Cardinals September Call-Up Projections

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

I have to admit that putting together my annual predictions on September call-ups by the St. Louis Cardinals lacks the suspense of past years. Almost certainly, there will not be any long-awaited introductions to the major leagues of hot young prospects.

 

Due to the combination of so many 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 is what you should get.

 

As I have analyzed past years' September roster actions extensively, rather than reproduce it here, I will instead refer you to the earlier articles:

 

"Projecting Cards September Call-Ups: Part One"

"Projecting Cards September Call-Ups: Part Two"

"Auditing September Call-Up Predictions"

 

The net is that based on past years, a representative mix of eight players that would added to the roster in a typical September 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.

 

In 2009, six minor league players were added. Two were called upon prior to the completion of Memphis' post-season while the other four joined on September 23. 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.

 

Among those not receiving the call last fall included notable Memphis contributors infielder/outfielder Allen Craig, second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir, left-handers Jaime Garcia and Royce Ring and right-hander P.J. Walters.

 

Further, on September 1 of last year, the Cardinals re-added three veterans to the expanded active roster, two pitchers and a position player – Todd Wellemeyer, Kyle Lohse and Troy Glaus. In effect, that meant the 25-man roster grew by nine, to 34.

 

Correspondingly, this year, the veteran group of September additions should certainly include three pitchers currently on the disabled list – Dennys Reyes, Jason Motte and Jeff Suppan.

 

Along with the lack of suspense mentioned above, another reason I delayed writing my prediction article was that I wanted to see if Memphis would either seize a playoff spot or fall off the pace in the Pacific Coast League American North Division.

 

The reality is that the Redbirds are in the hunt and the race may go down to Labor Day. Last year, the eventual PCL champions played until September 22. Another deep run in the playoffs could have a way of tamping down additions.

 

I asked Cardinals manager Tony La Russa if he will continue to leave the Memphis roster alone, short of injury replacements, until their season concludes. He qualified his "yes" answer by noting the realities and offering an example. "You can't penalize the big league team… if they (Memphis) had a left-hander, we'd have him."

 

Another factor noted 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 shift this year. David Freese, Jason LaRue, Brad Penny and Adam Ottavino are already on the 60-day DL.

 

A marginal 40-man player could be removed, such as Matt Pagnozzi or Shane Robinson, but the organization may instead prefer to maintain flexibility heading into the winter.

 

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

 

Pitcher: P.J. Walters

Catcher: Steven Hill

Infielder: Tyler Greene

Outfielder Nick Stavinoha

 

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

 

Pitchers: Evan MacLane, Francisco Samuel

Catcher: Matt Pagnozzi

Infielders: Mark Hamilton, Zack Cox

Outfielder: Daryl Jones, Joe Mather, Shane Robinson (injured)

 

I will break down my thought process by position.

 

Pitchers: Note the Cardinals have 12 pitchers now. Add the three veterans plus Walters and the September staff would be 16 strong. Among those not called up, Samuel has not yet demonstrated the necessary consistency while MacLane would be with the Cardinals now subbing for Dennys Reyes if the major league staff viewed him as a potential stretch-drive contributor. However, if any new lefty reaches St. Louis in December, it would be MacLane, as other left-handed non-roster candidates Renyel Pinto and Nate Robertson were both released in the last week. That may depend on Dennys Reyes health more than MacLane. As of now, I am assuming that Reyes will soon be ready. Of my four projected minor league call-ups, I am least confident that Walters would be added, though P.J. is forcing his name forward with a hot run of pitching for Memphis. With a number of other starting options already in house, he would almost certainly be a long man when joining St. Louis.

 

Footnote: In the event that Fernando Salas is optioned out prior to September 1 to make room for the activation of Motte, expect him to be assigned to a minor league affiliate whose season is done (Gulf Coast League?) so he can be recalled to St. Louis inside of the normal 10-day restriction. Salas would then take Motte's place among my seven forecasted call-ups. Seven is a most appropriate number as it would also be Salas' seventh promotion from the minors this season.

 

Footnote #2 (Monday): Outfielder Allen Craig was optioned out to Memphis for Motte instead. As Craig is likely ineligible for the PCL playoffs, I would expect him back with St. Louis after the ten day-minimum stay, or sooner if a position player is injured.

 

Catchers: Matt Pagnozzi has made his reputation as a defensive-minded catcher, but the reality is that Bryan Anderson has both better offensive and defensive stats this season. Moved down to make his Memphis debut just two weeks ago after first leaping over the Redbirds from Springfield, Steven Hill can flat out hit. Even though he is not as strong behind the plate, Hill's September role as third catcher would primarily be as a pinch-hitter, not to catch meaningful innings. Therefore, I see Hill as a better fit.

 

Infielders: Greene will join a crowded scrum of infielders that expanded when Pedro Feliz was acquired, moving Felipe Lopez back into the middle. Since none of the incumbents are hitting, if Greene can make a good impression initially, he might see some time. Otherwise, at-bats may be scarce. If Mark Hamilton had put in an entire season in the outfield instead of spending time on the disabled list and then manning first base, I would give him a shot. As it is, I see him as continuing to be blocked as a first baseman. Yet, if another 40-man player would be added to the offensive call-ups from this list, I would make it Hamilton, as he could have pinch-hitting value. New signee Cox does not warrant discussion here.

 

Outfielders: Stavinoha would likely return to his pinch-hitting role with starts being few and far between. Jones, stuck in Springfield for going on three years, is a non-factor even for Memphis, let alone St. Louis. Mather is another who has been slowed by injuries. While his average is up in recent weeks, Joey Bombs' trademark power is still missing. That would seem to doom his September chances.

 

I asked La Russa whether or not he would be reluctant to add a first-time MLB player in September. When he queried me for an example, I mentioned second baseman Daniel Descalso.

 

La Russa said, "If players are having a solid Triple-A season, I would have no problem using them here." However, he also warned, "It would not be an easy move to add a guy to the 40-man." Sorry, Daniel.

 

In fairness to him, it is worth noting that Descalso is hitting. He enters Sunday's game on an eight-game hit streak. The Redbirds second baseman is 11-for-33 with four doubles and six runs scored during the streak. Descalso has at least one hit in 14 of his last 15 games and has played every day (31 games) since returning from the disabled list in late July.

 

Memphis has three other pitchers not on the 40-man worthy of discussion, reliever Josh Kinney and starters Brandon Dickson and Lance Lynn.

 

Kinney is battle-tested and has pitched well recently as the Redbirds' closer, but was removed from the 40-man earlier this season. If any player would be added to the 40-man for September, I think it would be Kinney. I am not forecasting it, though a crucial injury to another could change matters.

 

Dickson and Lynn have yet to make their MLB debuts. This September, with the Cardinals in the midst of a pennant chance, does not seem to be the time.

 

The bottom line is that I am projecting a total of seven players to join St. Louis, three injury returnees, Jason Motte, Dennys Reyes and Jeff Suppan, and four up from Memphis, P.J. Walters, Steven Hill, Tyler Greene and Nick Stavinoha, with no 40-man roster additions.

 

 

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

Follow Brian on Twitter.

 

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