out of the bullpen and a number of spot starts under his belt, Wright spent much of this year attempting to convert to starting pitcher at class AAA Round Rock. The experiment didn't go well, but he still saw MLB action as a spot starter this year. It wouldn't be surprising to see him return to the team as a long relief option out of the bullpen and a swing starter in case of injury.
Matt Downs, 2B. A recent waiver claim from the Giants, who reluctantly dropped him in order to pick up Cody Ross from the Marlins, Matt Downs was a good pickup by Ed Wade. His track record as a minor league hitter is solid, and he projects to provide similar offensive production to Jeff Keppinger, but with better defense at second base. Expect him to get the call when rosters expand, and perhaps even a few starts at second base.
Jordan Lyles, RHP. I probably don't need to say much about the organization's top prospect Jordan Lyles. The 19-year old righthander has seemed to be tiring at class AAA Round Rock, and he may be approaching the point where he should be shut down for the season. Despite his youth and high inning count, Ed Wade has refused to rule out a call-up. Although it seems like a bad idea to bring him up to the majors now for a number of reasons, when the front office won't eliminate the possibility, I suppose we shouldn't either. He would need to be added to the 40-man roster to join the team, as with a couple of the other players below, but that could be easily accomplished by placing Brian Moehler (out for the season) on the 60-day disabled list.
Brian Esposito, C. Manager Brad Mills has expressed the desire to add a third catcher to the roster. Personally, I don't see any reason to cut into Jason Castro's development time further, with Humberto Quintero already taking more starts than perhaps he should be, but what the manager wants, the manager may well get. Esposito is the best of a pair of relatively poor options at Class AAA Round Rock; he isn't hitting there, so there's no reason to expect him to hit with the big league club, but the Astros may add him as an emergency backup.
Edwin Bellorin, C. Another poor-hitting catcher at Round Rock, Bellorin hits even worse than Esposito. In fact, he may hit worse than some pitchers in the Major League starting rotation; that's how bad he is. Still, he has been getting a lot of starts at AAA, so perhaps the organization likes his defense.
Lou Santangelo, C. Although Santangelo is at Class AA Corpus Christi, he's an experienced minor league catcher who has spent plenty of time at AAA in the past. He's not a good hitter either, but he could be better than the other two, and should be viewed as a possibility.
Andrew Locke, OF. If Brad Mills wants to add another right-handed power bat to the bench, Locke could be a possibility. He leads Round Rock with 17 home runs, and can play both corner outfield positions as well as first base. He would need to be added to the 40-man roster to join the major league club, but the Astros may want to do that for next season anyway so that he can compete for a bench outfield role out of spring training.
Yorman Bazardo, RHP. After struggling with injuries earlier in the season, Bazardo is healthy. He has an average fastball and a good changeup, and although he is not on the 40-man roster, he could be a possibility to be added if the Astros need a starting pitcher and aren't happy with Wesley Wright as an option.
Oswaldo Navarro, IF. Already being on the 40-man roster, Navarro saw a few MLB games earlier in the season. The presence of so many other infield options makes him less likely to get back to the major league club, but it's worth noting that he has solid offensive numbers at Round Rock this season. For whatever the reason, the organization doesn't seem to like him very much, so I expect Downs to get the call before Navarro.
Edwin Maysonet, IF. Maysonet saw major league action last year, hitting reasonably well in a small sample size, but he hasn't been a good hitter at Round Rock this year. His presence on the 40-man roster makes him a possibility, but an unlikely one.
Jack Shuck, OF. Shuck's greatest strength is his approach at the plate, as he has exactly as many strikeouts as walks in his minor league career. He's a good contact hitter who will draw a few walks. He's also a speedy outfielder, but there are questions about his defensive instincts and his instincts on the basepaths. Nevertheless, he would add another righthanded bat off the bench, pinch runner, and defensive replacement, though it's questionable whether he would do any of those things better than Jason Bourgeois at this point. He would also need to be added to the 40-man roster to make the team, which will likely prevent him from doing so this season.
Wladimir Sutil, SS. An excellent defensive shortstop with very little bat, Sutil is a slap hitter who struggles to get the ball out of the infield. He is an even better defender than Manzella. He also has excellent contact skills, which may make his poor offensive game translate a little more evenly to the majors. Still, his bat is far below average, and with all of the other shortstops on the club, he will have a difficult time making it onto the active roster. The only reason I include him on this list is that he is already on the 40-man roster.
Josh Banks, RHP. On the surface, Josh Banks appears to have had a good season at Round Rock. Advanced statistics and scouting tell a different story, however. Banks has been lucky to maintain such a low earned run average. He saw a little major league action this year, but performed poorly. Having been removed from the 40-man roster, he is unlikely to return.
Henry Villar, RHP. A starter conversion project at Class AA Corpus Christi, Villar hasn't performed nearly as well as a starting pitcher as he did as a reliever. Coming up to the major league bullpen would be a big jump for him, but pitching coach Brad Arnsberg liked his stuff in spring training, and he's already on the 40-man roster.
Matt Nevarez, RHP. Acquired from the Rangers in the Pudge Rodriguez trade last season, Nevarez's command fell off a cliff at Class AA Corpus Christi this season. He has a great arm and his strikeout rate remains excellent, but walking more batters than you strike out is sure to cause any pitching coach to pull out a few hairs. Nonetheless, his results have been okay at Corpus Christi, and his presence on the 40-man roster makes him an outside possibility to be called up. Don't expect to see him, though, because it's not likely.
Which players would you like to see called up in September?