Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who might get a September call-up?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Danny Espinosa's fine minor-league season could result in a September promotion.
It's just about that time of the year when thoughts turn to September and who among the Nationals' top minor leaguers might be in line for a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

September call-ups tend to draw a lot of attention, and often for good reason. Among the most notable guys who made their major-league debuts for the Nats in September are the franchise's current left side of the infield: Ryan Zimmerman (2005) and Ian Desmond (2009).

Then again, plenty of September promotions go to players who quickly disappear into the abyss of anonymous ex-Nationals and are never heard from again. (Hello, Mike Hinckley and Arnie Munoz!)

So you can't get too worked up about these call-ups. September performances offer only a glimpse into a player's full potential. Still, there are a couple of guys in the upper levels of the Nats' farm system right now, knocking on the door and itching for a late-season promotion. Here's a rundown of some of those who could wind up in the Nationals Park clubhouse come the first week of September...

Probably the safest bet of the group to be on the roster later this season, the young catcher (he turned 23 yesterday) acquired from the Twins in the Matt Capps trade figures to hold a prominent role on this team in 2011. Mike Rizzo has all but said he'll be in D.C. for this season's final month, and he'll probably get a fair share of playing time alongside Ivan Rodriguez. In nine games so far at Class AAA Syracuse, Ramos is hitting .286 with a double, a triple, a homer, five RBI and eight runs scored.

Espinosa has been in the news lately because of a torrid power surge (he's got 20 homers this season) that earned him a promotion to Syracuse from Class AA Harrisburg. The 23-year-old shortstop has been on a fast track since he was drafted in the third round out of Long Beach State in 2008, and he's long been looked at as a candidate to start either at shortstop or second base in the big leagues by 2011. If that's going to happen, it's probably worth it to give him a taste of the majors in September, much as the Nationals did last year with Desmond. Espinosa will only have one month of Class AAA experience, but he's a pretty advanced player who already appeared in the Arizona Fall League and held his own against that top competition. One possible hang-up: He's not currently on the 40-man roster.

Another fan favorite because of his ties to D.C. (he went to George Washington), Wilkie has had a fantastic season in relief at Syracuse (2-3, 1.88 ERA, six saves in 44 appearances). He's maintained a sub-3.00 ERA in the minors each of the last three seasons, and at 26, he's certainly mature enough for life in the majors. The problem, once again, is that he's not on the 40-man roster. The Nats could have put him on it last winter after he pitched in the Fall League, but elected not to and took the chance another club would take him in the Rule 5 draft. No one did, so he's remained in the organization and has continued to pitch quite well.

The Nationals' top position player prospect since he was drafted in the first round in 2006, Marrero is putting together another solid, if not spectacular, season in the minors. In his first full season at Harrisburg, he's batting .291 with 14 homers, 64 RBI and 24 doubles. Defense at first base remains something of a question mark, and he's still only 22 years old with zero experience at Class AAA. If there's a reason for the Nationals to bring him up this September, it's to get a sense of his readiness just in case Adam Dunn isn't re-signed by the winter. That said, few in the organization believe Marrero will be ready to be the everyday first baseman by Opening Day 2011, and some aren't sure if he'll ever be a productive major-leaguer, especially in the field. The hunch here is that we don't see him this September.

I know these guys wouldn't be considered traditional September call-ups, and there's a chance we'll see one or both before the end of August. But technically speaking, they fall into the category of late-season call-ups because they're minor leaguers on the 40-man roster and not on the disabled list. (Zimmermann was activated a couple weeks ago and optioned to Syracuse.) Obviously, both of these right-handers could play a significant role in the Nats' rotation in 2011, and the club would love to get a good look at both guys before this season ends.


Brian said...

Wilkamania comes to DC in September

Poog said...

Looking forward to Josh getting his well-deserved cup of coffee and hope it turns into the door opener for him.

Pedro G. said...

Bring up Maya AND El Duque and make it a Cuban triple-play with Livo.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Ramos can't get here quick enough.

And why didn't they let him work with J-Zimm yesterday?

Anonymous said...

Marrero is not on the 40-man roster which may work against him, too.

JayB said...

"not on the 40 man roster".....Not a problem Mark....look who is on the 40 man roster...that is the real problem...Harris, Kennedy, Wil N. all will be dropped as will Maldonado, Balistar, Chico....the list is long of guys who are not currently and will not in the future help this team win.

Steveospeak said...

