On Sept. 1, major league baseball teams are allowed to expand their major league rosters from 25 players, adding any player on the 40-man roster to the major league roster. This allows clubs to activate players from the disabled list without having to take another player off the 25 man roster. It also gives clubs a chance to call up some of their top prospects to give them a taste of the major leagues and to add depth to the roster.
If recent history is any indication, the Tigers will call up just a couple of players from the minor leagues, they will activate a couple of players from the disabled list, and there will also be some players that fans would like to see called up that never get the call. Every year, it seems, there are expectations. Every season, fans are disappointed and surprised when more players are not called up. Jim Leyland has made it clear that he will not called up a player just for the ride. Any player that is on the roster is going to play. Leyland told Jason Beck of MLB.com that he is not a fan of expanded rosters.
The Tigers presently have 40 players on the 40 man roster, plus three players (Martinez, Alburquerque, and Schlereth) on the 60 day disabled list, who do not count against the 40 man roster, so the club would have to remove another player if any of them are activated.
Following is a list of the players that might be added to the Tiger roster in September:
The walking wounded:
Ryan Raburn: Raburn has done nothing this season to earn his place on the team, but the reality is that the Tigers are basically running out the clock with him and will very likely activate him from the disabled list. He remains a non tender candidate this winter, but he’ll likely be back in the lineup before you know it. Deal with it.
Al Alburquerque: One of the great stories of the 2011 season, Alburquerque provided a big lift to a mediocre bullpen, pitching 43 innings, going 6-1 with a 1.87 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and striking out a league best 13.92 hitters per nine innings. "Al Al" suffered a concussion during a pre game warmup when he was hit on the head by a batting practice pop up that put him out for most of the rest of the season. Last December, Alburquerque had surgery on the elbow on his pitching arm, and he is on a rehab assignment in Toledo. Whether he will be as effective as he was last season remains to be seen.
Dan Schlereth: When the Tigers finally wised up and optioned Schlereth to the minor leagues last April, he informed the team that he had been pitching injured, forcing them to put him on the disabled list instead. To Schlereth, there is a large difference in his salary. To Tiger fans, he has been blissfully out of sight and out of mind since April. However, Schlereth is now on a rehab assignment in Lakeland and his return to the roster appears possible, if not imminent. Moreover, the recent struggles of Phil Coke, leaves open the distinct possibility that Schlereth and his 10.79 ERA will be back in a Tiger uniform, even though he’s done nothing to indicate that he belongs.
Victor Martinez: The Tigers sure could use Victor’s bat in the fifth spot in the lineup, but the prospects of Martinez returning from reconstructive knee surgery on his ACL this season appear to be less than 50/ 50 at this point. Tigers Trainer Kevin Rand told The Sporting News on June 28:
"As far from a physical standpoint, from a stability standpoint, his knee looks great, but at this point in time his single leg strength on that side isn't where it needs to be to begin running," Tigers trainer Kevin Rand said. "If all goes well and he checks out to be that the strength in that leg is equal to the right side, then he would begin a (month long) running progression the beginning of August."
"Our best-case scenario for a return for him would be sometime around mid to late September," Rand said.
Very little news has emerged on the status of Martinez since those reports were provided. In this case, no news is bad news. There has been no word of a rehabilitation program, and no news of a triumphant return for Martinez. It’s nice to dream about another legitimate middle of the order bat behind Cabrera and Fielder in the Tiger lineup, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Danny Worth: When the Tigers traded a couple of players to be named later to the Cubs for Jeff Baker, Worth was optioned to Toledo for the fourth time this season. Jim Leyland is full of praise for Worth, explaining that he really belongs in the majors, but is a victim of the numbers game. Worth has a slash line of .242 .306 .318 .624 in over 200 at bats in his career, and plays three infield positions well. Worth can be recalled with no adverse consequences to the roster, and that seems like a harmless move at this point.
Drew Smyly: Probably the most pleasant surprise of the 2012 season was the emergence of Smyly as a legitimate major league starting pitcher. Smyly was optioined after the Tigers traded for Anibal Sanchez, and after starting 15 games in Detroit and posting a 4.42 ERA with a WHIP ratio of 1.27. Both of those numbers are better than either Scherzer or Porcello, and the Tigers may decide that Smyly can help them down the stretch, either by giving him a spot start (they have only one off day scheduled in September) or as another lefty in the bullpen.
Don Kelly: After an emotional departure when he was designated for assignment in July, Kelly cleared waivers and has been optioned to Toledo, where he awaits a phone call inviting him back to Detroit. The Tiger players and management love Kelly, and that’s probably enough to cause them to jettison another player from the roster to make room for him on the roster. Whatever.
