Yankees have no shortage of candidates for September call-ups this year

Didi and Slade. (Presswire)
Didi and Slade. (Presswire)

Twelve days from now, the Yankees and every other team in baseball will be able to expand their rosters and carry up to 40 active players. September call-ups are somewhat controversial, lots of people don’t like seeing the final month of the season played with different rules, but I’m a fan of expanded rosters. Players get worn down during the course of the season, so the extra bodies in September are welcome.

For the 2015 Yankees, expanded rosters will be about much more than adding a third catcher or some spare arms for blowouts. They will be in position to add some real weapons to the roster even though most call-ups will be used in limited roles. Still, adding the extra players will be very beneficial. The Yankees have used their depth quite a bit this season and next month they’ll be able to have everyone on the roster at once.

During an interview with YES over the weekend, Brian Cashman said the player development staff has been told to prepare for mass call-ups on September 1st, so the Yankees won’t waste any time. They’re not going to wait for the Triple-A postseason to end or anything like that. The big league team is the priority and the Yankees are going to call guys up as soon as possible. Here’s a breakdown of who we will and could see next month.

Locks To Be Called Up

During that YES interview, Cashman said “any and all” of the relievers who have been shuttled up and down this summer will return in September, and it’s a long list. Caleb Cotham, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow are the notables. (Rumbelow is up right now but that could change in a day or two the way things have been going this year.) Those are four extra arms on the 40-man roster who will be able to soak up any miscellaneous innings.

On the position player side, Slade Heathcott and Jose Pirela are safe bets to be called up to serve as the extra outfielder and extra infielder, respectively. Both are still on the 40-man and were up earlier this year — Pirela was sent down due to performance, Heathcott got hurt — and both offer different things. Heathcott adds speed and defense, Pirela offers versatility and another right-handed bat. Heck, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Heathcott snuck onto the potential postseason roster as a pinch-running specialist.

Called Up If Healthy

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Bryan Mitchell was just placed on the 7-day concussion DL after taking a line drive to the face, though earlier this week Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings there’s a chance Mitchell will be back in the bullpen within a week. That sounds … optimistic. Either way, Mitchell will be on the roster in September if he’s healthy. No reason to expect otherwise. He’s been on the 25-man roster for a big chunk of the year already.

Righty Chris Martin and lefty Jacob Lindgren are both on the Triple-A DL with elbow problems and figure to return in September, if healthy. Lindgren had surgery to remove bone spurs and the Yankees have said they expect him to return this year, so it’s just a question of whether he gets through his rehab in one piece. The nature of Martin’s injury is unknown. We’re just going to have to wait and see whether he’s healthy and able to pitch in September.

The Obligatory Third Catcher

Cashman confirmed the Yankees will call-up a third catcher because duh. Every team brings up a third catcher. The only catcher on the 40-man roster aside from Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy is Gary Sanchez, who has hit a bit of a wall with Triple-A Scranton after crushing the level immediately after his promotion. Austin Romine has had a nice year too, but he’s not on the 40-man roster. My guess is Sanchez gets the call as the third catcher but rarely catches, sorta like Jesus Montero in 2011. (Also, Romine would require clearing a 40-man spot.) That is especially true if the race for a postseason spot goes right down to the wire, as expected. Sanchez might only catch in blowouts or after the team clinches all it can clinch.

Likely To Be Called Up, But Not Locks

There’s really only one player in this category: Rob Refsnyder. He’s had a good year in Triple-A, not a great year, and his brief four-game cameo in pinstripes earlier this year was a bit of a mixed bag. Some good, some not so good. There have been unconfirmed reports floating around that the Yankees were less than enthused with Refsnyder’s attitude during his call-up — not so much that he didn’t work hard, but that he was arrogant and acted entitled — and I suppose the club could keep him down in September as something of a wake-up call. My guess is Refsnyder comes up and takes second base platoon at-bats away from Brendan Ryan. I just wouldn’t put his chances at a call-up at 100%. Maybe it’s more like 95% or so.

Unlikely To Be Called Up

Among the healthy 40-man roster players, the only one who I think has less than a 50/50 chance of getting a September call-up is Tyler Austin. Another righty bat would be neat, but Austin’s had a very rough year and was recently demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton. Players who have struggled like Austin usually don’t get called up unless there’s no other option. There’s a “reward” aspect to being a September call-up, and he didn’t earn this year.