Well I think Zimmermann and Maya are going to be called up (and likely before Sept. 1st). I also agree Ramos will get the call mainly just to learn from Pudge and get a few starts and AB's. I also agree with Brian that Wilkie is likely since they will need to put him on the 40 man in a couple months anyways so they mine as well do it now (Did they already put Atilano on the 60 day? b/c that could be the spot for Wilkie).

I don't believe Marrero will get the call up, since I agree he isn't really ready for the show. Had they traded Dunn, I think they would have brought him up, but taking at bats away from Dunn doesn't help anyone.

While I can see why Espinosa could get the call up I'm saying they don't bring him up. I don't believe he will have to be placed on the 40 man next year to protect him from the Rule 5. While he might make the team next year or another June call up, I would wait till then to use up a 40 man spot until you have to (esp. since you need to create one for Harper i'm guessing).

Pete said...

Willie Harris should not be on a major league baseball team.

Sec314 said...

I'd love to see them prune the 40 man roster (Chico, Balester, etc.) and bring up Wilkie, along with Boomer Whiting. That guy sounds interesting.

But they won't.

Feel Wood said...

Remember last year when they called Desmond up and Riggleman resisted playing him, on account of how it "wouldn't respect the game" (whatever the hell that means)? I predict the same with Ramos and Espinosa if/when they are called up this September. Yet another reason why Riggleman is not a good manager: Nieves starting on Pudge's off day while Ramos rides the pine.

Anonymous said...


Maybe it'll be different this year? Rizzo was the interim GM and mostly had Bowden's people around him. This year its his job and his staff. The guy who is technically 'interim' given his 1 year with an option is Jim Riggleman.

Plus that was mostly about Guzman ... and it even continued this year with Riggleman starting him all over the field and ending up putting him at 2nd base over Kennedy. Guzman is finally gone and off of Double-switche's radar.

Riggleman might to play these guys respecting the game or not.

Souldrummer said...

@Feel Wood
We're not a contender yet. Ramos needs at bats. He's not going to get them in DC yet. It's worthy having him around to learn from Pudge and get some exposure in DC come callups, but please not before then.

@Sec 314
Boomer continues to really defy logic with his performance at AAA this year. I saw him last year at Potomac and thought he was nothing more than organizational depth that would never get past Harrisburg. He gets the call to Syracuse and he's been very credible. He's not worth a 40-man slot, though. Not gonna happen. Now if he does this next year....

Keeping all that pitching inventory on the 40-man is part of what worries me that guys like Wilkie won't get the call. But if Wilkamania comes to DC, you best believe I will go crazy if he gets some time. It certainly would make it easier to stomach blowouts like last night if there was any chance I'd get to see Wilkie's big league debut. I'm in the tank for that guy. Even called in one time on postgame, but almost got laughed off the phone. "the kid from GW????". Shut up the haters, Josh! Pitch Syracuse into the playoffs and earn the call!

Anonymous said...

That said, few in the organization believe Marrero will be ready to be the everyday first baseman by Opening Day 2011, and some aren't sure if he'll ever be a productive major-leaguer, especially in the field.
Wow! That is tough to hear about a No. 1 draft choice. Good hitter, but not great. Bad glove. I wish him well, but I can see where his skill set might land him on an American League team (through a trade) next summer. I would love to see Espinosa come up and get some game time.

Anonymous said...

If they put Harper on the 40-man odds are that Mench or Mattheus could be released ... what if Solis appears on the 40-man? Unlikely but possible?

Anonymous said...

The Nats need Wilkie now. He seems to have earned at the least, a September call up. Saw him live earlier this season against the phillies aaa team, was very impressed with him. He is a hungry player who has exceeded at every level. Hope to see him in DC soon.

JayB said...

People....there is tons of room on the 40 man roster if Rizzo and his brain trust act a month early on Harris types. Does anyone see Wil N. in baseball next year? How about Harris? Carlos Maldonado? Kennedy at $2 Mil? There is plenty of dead weight on the 40 man roster and it is time to make room for the improved talent level this team must go out and get this winter....Use Sept to get a read on what they have in house and get ready to deal.

Anonymous said...

Another point about adding guys to the 40-man. A September call-up uses up an option.

Steveospeak said...

I actually don't think that if they add them to the 40 man it will count as an option year, if it is this late in the season. I believe they need to spend at least 20 days in the minors (after they have been added). So if I got it right they won't use an option on a Wilkie or Marrero ect.

Alex said...

1. Mark, what about Severino (already on the 40-man) coming back up as another lefty out of the pen? See if he challenges for Slaten's role next year?

