Every season on September 1st, Major League Baseball teams are allowed to expand their 25 man active rosters with the ability to bring up to 15 additional players to the big leagues with a full 40 man roster. Teams almost never call up that many players, of course, but this is a time of year when contenders may call up a couple of power bench bats or additional relief help or base stealing specialists that may give them an edge in September; a rebuilding team like our Milwaukee Brewers, on the other hand, could use this time to reward players who have performed well during the minor league season or as a chance to get a look at some of their best young prospects against big league competition.
Player call-ups often come in waves, with perhaps a couple of players coming right away on the first of September and then more reinforcements once the minor league season (and playoffs, if a team qualifies) are officially in the books. It doesn’t look like any of the Brewers’ minor league affiliates are in line for the postseason, so their seasons will likely be complete come the Monday of Labor Day, September 5th.
So, who might we see get the call up to Milwaukee? Here are the possibilities:
Players Coming Off Injury
RHP Junior Guerra (Age 31)
The #2016BrewersAce has been on the shelf since August 4th with elbow inflammation, a stint that was described as “precautionary.” In reality, the Brewers may have simply been trying to keep Guerra’s innings in check after having already worked 130.1 frames between AAA and the big leagues before hitting the disabled list. The 31 year old breakout rookie worked 3.1 scoreless innings in his rehab start for the Sky Sox on Saturday, allowing just a hit and two walks against two strikeouts on 55 pitches. He’ll take the hill for the Brewers on Friday against the Pirates, hoping to pick up where he left off after posting a 2.93 ERA with 7.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 46.1% ground ball rate through his first 17 big league starts.
RHP Jacob Barnes (Age 26)
Barnes got his first taste of the big leagues this year and pitched rather well out of the bullpen with a 3.71 ERA across 17.0 innings. He struck out 18 against just four free passes in that time while generating grounders at a 54.1% rate. The hard-throwing righty went on the DL on July 26th with elbow soreness and is pitching in AA Biloxi for his rehab assignment.
3B Will Middlebrooks (Age 27)
Once considered a one of the top prospects in baseball, Middlebrooks signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee this past winter after being non-tendered over by the Padres last season. He managed only a .111/.226/.111 while striking out 13 times in 31 plate appearances after being called up to the Brewers following the trade of Aaron Hill. Will hit the DL with a leg strain on July 25th. He did post an .816 OPS (108 wRC+) with 10 home runs in 68 games in Colorado Springs this year though, and he’ll once again get a chance to prove his mettle in September after a rehab assignment with the Shuckers.
RHP Michael Blazek (Age 27)
After preventing runs at a terrific rate last season with Milwaukee, Blazek has seemingly gone backwards this year. He’s so far posted a 5.58 ERA in 40.1 innings while seeing a dramatic spike in walks and home runs along with a decrease in ground ball rate. He’s battled injuries this season and went back on the DL with a forearm strain on August 14th. After not seeing much progress in the early going during his recovery, Blazek got good news today and could potentially return by mid-September.
On the 40 Man Roster
RHP David Goforth (Age 27)
Goforth hasn’t been particularly effective in the big leagues (10.97 ERA, 7.59 K/9, 3.38 BB/9 in 10.2 innings) or in Colorado Springs (5.11 ERA, 6.93 K/9, 6.20 BB/9 in 49.1 innings) this season. The righty hasn’t really impressed in any of his numerous big league stints over the past two seasons and my own speculation is that his 40 man roster spot could be in jeopardy after the season.
RHP Taylor Jungmann (Age 26)
Jungmann looked like a capable innings-eater through most of last season but imploded to a 9.15 ERA in 20.2 big league innings to start of the 2016 season. After struggling even worse in AAA, the former first-round pick seems to have found his groove after some time off and an assignment to Biloxi. There he’s worked to a 2.37 ERA with 9.6 K/9 against 3.76 BB/9 across 64.2 innings and according to David Stearns “it’s possible” that he could be back in the big leagues in September.
RHP Jorge Lopez (Age 23)
Coming off the heels of winning the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2015, it’s difficult to describe Lopez’s results this year much other than disappointing. Yes, Colorado Springs is a harsh environment for pitchers, but it doesn’t take much sting out of a 6.81 ERA in 79.1 innings pitched. The strikeouts were down (7.49 K/9) while the walk rate ballooned (6.24 BB/9), and Lopez found himself demoted to AA in late July. A 4.19 ERA and 34:13 K/BB ratio in 34.1 innings with Biloxi is a slight improvement, but may not be enough to get Lopez back to the big leagues this season.