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

The biggest name among non-40-man players is Aaron Judge, the team’s top prospect. The Yankees added both Refsnyder and Greg Bird to the 40-man early and called them up this year, but they were both performing in Triple-A. Judge has been striking out a ton of late and he won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible for another few years, not another few months. I would be surprised if the Yankees tied up another 40-man spot by adding Judge. His time will come eventually. Just probably not this September.

Other non-40-man players I don’t expect to be called up in September: Ben Gamel, Brady Lail, James Pazos, and Johnny Barbato. Lail and Barbato just reached Triple-A and there are too many arms ahead of them on the depth chart to add them to the 40-man roster early. Gamel’s had a breakout season and I wouldn’t necessarily put his call-up chances at 0%. Heathcott will fill the “extra lefty hitting outfielder” role though, and I’m not sure the Yankees should clear a roster spot to add another. Pazos could be a victim of the number’s crunch more than anything. There simply might not be any room for another lefty reliever.

The Non-40-Man Wildcard

The non-40-man player who I think has the best chance of being called up in September is Andrew Bailey. He’s working his way back from shoulder surgery and been able to stay healthy for a few weeks now, plus he’s pitched effectively in all sorts of situations (back-to-back days, multiple innings, etc.) in the minors. The Yankees have put a lot of time and effort into helping him rehab these last two years, remember.

Cashman admitted Bailey was recently held out of a Triple-A game in case he needed to be called up to help the tired bullpen, but that didn’t happen. Bailey wasn’t needed. That they’ve already come thisclose to calling Bailey up this month leads me to believe they will bring him to the show once rosters expand. Bailey hasn’t pitched in MLB since getting hurt in July 2013. It’s been a long and difficult road back. Hopefully he stays healthy these next two weeks and gets the call in September.

The 40-Man Situation

The 40-man roster is full right now. It’s actually extra full. The Yankees have four players on the 60-day DL (Sergio Santos, Diego Moreno, Mason Williams, Chase Whitley) and none of them will be ready to be activated in September following their season-ending surgeries. The Yankees will need to clear a spot to call up, say, Bailey or Romine, and there are a few ways to do that.

First and foremost, the Yankees could call up an injured 40-man roster player and place them on the 60-day DL. Martin (elbow) and Domingo German (Tommy John surgery) are two candidates for that move. The Yankees haven’t done the call-up/60-day DL thing often — they did it with Justin Maxwell and Heathcott a few years ago, that’s pretty much it — but it is an option. Not wanting German to accumulate service time is understandable. Martin though? Who cares. Of course, he’d have to actually be hurt to pull this move. Can’t 60-day DL a healthy player.

Figueroa. (Presswire)
Figueroa. (Presswire)

The Yankees could always outright or designate a player for assignment to clear 40-man space. There just aren’t many obvious candidates. Perhaps they’ll decide to cut Chris Capuano again in September since they’ll have all the extra relievers and won’t necessarily need a long man. Cole Figueroa could also get the axe, especially if Refsnyder does get called up and/or Dustin Ackley gets healthy. Martin? He could lose his 40-man spot if healthy as well.

Capuano, Figueroa, and Martin are the three main 40-man casualty candidates. It would be a surprise if the Yankees dropped someone like Austin, Pirela, or Cotham from the roster. Those guys are probably the next three in line, if anything. Aside from Bailey and maybe Romine, the Yankees don’t figure to need any 40-man spots this September, though they could clear two with the call-up/60-day DL move. We’ll see.

* * *

Once September rolls around, the Yankees will obviously add a bunch of pitchers and a third catcher, plus a few extra position players. The extra arms will be a huge help, the bullpen has worked a ton this year, and Refsnyder could really help if he gets those platoon at-bats instead of Ryan. If not him, then Pirela. Also, Heathcott could be a factor as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner.

No one in their right mind is an expecting major impact from a September call-up — guys who do what Francisco Rodriguez did in 2002 are extremely rare — but they can help in limited roles. Those extra pitchers and platoon bats and pinch-runners are valuable in their own way. Given how tight the AL East race is at the moment, every little upgrade helps. September call-ups this year will be about more than resting regulars in blowouts.