2. If they are going to bring up Espinosa, Wilkie, or Marrero (and depending on what happens with Harper), it does seem like

Chico (clearly not part of the plan),
Mattheus, and
Maldanado or Nieves (now that they have Ramos)

are the 3 most vulnerable spots on the 40-man (assuming Mench will already be dropped when Nyjer comes back, and Atilano goes on the 60-day but Mock has to come off it at some point, now that he's rehabbing in Potomac).

Guys like Harris and Kennedy won't get cut, as they'll need to be replaced by vets in the offseason anyway. Maybe if they can deal Kennedy by Aug 31 deadline...

3. Also, on one hand, Desmond coming up in September, playing AFL, great spring may have set a precedent for Espinosa. And Espinosa would only be replacing Kennedy or Gonzalez this season (not Desmond pushing Guzman too early last September as someone else mentioned).

On the other hand, Desmond was already on the 40-man last September (drafted out of HS in '04) not with an extra year like Espinosa has (college in '07).

Tough call.

Evan S said...

I'd like to see Espinosa and Ramos up in September. They are the most likely, and I don't think Marrero will be called up. Generally you need to have at least SOME AAA experience before a september call-up, which he does not have. Additionally, there is no way they will spell Dunn for Marrero. Now, Espinosa could fit right in in September. There is no true second baseman on this team, just a semi-platoon of Gonzalez and Kennedy, and neither one of them is a long term option (especially Kennedy), and if Espinosa or Desmond performs well at the position then we could already know what the middle infield looks like next year. FYI, Espinosa is a Scott Boras client.

A DC Wonk said...

So, folks here want the Nats to bring up Ramos and release Maldonado and Nieves.

Then, if Ramos gets injured they can blame Rizzo for not having a back-up plan, right?

Feel Wood said...

Espinosa's still playing SS in the minors, isn't he? If they plan to switch him to second base it's more likely they wouldn't have the first tries at that taking place at the major league level. Similarly, if the thought is to have Espinosa be the shortstop and Desmond the second baseman, again it's unlikely they'd undertake that transition in major league games that count. More likely it would be something they do in spring training.

So that plus the fact that he's not on the 40-man roster argues against Espinosa getting a September callup.

pahou said...

The Senators gave up four runs in the first inning last night and Marrero came off of the field laughing and smiling. You really want him in D.C.

Anonymous said...


Someone probably told him a funny joke; relax. If he can hit and catch the ball I want him in D.C; lets not start with character innuendos for a 22 year old. OK?

Anonymous said...

I think that Jayb's point is that the 40 man roster is completely irrelevant at this stage and should not come into play when making any personnel decisions. I agree completely.

A DC Wonk said...

"40 man roster is completely irrelevant" ???


Can you spell "shortsighted" ?

Anonymous said...

DC Wonk,

Come on; don't twist my words. The point is that there are enough 'not go forward' guys on the roster that it shouldn't limit any moves. Do we really care about Mench, Maldonado long term?

Unknown said...

Call Up El Duque!

natsfan13 said...

Mark, with the plethora of candidates for the rotation next season, is there any chance Tom Milone gets a look? Tearing up Harrisburg with a 2.95 ERA and 123 ks and 21 bbs in 131 innings pitched. You'd have to think he would be more effective than Jason Marquis at this point.

We Need a Bat said...

Shairon Martis is still on the 40 man roster. He and Carlos Maldonado are two spots taken up by guys who are in no one's version of the plan. It's a no brainer.

markfd said...

I do not see JZimm and Maya being September callups, I think we will see them before the roster expands.

Here are my other callups:

- Ramos - no brainer, he catches 2 days a week
- Espinosa - give the kid a taste of the majors and maybe throw him in a couple of times at SS and 2B
- Whiting - you have to see if this speedster can hit in the majors
- Balester - he gets one more shot to show he can control his pitches out of the pen
- Rafael Martin - basically a try out to see if he is AAAA player or a bullpen member going into 2011
- James - Chuck gets his shot to prove he can be a reliever and rejuvinate his career
- Chico - Matt gets one more shot to show he is the guy who can start 30 games in the majors.

Yes the 40-man is a challenge for some of these folks but we have a lot of wiggle room with guys that does not factor into the 2011 and beyond plan:

- Atilano - not who we thought he was, organizationl filler from here on out.
- English - Jesse was claimed off waivers, maybe someone else will take him off our hands.
- Jaime - do not think he will be claimed
- Mattheus - see Jaime
- Maldanado - you can always find aveteran catcher for AAA if someone were to claim him.
- Mench - you can always find a veteran AAA hitter

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