RHP Damien Magnifico (Age 25)
The hard-throwing righty has already gotten a cup of coffee with the Brewers this year, allowing a run in two innings. He’s spent most of the year serving as the Sky Sox closer, where he has pitched well while posting a 3.22 ERA in 58.2 innings with 8.74 K/9 and 4.60 BB/9. It’s exceedingly likely that he’ll be back up in Milwaukee in September.
RHP Ben Rowen (Age 27)
The side-arming Rowen was claimed off waivers from the Pirates on August 4th and has pitched 8.1 scoreless innings for the Sky Sox since joning the organization. Rowen has a long history of posting excellent run prevention numbers in the minor leagues despite rather underwhelming stuff, but his lone stint in the big leagues came during the 2014 season when he allowed four earned runs in 8.2 innings with Texas.
C Andrew Susac (Age 26)
Susac came to the Brewers as a part of the return from the Giants in the Will Smith trade and is a career .240/.309/.407 hitter in 243 major league plate appearances. The backstop could conceivably compete for the Brewers’ starting slot next spring, but he’s been on the minor league DL since suffering a strained oblique on August 16th and it’s unclear if he’ll return this season. He wasn’t hitting well when he got hurt, either, posting just a .067/.097/.067 slash in 31 plate appearances with Colorado Springs following the trade.
INF Garin Cecchini (Age 25)
The Brewers acquired the former Red Sox top prospect for cash considerations last winter and he’s had an alright season in AAA, though his .267/.323/.381 slash line with five home runs and 12 steals checks in below league average (86 wRC+). He’s split time between first and third base this season and though he’s been hilarious in Tim Dillard’s videos all season, that may not be enough to merit a call-up in September.
INF Yadiel Rivera (Age 24)
The slick-fielding shortstop/utility infielder hasn’t hit a lick in the big leagues (.204/.220/.265 in 52 PA) or the in AAA (.226/.261/.313 in 308 PA) this season. But he’s never been expected to do much with the bat and is a strong defender at third, short, and second base, making him a nice organizational depth type.
1B Andy Wilkins (Age 27)
Wilkins spent a few weeks in the big leagues with Milwaukee this year and appeared almost exclusively as a pinch hitter, collecting 27 plate appearances in 26 games. He recorded a single, a double, his first big league home run, and three walks during that time for a .514 OPS. Wilkins hasn’t exactly tore the cover off the ball in AAA this year, either (.750 OPS, 12 HR, 95 wRC+) and may not be long for the organization after being claimed off waivers last winter.
OF Michael Reed (Age 23)
Reed is known as a speedy outfielder who doesn’t have much pop, strikes out a fair amount, but consistently posts stellar on-base percentages thanks to his walk rate. Those traits were on display for Colorado Springs this season as the club’s #27 prospect according to MLB Pipeline has hit .251/.368/.365 in 470 plate appearances this season with seven homers, 19 steals, a 25.7% K rate and a 14.9% BB rate. Reed played all three outfield spots consistently this season and has a big arm, and he looks he may be ready to fill a fourth-outfielder role at the big league level.
OF Lewis Brinson (Age 22)
The club’s #2 ranked prospect has torn the cover off the ball since coming to the organization as part of the Lucroy/Jeffress deal, hitting .406/.412/.688 with four home runs and four steals in 68 plate appearances with the Sky Sox. He’ll need to be added to the 40 man roster after the season, and he may have earned himself a big league call-up thanks to his eye opening performance in AAA.
LHP Josh Hader (Age 22)
Hader is considered the club’s top prospect according to MLB Pipeline and posted a sub-1.00 ERA in 11 AA starts before getting promoted to the minors highest level this season. He hasn’t been quite as good in Colorado Springs, though he’s had improved results of late and owns a 5.18 ERA with an 11.32 K/9 and 4.36 BB/9 in 66.0 AAA innings pitched. The club would undoubtedly like to see Hader as a part of the rotation long-term, but given that he’s already approaching a career high in innings pitched (123.0 this season) any appearances he’d make in The Show this year would probably be out of the bullpen (a role that some scouts think he may be better suited for, anyhow). He’ll need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter.
