It’s been just more than a week since the first wave of September call-ups arrived in the major leagues, and more will continue to arrive in the coming weeks.
So far, Billy Hamilton has stolen the show with his base-stealing prowess. The 22-year-old speedster has appeared in four games for the Reds since his call-up, each time as a pinch runner in the late innings. And despite the fact that everyone in the park knows he’s going to steal, Hamilton has gone a perfect 4-for-4 on the basepaths with three runs scored. On Saturday, he scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning as the Reds defeated the Dodgers, 4-3.
This weekend also saw two highly regarded prospects collect the first big league hit of their careers. Tigers’ outfielder Nick Castellanos picked up the first hit of his career (in his first start, too) Saturday against the Royals. Meanwhile, Diamondbacks shortstop Chris Owings, who put up video-game numbers in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League this season, turned in a pair of two-hit games after going hitless in his first five at-bats.
Here’s a detailed look at the top performances by call-ups through the first week of September.
1. Billy Hamilton, OF, Cincinnati Reds
The fastest man in baseball, Hamilton set a professional record last year with 155 stolen bases and then added 75 more this season at Triple-A Louisville. And at long last, the Reds called up the 22-year-old on Sept. 2.
Expected to serve as a pinch runner during the final month of the season, Hamilton has done exactly that so far and has done it well. On Tuesday night, he entered in the seventh inning of a scoreless game against the Cardinals and promptly swiped the first base of his big league career—against Yadier Molina nonetheless. He later came around to score the go-ahead run on Todd Frazier’s double.
Hamilton was back at it the following night, as he replaced Ryan Ludwick at first base in the bottom of the 14th with the Reds trailing the Cardinals, 2-1. Once again, he proceeded to steal second base (against Molina) before scoring the game-tying run on a single by Zack Cozart.
Over the weekend, he made two more appearances as a pinch runner. On Friday, he entered the game and stole another base, but never came around to score. On Saturday, however, Hamilton once again replaced Ryan Ludwick at first base (walk) in the 10th inning of a 3-3 tie against the Dodgers. As expected, Hamilton proceeded to steal second base uncontested before coming around to score the game-winning run on a single by Frazier.
Hamilton has entered a game as a pinch runner four times since getting the call last week and already has four stolen bases and three runs scored.
2. Josmil Pinto, C, Minnesota Twins
As I did in my article at the end of last week, I’m completely cheating by including Pinto. He was going to be called up by the Twins on Sept. 1, but Joe Mauer’s ongoing concussion-related symptoms ultimately forced the club to promote him a day early (on Aug. 31). Regardless, the 24-year-old has been hot since getting the call.
In his major league debut last weekend, Pinto went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI against the Rangers, and then followed with a 4-for-5 performance against the Astros on Wednesday. For good measure, he added a pinch-hit single the next day. On Friday, he launched the first home run of his big league career.
Overall, Pinto is batting .526 (10-for-19) with three extra-base hits and three RBI through his first six games with the Twins.
3. Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
Few prospects have enjoyed a better season than Owings. Spending his age-21 season at Triple-A Reno, the recently-turned 22-year-old shortstop batted .330/.359/.482 with 180 hits, 51 extra-base hits (12 home runs), 81 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 125 games. He was recently named both the Rookie of the Year and MVP of the Pacific Coast League. The Diamondbacks rewarded Owings for his outstanding season in their own way—a promotion to the major leagues.
Owings entered the game as a pinch hitter on both Sept. 3 and 4, and grounded out in each at-bat. He made the first start of his big league career Friday, but went 0-for-3 with a strikeout as the Diamondbacks were nearly no-hit by Yusmeiro Petit.
The following day, Owings picked up the first two knocks and stolen base of his career as part of a 2-for-3 effort against the Giants. On Sunday, Owings went 2-for-5 and scored a run.
4. Nick Castellanos, OF, Detroit Tigers
Castellanos was included as one of the Tigers’ September call-ups after an impressive season at Triple-A Toledo. One of the younger everyday players at the level, the 21-year-old batted .276/.343/.450 with 37 doubles and 18 home runs in 134 games.
The Tigers didn’t wait to get their top prospect into a game, as Castellanos made his debut as a pinch hitter last Sunday against the Indians and took over in left field for the final few innings.
