2013 Grades, 2014 Outlook for Each MLB Team's Top September Call-Ups

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2013

2013 Grades, 2014 Outlook for Each MLB Team's Top September Call-Ups

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    Whether you are watching a team fighting for a playoff spot or enduring the misery of another losing season, the beauty of September baseball is the wave of prospects that we get to see play in games. 

    I may have issues with the way that September roster expansion works, and how there is really no semblance of logic to it, but at least it gave us an opportunity, however brief, to see Nick Castellanos take the field for Detroit or Yordano Ventura pitch for Kansas City. 

    Even more important than that, however, is the experience it gives these players heading into the 2014 season. Some of them may not make the 25-man roster right out of spring training, but they are certainly on the radar and will have a leg up heading into camp. 

    Young players do take time to find their groove in Major League Baseball, so as we look back at what we have seen and what we expect next season, keep in mind that these are conservative estimates based on the steep learning curve it requires to be successful in this game. 

    With that said, here is a look at the top prospects called up by each team this September and their immediate future. 

    Note: All stats courtesy of MiLB.com and Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted. Stats through Wednesday, September 25. 

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Top Call-Up: Chris Owings, SS

    Age: 22

     

    The Performance

    In just 17 games, Owings has put up a respectable .295/.380/.386 line with four doubles and two stolen bases. He put together a great season at Triple-A Reno, hitting .330/.359/.482 with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases. 

    It deserves to be pointed out that the Pacific Coast League, especially Reno, favor hitters and it is easier to put up big offensive numbers. That's not to say Owings is without talent, as he is a plus defender at shortstop with some pop and bat speed. If his approach and patience improved, he would project as an above-average player. 

    Of course, even with his limited on-base potential, Owings would still represent an upgrade over Didi Gregorius, who is a plus defender but won't hit. 

    Grade: B+

     

    2014 Outlook

    The Diamondbacks are in a good spot having two above-average defensive players at shortstop ready to play in the big leagues. I would like to see Owings get a fair chance to compete for the starting job, or possibly be used as a trade chip, because he is good enough to start for most teams around baseball. 

Atlanta Braves

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    Top Call-Up: Jose Constanza, OF

    Age: 30

     

    The Performance

    Jose Constanza isn't going to be on anyone's list of best minor leaguers called up, but the Braves didn't exactly flood the roster with great talent in September because they have had their division locked up since July. 

    The one tool Constanza has is speed, but when you have a .207/.207/.207 line, it is hard to show those wheels off. The 30-year-old career minor leaguer might be best served in a defensive-replacement role. 

    Grade: C

     

    2014 Outlook

    Constanza is the kind of player who is going to keep finding jobs because he's a valuable asset to have at Triple-A. He can play center field and is available if/when something happens to a starter at the big league level. 

Baltimore Orioles

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    Top Call-Up: Kevin Gausman, RHP

    Age: 22

     

    The Performance

    After being used as a starter early in the season, Kevin Gausman was brought up late in the year to fill a void in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen. After two rough outings against Cleveland and New York, the 22-year-old has really put things together, with 6.1 innings of one-run baseball and 13 strikeouts. 

    Gausman, the No. 4 pick in the 2012 draft, was called up a little early. His fastball command still needed work, but he never really embarrassed himself, because a 47-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 46.1 innings is very impressive for a player just over one year removed from the draft. 

    He was only brought up the first time around because the Orioles were desperate for starting pitching. It was their Achilles' heel last season and, until all the trades in July, a weakness in 2013. 

    Grade: B+

     

    2014 Outlook

    Gausman was put in the bullpen out of necessity, but rest assured, his future is still very bright as a starter. He's clearly got the stuff for it, with just a few minor tweaks that need to be made before he becomes a fixture in Baltimore's rotation. 

    The Orioles will likely start Gausman back in Triple-A to let him work those things out. But it won't be long into the year before he's back. 

Boston Red Sox

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    Top Call-Up: Ryan Lavarnway, Catcher

    Age: 26

     

    The Performance

    The Boston Red Sox made their big call-up in the middle of August with Xander Bogaerts, which puts him just out of range for the purposes of our discussion. 

    Ryan Lavarnway is in an interesting spot with this team. He's starting to look like a journeyman catcher, because his offensive performance between Triple-A and the big leagues is incredibly stark, which happens to a lot of players. 

