In a little less than a week, rosters will expand around baseball, allowing teams to carry up to 40 guys on the active roster, being limited to anyone on the 40-man roster. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, this will almost certainly mean the arrival of some bullpen arms to help out, along with some extra bench players, and the return of Gregory Polanco.
Rosters expand on September 1st, at which point we should see a lot of moves (Polanco can’t come back until the 2nd, when the Indianapolis season is over). As a preview of who should be coming up, I decided to break down the possibilities into sections, sorted by the likelihood of the players being called up.
Should Return to the Majors
Jaff Decker, Andrew Lambo, Michael Martinez, Brent Morel, Gregory Polanco, Casey Sadler, Tony Sanchez
Everyone on this list is on the 40-man roster, and has been in the majors already this season. You can expect them all to return when rosters expand. Gregory Polanco is definitely returning when rosters expand. Brent Morel and Michael Martinez were recently on the team, and both should be expected to return to play off the bench in September. Fortunately, the Pirates won’t need them in starting roles this time around, now that Clint Barmes and Neil Walker are healthy.
Jaff Decker, Casey Sadler, and Tony Sanchez have only been up for brief appearances this year, and all three should return. Sadler gives another arm out of the bullpen. Decker gives the team an additional outfielder, and another guy who could play center field. Sanchez would be the third catcher on the roster. I also expect Andrew Lambo to get called up, since he was a September call-up last year.
Could Get a Look at the End of the Year
Ernesto Frieri, John Holdzkom, Bobby LaFromboise*, Vin Mazzaro, Chris McGuiness*, A.J. Morris, Andy Oliver, Rafael Perez, Mel Rojas
One thing about the list above is that there aren’t many pitchers. In fact, the only pitcher is Sadler. The Pirates will have a few guys returning from the DL, which I’ll get to soon. But first we’ve got the list of guys who could possibly see the majors in September, with most of them being pitchers.
Vin Mazzaro and Ernesto Frieri seem the most likely from this list. Frieri is being paid $3.8 M by the Pirates, so you know they’re going to call him up and give him another shot. With an expanded bullpen, they don’t need to use him in any high pressure situations. Mazzaro has been up this year, and has cleared waivers twice. He’s not going to be an impact reliever, but could be a useful arm out of the bullpen.
I highlighted Chris McGuiness and Bobby LaFromboise just because they’re both on the 40-man roster. I don’t think that guarantees they’ll be up. LaFromboise has a shot as a third lefty in the bullpen. Andy Oliver and Rafael Perez could compete for that role as well. Oliver has suffered control issues, while Perez mostly gets by with his off-speed stuff. His low-80s fastball probably won’t have success in the majors.
An interesting right-hander is John Holdzkom. He has been working consistently in the upper 90s, and while he does have some control problems, he has looked dominant in his limited time with Indianapolis. A.J. Morris was doing well before his injury, and could be another option if he’s healthy enough.
I added Mel Rojas here, just because he has to be added to the 40-man roster over the off-season to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. That doesn’t necessarily mean he will be up in September. The Pirates have plenty of outfield options, so they don’t need Rojas. He might be a better option than Decker, since he has more value from a speed/defense standpoint.
On the Disabled List or Designated For Assignment
Charlie Morton, Jayson Nix, Stolmy Pimentel
Stolmy Pimentel has been rehabbing in Altoona recently, and should be set to return when rosters expand. Charlie Morton will be making his first rehab start on Thursday, and will need at least one more start, if not more than that. This would put his return after the rosters expand.
Jayson Nix was designated for assignment recently, and will probably go through the waiver process. The Pirates could choose to bring him back when rosters expand, although with everyone healthy, there might not be a need for Nix on the roster.
Predicting the Call-Ups
I think everyone from the first list is certain to come up. The only guy who might not come up would be Jaff Decker, depending on who they might bring up as an outfielder. I’d also say that Brent Morel and Michael Martinez aren’t guarantees, but that would only be based on my evaluation of those two, and not how the Pirates seem to feel about them.
From the second group, I definitely think Frieri and Mazzaro will come back. John Holdzkom would be my sleeper from that group. They’ll probably also bring up a lefty, and LaFromboise seems to be the best bet right now, only because he’s on the 40-man roster. Andy Oliver seems like the better option, just to give him one final look before he’s eligible for free agency this off-season. The Pirates would have to clear a few spots on the 40-man roster for these guys, although they’ve got some easy decisions after all of their waiver claims this month.
Finally, Pimentel will return, and Morton should return. That would put the roster at 38 if everyone from the first group gets called up, and if they call up Holdzkom and a lefty. Usually they only have around 34-35 players, so there could be a few guys left off this list.
Links and Notes
**The 2014 Prospect Guide is on sale in the Pirates Prospects store. The paperback version has dropped to $14.99 plus shipping. We currently only have one case of books remaining, and the offer is only valid while the books are in stock. There is also an eBook version available for $9.99. The 2013 Prospect Guide is on clearance for $1.