September is fast approaching, and with it comes expanded major league rosters. The Oakland A's haven't historically used all 40 of their possible September roster spots, but they will certainly add several players throughout the month to augment their current 25-man roster down-the-stretch.
Below we take a look at the pitchers on the current Triple-A Sacramento River Cats' roster to weigh the chances that those pitchers might be donning the green-and-gold next month.
For discussion on the position players being considered for a September call-up, click here.
Note: Players currently on the disabled list have not been included in this discussion.
Bruce Billings: With the exception of a rehabbing Brett Anderson, the Oakland A's aren't likely to add anyone from their minor league system to their starting rotation over the final weeks of the season. That doesn't mean that members of the Sacramento River Cats' rotation won't be called upon in September to fill roles in the A's bullpen, however.
With the exception of Sonny Gray, who is now with Oakland, Billings has been the River Cats' most effective starter this season. The right-hander had a rough outing on Tuesday night, but before that start, he had a stretch of five straight starts allowing two or fewer runs. Billings had an awful April, but he has been solid since then. For the season, he has 129 strike-outs and 44 walks in 139 innings pitched.
Billings has experience both in the bullpen and the rotation and has a fastball-slider combination that would play well in the bullpen. He has pitched well for the A's at the Triple-A level the past two seasons and has seven innings of major league experience. He pitches equally well against both righties and lefties, making him a solid candidate for a long relief role. Working against Billings is the fact that he isn't on the team's 40-man roster. He was passed over for a September spot last season after putting together a similarly solid campaign with the River Cats. Whether the A's add him in September may have a lot to do with whether they think they need some ‘length' in the bullpen or whether they think they need more ‘specialist' type relievers.
Andrew Werner: Acquired in the Tyson Ross deal before the season, Werner has spent the entire year in the Sacramento rotation. The left-hander has had a very up-and-down first season in the A's organization. He leads the Sacramento staff with 152 innings pitched, but he has a 5.98 ERA. Werner has walked only 37, but he has also only struck-out 100 and batters have hit .313 against him.
The A's will most likely be looking for a left-hander to pitch in a situational role in their bullpen for September. Werner has posted a .294 BAA and has a 32:7 K:BB against southpaws this season. Given that he hasn't dominated lefties, he is probably behind fellow 40-man roster members Hideki Okajima and Pedro Figueroa, both of whom have found more success versus southpaws this year.
Arnold Leon: Leon spent most of the season as a starter with Double-A Midland, but he was promoted to Triple-A at the start of July. Since then, he has appeared in nine games (eight starts) and has allowed four runs or fewer in all but one of those outings. Leon has excellent command, as evidenced by his 85:20 K:BB in 128 innings. He also has a deep arsenal of pitches that includes a plus curveball. Leon has lots of experience as both a starter and as a reliever and shouldn't have trouble moving into a relief role with the A's. As a starter, Leon's fastball generally sits in the 88-91 MPH range, but in the bullpen, he can bump it up to 93. He has pitched particularly well against right-handed hitters this year. Leon is on the A's 40-man roster, but he doesn't have any major league experience. Last year was his first full season back from Tommy John surgery and he was a reliever for the entire season, so he only accumulated 66.2 innings pitched. At 128 innings pitched this season, Leon may be nearing his innings limit for the year.
Travis Banwart: Banwart, the A's fourth-round pick in 2007, has been a good solider in the A's system for several years now. He is completing his fifth season with Sacramento and recently became the franchise's all-time leader in strike-outs. He has had a solid season with the River Cats, making 21 starts and six relief appearances. Banwart has a 4.56 ERA and a 114:50 K:BB in 120 innings pitched. He has been effective against right-handers this season, holding them to a .253 BAA and posting a 62:14 K:BB. The Wichita State alum isn't on the 40-man roster, however, and he will be eligible for minor league free agency this off-season if he isn't added to the 40-man roster this September. Given the number of pitchers on the 40-man roster pitching for Sacramento, Banwart's odds of being added to the A's roster this September are probably long.
Carlos Hernandez: Hernandez may be the ultimate good solider in the A's organization. He spent most of his 2013 campaign with Double-A Midland, his fifth season at that level. Hernandez dominated the Texas League, posting a 2.18 ERA in 132 innings pitched. He allowed just five homeruns and held opposing batters to a .223 average. He has made two starts with Sacramento since a mid-August promotion. One start was good, the other not so much. Although Hernandez has been mostly a starter in the minor leagues, he profiles best as a reliever in the major leagues. The A's have been looking for him to post dominating numbers against left-handed hitters as proof he can be a left-handed specialist, but he has actually pitched roughly the same against both righties and lefties this season. Like Banwart, Hernandez will be eligible for free agency this off-season if he isn't added to the 40-man roster. His chances of being added to the A's roster in September are likely similar to Banwart's.
Evan Scribner: No matter where the A's find themselves in the standings on September 1, they will undoubtedly call-up at least one reliever to help out an A's bullpen that has shown signs of wear-and-tear in the recent weeks. Over the course of September, the A's are likely to bring up one or two more relievers, especially once Sacramento is out of the playoffs (if they make it to the post-season).