    His defense is merely adequate, at best, behind the plate. That puts more pressure on the hit and power tools to play. In 23 games this year, he's hit .311/.342/.446 even though he's clearly the No. 3 catcher on the depth chart behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross. 

    Grade: C+

     

    2014 Outlook

    One thing that does work in Lavarnway's favor is that Saltalamacchia will be a free agent at the end of the year. Considering how well Saltalamacchia has played this season, and that he's just 28, he could end up commanding more money than the Red Sox are comfortable handing out. 

    However, I don't see Boston starting 2014 with a catching duo of just Lavarnway and Ross. He might get a shot to be a backup, but the team will find someone to be the No. 1 guy. 

Chicago Cubs

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    Top Call-Up: Brooks Raley, LHP

    Age: 25

     

    The Performance

    The Chicago Cubs didn't go insane with promotions this September, which wasn't a surprise because virtually all of their top prospects won't be ready until at least mid-2014. 

    One interesting name they did bring up from Triple-A Iowa is Brooks Raley. He's a finesse lefty with a funky delivery that creates deception and helps miss bats, though his lack of control and command gets him into trouble. 

    We have seen that already, with Raley giving up eights hits, five walks and six runs in 11 innings. There is some sink to the fastball, so I could see him turning into a lefty specialist with a high ground-ball rate. 

    A player of Raley's talents certainly has value to an MLB team, especially one like the Cubs, who are at a point where they can look for bodies to fill out a 25-man roster. 

    Grade: D+

     

    2014 Outlook

    While not the biggest sample size, I can see Raley's performance this September putting him on the outside looking in for a 'pen job at the start of 2014. The Cubs still aren't ready to compete, so he will get another chance down the line. Relievers are always volatile, which can only help his chances. 

Chicago White Sox

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    Top Call-Up: Erik Johnson, RHP

    Age: 23

     

    The Performance

    In a farm system bereft of high-end talent, especially in the upper levels of the minors, the Chicago White Sox don't exactly have a lot of options to choose from. 

    Erik Johnson has some upside as a back-end starter and is learning the intricacies of the MLB style. His 2.82 ERA looks solid, but 27 hits, eight walks and three home runs in 22.1 innings leaves a lot to be desired. 

    He's not a pitcher who will overpower you, as the fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range. But there is size and some wiggle on the heater to induce weak contact when the ball is being spotted. That doesn't happen often enough yet, but that's why September is a good month for a player like Johnson on a bad team like the White Sox. 

    Grade: B-

     

    2014 Outlook

    Who knows where the White Sox are headed next year? They did appear to be selling at the deadline by moving Jake Peavy, but there will be questions about what to do with Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn if they decide to return. 

    The rotation figures to have plenty of openings after Chris Sale and Hector Santiago. Johnson could realistically be the No. 3 starter on the team coming out of spring training. The White Sox figure to be bad again, so they can give him time to develop in the big leagues without putting pressure on him right away. 

Cincinnati Reds

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    Top Call-Up: Billy Hamilton, OF

    Age: 23

     

    The Performance

    I am not old enough to have seen Rickey Henderson in his prime, but I would have to imagine that even he would be impressed with the speed of Billy Hamilton. 

    Hamilton's speed and stolen-base prowess has been the talk of the minors for two years, and a late-season call up finally gave him a chance to show it off in the middle of a pennant race. He's played in 11 games and has 13 stolen bases, which puts him in a tie for 58th this season. 

    He's also scored nine runs despite starting just two games. This is a rare and unique talent that can change games in ways we haven't seen. The only downside is the Reds waited a little too long for him to accrue enough stolen bases to lead the league. 

    Or did they?

    Grade: A-

     

    2014 Outlook

    Given what Hamilton has shown this month, as well as Shin-Soo Choo's impending free agency, you have to assume he will be given every chance to win the starting center field job for 2014. 

    Like many others, I have real questions about Hamilton's ability to hit, because there isn't a lot of bat speed and he's so thin to the point there is virtually no power or wrist strength to drive the ball against advanced velocity. 

    If Hamilton can find a way to put the ball on the ground, his speed is such that he could hit an empty .260-.280 with a ton of stolen bases. 