Injury Updates: Tanaka, Sabathia, Nova, Bailey, Heathcott, Barbato, Hensley

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Here are some injury updates with pitchers and catchers only ten days away from reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training 2015. The updates come courtesy of Brad Lefton, Dan Martin, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) adjusted his usual offseason program and has not been throwing with as much intensity as he had in the past. “Right from the beginning of camp last year, all the pitchers were throwing in the bullpen, but they were just easing into it, so there’s really no reason for me to push myself to throw full throttle before I even get there this time,” he said.
  • CC Sabathia (knee) is working out and throwing regularly at Yankee Stadium. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about how his arm works or how his knee works. Not anymore,” said Brian Cashman. Sabathia is expected to be a healthy player come the start of Spring Training.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) has been throwing on flat ground and recently said his elbow feels great. He should start throwing off a mound very soon if he hasn’t already. Nova is currently on track to rejoin the team in June after having surgery late last April.
  • Andrew Bailey (shoulder) is expected to be a healthy and active pitcher in Spring Training. He missed all of last season following shoulder capsule surgery. “He’s in a throwing program, and there’s been nothing adverse reported from him,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler.
  • Slade Heathcott (knee) is also expected to be fully healthy for Spring Training. He had knee surgery last offseason and another one in June. “His progressions are moving forward really positively. The last checkup we had, he’s able to do full baseball activities, it’s just (a question of) how regular and how long of a duration,” said Eppler.
  • Johnny Barbato (elbow) is healthy and will start the season on time after missing the second half of 2014 with an elbow strain. “He was cleared and good to go,” said Eppler while noting Barbato healed up in time to pitch in Instructional League for the Padres last fall. The Yankees acquired Barbato in the Shawn Kelley trade.
  • And finally, Ty Hensley (face) has already resumed throwing bullpen sessions after he was viciously attacked during the holidays, according to his Twitter feed. Hensley’s jaw had to be wired shut due to the attack so he’ll likely lose some weight. He might have to rebuild some strength before the Yankees turn him loose this summer.

Three notable Spring Training invitees and three notable omissions

Jagielo. (MiLB.com)
Jagielo. (MiLB.com)

A few days ago the Yankees announced their list of 26 non-roster Spring Training invitees, so they’ll have a whopping 66 players in big league camp this year when you include the guys on the 40-man roster. The crop of non-roster invitees is pretty standard in the sense that some are top prospects, some are journeymen on minor league contracts, and some are spare bodies who will help carry the workload in March. Extra arms, extra catchers to catch bullpens, that sort of thing.

Some of the non-roster invitees are more interesting than others, of course, and there are several other players who are notable because they did not receive an invitation to big league camp this year. We’re all jonesin’ to see OF Aaron Judge and 1B Greg Bird and RHP Luis Severino in action in the coming weeks, but here are three other non-roster invitees I’m looking forward to seeing. And, on the flip side, here are three guys we somewhat surprisingly won’t get to see in camp.

Notable Invitee: RHP Andrew Bailey

The Yankees signed Bailey to a minor league contract last offseason knowing he likely wouldn’t pitch in 2014 following shoulder capsule surgery. The move was geared towards 2015, and, after Bailey suffered a few setbacks last summer, the Yankees opted to decline is 2015 club option (reportedly worth $2.5M or so) and instead re-signed him to another minor league contract.

Bailey is supposedly healthy now — “He’s in a throwing program, and there’s been nothing adverse reported from him,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler to Chad Jennings recently — and will get a chance to show what he can do post-capsule surgery in camp. Torn shoulder capsules are very serious and there’s a really good chance Bailey will never get back to where he was from 2009-13 (2.64 ERA and 3.13 FIP), but that doesn’t man he can’t help. Instead of being a shutdown late-inning guy, maybe he’s only a serviceable reliever. That’s still useful. Spring Training will give us a chance to see if Bailey has anything left.

Notable Omission: 3B Eric Jagielo

Jagielo, the team’s first of three first round picks in the 2013 draft, did not get an invitation to Spring Training. Judge, the team’s second first rounder that year, did get the invite. (The third first rounder, LHP Ian Clarkin, is a Single-A pitcher less than two years removed from high school, so he understandably didn’t get an invite to camp.) Judge has obviously passed Jagielo as a prospect but it’s still surprising the team didn’t give a recent first rounder — a polished college hitter at that — an invitation to big league camp.

Now, it’s important to note this could be health related. Jagielo took an errant pitch to the face in Instructional League back in late-September and suffered fractures that required surgery. He didn’t suffer a concussion and there was no other neurological damage. Jagielo was expected to need 4-6 weeks to heal from the injury, but, since it’s a head injury, the Yankees could never be too careful. Jagielo’s recovery might be going slower than expected and that could be why he didn’t get the invite to camp.

