On September 1st, major league active rosters expand to 40 players. Players will come up at different times as minor league seasons end at different times, but the Rays have decided on the four players they will call up on September 1st. Marc Topkin broke the news via Twitter.
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) August 31, 2012
Cesar Ramos, 28, was dominant with the Rays earlier this season, going 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA, an 8.4 K/9, a 3.3 BB/9, and a 0.4 HR/9 in 11 starts, a relief appearance, and 24.2 IP. We sure hope that Ramos pitched like that for the Rays in September, but it looks flukey after Ramos was decidedly less effective in a bigger sample size at Triple-A Durham, going 5-5 with a 3.77 ERA, a 6.7 K/9, a 2.3 BB/9, and a 1.5 HR/9 in 7 starts, 18 relief appearances, and 62 IP. Ramos posted a 3.92 ERA, a 6.4 K/9, a 5.2 BB/9 (3.5 taking out IBBs), and a 0.8 HR/9 in 59 relief appearances for the Rays in 2011. Ramos may not be anything more than a middle reliever, but he’s a lefty with good stuff who can also provide length, and it’s always great to have as many lefties in the bullpen as possible (Ramos is the third behind Jake McGee and J.P. Howell).
Rich Thompson, 33, appeared in the majors this season with the Rays for the first time since 2004 and notched an RBI single for his first major league hit in his first at-bat with the team and just the second major league at-bat of his 13-year professional baseball career. Thompson did go 0 for his next 16 before getting sent down to Durham. Between Durham and the Phillies’ Lehigh Valley affiliate in the same league, Thompson had a great season, posting a .310/.376/.419 line with 17 doubles, 7 triples, 2 homers, 30 RBI, 29 of 36 stolen bases, and 53 strikeouts versus 29 walks in 93 games and 384 plate appearances. He also notched 7 outfield assists while playing all 3 outfield positions. Thompson will be a 5th outfielder and pinch-runner to the Rays in September. Hopefully he can also get his second major league hit and a couple more after that.
As we have drilled into the ground, Reid Brignac, 26, is finally getting another big league chance in September after being gone since April. Brignac’s overall numbers at Durham were not so impressive. He posted a .231/.323/.353 line with 14 doubles, 8 homers, 46 RBI, and 79 strikeouts against 45 walks in 99 games and 400 plate appearances while playing tremendous defense at shortstop and second base. Brignac is back in the big leagues for his defense, but his offense was much improved after being terrible in April and May as he has posted a solid if still nowhere near spectacular .244/.332/.368 line. But Brignac’s patience is as good as ever- his walk rate is the highest of his career- and it’s nice to see his power come back after it disappeared entirely for him in the big leagues in 2011. Brignac may be the Rays’ September call-up with the biggest potential to earn playing time, especially against right-handed pitching, as the Rays’ love his defense and if he hits at all, he could beat out players like Elliot Johnson and Ryan Roberts for playing time. The double play combo of Ben Zobrist and Brignac, with either one at shortstop and the other one at second base, will be easily the Rays’ best defensive duo of the season. You just have to hope for Briggy’s sake that he hits.
Chris Gimenez, 29, has appeared in the most big league games this season out of of these four players. He posted .191/.236/.206 line with 1 double, 4 RBI, and 15 strikeouts versus 4 walks in 24 games and 73 plate appearances in the big leagues from mid-April to late-May. He did not allow a passed ball, although his caught stealing percentage was just 15%. Gimenez has had himself a nice season at Durham, posting a .310/.389/.483 line with 15 doubles, 10 homers, 49 RBI, and 57 strikeouts versus 33 walks. He also posted a 29% CS% in 47 games at catcher while also seeing time in left field, right field, third base, and first base. It is nice that Gimenez is not just a backup catcher but a super-sub. Gimenez’s inability to throw out basestealers consistently hurts his chances for consistent playing time (along with his .176/.270/.257 line in 340 big league plate appearances), but he should take at least a few starts away from Jose Molina in September and appear in a couple of games all over the place.
The Rays’ 5th call-up is the most important: RHP Jeff Niemann, who will start Saturday’s game. These other four are not exactly saviors coming up from the minors. But the Rays need every player to contribute in order to make things happen in September, and you never know how important roles these four will end up playing.