Cleveland Indians

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    Top Call-Up: Carlos Carrasco, RHP

    Age: 26

     

    The Performance

    It goes to show just how little talent the Cleveland Indians wanted to bring up this September when their best player is failed starter Carlos Carrasco, who was sent down one week prior to the roster expansions. 

    Never one to succeed under pressure in a starter's role, Carrasco might find some success as a sixth-inning reliever or swingman in the right situation. He's only pitched four games this month, covering 3.1 innings. 

    The overall results aren't impressive, with four hits, two strikeouts and two walks, but the velocity has ticked up a little bit now that Carrasco doesn't have to pace himself. 

    Grade: C-

     

    2014 Outlook

    The Indians will go into the offseason with questions about the bullpen, so Carrasco could get another chance to make the 25-man roster as a reliever with a good spring. 

    However, since he will be arbitration eligible, the Indians could conceivably non-tender him to open another roster spot. His arm is still good enough that someone will give him a chance, but whoever gives it will be better served using him as a reliever. 

Colorado Rockies

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    Top Call-Up: Josh Rutledge, 2B

    Age: 24

     

    The Performance

    There were only a handful of players called up by the Colorado Rockies, which made for slim pickings when talking about top September call-ups, hence why Josh Rutledge, who has played 158 career MLB games, is the pick. 

    Rutledge has a limited skill set and has been showing that in his time with Colorado. He hit for average last year without any on-base skill and some pop. This year, he isn't even doing that, with a .234/.292/.339 line. 

    He's 24 and really just is what he is: a player who can serve a purpose in a small sample size but not one you want starting every day. 

    Grade: C+

     

    2014 Outlook

    The best thing working in Rutledge's favor is the Rockies' second base situation. He's still third on the depth chart behind DJ LeMahieu and Jonathan Herrera. Since the market for second basemen this winter isn't good after Robinson Cano, who isn't going to Colorado, this job could be wide open. 

    I don't expect Rutledge to be starting for the 2014 Rockies, but he could be in the mix if/when LeMahieu falters. 

Detroit Tigers

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    Top Call-Up: Nick Castellanos, OF

    Age: 21

     

    The Performance

    Despite the Detroit Tigers' love of young players, Nick Castellanos had the unfortunate honor of being called up at a time when the Tigers really had no plan for him. And then it took longer than expected to clinch a playoff berth, making it harder to justify starting Castellanos. 

    In just nine games, Casellanos has hit .294/.294/.294 with no extra-base hits. The best thing we can say about his performance so far is that he's only struck out once in 17 plate appearances. 

    Other than that, there really isn't a lot to say about Castellanos' on-field showing, because there isn't anything there. 

    Grade: C

     

    2014 Outlook

    Nick Castellanos is going to be the starting left fielder for the Tigers at some point in 2014. He could even get the job out of spring training because of his natural ability with the bat, though the defensive profile lacks because the team moved him off his natural position of third base to accommodate the glove wizardy from Miguel Cabrera. 

    I don't think the power will play right away as he learns and adjusts to the game, but it would not be a stretch to imagine a .270/.330/.430 line from Castellanos. 

Houston Astros

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    Top Call-Up: Trevor Crowe, OF

    Age: 29

     

    The Performance

    Worse than the ridiculous talk about the Houston Astros tanking the season is the fact that we still have to watch the likes of Trevor Crowe in their outfield instead of George Springer. I understand why Springer isn't up, but it doesn't change the fact that Crowe is, simply put, a body.

    Crowe basically fit the mold of what Houston wanted to put on the field this year: a former top prospect or first-round pick from a different organization. He still has some speed, but he can't do much of anything else. 

    Grade: D+

     

    2014 Outlook

    There might be a two-month stretch where Crowe gets to start for the Astros, if the team decides to hold off starting Springer's clock until June or July. 

    In fact, while things will still be bad for Houston, at least next year we will start to see a lot of future pieces like Springer, Jonathan Singleton, Mike Foltynewicz and Jarred Cosart debut or play full seasons in the big leagues. 

Kansas City Royals

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    Top Call-Up: Yordano Ventura, RHP

    Age: 22

     

    The Performance

    One of the best things about the Kansas City Royals contending for a playoff spot this season is that it gave us a chance to see Yordano Ventura for a few weeks. His triple-digit fastball has always drawn rave reviews, but concerns about the consistency of the breaking ball and his small stature left plenty of questions. 