OF Brett Phillips (Age 22)
The centerpiece of the Gomez/Fiers trade hasn’t exactly performed like it this season, hitting .224/.326/.383 with 14 homers and 11 steals (107 wRC+) in 485 plate appearances with AA Biloxi this season. He’s struck out at a 30% clip, too, though he is taking the most walks of any season in his minor league career. Phillips probably hasn’t earned the call based on his play this season but he will need to be protected from the Rule 5 this winter.
OF Tyrone Taylor (Age 22)
It wasn’t long ago that Taylor was considered the top prospect in the Brewers’ organization, but his stock has fallen drastically after struggling for two consecutive seasons in AA. He’s hitting just .235/.307/.333 through 127 games this year but is considered a strong defender in center field, so there’s still hope that maybe he can stick as a reserve outfielder type. The club will have to decide if they want to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this winter.
LHP Wei-Chung Wang (Age 24)
Wang should be a familiar name even to those who only follow the big league club, as he spent a year in Milwaukee in 2014 after coming over in the Rule 5 Draft. That obviously went about as well as you could expect for a player jumping from Rookie ball to the big leagues at age 22, but Wang has re-established himself as a legitimate prospect over the past two seasons in the minor leagues. In 22 starts this season between AA and AAA, WCW owns a 3.70 ERA along with 7.77 K/9 against 2.52 BB/9 and could insert himself into the big league rotation picture as early as next year.
Other Potential Non-40 Man Roster Players
C Michael McKenry (Age 31)
With Susac on the shelf, the Brewers picked up McKenry for cash considerations on August 15th. The Brewers are the veteran backstop’s fourth organization this season and he’s hit .364/.611/.591 in 36 PA in AAA since being acquired. He’s got a career line of .238/.318/.406 with 29 home runs in 953 MLB plate appearances.
C/1B Josmil Pinto (Age 27)
The former Twins’ top prospect has torn the cover off the ball in AAA this year, hitting .312/.367/.530 with 11 home runs in 294 plate appearances. He’s never been very highly regarded defensively but Pinto is a career .257/.339/.445 hitter with 11 home runs in 78 games at the major league level.
OF Kyle Wren (Age 25)
The son of the former GM has been outstanding in AA and AAA this season, hitting a combined .324/.414/.418 with 27 steals on the year. He can play all three outfield spots, though his non-existent power gives him the profile of a reserve outfielder despite his gaudy stats this year.
INF Nate Orf (Age 26)
Orf’s gone from undrafted free agent to the cusp of the big leagues in four years, and in 81 games in AAA this season he’s hit .287/.362/.382 with six steals and 21 extra base hits. He’s a true utilityman who has played all nine positions at some point during his minor league career, though he’s only appeared at second, third, and shortstop for the Sky Sox this year.
1B/OF Garrett Cooper (Age 25)
Cooper is a lot like Jason Rogers - a guy who is always old for his level that has hit well, but doesn’t have the power you’d like from a first baseman. The Auburn product has posted a .287/.339/.406 slash with 7 home runs in 121 games between AA and AAA this season.
RHP Austin Ross (Age 28)
Ross has been in the system since 2010 and is enjoying a nice season as a swingman in AAA, having worked to a 3.89 ERA in 71.2 innings with 79 strikeouts against 23 walks.
LHP Michael Kirkman (Age 29)
The Brewers outrighted Kirkman to the minor leagues earlier this year but the lefty has pitched well with the Sky Sox, working to a 3.00 ERA in 30.0 innings pitched with 31 strikeouts and 16 walks. The Brewers do not currently have a lefty in their bullpen.
RHP Hiram Burgos (Age 29)
Another long-time org member who keeps chugging along in the minor leagues, Burgos has been a steady starter for the Sky Sox this year. In 132.1 innings he’s posted a 4.35 ERA with 7.14 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9 and is looking to make it back to the big leagues for the first time since 2013.
RHP Aaron Wilkerson (Age 27)
A part of the Aaron Hill deal, Wilkerson has struggled to prevent runs with the Sky Sox, posting a 6.15 ERA in 45.1 innings. His strikeout (9.53 K/9) and walk rates (2.38 BB/9) are still good, though, and one could say he’s been hurt by a bloated .368 BABIP and a poor 58.1% strand rate. He’s got a backend starter profile and could conceivably compete for a spot in the rotation next spring.
So who do you think will get the call for the Brewers in September? Any players not listed above? Take your guesses in the comments section below!
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs as of 28 Aug 2016