If that’s not the case, Jagielo was simply the victim of a number’s crunch. Not only will Chase Headley and yes, Alex Rodriguez, get work at third base in camp, so will Brendan Ryan, Jose Pirela, Nick Noonan, Jonathan Galvez, and Cole Figueroa as well. Maybe even Stephen Drew. “There’s a limited number of at-bats and innings to hand out in Spring Training. You don’t want to water it down,” said Eppler to Jennings. It’s understandable yet still a bit of a bummer Jagielo wasn’t invited to camp if he is indeed healthy and over his facial injuries.

Notable Invitee: RHP Nick Goody

Goody. (AP)
Goody. (AP)

The Yankees have built quite a bit of bullpen depth this offseason, and that’s all on top of the bullpen prospects they have in the minors. RHP Nick Rumbelow, LHP Tyler Webb, RHP Wilking Rodriguez, RHP Diego Moreno, and LHP Jacob Lindgren are all Triple-A relievers coming to camp as non-roster players. Goody has been lost in the minor league bullpen shuffle so to speak because he’s only thrown 66 innings since being the team’s sixth rounder in 2012. You can blame Tommy John surgery for that.

Goody, 23, returned with his new elbow in the middle of last season and had a 4.60 ERA (3.63 FIP) in 31.1 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, showing the control problems (10.7 BB%) that typically plague a pitcher soon after having his elbow rebuilt. He still missed bats though (32.9 K%), and he was dynamite before getting hurt, putting up a 1.29 ERA (1.76 FIP) with excellent strikeout (40.4 K%) and good walk (8.2 BB%) rates in 35 innings from 2012-13.

Goody is a short little righty (listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 lbs.) with a low-to-mid-90s heater and a sharp low-80s slider, and he was projected to be a quick moving strikeout artist before blowing out his elbow. All the bullpen depth means he may not get to MLB this summer — I expect Goody to start the season with Double-A Trenton — but he’s someone who could be on the map for 2016. He’s a nice little relief prospect and I think he’ll sneak up on some people and open eyes during Grapefruit League play in March.

Notable Omission: RHP Johnny Barbato

Acquired from the Padres for Shawn Kelley a few weeks ago, the 22-year-old Barbato had a 2.87 ERA (3.31 FIP) with a 25.6 K% and 7.8 BB% in 31.1 innings for San Diego’s Double-A affiliate last season. He missed the second half with an elbow strain that did not require surgery. Eppler told Jennings that Barbato is healthy and even pitched in Instructional League for the Padres in the fall, so it doesn’t seem like he was excluded from camp for health reasons. It appears he was another victim of the numbers crunch.

Despite his strong performance last year, Barbato will likely return to Double-A this season because there doesn’t figure to be any room for him at Triple-A. At least on Opening Day. Like Goody, he is probably looked at as more of a 2016 bullpen candidate than a 2015 bullpen candidate, yet one is going to big league camp and one isn’t. Weird. I just figured the Yankees would invite Barbato to camp after getting him in a trade for a real live big leaguer. But I suppose there just aren’t enough innings to go around.

Pazos. (Robert Pimpsner)
Pazos. (Robert Pimpsner)

Notable Invitee: LHP James Pazos

Even before signing Andrew Miller and trading for Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve, the Yankees had built up a healthy amount of left-handed bullpen depth. Lindgren is the most notable as last year’s top draft pick, and Webb put up unignoreable numbers at three levels last year, but Pazos shouldn’t be overlooked either. In fact, after the Yankees let Matt Thornton go on waivers last August, both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi mentioned Pazos by name when discussing the club’s lefty bullpen depth.

The 23-year-old Pazos was New York’s 13th round pick in 2012 and he had a 2.42 ERA (2.38 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (27.4 K%) and perhaps a few too many walks (9.1 BB%) in 67 innings split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last year. According to PitchFX data from the Arizona Fall League, he averages 94 mph with his fastball and the low-80s with his slider, so he’s not some soft-tosser. A hard-throwing lefty who has had success at the Double-A level is always worth keeping an eye on.

Notable Omission: RHP Mark Montgomery

Three years ago, Montgomery was the top relief prospect in the organization after a ridiculous 2012 season in which he posted 1.41 ERA (1.56 FIP) with a 40.2 K% and 9.1 BB% in 70.1 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Then he suffered a shoulder injury in the middle of the 2013 season and hasn’t been the same guy since, mostly because his once low-90s fastball is now more mid-80s, and his trademark slider simply isn’t as effective.