    While still a small sample, Ventura's electric arm paints to a very bright future in whatever role the Royals might have for him. He's going to start until he proves he can't do it, as it should be. There is a long way to go in his development before Ventura reaches his full potential, but who doesn't love to see 101 mph heat?

    Grade: A-

     

    2014 Outlook

    Think where the Royals were last year, without any clear options in the starting rotation. All of a sudden, with the addition of James Shields and brief tryout of Yordano Ventura, not to mention one of the deepest bullpens in baseball, they look good heading into 2014. 

    The potential loss of free-agent-to-be Ervin Santana could leave a huge hole in the rotation, which gives Ventura a leg up on the competition because his ceiling is so much greater than anyone else in the system, with the possible exception of 2012 first-round pick Kyle Zimmer. 

Los Angeles Angels

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    Top Call-Up: Matt Shoemaker, RHP

    Age: 27

     

    The Performance

    The Los Angeles Angels have the worst farm system in baseball and nothing of note to bring up this September. Matt Shoemaker has had an up-and-down career in the minors before getting a shot to start a game against Seattle on September 20. 

    Shoemaker made the most of his opportunity with five innings of two-hit baseball. He also struck out five while throwing 93 pitches. It was a solid effort from a player making his first MLB start and could buy him a little more time in the big leagues. 

    There isn't anything notable about Shoemaker's stuff or upside. He throws a fastball that will top out at 91-92 with some sink, though he isn't what I could call a ground-ball artist. Still, given all of the Angels' pitching problems, he might be one of the best pieces they have. 

    Grade: B-

     

    2014 Outlook

    My previous comment aside, Shoemaker doesn't figure to crack the Opening Day rotation in 2014. He might be on the short list of candidates to get brought up for a spot start or if/when a starter gets injured. 

    Pitching in spacious Angels park will certainly help someone like Shoemaker, who isn't going to miss a lot of bats in the big leagues. But I don't see a lot there to think he will stick as a back-end starter or swingman. 

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Top Call-Up: Onelki Garcia, LHP

    Age: 24

     

    The Performance

    After a strong performance at Triple-A Albuquerque, Onelki Garcia grabbed a spot on the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster this September. They were afforded the luxury of taking a chance on a young reliever by virtue of having a division lead the size of the Grand Canyon since July. 

    Garcia didn't make the most of his opportunity, with four walks in just 1.1 innings. Obviously, it's not the biggest sample size, but it's indicative of what he's done in the minors, as he has 35 walks in 62 innings this year. 

    The arm is fantastic, with a mid-90s fastball and hard curveball. Garcia just has to find some command and control in order to stick as a late-inning reliever on a good team. 

    Grade: D

     

    2014 Outlook

    The Dodgers gave three years to Brandon League, so I don't think they're overly concerned about what happens to the bullpen. 

    That said, Garcia still has some significant issues throwing consistent and quality strikes in order to be an effective MLB pitcher. A start in Triple-A next season will do him well, with a quick call-up coming as soon as someone gets hurt because the arm is so good.  

Miami Marlins

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    Top Call-Up: Chris Coghlan, OF

    Age: 28

     

    The Performance

    Remember when Chris Coghlan won the NL Rookie of the Year award ahead of Andrew McCutchen in 2009? Fun times. It would also be the highlight of Coghlan's career, as he has yet to play more than 91 games in a season since. 

    But given the way the Miami Marlins and Jeffrey Loria run things, Coghlan is going to be the standout September call-up because no one else of note is going to be in the mix. I will give the team credit for pushing top prospects Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick to the big leagues, even if the latter two weren't quite ready. 

    If you get the sense I am deviating from talking about Coghlan, you are right. We know what he is, and his performance this September means nothing because he's 28 years old and nothing has changed. 

    Grade: D+

     

    2014 Outlook

    The Marlins are stacked in the outfield with great, young talent like Giancarlo Stanton, Yelich and Marisnick. Barring a deal involving Stanton, which could conceivably happen with what we know of the Marlins, those three should be the players manning the outfield in Miami next year. 

    Coghlan can play first base, though I would still take Logan Morrison ahead of him because he can still get on base at a decent rate. 

