Across the SB Nation network today we're talking about the greatest September callups in our franchise's respective histories. I've been asked to share a few thoughts on the Brewers' best late-season debut and it seemed like a great idea...until I tried to separate one from the pack.
Last week Jonah Keri of Grantland listed Lorenzo Cain as one of the greatest September callups of all time, so it makes sense to start there. Cain hit .296/.340/.401 in 40 games down the stretch for the Crew in 2010, months before being included in the Zack Greinke trade, including .309/.341/.432 in September/October. He's worth considering, to be sure, but I think we can do better.
I was just starting to write about the Brewers when Kevin Barker captured our attention with a hot finish to the 1999 season. Barker was called up on August 19 and played at first base in 38 of the Brewers' final 43 games, launching himself into the Opening Day lineup in 2000. Honestly, though, his 1999 numbers aren't as good as I remembered (just .282/.331/.385 in 127 plate appearances), and by May 27 of 2000 he was done as a Brewer.
Moving over to pitchers, I think it's fair to consider Doug Henry even if he was more of a midseason switch than a September callup in 1991. Henry made his big league debut on July 15 of that year but transitioned into the closer role on August 10, posting an incredible 0.38 ERA and recording 15 saves in his first 22 appearances. He was never that dominant again but went on to pitch in eleven MLB seasons as a member of five teams.
Coming back closer to the present, Wily Peralta's 2012 debut deserves some recognition here. He had pitched just one major league inning when the Brewers recalled him last September and made five starts down the stretch, posting a 2.25 ERA over 28 innings with 22 strikeouts. Peralta had been a top prospect for some time but that performance made him a legit contender for the 2013 rotation.
In the end, though, I set all four of those aside and went with 1989 debutee Greg Vaughn. Frequent readers of Today In Brewer History may recall that we celebrated the anniversary of his MLB debut a couple of weeks ago.
Vaughn's MLB debut actually probably came a little later than it needed to: He'd been drafted but elected not to sign four times before finally agreeing to terms with the Brewers in 1986:
|1984 January||Cardinals||5th round|
|1984 June Secondary||Brewers||4th round|
|1985 January Secondary||Pirates||1st round (19th overall)|
|1985 June Secondary||Angels||3rd round|
|1986 June Secondary||Brewers||1st round (4th overall)|
Once the Brewers finally got Vaughn to sign a pro contract, though, he raked his way across the minors. He hit 16 home runs in a partial season for rookie Helena in 1986, 33 as a 21-year-old for Low-A Beloit in 1987 and 54 more between two seasons with AA El Paso and AAA Denver before finally getting the call to the big leagues. He drove in 356 runs in his first 446 minor league games, and also stole 101 bases in 123 attempts.
Vaughn made his first major league start on August 11, 1989, going 2-for-2 with a double and an RBI despite only playing three innings. He hit his first home run on August 17, then later flexed his power in a big way by hitting three homers in two days against the A's on September 12 and 13.
All told, Vaughn hit .265/.336/.425 over his first 38 games as a Brewer with five home runs, driving in 23 runs and going 4-for-5 stealing bases. These were the first appearances in an MLB career that saw him play 15 seasons as a member of five franchises, hit 355 home runs (including 50 as a Padre in 1998) and make four All Star teams.
Of course, if Khris Davis remains on his current tear I'll have to update this post with a note on how he blew Vaughn's performance out of the water.