My Choices for September Callups
It can be dangerous to say that anything is a lock, but the three players I'm placing in this category really are virtually guaranteed to join the team once rosters expand. First up is Matt Tolbert, who has been playing every day on a rehab assignment with Rochester and is ready to be activated from the disabled list (alright, so it's not your traditional September callup -- but it's made possible by the expanded roster). Whether he takes any time away from the other infielders in the current rotation is questionable, but he'll give the club another option, and depth is always nice.
Second, reliever Bobby Korecky made his big league debut earlier this year and pitched well in limited action (3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings). His excellent performance with the Red Wings (2.84 ERA in 73 innings, with 71 K's and just 21 BB's) coupled with the Twins need for some additional bullpen help makes this an easy call for the Twins, and Korecky should provide that.
Third, the Twins are likely to call Matt Macri back up to the bigs to provide even more infield depth. I've listed this in the "locks" category, but this is the least certain of the locks. Macri has not played well recently, and probably wouldn't get a lot of use. Still, with the minor league season finishing up on Monday, Macri might as well be kept on the bench as insurance and to get some seasoning.
Close to Locks
I'd be extremely surprised if the Twins didn't bring Philip Humber up to the big leagues, to be used as a reliever. Humber will be out of options next year, and the Twins undoubtedly would like to evaluate him at the big league level while they have a chance. Additionally, Humber has been excellent over his last 10 games, with a 2.62 ERA and 53-13 K-BB ratio in 58.1 innings.
The Twins are also quite likely to call up outfielder Jason Pridie, who has hit .270/737 with 12 homers and 25 steals in 548 AB's for the Red Wings this year. The steals suggest that Pridie could be particularly useful as a pinch runner, and September is all about utilizing the tools that are available to you. Pridie's been awful for the last half of August, but the Twins wouldn't be calling him up for his bat anyway, so this callup seems quite likely.
Olympian Brian Duensing is not on the 40-man roster, but he'll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter and the Twins are virtually certain to add him to the roster before then to protect him. If he's going to be added anyway, why not add him now and utilize him out of the bullpen? Duensing has not had a great year -- 4.25 ERA in 133.1 innings with Rochester before he left for the Olympics -- but he's a solid prospect. The only reason I could think of that Duensing wouldn't be added is if the Twins were concerned about how he was used in the Olympics -- but he pitched for the Red Wings yesterday, which would seem to suggest that the Twins haven't done anything drastic like shutting him down.
Also a good possibility is infielder Luke Hughes, who had a great first part of the season in New Britain and who has continued to play well since being promoted to Rochester. Like Duensing, Hughes is not yet on the 40-man roster, but he is Rule 5 eligible and is another player the Twins are likely to protect before the next Rule 5 draft. The Twins do intend on having Hughes play winter ball, so there may be some desire to give him September off. Also, he hasn't played for a couple of days and I'm not sure if that's routine or due to some sort of injury. I wouldn't be surprised if Hughes was left off, but I'm leaning towards his being added.
If he were healthy, catcher Jose Morales would be a virtual lock, as carrying a third catcher is a luxury that a team can afford with the roster limit out of the way. Morales has been out since June, however, so he won't be getting the call -- but I still think that there's a very good chance the Twins could add a catcher to the 40-man roster so that they have the protection throughout September. While he can't seem to hit a lick, my money is on New Britain catcher Drew Butera, who is Rule 5 eligible this winter. Butera was acquired as a defensive catcher, and if he's any good there's always a chance he could be claimed. With the Twins having few other viable options worthy of a callup to the big leagues (Red Wings catcher Ryan Jorgensen would surprise me), Butera seems like a distinct possibility.
Guys Who Wouldn't Shock Me
There are a number of names who could find themselves being called up. Relievers Mariano Gomez and Ricky Barrett have both pitched well this season for Rochester, and could be added to the 40-man roster to provide additional bullpen help. With several other pitchers already likely to be called up, though, will the Twins want to add these guys to the roster only to drop them again when the season is done (as would almost certainly happen)?
Infielder Alejandro Machado has been excellent for the Red Wings this year, hitting .352 in 182 AB's (and .390 in his last 41 AB's). However, from what I've heard his arm strength only allows him to play second when he's in the field right now. With guys like Tolbert and Macri already virtually certain to be added, will the Twins really bother to add Machado to the 40-man roster now? What role would he play with the team if he was to be called up? Some fans may be disappointed to see a guy who is playing so well left off the team, and I wouldn't be shocked if he was added to the roster (see the heading to this section), but I by no means think that his addition is a certainty.
Familiar face Garrett Jones is another name we could see returning. Jones doesn't excite me all that much, but he's hit 22 homeruns this year and his .274 average and 811 OPS are nothing to sneeze at, especially coming from the left side. The Twins could add him to the roster for use as a late inning pinch hitting power threat.
New Britain reliever Rob Delaney has been mentioned a lot recently, and he's had a brilliant season with Ft. Myers and New Britain (1.08 ERA and 38-5 K-BB ratio in 33.1 innings with the Rock Cats). However, I think it's unlikely that he'll get the call. For one thing, he'd be asked to jump from AA all the way to the big leagues, and that would make me a bit nervous if I were GM Bill Smith. Perhaps more importantly, though, Delaney is not Rule 5 Eligible until after the 2009 season. Is he really going to pitch enough in September to justify starting the clock on his big league career a full year early? If he's added now, the Twins will need to use an option on him in 2009 -- if they hold off, they get that year essentially for free. That could be important down the road. I would hold off on Delaney.
Finally, I also would not be shocked to see the Twins bring Brian Bass back to the big leagues. His 4.87 ERA for the Twins was nothing to write home about, but he at least has some big league experience, and I could see him getting some use. More than likely, this would be a one month callup, with Bass probably being let go when the season was done to reclaim the roster spot. I'm guessing that Bass accepted the assignment to Rochester after he was cut because his agent was hoping that just this scenario would play out, with the Twins adding him to the 40-man again once rosters expanded. I'd put the odds at less than 50%, but you never know.
It's at least possible that we could see Julio DePaula, Jose Mijares (who has pitched well after recovering from his arm injury), Sergio Santos, Anthony Swarzak, or Kevin Mulvey. For a variety of reasons, however, I think these guys are unlikely to be called up in September. Dark horse candidates could also emerge -- although I would expect any callups to have been mentioned in this post somewhere.
Finally, I'll give you the names I'd pick. From the list of guys already on the 40-man roster, I'd activate Humber, Korecky, Macri, Tolbert, and Pridie. I would also add Duensing, Jones, Butera, and probably Barrett to the 40-man roster. I think this is extremely unlikely to be what the Twins do -- but it's probably the direction I would go in. Duensing and Barrett would add additional left-handed bullpen support, Jones would add a power-hitting lefty, and Butera would give the team an insurance catcher. I also am of the mind that you might as well utilize the 40 spots you have on the roster, especially with guys like Jones and Barrett (who can be removed from the roster without really worrying about their being claimed -- both because a claim is unlikely, and because it wouldn't matter too much if they were actually claimed). I expect the Twins to be more conservative than this, and would be surprised to see more than 5 or 6 names total called up -- but you never know. We should find out soon.