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Top Call-Up: Johnny Hellweg, RHP

    Age: 24

     

    The Performance

    When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Johnny Hellweg in the package for Zack Greinke last year, the thought had to be that, at worst, he was a late-inning reliever because he has the raw stuff for it. Because of his big 6'9" frame, it can be hard to control the body and repeat mechanics. 

    That has been the case all season for Hellweg, who is just 24 and deserves some more time to prove there are better days ahead. It's safe to say no one foresaw 38 hits allowed and a 22-6 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 26.2 innings. 

    He's made six starts all year, including three in September, and has walked at least five hitters three times. This might be a valuable learning experience that we all look back on and laugh, but it's brutal to see right now. 

    Grade: F

     

    2014 Outlook

    Given how dire the pitching situation is in Milwaukee, it would not be a shock to see Hellweg be in line for a starting job coming into spring training. I have never thought that was his best role, even though I can understand wanting to keep his arm out there for 180-200 innings every year. 

    Unfortunately some players just aren't built to start. Hellweg should be moved exclusively to the 'pen so he can focus a little less on needing pinpoint command and just start blowing hitters away. 

Minnesota Twins

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    Top Call-Up: Alex Presley, OF

    Age: 28

     

    The Performance

    The Minnesota Twins feel like the calm before the great storm that will soon hit with prospects like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano on the way, possibly arriving as soon as late 2014. 

    That explains why journeyman Alex Presley takes the top spot in Minnesota's September call-up list. He's a solid hitter for average but adds nothing else because he won't walk much or hit for any power. 

    As a corner outfielder, being able to drive the ball is a fairly important requirement to remain in the big leagues. I can't knock his grade or performance because it is what we know Presley to be as a baseball player. 

    It's just not worth talking about that much. 

    Grade: C

     

    2014 Outlook

    I would say to just expect more of the same from Presley. He is a nice player to keep in the team's system because he will hit well in Triple-A and can fill in when absolutely necessary. Sometimes, those players carve out long careers split between the minors and majors. 

New York Mets

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    Top Call-Up: Vic Black, RHP

    Age: 25

     

    The Performance

    Acquired from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd trade, Vic Black has thus far proven to be a valuable bullpen arm. The New York Mets have had issues with relievers this season, especially with Bobby Parnell's body starting to break down. 

    Black gives the Mets a power arm to use in high-leverage spots and has thus far responded to the challenge quite nicely. He might even be able to close for this team—that's how valuable a weapon he has been and how good the stuff is. 

    In 11 innings, Black has 11 strikeouts, two walks and nine hits allowed. He has given up four earned runs, but half of those came in one outing against Washington on September 10. 

    Considering that the Mets only had to give up just over one month of Byrd to get Black, I am sure they are thrilled with the results so far and what the future holds. 

    Grade: B+

     

    2014 Outlook

    With Parnell looking like a possible question mark for next season and LaTroy Hawkins on the seemingly constant verge of retirement, the Mets will have plenty of decisions to make in the back of their bullpen. 

    I think Black should be the No. 1 candidate for the closer's role. He's not going to cost any money, certainly has the arm for it and has gained experience in high-leverage spots this season. 

New York Yankees

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    Top Call-Up: Dellin Betances, RHP

    Age: 25

     

    The Performance

    Perhaps the best thing we can say about Dellin Betances' brief run with the New York Yankees this season is that he's throwing strikes. After the disaster that was 2012, when the young right-hander had 99 walks in 131.1 innings at Triple-A, this has been a solid bounce-back campaign with 42 walks in 84 innings. 

    Those still aren't great numbers, but when you see where Betances was just one year ago, it looks a lot better. He has also struck out five with just one walk in 2.1 innings with the Yankees this month. 

    Of course, Betances has also given up six hits and one home run for his troubles. He's not going to be anything more than a reliever, and even that is doubtful if he can't find the command to fool hitters. 

    Grade: C+

     

    2014 Outlook

    I don't know what the Yankees do with Betances. The franchise is very much in a transitional stage right now, with Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte retiring at season's end and Jeter not far behind. But these are still the Yankees we are talking about. 

    Do they give Betances a chance to win a bullpen job out of spring training? How long will the leash be if he struggles? He is such a volatile pitcher because of the control issues it is hard to project. 

