As of September 1st, major league clubs are permitted to expand their 25 man major league rosters up to 40 players. Any player on the 40 man roster may be recalled and used for the remainder of the regular season.
The roster expansion is used by clubs to add depth to the major league team, and sometimes to get a look at a promising young prospect who is near major league ready. In recent years, the Tigers have only added a few players to the roster, and Jim Leyland has plainly stated that any player who is called up is there to play, rather than to take in the experience.
Just to clarify one point- In order to be eligible for the post season roster, a player must be on either a) the 25 man active roster, b) the disabled list, c) the bereavement list, d) the suspended list as of August 31st at midnight. However. clubs may substitute any player who is in the organization as of September 1, for any player who is on the disabled list as of the time that the roster is made. So, the club is picking the pool of players who will be post season eligible, plus they'll have some wild cards to add players.
Here is a look at some of this year’s call up candidates:
Bryan Holaday, Catcher: Holaday was called up on Sunday to replace Alex Avila, who was placed on the 7 day disabled list due to delayed concussion symptoms. Holaday is the surest name on the list of players to be recalled, since the team always calls up a third catcher, which allows them to use their second catcher in a pinch hitting situation.
Holaday will be optioned back to Toledo before being recalled, unless Avila’s stay on the DL is longer than the Tigers plan on. He could be recalled as soon as September 1st, or they may wait until the minor league season ends on Labor Day, September 2nd. He has hit .262 .313 .378 .692 in 305 plate appearances with Toledo.
Nick Castellanos, OF/ 3B: Castellanos is the consensus top prospect in the Tiger organization and easily the most interesting name on the list. He is also the only one on this list without major league experience. He was a shortstop in high school, began his career with the Tigers as a third baseman, and was converted to a left fielder in mid 2012 because third base will be occupied by the best hitter in the world for the next several years.
Castellanos projects to be a solid major league hitter, but is still a work in progress as a fielder by all reports. He has hit .278 .351 .438 .789 in 521 appearances for Toledo this season, playing 115 games in left field and DH just twice. He has made three errors and has seven assists.
Left field could be a position that the Tigers decide they need some help. Andy Dirks has been platooned with Matt Tuiasosopo for most of the season. Dirks has struggled, hitting just .245.310 .347 .657 but playing solid defense. Tuiasosopo has hit much better than expected, with a line of .276 .400 .517 .917 in 116 at bats, but isn’t very good in the outfield. Tiger left fielders have hit a combined .263 .334 .405 .739, which is at or above the league average across the board.
Of some concern is the fact that Dirks has not gotten on track and Tuiasosopo has struggled recently, posting a line of just .143 .273 .250 .523 since the All Star break, in just 28 at bats. The Tigers could replace him with Castellanos as the right handed end of the platoon, in which case he’d hit against left handers, about one third of the time. Or, they could carry an extra bat on the bench, and just let him take in the show. Or, they could give him the left field job most games, and see how he handles it. Nick's name is penciled in for left field in the near future. It's just a matter of when.
Danny Worth, 2B, SS, 3B- The forgotten man on the Tiger roster this season, Worth has not spent a single game in the major leagues this season. He has hit just .229 .302 .329 .631 in 239 plate appearances for the Mud Hens after starting the season on the DL with a bruised heel. It seems that Worth has been passed over by both Jose Iglesias and Hernan Perez on the depth chart. He may get a call up for his versatility, but if Infante is healthy and Perez is in Detroit, they may feel there is no room for Worth.
Hernan Perez- 2B: The good fielding, light hitting infielder has played shortstop as well as second base, where we have seen him in Detroit while Omar Infante was on the disabled list. Perez has hit a measly .214 .237 .250 .487 for the Tigers in 21 games, and I don’t think they see him as the anything of the future. Still, he’s likely to get a call up for infield depth.
Jose Alvarez- LHP Made a couple of starts for Detroit when needed in the rotation, and may make another cameo apperance on Friday when the Tigers play a double header against Kansas City. Alvarez pitched okay for the Tigers in four starts with an ERA of 5.02, and has done well for Toledo, posting a record of 8- 5 with an ERA of 2.60 and a WHIP of 1.05 in 121 innings of work. He has struck out 7.9 and walked just 1.7 batters per nine innings.
Alvarez could be recalled for a start Friday, in the second game of the double header vs Kansas City. He has been the most effective lefty and the most effective starter in Toledo.
Darin Downs, LHRP- Downs is another lefty reliever who could be recalled. He started the season well, with an ERA under 3.00 through May, but lost his effectiveness in June and July and was optioned when he came off the disabled list in August. He posted an ERA of 5.18 in 33 innings, with a WHIP of 1.30. He seems to have regained his form in Toledo, so he is on the short list of relievers to be recalled in September.
Evan Reed, RHRP- Reed should not have been sent to the minors when the Tigers called up Jeremy Bonderman. He has been much more effective this season than Al Alburquerque, for one. In 12 appearances, Reed has an ERA of 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.33, while allowing just 4 walks in 18 innings of work. He should be recalled sooner, rather than later.
Luke Putkonen, RHRP- Lu Pu has pitched 20 innings in 21 appearances for the Tigers this season, posting an ERA of 3.05 and a WHIP of 1.31. He was more effective earlier in the season, but was used sparingly, facing both lefties and right handed hitters with some strange splits due to three homers allowed to right handed hitters. With Reed and Dotel expected to be recalled, he’d be strictly a depth move at this point.
Octavio Dotel, RHRP- Dotel has missed almost the entire season with elbow issues, and is currently listed on the 60 day DL, but has begun to throw for the Tigers’ affiliate in the Gulf Coast League. That is several steps removed from the major leagues, so he’s obviously in no hurry.
Dotel was the Tigers’ most effective and most underrated relief pitcher in 2012, when he threw 58 innings with an FIP of 2.30 and an ERA of 3.57. He ranked 7th in the league in WAR for relief pitchers. He struggled in April, giving up seven runs in four innings, before going on the disabled list. He will be 40 in November and is set to become a free agent after this season.
In 2012, the Tigers called up five players who were on the 40 man roster- Holaday, Alburquerque, Worth, Putkonen, and Luis Marte. They purchased the contract of Don Kelly, who had been designated for assignment and outrighted to the minors, and they activated Ryan Raburn from the DL. That’s a grand total of seven players added to the roster.
In 2011, Detroit called up six players and activated two. In 2010, they called up just three players. In 2009, they called up nine players and activated one from the DL. The Tigers have been in a pennant race each of those seasons with the exception of 2010. If past action is any indication, we can expect several players to be recalled for the final month of the season, with some of them trying to make the playoff roster.