If one believes the messages from the organization, there will be no long-awaited introductions to the major leagues of hot young prospects. Here I am specifically talking about the players some Cardinals fans may want to see most – Shelby Miller, Oscar Taveras and Kolten Wong.
Due to the combination of multiple factors, what you have seen during the season is more of what we have been prepared to expect to receive in September.
The 40-man roster has just one current opening. Prospects like the three mentioned above are not yet on the 40-man and don't need to be added this winter.
Retired manager Tony La Russa didn't want a lot of extra players called up in past Septembers. When his club was perennially in playoff contention, there weren't many specific needs to be filled by youngsters. I can't see that situation changing much here in 2012.
In contrast, an also-ran team playing for the future likely has a number of clear open requirements. As such, they can afford to give prospects a more thorough final-month look-see.
A typical September
Based on analysis of past years' September roster actions, a representative mix of up to eight players that might be added to the roster in a typical year could 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 and as you will see below, that isn't the case this year.
One also has to take into account Lance Berkman's return during the final month. He will turn what has been a somewhat weak bench into one with at least one dangerous late-game pinch-hitter.
Last fall, six players came up from Memphis plus one was added off the disabled list. The latter was infielder Nick Punto. The first three players from Triple-A - all of whom arrived before the PCL season was over - were Cleto, Brandon Dickson and Shane Robinson. Robinson was re-added to the 40-man as Lance Lynn was moved to the 60-day DL.
In 2010, the Cardinals added an unusually-high total of ten players, at least partially due to a number of injuries. St. Louis called up four players before Memphis' 2010 post-season run was completed. They were outfielder Nick Stavinoha, shortstop 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 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 Pagnozzi and infielders Greene and David Freese.
Timing is everything
After winning two straight division titles and remaining in contention until the end before bowing out last season, the 2012 Memphis Redbirds swung the pendulum in the complete opposite direction. This club has logged the worst record among all 30 Triple-A clubs.
No one needs to be held back for the post-season that won't be, so when the regular season ends on Labor Day, anyone and everyone will be potentially available. As noted above, some already have and others may join them in St. Louis even sooner.
Roster seems set
One important factor that can often limit new additions is the 40-man roster, which currently has one opening. While normally, several injured players on the 15-day disabled list could be moved to the 60-day DL to create additional space, there are no remaining players to easily shift this year. Chris Carpenter and Kyle McClellan were already placed on the 60-day DL earlier.
A marginal 40-man player could be removed to make room for another, such as Pete Kozma, John Gaub or even Bryan Anderson, but the organization may instead prefer to maintain flexibility heading into the winter.
Miller has the best chance of the prospects to be added to the 40-man, but even that is not assured. It all gets down to whether his August resurgence has shown enough to change a stance that seemed set against the move. I am currently not forecasting it for September.
The club has long relievers in Lance Lynn, just removed from the rotation, and Brandon Dickson, who has been starting for Memphis all year long. There are others available who are proven relievers, making Miller's September need to the club questionable.
Taking everything into account, my best guess is that we will see the following six Memphis Redbirds in St. Louis during September. Each of them has already appeared with the Cardinals, some obviously more than others.
Here are the seven others currently on the 40-man who would be left behind in my scenario:
I will break down my thought process by position.
Pitchers: Rosenthal is as much of a lock as there can be. In fact, the Cardinals may not even wait until the 1st to add the 22-year-old. None of the other pitchers are that clear.
Cleto and Marte have had their ups and downs this season, but overall, seem to warrant consideration. I think the former will be asked and the latter won't.
After a terrible July, Cleto has thrown his last 6 1/3 scoreless and has a 2.84 August ERA. He has 15 strikeouts but seven walks in 12 2/3 frames this month. I could see him used as a ROOGY.
Marte fanned the side in the ninth on Sunday, but overall has had a rough month. He has five strikeouts and seven walks in seven innings, with a 5.14 ERA. Further, Cleto is a prospect while Marte is over 30.
Sanchez recently came off the disabled list and it is unclear if he has pitched enough to demonstrate his readiness, despite his considerable promise. Before yielding two runs in an inning on Monday night, Sanchez threw three scoreless outings of one inning each, including one save. Totals are four strikeouts, three walks and three hits allowed. This is a very close call, but because of his prospect status, I think he could be back.
Sam Freeman would be the logical left-handed addition, but remains on the DL. It doesn't appear that he will be ready, which means Barret Browning could be asked to return - primarily because he would be the second pen lefty. Interestingly, Browning has pitched to just one batter since his return to Triple-A, weakening my already-shaky prediction.
Other 40-man pitchers include Adam Reifer and John Gaub. Reifer (4.97 ERA) has had another disappointing season with a future that seems much cloudier than just two years ago. Lefty Gaub (6.23 ERA) hasn't shown much positively and was waived by three other organizations earlier this season.
Another promising lefty, starter John Gast, has struggled mightily lately after a DL stint with a shoulder issue. Even if healthy and productive, Gast isn't yet on the 40-man. All considered, he should get ready for 2013.
Steven Hill can hit, which is more than the 2012 version of Bryan Anderson can assert. Despite Hill likely getting a return, neither he nor Anderson would seem to have a substantive major league career ahead.
Infielders: For the second year in a row, Pete Kozma simply hasn't shown enough with the bat to deserve a September call. In fact, his 40-man roster spot has grown increasingly tenuous. His OPS is fourth-worst in the entire Pacific Coast League, just two spots ahead of Anderson.
Matt Adams would most certainly be back in the bigs had he not required season-ending surgery. Perhaps it would have been when Berkman went down again with a relapse of his knee problems, but certainly in September.
Ryan Jackson is already in St. Louis due to the problems and subsequent dump trade of Tyler Greene. No other infielders appear worthy to be added to the 40-man.
Outfielders: Chambers made a credible MLB debut last September, and has quietly logged a very nice season as the Redbirds' leadoff man (.316 average, .401 on-base mark). Just as in September 2012, Chambers could be a nice pinch-running option for the Cardinals.
Robinson would be a candidate except that he has been in St. Louis for weeks already due to the injuries to Berkman and Adams. He should remain around for September pinch-hitting duty now and then.
The bottom line is that I am projecting a total of no more than six minor leaguers to join St. Louis for the final month. They would be players who could step in and contribute to the September playoff run.
Unless the course is changed, I do not expect there will be any 40-man roster additions from the system. Even if not, fans of Miller, Taveras and Wong should not fret. You should see them all soon enough.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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