    I want to see Betances carve out a niche as a reliever, but I don't think he can be trusted enough for it to be impactful. 

Oakland Athletics

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    Top Call-Up: Michael Choice, OF

    Age: 23

     

    The Performance

    One of the five best prospects called up in September, Choice is a toolsy player whose performance in the minors looks a little better than he actually is. But don't let that dissuade you from liking him, because the Oakland A's have a very good center fielder on their hands. 

    Choice has had very limited opportunities to play this September, receiving only 17 plate appearances in eight games. That's one of the drawbacks to playing for a team in the midst of a pennant race. 

    The good news, since we are a glass-half full company, is that Choice has done his job well in the limited time he's had. 

    Grade: B

     

    2014 Outlook

    Choice certainly appears to be ready for a shot in the big leagues. He has nothing to prove after a strong season in Triple-A, is going to be 24 years old in November and will fit nicely in Oakland's spacious park. 

    The one thing working against him is depth. The A's are currently loaded with center fielders like Coco Crisp and Chris Young. It is possible that either just one or neither in the Crisp-Young battery returns since both have team options for next season. 

    Young seems a more likely candidate to be cut loose given his struggles this season, which could open the door for Choice to at least earn a job as a backup. That doesn't do much for his development, but it would get him the big leagues quicker. 

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Top Call-Up: Freddy Galvis, IF

    Age: 23

     

    The Performance

    Freddy Galvis has spent the last two years trying to convince the Philadelphia Phillies that he can be a starter. When that didn't work, his next best option was performing well enough to earn a super-utility role. 

    After all, if you can play shortstop, teams are going to give you a chance to be a bench player because it usually means you have the versatility to move all over the diamond. 

    Unfortunately, Galvis hasn't shown a lot in that role either. He's hitting just .239/.289/.396 overall. However, one of the bright spots has been the month of September. Galvis has put together a .340/.354/.489 line in 14 games. 

    The small sample size caveats obviously apply, but it can put you in good standing with the people deciding what to do with you heading into 2014 if you show something down the stretch. Galvis has certainly done that, even with some evidence prior to this month that it won't last. 

    Grade: B

     

    2014 Outlook

    The Phillies aren't going to have an opening at shortstop for Galvis with Jimmy Rollins locked into a guaranteed deal through next year. He isn't going to start at second base with Chase Utley signing up for two more years. Cody Asche is a better young player who should be given a shot to open the year at third base, with fast-rising prospect Maikel Franco not far behind. 

    Unless the team is looking for a utility/bench player this offseason, Galvis is going to start in Triple-A again and wait for an opportunity/injury to someone else in order to get back on the roster. 

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Top Call-Up: Tony Sanchez, C

    Age: 25

     

    The Performance

    Tony Sanchez has had an arduous minor league career. He was viewed as an overdraft when the Pittsburgh Pirates took him with the fourth pick of the 2009 draft, but he performed well in limited action between 2009 and 2010 before struggling with the upper levels of the minors. 

    This was a solid bounce-back season by Sanchez from a performance perspective. He hit .282/.358/.487 between Double-A and Triple-A. His defense is solid, though not anything spectacular. 

    But with the offensive bar being so low at catcher, he doesn't have to be a monster to carve out a big league career. 

    September has been very kind to Sanchez. He is hitting .278/.350/.556 in six games. That doesn't put him in line to be the team's starter next year, but it could give him a leg up in the running as a backup. 

    That's the job I would have for him anyway, because the all-around skills just aren't good enough to be behind the plate 120-130 games. 

    Grade: B+

     

    2014 Outlook

    Russell Martin is going to be Pittsburgh's starting catcher next year. John Buck is a free agent and shouldn't be brought back. Sanchez makes a lot of sense as the backup for this team, because he can't do anything else in the minors and will be a cheap option for a franchise that doesn't need to spend more than $1 million on a No. 2 catcher. 

San Diego Padres

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    Top Call-Up: Brad Boxberger, RHP

    Age: 25

     

    The Performance

    The San Diego Padres are able to churn out relievers thanks in large part to Petco Park, but some of the credit should go to the pitchers for being able to take advantage of the situation. 

