MLB's Biggest September Call-Up One-Hit Wonders
With major league rosters expanding in only a few short days when the calendar flips to September, there's a huge influx of young talent that is going to capture the attention of baseball fans everywhere.
Some of that talent won't play much, joining teams that are in the thick of a pennant race, while others will see extensive playing time as their clubs try to evaluate their current rosters for possible spots on next year's squad.
If there's one thing that we've learned over the years, it's that the gaudy numbers that some of these youngsters put up aren't necessarily an indication that future superstardom, much less extended success at the major league level, awaits.
Sure, a player can hang around the big leagues for a few years based on the potential he showed when he first reached the show, but ultimately, even the most reasonable of expectations can fail to be met.
Let the 10 players that follow serve as a cautionary tale before you start anointing a hotshot youngster as the next great player for your favorite team.
*Note: I have purposely left out players that made their MLB debuts from 2010-2013, as it's still possible that those players will develop into something closer to what their small September sample sizes led us to believe they would become.
1980: Marty Bystrom, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
|Sept. 1980||6 (5)||5-0||1.50||0.97||36||26||9/21|
|Rest of Career||78 (74)||24-26||4.51||1.45||399||428||149/237|
Playing in Philadelphia is never easy, but what Marty Bystrom faced at the age of 21 in September 1980 was downright unfair. The Phillies were in a heated battle with Montreal for the National League East, and Bystrom walked into a clubhouse with the likes of Larry Bowa, Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, Tug McGraw, Pete Rose and Mike Schmidt.
After debuting on Sept. 7 with a scoreless inning of relief, Bystrom was thrust into the rotation when the team's fifth starter, Larry Christenson, was sidelined with an injury. He was dominant, as the numbers indicate, throwing a complete-game shutout against the New York Mets in his first start and seven innings of shutout ball against St. Louis his next time out.
By the time Philadelphia hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy as World Series champions on Oct. 19—roughly six weeks after Bystrom made his major league debut—he had won five crucial games down the stretch for the Phillies, who won the division over Montreal by one game.
He started Game 5 of the NLCS against Houston's Nolan Ryan and didn't flinch against the Ryan Express, allowing two runs (one earned) over 5.1 innings of work. The game was tied when he departed, but the Phillies ultimately prevailed in one of the most exciting NLCS games in history, winning 8-7 in 10 innings.
But Bystrom was never able to find that same level of success for the rest of his career, throwing more than 100 innings in a season only once (119.1 in 1983), and he was out of the majors after the 1985 season at the age of 26.
1995: Dwayne Hosey, CF, Boston Red Sox
|Sept. 1995||24||.338||1.026||12 (3)||7||8/16||6-for-6|
|Rest of Career||533||.243||.706||122 (26)||176||280/337||12-for-19|
All Dwayne Hosey wanted was a chance to play, believing that if he was given one, he would thrive. So when, after being waived by the Kansas City Royals, he was claimed by the Boston Red Sox on July 31, 1995, he was ecstatic, as he told Tom Yantz of the Hartford Courant:
When you're in the minors, you're always looking at the box scores. You want to know how everyone is doing. I knew the Red Sox have given guys, who other teams have given up on like Tim Wakefield and Troy O'Leary, chances to produce. That's all I've ever wanted.
What the box scores told Hosey was that Boston's incumbent center fielder, Lee Tinsley, was good, not great. With his combination of power and speed that teams always hope to find, the Red Sox gave Hosey a chance to play. After scoring a run as a pinch hitter on Sept. 1, he got his first start on Sept. 2.
Over the next 23 games, he'd record eight multi-hit games, reaching base safely in 15 contests, including 10 straight from Sept. 13 to Sept. 23. He became known for his highlight-reel catches in the outfield, using his speed to get to balls that others simply couldn't
By the time the month came to an end, Hosey had scored 20 runs and been a key factor in Boston clinching its first division crown since 1990.
But he was a non-factor in the playoffs, going 0-for-12 with a stolen base and run scored as the Red Sox were swept in the ALDS by Cleveland in three games, and after hitting only .200 (9-for-45) in the first 15 games of the following regular season, was demoted to the minor leagues.
He'd return to Boston at the end of May, but the results were the same, with Hosey hitting .242 (8-for-33) and not getting on base with any consistency, then returning to the minors, where he'd stay.
Hosey was traded to Texas in November 1996 as the player-to-be-named-later in an earlier deal between the two clubs and never found his way back to the big leagues.
1989: Pat Combs, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
|Sept. 1989||6 (6)||4-0||2.09||1.09||38.2||36||6/30|
|Rest of Career||50 (48)||24-26||4.53||1.52||266.1||263||141/160|
Pat Combs didn't begin his professional career until 1989, less than a year after Philadelphia had made him the 11th overall selection in the 1988 draft. He reached Triple-A, going 13-8 with a 2.54 ERA and 1.11 WHIP over 28 starts, throwing 191 innings in the process.
