Some will be familiar faces. Others will be making their major league debut when the Detroit Tigers call up players from the minor leagues to help the major league team in September.
September 1st is the official date when major league clubs are allowed to expand their rosters from 25 up to 40 players. Minor league seasons typically finish on Labor Day, which happens to fall on September 1st this year also, and that means that some players might be called up a day later. The Toledo Mud Hens have been eliminated from playoff contention, so there will be nothing holding the parent Detroit club from calling their players up, if they so choose.
There are always some pleasant surprises when the call ups are announced, and always a few disappointments. Jim Leyland always said that he didn't want to call a player up just to sit around and take in the sights. He wanted players who would make a contribution to the major league team during a critical pennant drive.
The Tigers currently have a full roster of 40 players, so if there are any players that they would like to call up to Detroit, they would have to make room for them on the 40 man roster. There are two players on the 15 day disabled list- Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria, who could be activated in September without having to send down another player.
There are five Tigers on the 60 day disabled list who do not count against the 40 man roster, and each of those players have been replaced. The only one who might be activated this season is Andy Dirks, and that is looking less likely with each setback following back surgery and recurring hamstring issues.
Unless the Tigers add a player to the 60 day disabled list, every player added to the 40 man roster means that another player would have to be designated for assignment, put through waivers, and either traded, released or outrighted.
So, here is a list of players who might soon be in Detroit:
James McCann, catcher. There will be a catcher called up and McCann has earned his shot. He is batting .295 .343 .422 with an OPS of .765. He also has six home runs, 53 RBI, nine stolen bases, and 33 doubles. By all reports, McCann's defense is solid, although he has to familiarize himself with the Tigers' pitching staff. He is not on the 40 man roster yet, but he will surely be added. He should be given all of Bryan Holaday's at bats, and some of Alex Avila's playing time.
Hernan Perez is having a fine season, batting .288/.331/.408 with a .739 OPS at Toledo, playing mostly shortstop this season. He has six home runs, 53 RBI, nine steals, and 31 doubles. Perez spent some time in Detroit in 2013, hitting just .197/.217/.227 with four stolen bases in 71 plate appearances. Perez is on the 40 man roster, and is the most likely infielder to be recalled.
Tyler Collins began the year taking the place of Andy Dirks in left field for the Tigers, but was sent down after batting just .143 in 15 plate appearances, looking overmatched at the plate. He has hit .264/.338/.430 with an OPS of .768 in the minors. Collins has 18 home runs, 59 RBI, and 12 stolen bases. His left handed bat may be useful on the bench, considering that the Tigers don't have a major league caliber hitter on the bench. However, see Steven Moya, below.
Steven Moya, a 23 year old left-handed hitting corner outfielder, has the booming bat that everyone wants to see. He leads the Eastern League in home runs (34), RBI (102), extra-base hits (69) and slugging percentage (.558). His 277 total bases and 69 extra-base hits are single-season franchise records for Double-A Erie, and he is one shy of the franchise record for RBI. Overall, Moya is batting .276/.302/.558 with 32 doubles and 15 stolen bases through 127 games, although he has 152 strikeouts compared to 20 walks. He is a legit power bat who can field his position very well, and is already on the Tigers’ 40-man roster. He will be headed to the Arizona Fall League in October.
Daniel Fields would be your center fielder if the Tigers are going to make an attempt to bolster that position of need internally. After hitting very well at Double-A Erie a year ago, Fields has slowed considerably at Triple-A Toledo, batting just .215/.269/.312 in 270 plate appearances after missing several weeks with a broken hand.
Robbie Ray could be recalled as the 26th man for Saturday's double header in Chicago, but he has to wait ten days from being sent down otherwise before being recalled. Kyle Lobstein currently holds the extra spot in Detroit's rotation, and the Mud Hens have announced their starting pitchers for the rest of the season. Ray would be scheduled to pitch on September 1st, but that is subject to change. He could be a starter, or an innings eater and a fourth left-hander in the bullpen once Sanchez returns to the Tigers' rotation, although that is now in jeopardy.
Buck Farmer could be called up for a spot start before Anibal Sanchez returns, but the Tigers might also decide to call it a season. Quite a season it has been, starting in Single A ball.
Melvin Mercedes made his major league debut in August and retired the six batters he faced, striking out two. The 23 year old right hander looks like one that has a chance to stick with the Tigers going forward.
Ian Krol has had a disappointing season in Detroit, being optioned twice to Toledo. Krol has a -0.5 fWAR and an ERA of 4.96 in 32 2/3 innings this season. He has been killed by the home run ball, but five of the six dingers against him have been hit by right-handers. Against left-handers, his numbers are not great either, but he should cause less damage working in a ten or twelve man bullpen.
Justin Miller could be among the relief pitchers to be called up to Detroit. In eight appearances with the Tigers this season, Miller allowed nine runs on 14 hits for an ERA of 5.11. The main culprit was a pair of home runs. He probably makes it on the "better than what we've got" theory.
Chad Smith is another who made his debut this season. The 24 year old right-hander from USC made ten appearances for the Tigers with a 5.40 ERA and a 3.48 FIP. It's a question of how many arms the Tigers want in their bullpen.
Not likely to make it:
Mike Belfiore made the 40 man roster in the spring, but was designated and removed earlier in the season. The former Orioles' left hander made a dozen starts, pitching fairly well in Toledo, but has just been moved back to the bullpen. He would be a long shot to make the team behind fellow left-handers Krol, Lobstein, and Ray. The Tigers might want to put him on the roster to keep him for next season, even if he is not recalled this year.
Jose Ortega could be the answer to the trivia question "What player will the Tigers remove from the 40 man roster to make room for others?" In his lone appearance with Detroit this season Ortega allowed four walks and four earned runs, no hits, in 1 2/3 innings. In Toledo, he posted a 3.76 ERA in 55 innings, walking 5.89 batters per nine innings. The walks have plagued him over his career.
Mike Hessman is still doing what big Mike always does. After breaking the career record for home runs in the minor leagues, Hessman has added 28 more to his total this season. He can still play third base and would be a better man to send up to the plate than some current Tigers, but he won't be called up.
Jordan Lennerton was removed from the 40 man roster earlier in the season and isn't about to be added back now. Danny Worth lost the numbers game earlier this season when the Tigers acquired the likes of Alex Gonzalez and Andrew Romine when there was a need for a shortstop. He is not on the roster and not likely to be added.
Kevin Whelan finally got to pitch for the Tigers this season, but he left two splitters up over the plate, and those are the only two home runs he has allowed all season. He was designated to make room for Jim Johnson, unfortunately for him and for the Tigers.
Duane Below remains in the organization in the Toledo rotation. He would probably be a better bet than Kyle Lobstein for a role in Detroit, but the numbers game isn't playing in his favor. Dan Schlereth is still in the organization and still getting lit up like a Christmas tree.
Jose Valdez is a very young right handed relief pitcher in Erie. Ramon Cabrera and Francisco Martinez were removed from the roster earlier in the season. Devon Travis gained notoriety by cracking Baseball America's prospect list, but is farther down the Tigers' depth chart, and Dixon Machado has been flashing the leather in Erie, but won't be doing it in Detroit this year.
So, you do the math. When the Tigers activate Sanchez and Soria, that gives them 27 players. McCann and Perez make 29. Miller, Krol, Mercedes, and Ray makes it 33. Probably at least one outfielder makes 34. How high is up?