    Brad Boxberger fits the mold of what a good Padres reliever looks like, as opposed to what a good MLB reliever looks like. He doesn't have a huge arm, but he can pump the fastball in there at 91-92 mph with a solid slider. 

    He's held up his end of the bargain with seven innings of two-run baseball and eight strikeouts. The six walks are a concern, but he's still missing enough bats so that it isn't killing him yet. Boxberger is making a case for a 'pen role next season, though I would like to see less erratic control before guaranteeing him a job. 

    Grade: B-

     

    2014 Outlook

    Given the lack of dominance with his stuff, Boxberger isn't a strong candidate to close or pitch in high-leverage situations. But he does have what it takes to pitch in a sixth- or seventh-inning role, depending on the situation. 

    The Padres don't need to spend money on relievers for a team that is, in all likelihood, not going to compete for a playoff spot. Their system will start churning out talent soon, but it's not going to help them win until at least 2015. 

San Francisco Giants

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    Stephen Lam/Getty Images

    Top Call-Up: Heath Hembree, RHP

    Age: 24

     

    The Performance

    Heath Hembree has been on the radar as the future closer for the San Francisco Giants basically since he was drafted in 2010. It took him nearly three full years to reach the big leagues because of development and the team competing for playoff spots in recent years. 

    One of the benefits to not succeeding is that you can start looking at players who will help you in the future. Hembree has pitched in six games thus far covering six innings with just two hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. 

    It has been about as perfect a start for Hembree as anyone in the Giants organization could have hoped. He has a good fastball-slider combination and has averaged at least one strikeout per inning wherever he's been. 

    Grade: B+

     

    2014 Outlook

    Sergio Romo isn't going anywhere as the Giants' closer, at least not yet. If they have another season like 2013 and decide to start selling, his impending free agency might persuade the front office to move him. 

    Hembree could take over that role midway through 2014 if that turns out to be the case. Until then, the Giants can rest easier knowing that they have a valuable commodity that can pitch in the eighth inning or in high-leverage spots right out of the gate. 

Seattle Mariners

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Top Call-Up: James Paxton, LHP

    Age: 24

     

    The Performance

    While he won't command the same publicity that Taijuan Walker does, James Paxton is another high-ceiling arm in Seattle's system who's getting a chance to prove himself to the decision-makers late in the year for a spot in the 2014 rotation. 

    So far, the results have been extremely positive. The 24-year-old lefty has thrown 24 innings in four starts with 21 strikeouts and seven walks. Paxton looked fantastic in a start against Kansas City on September 24 with four hits and 10 strikeouts in seven innings. 

    I am not entirely convinced that his future is in a starting rotation, because there are a lot of moving parts in the delivery and that long arm action will be difficult to repeat, which will lead to command and control issues. But the Mariners have to be happy with a cost-control left-hander who was touching 98 mph in that start against the Royals. 

    Grade: A

     

    2014 Outlook

    Next year will be an interesting one for the Mariners. Their offense is still going to need work, but they could enter the year with one of the most intriguing rotations including Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker and Paxton. 

    Paxton would certainly seem to have given himself a leg up on anyone else in the organization for one of the last starter spots available. Even if I am skeptical about his chances to stay in the rotation, the Mariners have no reason to move him until he proves he can't do it. 

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Top Call-Up: Michael Wacha, RHP

    Age: 22

     

    The Performance

    In case you hadn't heard, Michael Wacha had quite the memorable week with a near no-hitter on Wednesday against the Washington Nationals. That alone would be good enough for inclusion on this list, but there is so much more to this 22-year-old right-hander. 

    To be fair, Wacha is a borderline September call-up candidate because he spent the entire month of August with the team. But he was sent down at the end of the month and brought back on September 3, so he still qualifies. 

    Wacha's stock has soared this season, with his fastball ticking up a bit from his college days and his changeup looking much better than it ever did. Not that the St. Louis Cardinals need more good young pitching, but that's just one of the benefits of developing talent as well as they do. 

    Grade: A-

     

    2014 Outlook

    Wacha is going to be in the St. Louis rotation heading into next season. Chris Carpenter and Jake Westbrook will hit free agency, with the latter more likely to find a new home elsewhere. Carpenter might be brought back on a one-year deal, but the Cards still need at least one more starter to fill a five-man rotation. 

