By Major League Baseball rules, teams are allowed to expand their active rosters on the first of September. Players promoted have to be on the current 40-man roster. Teams usually take the opportunity to add a few bats and arms if they are in contention for playoff spots or take a look at young players if they are already planning for next year. They can make their move on September 1st or wait until the Triple-A season ends on September 7th. The Tampa Bay Rays are on the border here as a team with a slim chance to make the playoffs who also needs to look towards 2016. With that in mind, let’s take a look at whom the Rays might call up in September.
Pitchers: Matt Moore isn’t exactly a Triple-A prospect, but he finds himself at Durham trying to work out his post-injury command problems. His last start featured a lights-out 16-strikeout performacne and he will surely get the September call. The only question is whether he gets promoted on September 1st or at the end of the Triple-A season. We recently discussed Moore’s September role in-depth here at Rays Colored Glasses.
C.J. Riefenhauser will probably also get the call. He has struggled through an injury-plagued, up-and-down season, but has been better of late and it never hurts to have another lefty in the bullpen. Andrew Bellatti and Kirby Yates are two other 40-man roster guys worth mentioning, although both have struggled mightily in recent appearances.
Infield: Richie Shaffer is sure to return to the Rays. He showed well in his brief stint in August and has continued to hit since his return to Durham. The only question is how the Rays use him position-wise for the rest of the year. It would be nice to see him get more outfield chances to help his case to make the Opening Day roster next spring.
My next call up would be Hak-Ju Lee. This move could be a little controversial as Lee has not had a real good season since he hurt his knee in 2013 and his prospect rating has plummeted. However, Lee has played much better for the last few months and the Rays will have some uncertainty at the shortstop position entering next year. It’s time for him to either claim a job or be taken off the 40-man roster. He’s a long shot, but taking a look at him in September would not be a bad idea.
Outfield: Mikie Mathook is certain to be recalled. He’s been up and down a few times this year, delivering positive results in the major leagues as a whole. He is the type of player with a chance to work his way onto next year’s roster, and September represents a chance to evaluate him more closely. He seems to be a clone of Brandon Guyer, and the Rays may not have room for two such players.
The other candidate for a call-up is Joey Butler. Butler made a big splash early in the season as a replacement for the injured Desmond Jennings and then flamed out in July and August. He has looked good at the plate since being sent to Durham and would be a solid bat off the bench in September. If nothing else, it would be nice to see the Rays give Butler a major league paycheck for a few weeks before his likely DFA after the year.
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Of course, you can always add a player to the 40-man roster and bring him up. I can see two potential candidates for such an addition. Taylor Motter has had a terrific year with Durham as a super-utility player with a .289/.360/.451 slash line. He is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason and I could see the Rays giving him Jake Elmore’s spot on the roster. If the Rays are going to end him to the 40-man anyway, they might as well do so in September, where he would be an upgrade over a guy like Elmore. If not, expect Elmore to come up.
Finally, there is Blake Snell. Snell is top candidate for 2015’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award after blowing through three minor league levels. Currently at Triple-A Durham, he has thrown 124 innings with a 13-4 record with a spectacular 1.31 ERA. It would be interesting to look at him in September, but he may also be maxed out of his innings for the season with a couple of additional starts. The Rays may not bring him up unless they are in the thick of playoff contention in the middle of September.
All of these players are interesting and, in their own ways, have the potential to help the Tampa Bay Rays this year and next. It won’t be long before we find out who will get the September call-ups and how they will showcase their talents.