It seems that this time of year, every year, September shows up. She brings with her shorter days, new back to school sneakers and expanded MLB rosters. It’s the time of year where your teams in the playoff hunt are calling up prospects that can help them win games now, while teams playing out the stretch are promoting guys for 2015 auditions. It’s important to note that not all of the players being promoted are top-flight prospects — some are never going to crack 25 man roster. But, prospects who can do one thing really, really well have much more value this time of year. For example, the Royals just called up Terrance Gore, an outfielder who “hit” .221/.289/.257 this season. Kris Bryant’s slugging percentage is more than 100 points higher than Gore’s OPS. Gore’s up because even with that .289 OBP he managed to steal 47 bases this season, which seems like it should be impossible. But, there are roster spots for pinch runners in September, and he could be difference between a win and a loss in the coming weeks.
Today we’ll look at some players that were called up recently. Some are trying to win a pennant, others are trying to win a full-time gig next year.
Pennies for Someday
Carson Smith, RHP — Seattle Mariners
Smith is everything you could want from an eighth rounder. He was drafted out of Texas State University in 2011, and has steadily moved up the organizational ladder, from high-A in 2012 to double-A in 2013 and triple-A this year. He’s never had an ERA over 3.00 or struck out less than a batter an inning, and his walk rates have steadily declined every year. Any pitcher that can post a sub-3.00 ERA in the PCL is doing something right. He doesn’t offer much fantasy value down the stretch this year (unless you’re desperate for holds (and no one is desperate for holds)) but I wouldn’t be shocked if he got a chance to close next season. Relievers are volatile creatures, and opportunities arise very quickly in the bullpen — keep an eye on him this September and next spring.
Luis Sardinas, IF — Texas Rangers
Oh look, another dynamic, highly-touted middle infield prospect for the Rangers! Between Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Elvis Andrus and Sardinas, Texas has a ton of depth up the middle of their infield. Sardinas might be the best defender of the lot, though none of them are liabilities in the field. Offensively, Sardinas lacks power, but he’s managed to hit for average and steal a bag or three. The Rangers have promoted him very aggressively, as he’s only played 50 games at double-A and another 60 at triple-A. He’s never been completely overmatched, which is impressive considering he’s just 21, but I’d like to see them give him at least another full year in the minors before bringing him back up. With their middle infield glut, it really shouldn’t be much of a problem. Dynasty leaguers should keep monitoring Sardinas, but don’t expect him to be able make any significant fantasy contributions before 2017.
Robbie Ray, LHP — Detroit Tigers
Ray’s been up longer than these other guys, but he’s still a recent call up and he’s interesting so we’re writing about him. He’s mostly interesting because he was the centerpiece of the Doug Fister deal, and the consensus was (and is) that he’s better suited as a trade supporting character than a leading man. Ray, quite simply, was mediocre this year. His strikeouts went down, his hits allowed went up and his overall results just weren’t that good. However, this was his first crack at triple-A and was just 22 this season. He should get more time in the minors and patience from his club, but the Tigers are about winning right now. Ray has talent and has flashed it in the past, but he needs to work on getting more consistent than anything else. From a fantasy perspective, I wouldn’t expect anything from Ray next year, but it’s not impossible that he could make some adjustments and be up in the second half of 2015. For those in dynasty leagues, now may be the time to target Ray as his value is down.
Anthony Ranaudo, RHP — Boston Red Sox
Going into the 2010 draft, Ranaudo was supposed to be a top five pick, and he had the potential to go number one overall. Injuries and ineffectiveness knocked him into the supplemental first round, where the Red Sox signed him to an over-slot deal. His first couple of years were filled with injuries and mediocrity, but he’s been healthy and consistent the past two years. His 7.2 K/9 this year won’t wow you, but only allowing 112 hits in 138 innings pitched should. His walk rate isn’t gorgeous, but walk rates rarely are. Ranaudo’s made 29 triple-A starts in his career and has a sub-3.00 ERA at the level — he’s ready for an extended shot in the majors. The Sox have great big gobs of pitching prospects in the upper minors, but only Clay Buchholz has a firm grip on a rotation spot next season. Ranaudo will get every opportunity to win a spot next spring, but I don’t see him having huge fantasy value early on. The Red Sox should put a good offense behind him next year so he could scrape together some wins, but I don’t think he’ll help much in other categories. He could be useful in deep leagues, but I wouldn’t go much further than that.