    If the competition comes down to Wacha and Carlos Martinez, the edge would go to Wacha because he fits the starter profile a little more with his size and stuff. Martinez has an electric arm, but there's some thought he could be a reliever because he is undersized at 6'0".

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Top Call-Up: Enny Romero, LHP

    Age: 22

     

    The Performance

    One of the best stories of the final month came when Enny Romero volunteered to pitch for the Tampa Bay Rays on Twitter. He made the post on September 21, was called up the next day and threw 4.2 innings in a start against Baltimore. 

    It wasn't a crisp start, as Romero walked four and had no strikeouts, but he managed to work around the problems to keep the Rays in the game that they wound up winning 3-1. 

    The 22-year-old lefty falls into this spot because his future is so bright. He can touch 95 with a good slider and improving changeup. There have always been control issues in the minors that paint to a future in relief, but he could be a dominant late-inning, high-leverage pitcher because the stuff is that good. 

    Grade: C+

     

    2014 Outlook

    Romero is going to start 2014 in Triple-A. He's not ready from a development standpoint to pitch in the big leagues quite yet. It will be imperative for him to improve on that 4.55 walks per nine innings from this season. 

    Ultimately, the Rays will be able to call upon Romero when a bullpen role arises. They might give him a spot start here or there, but it would be in their best immediate interest to use him in relief. 

Texas Rangers

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Top Call-Up: Engel Beltre, OF

    Age: 23

     

    The Performance

    It's hard to really judge anyone that the Texas Rangers called up, because none of them has made a substantial impact. Engel Beltre is the best pure talent the team brought up, but he's played in just five games and has only gotten into games as a pinch runner or defensive replacement. 

    Unless you are Billy Hamilton stealing 13 bases, it's hard to be impactful. Beltre doesn't have a great swing, but he does have bat speed. He does have speed, but he doesn't get on base enough to use it. 

    It also doesn't help that the Rangers are fighting for their playoff lives right now, which limits the amount of playing time that someone like Beltre will get. 

    Grade: C-

     

    2014 Outlook

    Given the problems the Rangers have had in the outfield this season, Beltre could go into camp with a shot to win a starting job. He could also end up getting a backup job, though I could see the team wanting him to get consistent at-bats in the minors for a few months before bringing him up. 

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Top Call-Up: Ricky Romero, LHP

    Age: 28

     

    The Performance

    Possibly a boring call-up, because we have seen Ricky Romero for years, I am fascinated by what has happened to the 28-year-old lefty and if there is any reason to think he can turn it around. 

    Romero's fall from grace last year was reminiscent of Roy Halladay, who was sent down to the low levels of the minors in 2001 and had to rebuild his delivery to become the borderline Hall of Famer. 

    I won't say Romero can do that, especially based on the sample size of three innings we have seen in September. He's given up four hits, three walks and one home run.

    Here's a pitcher who always had some control issues, but he put up a 2.92 ERA in 225 innings two years ago. 

    The Blue Jays were counting Romero to be a rotation stalwart for years to come, but, sadly, it appears a best-case scenario for him will be as a reliever moving forward. 

    Grade: D+

     

    2014 Outlook

    I have no idea what Romero is going to do next season. I think in an ideal scenario he throws enough strikes to be a back-end starter or at least a reliever. But the Blue Jays probably can't afford to wait and see what becomes of him. If he struggles in spring training, he will likely wind up back in the minors. 

Washington Nationals

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    Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images

    Top Call-Up: Eury Perez, OF

    Age: 23

     

    The Performance

    In a crop of non-sexy September call-ups, Eury Perez might be the best of the group. He's always had good speed, but he doesn't add much of anything else. The hit tool is okay, but there isn't enough patience or power to become a starter. 

    The Washington Nationals have used Perez in three games this month, all of them as a defensive replacement. It is clear that manager Davey Johnson does not view Perez as a player who is going to be anything more than a bench player. 

    That doesn't sound fun or exciting, but it also speaks to what the Nationals were looking for in the final month. 

    Grade: C-

     

    2014 Outlook

    The Nationals have a very good outfield with Denard Span, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth locked into all three spots. Harper's all-out approach to the game and Werth's frailty could open up a spot for Perez in the season, but there is no job for him in the big leagues out of spring training. 

     

    If you want to talk baseball, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with questions or comments. 

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