INDIANAPOLIS — After seeing a couple of call-ups come out of nowhere last season, including John Holdzkom’s rise from indy ball to the big leagues, this year’s stock of September call-ups are a bit more predictable with fewer surprises.
Indianapolis is seeing more of an influx of younger talent coming through this season, but most of the call-up candidates are veterans who have already been in Pittsburgh this year, and are just looking for rosters to expand in order to return from the DL or get added back to the 40-man roster.
Listed below are the September call-up candidates, broken down by their chances of getting called-up in September. The first group is made up of guaranteed guys who will be called up barring any type of injury. The next group is borderline guys who can go either way. The final group has no chance, with this group focusing on the top prospects who are expected to arrive next year.
Vance Worley: After being DFA’d for roster space, Worley has been strong with Indianapolis in a handful of starts. He has been getting stretched back out as a starter, and coincidentally his starts now line up with Jeff Locke’s in Pittsburgh, with the next possible start to be on September 1st. Worley provides experience down the stretch and is a guarantee to rejoin the team, whether as a starter or reliever.
Rob Scahill: While Scahill is not officially a member of the Indianapolis roster, and is there on rehab, I have still decided to include him on the list. Since he is on the 40-man and would be lined up to be activated around September 1, Scahill is also a lock to rejoin the Pirates when the roster expands for some bullpen assistance.
Travis Snider: After being traded to Baltimore before the season, Snider rejoined the Pirates organization on a minor league contract last week. The Pirates are clearly comfortable with Snider and trust his ability down the stretch. You can also never have too many left-handed bench options. However, Snider may spell doom for another Indianapolis outfielder looking for the bid.
Radhames Liz: After spending the duration of his time in Indianapolis as a starter, Liz was sent back to the bullpen this week. While the move was in no way performance based, it is clear that the short-term intentions are to use Liz as a reliever. This would also point to a reunion with the Pirates bullpen in September to give it another power arm.
Bobby LaFromboise: Having a spot on the 40-man and working out of the bullpen as a lefty makes LaFromboise a lock to be a September call-up for the second straight season. While he has seen mixed success in 2015, LaFromboise has seen his stuff improve as the season has gone along. He would give the Pirates their third lefty reliever.
Wilfredo Boscan: Boscan has seen a couple of emergency promotions this season when the bullpen has gotten taxed with long games. However, he has still yet to make his Major League debut. Outside of a tough stretch in the middle of the season, Boscan has been strong when his command is there. Along with fellow Indianapolis starter Chris Volstad, Boscan is a long shot to get the call, but the strong season makes him worth an inclusion on the list.
Elias Diaz: Having one of the best arms behind the plate in the entire organization makes Diaz an interesting option to join the Pirates in September. Much of the season, Diaz has been working on calling games and working with the staff, and is pleased with his progress. Though the power has not completely developed yet, he has a solid approach at the plate and some time with the big league club could be strong for his development.
Tony Sanchez: Sanchez has been working in a two-catcher system with Diaz most of the season. On the outside, it looks like Diaz is the man if the Pirates take only one catcher when the rosters expand, but both are on the 40-man. This leaves open the option that both catchers could see time with the Pirates. Based on Diaz outplaying the veteran, it appears that Sanchez could be an option to help Indianapolis down the stretch in the playoffs and then rejoin the Pirates if that is in the cards.
Alen Hanson: Hanson is an intriguing name on the list. He is on the 40-man and has a lot of tools that can help the Pirates down the stretch. Last season, Pittsburgh called up Chase d’Arnaud in September, just for the speed element. While Hanson has speed, he does not quite have the stolen base element that Gorkys Hernandez does. He also has a track record of starting slow at each level, so he might not be a big help at the plate. He can play second, short, and third, but would be at least the third best option at each position. If the Pirates brought up Hanson, it would be for a very limited role this year.
Pedro Florimon: After Florimon was recently DFA’d for pitching depth, he cleared waivers and rejoined Indianapolis. With Jordy Mercer returning to Pittsburgh, it seems murky as far as Florimon’s role if he receives a promotion. He is a strong defensive player, which comes in handy down the stretch, but he also appears to be a player who may be an option to rejoin the Pirates after the Indianapolis playoff run. The biggest issue is that the Pirates lack 40-man space, which means Florimon could be viewed as expendable.
Steve Lombardozzi: Having seen a couple of promotions, Lombardozzi has put together a strong season in Indianapolis. He has bounced around and played several position, which comes in handy down the stretch. He is still showing some issues throwing from most infield positions. That limits his use down the stretch and makes him a longshot to get the call-up, despite a strong offensive season in Triple-A.
Jaff Decker: With the addition of Travis Snider, it makes the future for Jaff Decker unclear this season. After the frustration of being left off the expanded rosters last season, Decker reworked his swing and approach this past offseason in order to take his game one step further. With Snider offering nearly the same tools as Decker, a call-up right away seems to be unlikely. Decker could also be a candidate to be removed from the 40-man roster to create space for one of the above guys.
Gorkys Hernandez: Hernandez has the speed and defense that makes him a perfect fit for a September situational player. With an improved swing at the plate, Hernandez has put it all together at the Triple-A level this season, even earning a brief stint with the Pirates midway through the season. However, with a lack of 40-man space, and with Travis Snider a lock to get promoted, it seems the chances for Hernandez returning to the majors are slim.
Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell, Willy Garcia: While all three players certainly have the hype and some tools that can help the Pirates down the stretch, rushing any of these player just does not fit their typical business model. Of the three, Garcia is on the 40-man roster, making him a tad more appealing, but all that means is that the expanded roster starts at 39. Don’t expect any of these star prospects to don the Pirates jersey until June 2016 at very earliest.
Not in Indianapolis
Travis Ishikawa: The Pirates placed Ishikawa on the disabled list with a lower back strain when Jordy Mercer returned. The move seemed like a way to keep him around so that he could return in September. Expect Ishikawa to return to the Pirates right around the end of his 15-day stretch.
Deolis Guerra: He hasn’t started a rehab assignment yet, but was pulled back off waivers earlier this month and placed on the disabled list. It’s possible this move was made to keep him around as bullpen depth in September. However, he will need to go on a rehab assignment at some point before returning. The fact that this hasn’t happened yet could mean that he’s legitimately injured, in which case his move to the 60-day DL could free up an additional roster spot.