Castellanos made his first start Saturday against the Royals, and picked up the first hit and run scored of his career as part of a 1-for-2 effort. He’s expected to start Monday against the White Sox. And considering that he batted .302/.404/.427 against left-handed pitching this season, Castellanos should continue to get at-bats against southpaws over the final month.
5. Marcus Semien, SS-3B, Chicago White Sox
The top position prospect called up by the White Sox last Sunday, Semien lacked a game of experience above the High-A level entering the 2013 season. However, after batting .284/.401/.479 with 110 runs scored, 19 home runs, 24 stolen bases and a 90/98 K/BB ratio in 137 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, the organization decided to reward the 22-year-old with a promotion to The Show.
Semien got the start at third base in his big league debut Wednesday night against the Yankees. He opened his career with a single against C.C. Sabathia in his first at-bat, struck out in his next two and then notched the first RBI of his career on an eighth-inning single. In his home debut Saturday, Semien once against started at third base for the South Siders, but didn’t fare as well at the dish, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
6. Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Assigned back to Double-A Huntsville for the 2013 season, the 24-year-old made across-the-board improvements during the first half with a 2.74 ERA and 72/15 K/BB ratio over his first 12 starts (69 innings). But following a promotion to Triple-A in early June, Nelson's command has been inconsistent with a 91/50 K/BB ratio in 83.1 innings.
At 6’6” and 245 pounds, the right-hander has a physical presence on the mound and pounds the lower half of the strike zone with a heavy fastball in the low to mid-90s. However, the major part of his success this season in the high minors stems from his improved feel of and ability to execute his secondary offerings.
Nelson made his highly anticipated major league debut Friday on the road against the Cubs, tossing two perfect innings out of the bullpen. Nelson needed only 19 pitches (12 strikes) to complete the two frames.
7. Erik Johnson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Johnson got the call after an impressive season between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in which he posted a 1.96 ERA and 131/40 K/BB ratio in 142 innings (24 starts). With the White Sox well out of any playoff race, they switched to a six-man rotation for the final month of the season to both limit innings and get a look at a few younger players. On Wednesday, Johnson got the call to make his major league debut at Yankee Stadium.
Besides a lengthy first inning and a four-run fourth inning that was fueled by his own throwing error, Johnson was otherwise solid in the outing. Overall, the 23-year-old allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits over six innings. The right-hander also walked three and fanned one batter, throwing 60 of 105 pitches for strikes.
He’ll make his next start Tuesday in Chicago against the division-leading Detroit Tigers.
8. Michael Choice, OF, Oakland Athletics
Choice hasn’t showcased the robust power that he did during his full-season debut in 2011, but his evolution into a more complete hitter over the last two years earned him a call-up with the A’s on Sept. 1. At the time of his promotion, the 23-year-old was batting .302/.390/.445 with 29 doubles, 14 home runs, 89 RBI and 115/69 K/BB in 132 games for Triple-A Tacoma.
Choice made his major league debut last Monday against the Rangers, going 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored as the A’s designated hitter. He received his first career start in right field the following day and picked up his first big league hit as a part of a 1-for-3 effort. He also made a nice sliding catch. On Saturday, Choice went 0-for-2 in his second career start.
9. Daniel Webb, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Webb was among the White Sox’s September call-ups and, like fellow prospects Erik Johnson and Marcus Semien, made his major league debut Wednesday night against the Yankees. The promotion was Webb’s third of the season; he opened the year at High-A before making stops at Double-A and Triple-A en route to the major leagues. Across those three levels, the hard-throwing right-hander posted a 1.87 ERA with 10 saves and 78 strikeouts in 62.2 innings.
Webb entered Wednesday’s game in the seventh and walked the first batter of his career, Derek Jeter. He then allowed a single to Robinson Cano and a sacrifice fly to Alfonso Soriano before finishing the inning. Webb made the second appearance of his career Friday against the Orioles, allowing one hit in a scoreless inning.
10. Brian Flynn, LHP, Miami Marlins
Flynn, a 6’7”, 240-pound left-hander, was excellent through four starts at Double-A Jacksonville to open the season. As a result, the 23-year-old received an ahead-of-schedule promotion to Triple-A New Orleans, where he remained until getting the call to join the Marlins on Sept. 1.
Flynn made his major league debut last Wednesday when he started against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The southpaw ultimately took a no-decision, allowing three earned runs on six hits (including two home runs) over four innings. He walked three batters and struck out a pair and needed 81 pitches (44 strikes) to get through his outing.