Every September in MLB, rosters expand and teams are allowed to bring up players from their 40-man to contribute down the stretch. Contending teams use this time for an extra edge or to give regulars a break heading into the playoffs. In recent seasons San Francisco was a part of that group, but this year the September call-ups will have a slightly different feel I suspect.
With the Giants — as much as it’s depressing to say — virtually eliminated from playoff contention, September will be a time when the organization gets to evaluate and audition a few guys for future roles.
Fresno is 9+ games out of a playoff spot, so I fully expect guys that we have already seen like Nick Noonan, Francisco Peguero, Jake Dunning, George Kontos, Jean Machi, Eric Surkamp, and Mike Kickham to get the call in a couple of weeks.
This will be a time to see what these players have been working on and if they have improved — but also a time to possibly give some of the Giants starters a rest, particularly the starting pitchers.
Matt Cain has been stellar lately, posting a 2.38 ERA in his last 5 starts and is on pace to break the 200 inning mark for the 7th consecutive season. The only other Giant to do that? Juan Marichal, who did it 10 consecutive seasons. Cain should get a shot at it, unless he starts to struggle or shows signs of wearing down.
When Bruce Bochy was recently asked by Andrew Baggarly about the plan for the remainder of the season for the starting pitchers, he had this to say: “That’s what this is about – where they’re at with their delivery and velocity,” Bochy said. “He’s not showing any sign of fatigue. We’re certainly not going to stress these guys out, but we will keep a watchful eye on all those guys, including Matt.”
Who of the September call-ups will contribute the most if needed, and who should we expect to see?
LHP Mike Kickham was recently named the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the week after giving up 0 earned in 14 innings. In his last 4 starts he has given up only 4 ER in 27.1 IP. Kickham should get a spot start or two, and possibly have a role in the bullpen.
LHP Eric Surkamp has posted a 2.77 ERA in 8 starts with Fresno this season, fairing pretty well for a guy just coming off Tommy John surgery. In his last 4 starts, Surkamp has gone 7 or more innings and given up exactly 1 ER in each. Look for him to have a similar role to that of Kickham when the call-ups go down.
Bullpen guys Jake Dunning, Jean Machi, and George Kontos will most likely serve the same purpose they have in the past with the Giants, and allow Bochy to rest some of the more used pitchers. The Giants will be able to go to lefty/righty matchups at a higher rate, and will be able to pull starters earlier in games to ease them down this season with the surplus of arms.
INF Tony Abreu is still on the 15 day DL and in the midst of a rehab assignment in Fresno, but he should be back along with INF Nick Noonan. The only Giants regular infielder that really needs rest at this point is Marco Scutaro, but he regularly receives days off already. Abreu and Noonan will get spot starts or some pinch-hitting duty – with Abreu probably being the more prominant of the two — but Arias and Pill will probably see more time.
Another possibility is SS Ehire Adrianza, who is also on the 40-man roster. He is seen as one of the top defenders in the Giants system and was ranked in the top 10 prospects in the organization in 2012. He has struggled of late, hitting just .219 over his last 10 games, but is at .312 for the season with a .429 OBP – and doesn’t strike out a whole lot.
Outfielders Francisco Peguero, Juan Perez, and Kensuke Tanaka will certainly see time in September. How much? Time will tell, as there has already been talk of getting Brett Pill some time in left. With the way Gregor Blanco has been struggling and the futility of Jeff Francoeur at the plate, all three should see significant time though.
Another thing to take into account is the return of Angel Pagan. He has already started a rehab assignment with the AZL Giants, and will reportedly be back September 1st with the other call-ups. It remains to be seen if he will start every day, or if the Giants will be cautious with him for the remainder of the season. I vote to lean on the side of caution. Let him get some work, but have the young guys fill in while he works himself back.
Possible Call-Ups and Longshots
Fresno closer Heath Hembree deserves a spot on the roster this September. He set the franchise record for saves for the Grizzlies this season — he’s at 28 and counting — and has posted a 2.00 ERA over his last 10 games with 7 saves, 9 K, and 1 BB.
Giants fans have been wanting to see Hembree for quite a while now, and his recent success should finally get him over-the-hump. The only problem is he isn’t on the 40-man roster, so who would go if he gets the call? Jeff Francoeur is the logical choice for release — over 60 AB’s with San Francisco he has posted just a .200 average. Francoeur isn’t part of the Giants long-term plans, isn’t contributing much, and shouldn’t be blocking a young player from getting a chance – in my humble opinion.
Giants #11 prospect Edwin Escobar has pitched well for AA Richmond this season, and is also on the 40-man roster. In seven starts with the Flying Squirrels, Escobar has put up a 2.57 ERA in 42 IP with 41 K’s, 7 BB, and just 36 hits. Over his last 4 starts he has gone 7+ innings three times and given up 0 ER in each. There has been some talk throughout the season that Escobar could contend for a rotation spot next year, so it wouldn’t be a complete shock if he got the call. However, at just 21 years of age that seems like more of a longshot at this point.
Another longshot is Fresno catcher Johnny Monell. He has had a nice season with Fresno hitting .278 with 18 HR and 56 RBI from the left side of the plate, but isn’t on the 40-man. Monell has intriguing power from the left side and the Giants will probably be resting Posey more and more as the season drags on. Since there are only two catchers on the 40-man roster right now, it is highly possible that someone else is released to make room for Monell or Guillermo Quiroz. Traditionally the Giants have gone with veterans so it will probably be Quiroz if it is decided an extra catcher is needed, but I say give Monell a shot.
Who would you like to see this September? What approach would you like the Giants to take as they finish out the season?
I for one am all about the Giants trying to play spoiler and win as much as possible, but it will be fun to see some of the young players get a chance to prove themselves.