September 1st is rapidly approaching and with it, the expansion of MLB active rosters from 25 to 40. The Oakland A’s have historically shied away from filling their roster with the maximum number of players, but the A’s are still likely to call on several reinforcements, as they look to try to get back into the postseason for a third consecutive year.
Four of the A’s reinforcements will come from the team’s 15-day disabled list. Outfielder Craig Gentry and first baseman/outfielder Kyle Blanks are already rehabbing with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. Both should be ready to return to the A’s active roster on September 1, if not sooner. If the A’s choose to activate Blanks or Gentry before September 1, they are likely to bring back whoever they send down in those players’ place later in September. The third and fourth players – infielder Nick Punto and Jed Lowrie – are still not ready to start his rehab. They could see some time with an A’s minor league club during the postseason if they are ready before those seasons end.
Beyond those three rehabbing A’s players, there are several members of the current Sacramento River Cats’ roster who are candidates to join the A’s this September. We take a look at those candidates, organized by likelihood of a call-up:
Evan Scribner and Fernando Rodriguez: Both Scribner and Rodriguez have spent time in the A’s bullpen already this season and both should return to Oakland on or near the day that rosters expand. Scribner has been a part of the A’s September runs the past two seasons and he has had a solid 2014 season. In 45 innings with the River Cats, Scribner has a 3.00 ERA and a remarkable 70:9 K:BB. He has 15 saves for Sacramento. In 5.1 innings with the A’s this year, Scribner has allowed a run on three hits. He hasn’t walked a batter and he struck-out three.
Rodriguez missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The right-hander has been solid in his return from the injury. In 42.2 innings for Sacramento, Rodriguez has a 1.90 ERA and a 49:14 K:BB. He has tossed eight innings for the A’s this season, allowing a run on four hits and two walks. He struck-out four.
Drew Pomeranz: Pomeranz was a fixture in the A’s starting rotation before he broke his hand after a poor start in mid-June. That injury knocked him onto the DL and eventually out of the A’s starting rotation, as Oakland acquired three starting pitchers in trades after Pomeranz’s injury, pushing him down the depth chart. To his credit, Pomeranz has pitched very well since being optioned to Sacramento and looks ready to reclaim some sort of role with Oakland once rosters expand. Whether the A’s put him back into the rotation in Jason Hammel’s place or slot him back where he started the year in the bullpen remains to be seen. In 40.2 innings with Sacramento since the injury, Pomeranz has a 2.88 ERA and a 49:14 K:BB. He had a 2.91 ERA and a 48:23 K:BB in 55.2 innings with the A’s before the injury.
Billy Burns: Burns is the only rookie to have appeared in a game for the A’s this season, as he got five at-bats over a three-game stretch in late July with Oakland. Before his promotion to the big leagues, Burns had spent the entire year in Double-A. Since being returned to the minors, Burns has been with Sacramento. Burns hasn’t lit up the stat-sheet offensively this season, but his base-running ability and his defensive skills are reasons enough to bring him up during roster expansion. Even with Sam Fuld, Gentry and Coco Crisp on the A’s roster, Oakland should find late-game situations in September when Burns’ speed will be valuable off of the bench. Billy Hamilton played a similar role for the Cincinnati Reds last September and made an impact.
Shane Peterson: In a fair world, Peterson would have been in the big leagues already at some point this season, but he hasn’t been able to crack the A’s deep outfield thus far this year. That could change in September. The versatile Peterson has played center and right field, as well as a little bit of first base, for Sacramento this season. His versatility and good eye at the plate would make him a solid addition to the bench in September. Peterson has had an outstanding year for the River Cats and is more than deserving of some big league time. Through Tuesday, he was sporting a .316/.389/.474 line with 11 homers and 11 stolen bases. He also has 35 doubles and five triples.
Joe Savery: Savery has been on the A’s 40-man roster all season and has quietly been very effective as a left-handed reliever out of the River Cats’ bullpen. The former Phillies’ top prospect has a 2.63 ERA and a 42:16 K:BB in 41 innings for Sacramento this season. The A’s are flush with lefties (especially if Pomeranz is re-added to the bullpen), but Savery is already on the A’s 40-man roster and, as the saying goes, you can never have too much left-handed pitching.
Jeremy McBryde: McBryde has flown under-the-radar most of the season, in large part because he was unimpressive during big league camp this spring. However, the former San Diego Padres’ prospect has been dominant for Sacramento since May. Despite posting a 6.35 ERA in April, McBryde has a 2.25 ERA in 60 innings for Sacramento. He has 15 saves and has 60 strike-outs against 25 walks. McBryde has allowed just 36 hits (.178 BAA). He isn’t on the A’s 40-man roster, but if Oakland has plans to keep him next year, they could add him to the roster this September.
Paul Smyth: The Northern California native has had a breakthrough 2014 season, posting a 2.73 ERA and a 52:12 K:BB in 56 innings. His WHIP is under 1.00 and he has pitched well versus both righties and lefties. The sidearmer would give the A’s a different look out of their bullpen. Like McBryde, Smyth isn’t on the A’s 40-man roster, but unlike McBryde, Smyth won’t be eligible for free agency at the end of the season if the A’s don’t add him to the roster.
Arnold Leon: Leon has had an up-and-down year with the River Cats and he is currently sporting an ugly 5.27 ERA. However, the right-hander can give the A’s length in the middle innings if they are looking for a longman. He is already on the A’s 40-man roster. Leon has given up a lot of hits this season, but he throws a lot of strikes and gets a lot of groundballs, so he could see an improvement at a higher level with better defenders behind him and less offensive-friendly ballparks.
Daric Barton: Barton wouldn’t seem like a likely candidate with the A’s roster already well-stocked with first basemen (Blanks, Brandon Moss and Nate Freiman), but Barton has re-surfaced on the A’s roster several times in the past three years when it seemed unlikely. Barton has had a typical Barton year for Sacramento. He has walked more than he has struck-out, but he hasn’t hit for much power. Barton is currently sporting a .262/.361/.404 line. He remains a better defender than any of the three first basemen on the A’s current roster. Barton is not on Oakland’s 40-man roster, but Oakland is paying him more than $1 million this season.
Ryan Ortiz, Luis Martinez or a TBD catcher: The A’s already have three starter-caliber catchers on their roster, but with Stephen Vogt nursing a foot injury and Derek Norris dealing with a sore back, the A’s may decide to add a fourth catcher in September for insurance. Ortiz and Martinez comprise the current River Cats’ backstop combo. Ortiz has more experience with the A’s organization, having been in the system since 2009. Martinez was added as a minor league free agent in August. He does have some major-league experience, however, which could give him an edge over Ortiz. The A’s could also dip into their Double-A depth and promote Blake Forsythe, who isn’t much of a hitter but is an advanced defensive catcher. Oakland could also try to acquire a veteran Triple-A catcher from a team not likely to need one in September.