Bryan Holoday: Jim Leyland has stated that he intends to call up a third catcher, and Holoday is the only catcher, other than Victor Martinez, on the 40 man roster that isn’t in the major leagues. Holoday made his major league debut in June when Alex Avila was on the DL with a hamstring injury, and he made the most of it, going 3 for 10. He won’t play a critical role, but may provide depth that will allow Leyland to use another catcher earlier in a game situation.
Luis Marte: A surprise addition to the Tiger bullpen at the start of the season, Marte fell victim to a hamstring injury in his last appearance in spring training, and missed the first two months of the season. He pitched reasonably well during his limited time in Detroit, posting a 3.63 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 17.1 innings but was the odd man out when the Tigers needed another left handed reliever and recalled Darin Downs, and again when Jacob Turner was called up in July. If they’re going to add depth in the bullpen, Marte is already on the roster and may be recalled.
Good looking prospects:
Nick Castellanos: If he wasn’t the top prospect in the organization before the Tigers traded Jacob Turner to Miami, Castellanos certainly is the cream of the crop now. After hitting over .400 with an OPS of 1.018 in Lakeland, the Tigers promoted Castellanos to double-A Erie in June, where he has hit .304 with six home runs but only six walks, and a .758 OPS in a hitter friendly league. He was the MVP of the futures game during All Star festivities this year. At age 20, scouts are impressed with his ability to handle the bat, and the Tigers have sent Al Kaline to work with him in the outfield after moving him from third base, where he would be blocked in Detroit by the presence of Miguel Cabrera. Defensively, he has struggled at any position he has played.
Many fans and writers are calling for his promotion, but it’s no sure thing. Jim Leyland has already bemoaned the fact that he only has four outfield/ DH spots and has six players to fill them. Add Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn to the mix, and there may not be many AB’s for Castellanos, who would be strictly a DH/ pinch hitter at this point.
Bruce Rondon: After being promoted from Erie to Toledo last month, Rondon’s major league debut appears imminent. He features a power arm and a fastball that hits triple digits and enough control to eventually overcome any obstacles in his way. Mark Anderson of Tigstown.com and Baseball Prospect Nation has a comprehensive scouting report on Rondon here.
Castellanos and Rondon would have to be added to the 40 man roster if they are to be called up in September, but that would not be an issue should the Tigers decide that they’re wanted in the majors. I would not be surprised if either or both of them were to be called up, but don’t bet on that happening, given the recent track record in the organization. Either or both players could also be one of the half dozen players selected to play in the Arizona Fall League.
Long shots: Following are some players that have been with Detroit previously, but probably won’t be recalled in September.
Luke Putkonen: On the 40 man roster, was ineffective in 7.1 IP, 8.59 ERA, 2.59 WHIP. Has not done well in Toledo either. A candidate to be removed from the roster should the Tigers need the space.
Jose Ortega: On the 40 man roster, 2.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.50 WHIP. Also struggled in Toledo this season, with an ERAof 6.43 and a WHIP of 2.12. DFA waiting to happen.
Adam Wilk; The control pitcher had three forgettable starts in Detroit which lasted a total of 11 innings, posting a 8.18 ERA and a WHIP of 2.18. In Toledo, Wilk has a respectable 3.00 ERA and a stellar WHIP of just 1.01. He rarely walks a hitter, but major leaguers treat his stuff like they’re taking batting practice. On the bright side, he’d be better than Schlereth, which isn’t saying much.
Casey Crosby: Made three starts in Detroit while Doug Fister was injured, but they didn’t go well for Crosby. In a total of 12.1 innings, he gave up 13 runs, so it was back to the minors where he has a 3.91 ERA in 18 starts for Toledo. He appears to be too far down the list for a call up this season, but he remains a viable option heading into the 2013 season.
Andrew Oliver: The club finally moved Oliver to the bullpen in July, exasperated with his severe control problems in the rotation. The former supplemental first round draft choice has seen his WHIP ratio escalate each season, but hasn’t allowed a run in his last three relief appearances. Maybe he has a future as a relief pitcher, but he will still need to demonstrate some control before he deserves another shot in the majors.
Collin Balester: After trading Ryan Perry to Washington for Balester, the Tigers put him in the bullpen to start the season, but he was ineffective and cleared waivers before being outrighted off the 40 man roster. He has been effective in Toledo, but it’s not likely that the Tigers will remove another player from the roster to make room for him this season.
Thad Weber: 4 innings in relief didn’t go well for Weber as opponents hit .455 off him in Detroit. He looks like a decent AAAA pitcher.
Hernan Perez: The 21 year old infielder is a good prospect, but not a major leaguer just yet.