With the Oakland A's well out of the playoff race, their focus as an organization for the rest of this season will be on setting a foundation for the future. When rosters expand in September, the A's will have the opportunity to take a close look at several players who didn't receive regular big-league playing time for most of this year but could serve significant roles in 2016.
Historically, the A's haven't been an organization that has filled its full allotment of 40 players in September. While many organizations use September call-ups as a way to reward Triple-A players who have had strong seasons, generally speaking, the A's have preferred not to call-up too many players in September who they didn't plan to give regular playing time to. This year may be a little different, as the A's have plenty of assessments to make about players both on their current 40-man roster and a few that are non-roster players. Consequently, it wouldn't be surprising to see the A's carry more players in September than they normally do.
Players currently on the A's 40-man roster will have a better shot of receiving a September call-up than those not currently on the roster. That being said, the A's do have some roster flexibility to add a few non-roster players in the final month of the season. Oakland's active 40-man roster (players not on the 60-day DL) stands at 39, so they can add one player to the active 40-man roster without making any additional moves.
Sean Doolittle, Tyler Ladendorf and Taylor Thompson are all currently on the A's 60-day disabled list. If any of them are ready physically to play for the A's in September, then they will need to be added towards the A's 40-man roster count. The A's do have several players they can move onto the 60-day DL to make room. A.J. Griffin and Sean Nolin are currently on the A's minor league disabled list. Both could be moved to the major-league 60-day DL if they aren't going to pitch again this year. The same could be the case for Jesse Hahn, who is currently on the A's 15-day disabled list. He hasn't yet begun a throwing program and might not be ready to pitch in games next month.
The A's could also choose to release some players off of their current 40-man roster to make room for non-roster players, although there aren't any obvious candidates for a move like that. With all of those factors in play, let's take a closer look at who might get the call to the big leagues this September. (Note: players currently on the big league DL like Ladendorf are not considered for this article since they are technically already in the big leagues.)
40-Man Roster September Call-up Candidates
The A's don't have many young prospects on their 40-man roster and one could make an argument for nearly every player on their 40-man roster getting the call this September. The only two 40-man roster members not likely to get the call are prospects Raul Alcantara and Renato Nunez. Both are still in the development stages of their careers and at least a year away from big league consideration.
With the exception of Alcantara, Nunez, the newly acquired Cody Martin and prospect Rangel Ravelo, all of the A's active 40-man roster players have played in the big leagues for Oakland at some point this season, making them strong candidates to return in September.
In particular, the A's need to sort out their options in the bullpen and in the outfield as they head into the off-season. Current Triple-A relievers R.J. Alvarez, Angel Castro, Dan Otero and Pat Venditte figure to get some innings with the A's this September so Oakland can continue to assess whether those pitchers fit into their 2016 plans.
The A's could also give Martin a look. The right-hander was acquired for international bonus money this July. He began the year in the Atlanta Braves bullpen and has experience as both a starter and a reliever. He has struggled thus far in Nashville's rotation, however.
The A's crowded outfield will likely get even more crowded when the team recalls the recently demoted Jake Smolinski and veteran Craig Gentry in September. Smolinski is getting reps at first base in Triple-A and could see time in the outfield and at first this September. Gentry has had an up-and-down year with Nashville, but if the A's have plans to bring him back next year, they are likely to recall him for the final month.
Oakland will face an interesting decision over whether to promote Ravelo. The corner infielder missed much of the season with a wrist injury that required surgery this spring. If he hadn't gotten hurt, Ravelo likely would have started the year in Triple-A and also likely would have been up with the injury-riddled A's at some point this season.
Ravelo began his rehab in Arizona and spent three weeks with Double-A Midland before being promoted to Triple-A on Wednesday night. He hit .327/.421/.496 in 31 games for the AZL A's and the RockHounds. Ravelo will be getting his feet wet in Triple-A these next three weeks, but if he continues to hit at an impressive pace, the A's could give him an audition in September.
Non-Roster September Call-up Candidates
The A's have several non-roster players deserving of a September call-up. Given the numbers game, the A's may not have room for too many non-roster players, but there are certainly several they will consider.
Oakland will almost certainly add a catcher to the September roster. They always like to carry three catchers in September and the team currently only has two catchers on its 40-man roster (Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley). Carson Blair and Bryan Anderson are two candidates to be added in September. The A's could also add a catcher from outside of the organization.
Anderson spent last September with the A's after being acquired late in the year from the Reds' organization. He has been at Triple-A all season and has the advantage of having spent spring training and all of the regular season with many of the A's 40-man roster pitchers. He has struggled at the plate this season, however, hitting just .184.
Blair is the more likely candidate to get the call. Signed as a minor league free agent this off-season, Blair got a little time in big league camp this spring. He has split his season between Double-A and Triple-A and is in the middle of a breakout campaign. The 25-year-old has an 833 OPS this year and has handled the challenge of working with the veteran Sounds' staff well. Blair will be eligible for minor league free agency again this off-season if the A's don't add him to the 40-man roster. If they are entertaining any notions of keeping him next year, adding him to the roster this September makes a lot of sense.
Veterans Barry Zito and Jason Pridie are deserving of September call-ups, but it may be difficult for the A's to fit either one into their September plans. Zito has been an anchor in the Nashville starting rotation, pitching well after a poor April. It would be a great story to see him get another start or two in the green-and-gold this season. If the A's decide to limit any of their young starter's innings this September, Zito would be a good candidate to pick those innings up, but the A's haven't announced any intentions of capping any of their starter's innings at this point.
Pridie is likely an odd-man out given that the A's will probably be carrying outfielders Crisp, Billy Burns, Mark Canha, Josh Reddick, Sam Fuld, Smolinski and Gentry on their September roster. That said, he is very deserving of another big league opportunity. Pridie, a PCL All-Star this year, has an 849 OPS this season with 16 homers and 17 stolen bases. He has also handled centerfield well.
The A's may also take a hard look at their middle infield this September. With the addition of Danny Valencia last week, Brett Lawrie will likely get some playing time at second base. The A's don't currently have a true back-up shortstop, although if Ladendorf is healthy enough to return to the A's this September, he will be that true back-up shortstop. If Ladendorf isn't healthy enough to play this September, Oakland could add veteran Andy Parrino back to the 40-man roster. He has had a solid year at the plate for Nashville and is a talented defender at several positions, including shortstop.
Joey Wendle is limited to second base defensively, but he could still get an opportunity with the A's this September. He is likely to enter next spring training with a legitimate opportunity to win the A's starting second base job. Drafted in 2012, Wendle will need to be added to the A's 40-man roster this off-season or the A's will risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft. Since he is a sure bet to be added to the roster by the end of November, the A's don't lose anything regarding their control over him by adding him in September instead.