Scribner seems like a pretty sure bet to get the call in September. The right-hander has had a few stints with the A's this season and he threw several important innings for the A's down-the-stretch last year. He has been outstanding for Sacramento this year, posting a 53:9 K:BB in 42.2 innings and holding opposing batters to a .199 average. Scribner has allowed just one run since being sent back to Sacramento from Oakland earlier this month (6.1 innings pitched).
Hideki Okajima: The veteran Okajima was with the A's for a stint in May, but he wasn't particularly impressive, allowing seven hits and two walks in four innings pitched. Okajima has pitched much better than that for Sacramento, however. In 39.2 innings, he has a 42:8 K:BB and he has held opposing batters to a .224 average. Okajima has been particularly tough against left-handed batters, posting a .188 BAA versus southpaws. If the A's do call on Okajima, he is likely to be used in a situational LOOGY role, so those numbers bode well for his chances of a call-up. Also working in Okajima's favor is the fact that he has remained on the 40-man roster all season and that he has significant major-league experience, including in several pennant races. If he isn't added in September, his spot on the 40-man roster might be used to add a non-roster player.
Pedro Figueroa: Figueroa had a break-through season last year, reaching the big leagues during his first full season back from Tommy John surgery. The hard-throwing southpaw tossed 21.2 innings for the A's last season, posting a 3.32 ERA, but he struggled at times with his command. He was more effective for Sacramento last year, striking out 40 and walking 18 in 44.2 innings. This year, command has been a bigger issue for Figueroa at the Triple-A level. He has 45 strike-outs in 56.1 innings, but he has walked 32 and has allowed an uncharacteristic eight homeruns. The A's love Figueroa's fastball-slider combo, but they may not feel they can trust him with important innings this September given his command issues. He has had a nice August thus far, however, and if he continues to pound the strike-zone over the next few weeks, he could earn his way back up to Oakland at some point next month.
Brian Gordon: Gordon isn't on the A's 40-man roster, but his dominance for Sacramento this season could earn him a spot with the A's next month. The former outfielder turned pitcher has a 62:9 K:BB in 58 innings and 19 saves for Sacramento this season. He has been the River Cats' closer almost exclusively since Dan Otero was promoted to Oakland. Gordon has five games of big league experience, although he last pitched in the big leagues in 2011. He spent the 2012 season pitching in Korea. Not being on the 40-man roster does work against Gordon some, but the A's can find ways to maneuver their roster around if they feel he can help them.
Fernando Nieve and Mike Zagurski: Nieve and Zagurski are very different pitchers, but both are veterans under minor league contracts acquired by the A's recently. More than likely, Nieve and Zagurski were signed to give the River Cats' some experienced depth after they lost several relievers to promotions or moves to different organizations. However, given their previous big league experience, both Nieve and Zagurski could be good options for the A's next month should they need some bullpen depth.
Kyler Newby: Newby, a minor league free agent signing this off-season, has split his season between Double-A and Triple-A. He has pitched well at both levels, posting a 52:18 K:BB in 55.2 innings. With Sacramento, he has a 21:11 K:BB and he has allowed one homerun in 23.1 innings. Oddly, he has pitched much better against left-handers than right-handers despite being right-handed. Newby has been in professional baseball since 2005 and has pitched in a few big league camps, but he has yet to make his major league debut. He is likely behind several other River Cats' pitchers on the A's depth chart right now.
Chris Resop: When the A's acquired Resop this off-season from Pittsburgh, they thought he would be an important part of the A's bullpen. He won a spot in the A's bullpen out of spring training and got off to a strong start before suffering from command issues. Out of options, Resop was designated for assignment by the A's in May and was outrighted to Triple-A. He has been with the River Cats since then. He has continued to struggle with his command with Sacramento. In 30.1 innings, Resop has a 21:13 K:BB. He has allowed five homeruns and opposing batters are hitting .341 against him. Resop has been an effective reliever in the big leagues for several years, but it has been a struggle for him this year. On the plus side, he has pitched better lately. He hasn't allowed a walk over his last eight innings and he has allowed just four hits during that stretch. If the A's feel Resop has made a mechanical change that has brought him back to the form that made him effective at the big-league level, they could give him a shot, but he is facing long odds given his struggles up until August and the fact that he isn't on the 40-man roster already.
Paul Smyth: After two-plus years at the Double-A level, Smyth finally got the call to Triple-A in late May. He has taken advantage of his first Triple-A opportunity, posting a 2.51 ERA in 32.1 innings for the River Cats. The Northern California native has a 26:13 K:BB for Sacramento and he has allowed two homeruns. Smyth uses a low three-quarters delivery and has three pitches. He doesn't have plus velocity, but when he is at his best, Smyth locates well and his delivery creates deception that can fool hitters. He is generally more effective against right-handed hitters because of his delivery, and that has held true this year. Given Smyth's lack of experience at the Triple-A level, he isn't likely to get the call to Oakland this September over several other members of the River Cats' roster, but he could be an option for the A's next season.