Cardinals September Call-Up Projections: 2011

Brian Walton explains his thinking behind his prediction of seven call ups to the St. Louis Cardinals roster for the final month of the season.

For the second consecutive year while putting together my annual predictions on September call-ups by the St. Louis Cardinals, there is little suspense about the players involved. Almost certainly, there will be no long-awaited introductions to the major leagues of hot young prospects.


Due to the combination of injuries at the major league level leading to early trials for many and a full 40-man roster, I suspect that what you have seen during the season is more of what you should get in September.


Based on analysis of past years' September roster actions, a representative mix of eight players that might be added to the roster in a typical year would look like this.


Pitchers – three righties and one lefty

Catcher – one

Infielders – two

Outfielder – one


Of course, the necessary personnel need to be available to warrant the moves.


One also has to take into account at least three currently-injured players that may return during the final month. If ready to come off the disabled list, these players will cut into the available playing time – pitchers Lance Lynn and Eduardo Sanchez and infielder Nick Punto.


Recent history


Last September, the Cardinals added an unusually-high total of ten players, at least partially due to injuries as well as still being in the playoff hunt.


St. Louis called up four players before Memphis' 2010 post-season run was completed. They were outfielder Nick Stavinoha, shortstop Tyler Greene and catchers Matt Pagnozzi and Bryan Anderson.


Following Memphis season, the Cardinals recalled six more players, five of whom were already on the 40-man roster. They were first baseman Mark Hamilton, outfielders Joe Mather and Allen Craig and pitcher P.J. Walters. Second baseman Daniel Descalso was placed on the 40-man and made his MLB debut exclusively at third base. When catcher Yadier Molina was deemed out for the season due to a knee injury in late September, Steven Hill was the last Redbird added to the post-season recall list.


In 2009, six minor league players were called up. Two joined prior to the completion of Memphis' post-season while the other four followed in late September. Right-handers Mitchell Boggs and Blake Hawksworth were the early arrivals. The later group consisted of reliever Josh Kinney, catcher Matt Pagnozzi and infielders Tyler Greene and David Freese.


Timing is everything


One potential factor in the timing of these moves is the fact that the Redbirds are in the hunt for their third straight division title. The race could go down to Labor Day. In the last two years, Memphis played until September 17 and 22, respectively. Another deep run in the playoffs would certainly delay some additions.


While the Cardinals want to evaluate players, their immediate needs for playoff contribution are minimized. One would assume they would not take Memphis' core if the Triple-A club makes the Pacific Coast League playoffs.


As of Sunday morning, the Redbirds are four games behind Omaha with eight games remaining. The tie breaker is in Omaha's favor, meaning the challenge is steep.


Roster seems set


Another factor that might limit new additions is the full 40-man roster. While normally several injured players on the 15-day disabled list could be moved to the 60-day DL to create space, there are no remaining players to easily shift this year. Adam Wainwright and Sanchez are already on the 60-day DL.


One 40-man move would be required for Sanchez. A marginal 40-man player could be removed to make room, such as Francisco Samuel, but a second drop would be more difficult. The organization may instead prefer to maintain flexibility heading into the winter.


The prediction


Taking everything into account, my best guess is that we will see the following seven Memphis Redbirds in St. Louis during September. Each of them has already appeared with the Cardinals, some more than others.


Pitchers: Brandon Dickson, Maikel Cleto

Catcher: Tony Cruz

Infielders: Tyler Greene, Mark Hamilton, Matt Carpenter

Outfielder Andrew Brown


Here are the five others currently on the 40-man who would be left behind in my scenario:


Pitchers: Adam Reifer, Francisco Samuel (both injured)

Catcher: Bryan Anderson

Infielder: Zack Cox

Outfielder: Adron Chambers


I will break down my thought process by position.


Pitchers: The Cardinals currently have 12 active pitchers. Add the two currently on the DL plus Dickson and Cleto and the September staff would be 16 strong. Among those not called up, Samuel has not yet demonstrated the necessary consistency even when healthy and Reifer is out for the year.


Of my seven projected minor league call-ups, I am least confident that Cleto would be added, though he has pitched relatively well in Memphis' rotation (3.74 ERA in 12 starts, with a 61:39 strikeout to walk ratio in 67 1/3 innings). With a number of other starting options already in house, Cleto would almost certainly be a long man when joining St. Louis.


Catchers: Tony Cruz has made his reputation as an offensive-minded catcher with improving defensive skills. While Bryan Anderson has come on strong with the bat in recent weeks, unless La Russa wants four catchers, Anderson could be the odd man out. He has not appeared for St. Louis this season.


Infielders: Greene will join a crowded scrum of infielders that expanded when Rafael Furcal was acquired. Since none of the incumbent shortstops are hitting well, if Greene can make a good impression initially, he could see extended time. Mark Hamilton has put together a productive season for Memphis, but his power has been diminished. He has not played in the outfield, continues to be blocked as a first baseman and has Matt Adams coming up his tailpipe. Carpenter, who has had a solid year with Memphis after a nice spring showing, would surely be the third baseman added. Still in Double-A, Zack Cox does not yet warrant discussion here. Pete Kozma simply hasn't shown enough with the bat to deserve a September call.


Outfielders: Brown has had a rough second half, but has bounced back a bit recently and could be added as a pinch-hitter. Chambers has yet to make his MLB debut, but has an outside chance as centerfield competition is sparse.


Other misses


Memphis has other players not on the 40-man worth discussing, but not worthy of call ups, in my opinion.


At 30 years of age, closer Victor Marte is not a prospect. He is under contract for next season, so no decision about his immediate future is needed. Right-hander Adam Ottavino has had an up and down year and some think his future should be in relief. There are no left-handers close to consideration.


Among the outfielders, Nick Stavinoha has been the most consistent run producer all season long for the Redbirds, but his major league future with the Cardinals seems dim. Shane Robinson, injured in April, but productive upon his return, will likely also be a numbers victim in his parallel attempt to reclaim a 40-man roster spot.


In conclusion


The bottom line is that I am projecting a total of ten players to join St. Louis. Three would be injury returnees - Lynn, Sanchez and Punto - and seven up from Memphis - Dickson, Cleto, Cruz, Greene, Hamilton, Carpenter and Brown - with no 40-man roster additions.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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