Today is September, and for baseball that means it is time for September call ups. Here is what you need to know.
What are September call ups?
Through the first five months of the season, each team is subject to a 25-man limit for the active roster. In September, the roster limit is increased to 40, so teams frequently begin promoting players to the big league roster once minor league seasons have completed in early September.
Wait, what? Why?
Not even baseball historians are entirely sure why the practice began, but it has been going on since the early 20th century. Mostly likely it began to reward players for a good minor league season and to get a look at players for next year. There have been calls to end roster expansion because it creates unfairly creates a new set of rules for the last, and most pivotal month of the year. But for now, teams can expand rosters beginning today.
Do September call ups accrue Major League service time?
Yes, September promotions still count towards the service time Major Leaguers accrue towards arbitration and free agent eligibility.
Does getting called up in September affect rookie eligibility?
If players are called up in September, the playing time could affect Rookie of the Year eligibility for the next year. A player is considered in his rookie year if he has at least 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched, or spends 45 days on the roster. However, September does not count for those 45 days in regards to rookie eligibility. So, unless he hits 50 innings, Matt Strahm will still be eligible for Rookie of the Year in 2017.
So who can be called up?
To be placed on the 25-man active roster, a player must be on the 40-man reserve roster. Some expected September call ups are already on that roster - Whit Merrifield, Reymond Fuentes, Tony Cruz. Others, like Hunter Dozier, will need to be added to the 40 man roster, which means someone will need to be taken off the 40-man roster, since it is currently full.
How can someone be taken off the 40-man roster?
To be taken off the 40-man roster, a player must be designated for assignment, which requires they clear waivers, giving every team in baseball a shot to claim them to put on their 40-man roster. The Royals may want to avoid losing a player in that fashion. A 40-man roster spot can also be created by placing a player on the 60-day disabled list. Luke Hochevar would be a likely candidate for that.
So who should we expect to called up for September?
I wrote a few weeks ago about some potential candidates. Relievers Scott Alexander and Brooks Pounders are already up. Christian Colon can return once Omaha’s season is over on Monday. Alec Mills and Miguel Almonte could be some more arms they call up, although Almonte had a very poor season and was demoted to AA this year.
Third baseman/outfielder Hunter Dozier has been fantastic this year and he could be a valuable bat to add to the roster, but not being on the 40 man roster may complicate things. Whit Merrifield and Reymond Fuentes are likely to return and the Royals will want the speedy legs of Terrance Gore as a pinch-running weapon. Outfielder Jorge Bonifacio could be added for some pop, and the Royals will want to add Tony Cruz to be a third catcher. Expect newly acquired outfielder Daniel Nava to get called up, although he needs to be added to the 40-man roster.
The Royals signed Blue Springs native Nick Tepesch last month and may want to get a look at him, although he was hurt for awhile. A few candidates not on the 40-man roster like pitchers Jake Junis or Luke Farrell maybe be worthy, but if the Royals don’t have room on the roster, it may keep them off.
What about Jason Vargas and Kris Medlen?
The Royals expect both injured pitchers to come off the 60-day disabled list in September. To be activated, both would need to be added to the 40-man roster, requiring someone else to be taken off. Wade Davis will also be activated today, although he is already on the 40-man roster.
Who should we expect to be taken off the 40-man roster?
Luke Hochevar can be placed on the 60-day disabled list, opening up a spot. The Royals could also technically call up Kyle Zimmer just to place him on the 60-day disabled list and open up a 40-man roster spot. Mike Moustakas and Tim Collins are already on the 60-day disabled list.
Nick Tepesch could be called up, but the Royals could decide he is not worth it and could designate him for assignment. Infielder Ramon Torres and pitcher Miguel Almonte could both be taken off after poor seasons in the minors, but they are young enough that the Royals may not want to risk exposing them to waivers.
What about Bubba Starling?
I mean, its possible he gets called up. He was hitting abysmally in AA Northwest Arkansas, but the team promoted him anyway to AAA Omaha, where he hit....abysmally. But he does have a plus glove and some speed, and if he doesn’t strike out he can hit it a long way sometimes. The Royals expected him to make his Major League debut this year, but after hitting under .200 this year, it is not likely he gets the call.
What are some other considerations?
Teams also have to manage the 40-man roster in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft this winter. Certain players have to be protected or they are eligible to be drafted. So the Royals may not want to call up a bunch of guys not on the 40-man roster so they can preserve those spots for players needing to be protected. Jake Junis may be a player the Royals want to protect, so they may go ahead and add him in September after a solid season. Pitchers Luke Farrell, Jonathan Dziedzic, Kevin McCarthy, Andrew Edwards would be some other names to consider protecting.
Also, if you add a player to the 40-man roster, then every subsequent year you send him to the minor leagues after that burns an option year. Players only get three option years, after that, they must clear waivers to be assigned to the minor leagues. The Royals may want to avoid putting a player on the 40-man roster too soon, to avoid burning his option years.
Are September call ups eligible for the post-season?
Yes. Anyone who was in the organization as of September 1 is eligible for the post-season, even if they are not called up to the big leagues. Last year, the Royals added Raul Mondesi to the World Series roster, even though he had never been called up to the big leagues before, making him the first player ever to make his Major League debut in the World Series.
When will players be called up?
Some may be called up today, but most will be up once their seasons are over in the minor leagues. Omaha did not make the playoffs, so their season ends on Monday, while Northwest Arkansas is fighting for a playoff spot for a post-season that begins next week.