Some of the answers are obvious, including James Jones who has multiple stints with the big club this season. Others may be dictated by what occurs between today and the activation of Michael Saunders. Saunders’ 20-day rehab assignment is up next week but as Ryan Divish wrote in the Seattle Times over the weekend, M’s skipper Lloyd McClendon wants to make sure Saunders won’t have to find his timing in the majors, suggesting the outfielder will remain with Triple-A Tacoma for the full 20 days. If the club believes Saunders needs more time they can restart his rehab after five days. At that point, however, September will have arrived and Saunders can be recalled without taking up a precious active roster spot.
It’s also worth noting the minor league season ends September 1, too, and the Rainiers likely will not be in the postseason, leaving Saunders no place to continue rehabbing. In all likelihood, Saunders is recalled September 1, if not once his 20 days are up four days prior.
Below are the most likely candidates to get such a call in a few weeks. Remember, while the roster limit expands to 40, clubs generally call for three or four players, sometimes five or six.
[pullquote]I’d bet the farm either Quintero or Hicks — probably Quintero because he has major league experience — is added to the active roster in September to give the M’s a third catcher in case McClendon wants to pinch run for Mike Zunino or Jesus Sucre, or if the club ends up in some extra-inning scenarios.[/pullquote]Infielders
Justin Smoak, 1B
Jesus Montero, 1B/DH
Ty Kelly, 2B/3B/LF
Ji-Man Choi, 1B/DH
James Jones, OF
Stefen Romero, OF
Xavier Avery, OF
Julio Morban, OF
John Hicks, C
Humberto Quintero, C
Taijuan Walker, RHP
Erasmo Ramirez, RHP
Lucas Luetge, LHP
Carson Smith, RHP
Todd Coffey, RHP
Logan Kensing, RHP
Jones, Romero and Smoak are no-brainers, it seems. Each have big-league experience and can serve a literal purpose on the field in September. Montero may make some sense, too, but for Kelly or Avery it would take a 40-man roster move. There is room as Willie Bloomquist can placed on the 60-day DL, as could Corey Hart if the club doesn’t feel he will be able to return before the end of the month.
The M’s can also DFA right-hander Logan Bawcom to clear a spot. Bawcom has been inconsistent and hurt this season and is about fifth on the current reliever list, at best.
Choi is on the 40-man roster but he’s limited to first base and DH and there may simply not be any at-bats available, particularly with Montero and Smoak both ahead of him.
I’d bet the farm either Quintero or Hicks — probably Quintero because he has major league experience — is added to the active roster in September to give the M’s a third catcher in case McClendon wants to pinch run for Mike Zunino or Jesus Sucre, or if the club ends up in some extra-inning scenarios.
Julio Morban is on the 40-man, but has fewer than 100 plate appearances in Tacoma and has been injury prone throughout his career.
Ramirez and Walker will be recalled and likely used primarily as long relievers. One or the other could be inserted to spot start, however, particularly if Roenis Elias shows he may be tiring or simply continues to struggle.
Luetge also will be recalled.
Smith and Coffey will need to be added to the 40-man if they are to see the majors in 2014, and there’s a solid chance at least one of them will. Kensing may be a longshot but he’s been solid in Tacoma and can cover multiple innings as a ground ball arm.
What I’d do
I’d recall Jones, Romero, Smoak, Luetge, Walker and Ramirez. I’d place both Bloomquist and Hart on the 60-day DL and add Smith and Quintero. The rest will have to wait for injury to gain any further consideration.
Maybe next year
Just as it’s not time for Morban, it’s probably a year early for the likes of Hicks, D.J. Peterson, Patrick Kivlehan and the suspended Jabari Blash. Peterson needs the rest of this year in Double-A and may get an Arizona Fall League assignment. Hicks made his way to Tacoma this season and while it’s not necessarily out of the question he gets a peak next month, he’s not likely to get much actual playing time.
Others at least a year away include shortstop Ketel Marte, who has but a week of experience in Triple-A but is performing well, right-handers Matt Anderson, Victor Sanchez and Mayckol Guiape and outfielders Jordy Lara and Gabriel Guerrero. Lara has a sound power swing with above-average bat speed but still is working on laying off the breaking ball out of the zone and the fastball above his hands.
Every other true prospect in the system is likely more than year from the big leagues, including catcher Tyler Marlette, outfielder Guillermo Pimentel and left-hander Tyler Pike.
Austin Wilson likely is two-plus year away and perhaps further down the road yet are outfielder Tyler O’Neill and right-handers Edwin Diaz and Emilio Pagan. Diaz could be fast-tracked as a reliever, but the plan is for him to start in 2015 and continue building on his strong, healthy 2014. Pike has struggled in Jackson and scouts tell me there are a few mechanical concerns with him that will have to be fixed if he’s to progress as a starter.