September is a strange time for MLB rosters. Teams bring up both prospects and veterans, sometimes to boost a drive for the post-season, other times to have a look at players for next year. The rule granting club’s a 40 man roster for the last month of the season has always seemed an odd one. While it’s understandable in theory, 40 seems an excessively high number even if teams don’t take up the full compliment of spots. The rule tends to distort games meaning that clubs who are out of contention may be allowing an average Triple A pitcher to give up a game to a contender which might later influence a playoff race. Less importantly, it also makes analyzing September stats a challenge due to the often reduced level of competition.
Reservations aside, it does provide an opportunity to have a look at some players that we might not otherwise have seen in game action. The prospects that come up for their first taste of big league action absorb much of the focus, but there are also interesting veterans who may be getting their only career MLB experience as a reward for an outstanding season. The names below are some of the more intriguing possibilities for Sepetember call ups in the National League.
Adam Eaton – Arizona Diamondbacks
The parks of Triple -A clubs in the Pacific League are, as a general rule, launching pads. Numbers get inflated and middling prospects can make Mike Trout’s stats look humdrum. While we must take that into account, Adam Eaton is still having himself a nice season at Reno. Hitting .381/.456/.541 while leading the league in steals, Eaton is starting to show he might have a career as an everyday outfielder. The knock on him previously was his struggles against lefties but his 957 OPS against portsiders this year indicates some improvements to go along with his obvious hitting ability and excellent approach. The Diamondbacks outfield is crowded and there is no obvious route for Eaton to get regular playing time but September may give the team an opportunity to showcase him as a trade chip.
Shelby Miller – St Louis Cardinals
Always viewed as the prototypical power pitching prospect, Miller has struggled for much of the year this summer to produce the sort of performances it was believed he was capable of . It’s taken a while but it seems like Miller has now gotten himself back on track. In his last 6 starts he’s pitched 52 2/3 innings while striking out 50 and walking just one. The Cardinals rotation is in fairly good shape but bringing up Miller may be a shot in the arm for the team’s push for the playoffs. Alternatively, he could be called up under the David Price plan and used as a power arm out of the bullpen to prepare him for entering the rotation permanently at some point in 2013.
John Ely – LA Dodgers
Bearing in mind the above disclaimer about offensive stats in the Pacific League, Ely’s performance on the mound this year is all the more impressive. This is not the 26 year old’s first exposure to Triple-A which takes some of the sheen off his numbers but he may be doing enough to force the Dodgers to take another look at him. An unimpressive 18 start audition in 2010 (5.49 ERA) and a spot start last year is the extent of his big league experience to date but he could be a useful starter / swingman down the stretch and possible back end starter for 2013. He currently leads the PCL in strikeouts with 159, a lead of 13 over his nearest rival, while walking less than 2 batters per nine innings.
JJ Hoover – Cincinnati Reds
Hoover has already been up with the big league club this year, pitching 18 solid innings before being optioned back to Triple-A in late June. His ability to miss bats his unquestioned, as evidenced by his 13 strike outs per 9 innings this year, and considering that number his 3 walks per 9 is pretty good. The Reds have one of the best relief corps around at the moment but just about any bullpen can find room for one more arm who can get strikeouts. His lengthy spell down on the farm is more an indication of the strength of the Reds bullpen than Hoover’s own shortcomings and it is possible he is called up in time to be eligible for the post-season roster.