Montgomery was invited to big league camp in both 2013 and 2014, but he didn’t get an invite this year because he’s not nearly the same level of prospect anymore. Jagielo and Barbato appear to have been squeezed out by the numbers crunch. That’s not the case here. Montgomery’s stuff hasn’t been the same since the shoulder injury and he’s not much of a prospect anymore. That’s baseball. And that’s why you need a deep reserve of relievers.

Yankees trade Shawn Kelley to the Padres for minor league reliever Johnny Barbato

Barbato. (Screen grab via MLBpipeline.com)
Barbato. (Screen grab via MLBpipeline.com)

3:01pm: Done deal, the Yankees have announced the trade. It’s Kelley for Barbato, straight up. So long, Shawn. I’ll remember you for the horse head.

1:56pm: The quasi-youth movement continues. The Yankees have traded Shawn Kelley to the Padres for minor league reliever Johnny Barbato, according to Jack Curry. It appears the deal is straight up, one-for-one. Neither team has announced the trade just yet. The Yankees clear a 40-man roster spot with the move.

Kelley, who is set to become a free agent next offseason, was projected to earn $2.5M through arbitration in 2015, so the Yankees are shedding a little bit of money. With Andrew Miller replacing David Robertson in the bullpen, Kelley figured to again be in the seventh inning mix next year. That job belongs to Adam Warren now.

At the moment, the bullpen includes Miller, Warren, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, and Esmil Rogers, leaving two open spots, one of which figures to go to a long man. The Yankee have no shortage of in-house candidates for those last two spots, with Jacob Lindgren, Branden Pinder, Danny Burawa, Chase Whitley, Gonzalez Germen, Jose Ramirez, Bryan Mitchell, Jose DePaula, and possibly even Manny Banuelos among the notables. Obviously a trade or free agent signing is always possible.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Kelley, 30, originally came over from the Mariners in exchange for Abe Almonte just before the start of Spring Training 2013. He spent two seasons in New York and had a 4.46 ERA (3.33 FIP) with 138 strikeouts in 105 innings. At his best, Kelley was a shutdown late-inning reliever. At his worst, he was very homer prone and unreliable. I guess that makes him like every other middle reliever in baseball.

The Padres drafted Barbato out of a Miami high school in the sixth round of the 2010 draft and paid him a well above slot $1.4M bonus, easily the largest bonus they gave out that year. He’s spent the majority of his pro career in the bullpen because of a herky jerky delivery and the lack of a reliable third pitch. Baseball America ranked Barbato as the 30th best prospect in a stacked San Diego system prior to 2014 in their Prospect Handbook. Here’s a scouting report from their trade analysis (no subs. req’d):

He pitches with mid-90s velocity and verve, attacking hitters with a live fastball that sinks and runs as it nears the plate. He throws a true curveball in the high 70s that features extreme break through the zone, and he locates and mixes his two pitches well enough to boast a career strikeout rate of 9.2 per nine innings … Barbato has the raw stuff to zoom to [New York] in 2015 and gradually work his way up to a setup role.

Barbato, 22, had a 2.87 ERA (3.31 FIP) with good strikeout (9.48 K/9 and 25.6 K%) and walk (2.87 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%) rates in 31.1 Double-A innings this season. His season ended in mid-June because of elbow soreness, and, as Curry notes, there is some concern Barbato may need Tommy John surgery. If healthy, he figures to start the year with Triple-A Scranton and be a call-up candidate at some point next summer.

So far this offseason the Yankees have replaced Kelley with Barbato, Martin Prado with Jose Pirela/Rob Refsnyder, Shane Greene with Nathan Eovaldi, Francisco Cervelli with John Ryan Murphy, and Derek Jeter with Didi Gregorius, getting younger each time. Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and Hal Steinbrenner all said after the season the team will be younger next year, and that is definitely the case.

Kelley was a nice little find for the Yankees — going from Almonte to two years of Kelley to Barbato is a fun transaction tree — but he’s not exactly impossible to replace. Dealing middle relievers one year away from free agency for a Triple-A ready prospect is a move the Yankees should always look to make. New York saves some money, gets younger, and clears a 40-man roster spot. It’s not a move that will make or break the 2015 season but does give the team some more flexibility.