The heavy workload didn't faze him in the majors, where he put nearly 40 more innings on his arm, including a complete-game shutout against St. Louis in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Sept. 15. He looked very much like a prospect that was going to live up to the hype and become a fixture in Philly's rotation.
Except the heavy workload had taken a toll on his arm, and he was never able to recapture the magic of his first season. He'd go 10-10 over 183.1 innings of work in 1990, but his walks were up and his strikeouts were down.
Combs would appear in only 18 more games over the next two years—pitching to a 5.53 ERA and 1.68 WHIP and walking more batters (55) than he'd strike out (52)—and was out of the major leagues by the age of 25.
He'd spend parts of the next three years trying to rediscover his magic at Triple-A, but retired at the age of 28 after failing to do so.
1998: Craig Wilson, IF, Chicago White Sox
|Sept. 1998||13||.468||1.256||8 (3)||10||3/6||1-for-1|
|Rest of Career||126||.243||.624||16 (4)||30||28/33||2-for-3|
Chicago's 13th-round pick in the 1992 draft, Craig Wilson looked like a hitting machine upon reaching the big leagues at the age of 27 in September 1999.
He doubled off of New York's Andy Pettitte in his first two career at-bats, the second one scoring a run for the White Sox, had eight multi-hit games and failed to reach base in only three of his first 13.
Things didn't go as smoothly the following year when he saw semi-regular action. It took him nearly two months to get his batting average above the Mendoza Line, and despite drawing more walks (23) than he had strikeouts (22), Wilson barely got his on-base percentage above .300 (.301) by the end of 1999.
Wilson would appear in only 23 games for the team in 2000, hitting .260 with a .618 OPS in his last taste of major league action. By 2004, he was out of baseball.
1998: Shane Spencer, OF, New York Yankees
|Sept. 1998||14||.421||1.581||10 (8)||21||4/7||0-for-0|
|Rest of Career||524||.258||.784||141 (51)||221||148/350||13-for-24|
Shane Spencer's timing was about as perfect as you could get. A 28th-round pick in the 1990 draft, it took him eight years to make it to the big leagues. That gave the then-26-year-old a chance to play a small but memorable role as part of the 1998 New York Yankees, one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
While he rode the minor league shuttle for much of the regular season, making 31 plate appearances between April 10 and Aug. 12, he put on a show once September rolled around. While his numbers speak for themselves, they don't tell the entire story.
Spencer reached base in eight consecutive September games and put together a six-game hitting streak. He had five go-ahead hits, and of his eight home runs, three came with the bases loaded.
He stayed hot in the playoffs, homering off of Texas' Rick Heilling in his first career postseason at-bat during the ALDS and hitting .263 with a .932 OPS over six playoff games with two four-baggers and four RBI.
Yet he was never able to sustain that kind of success over the course of a full season, never hitting more than 12 home runs or driving in more than 49 runs in any of his subsequent six seasons. His last season came in 2004 when he served as a part-time player for the New York Mets, and he was out of the majors before his 33rd birthday.
1999: Mark Quinn, OF/DH, Kansas City Royals
|Sept. 1999||17||.333||1.118||11 (6)||18||4/11||1-for-1|
|Rest of Career||276||.279||.786||111 (39)||149||52/175||16-for-24|
One of four players to hit two home runs in their first major league game, it sure looked like Mark Quinn was going to be the next great Kansas City outfielder when he burst onto the scene in 1999.
He went 6-for-11 (.545) with four extra-base hits (two doubles, two home runs) over his first three games, drove in at least one run in nine of his first 17 games and reached base safely in 13 of those September contests.
A third-place finish in the voting for the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 only added to his quickly growing legend. But Quinn was a free-swinger, drawing only 35 walks against 91 strikeouts, and that would ultimately do him in.
Over 473 plate appearances in 2001, he drew only 12 walks, including a stretch from May 9 to Aug. 11 that didn't see him draw one free pass. Then, only weeks before spring training began in 2002, Quinn broke a rib while messing around with his brother:
"I was just kind of playing around with my brother, doing a little kung fu sparring," Quinn told the Associated Press, via ESPN. "There's limited space in my condo, and I was backing up, tripped and fell."
He'd appear in only 23 games for the Royals that season, hitting .237 with a .670 OPS, and while he'd bounce around the game for a few years with different organizations, he'd never make it back to the major leagues.
2004: Jeremy Reed, CF, Seattle Mariners
|Sept. 2004||18||.397||.935||4 (0)||5||7/4||3-for-4|
|Rest of Career||465||.245||.649||87 (12)||105||93/192||17-for-37|
Ranked by Baseball America as one of the 35 best prospects in the game heading into 2004 (and again in 2005), there were lofty expectations attached to Jeremy Reed when he arrived in Seattle.
He didn't fail to make an impression, putting together an eight-game hitting streak from Sept. 10 to Sept. 22 that saw him hit .500 (13-for-26) with two doubles, two walks and no strikeouts. As a matter of fact, Reed didn't go down on strikes until his 11th major league game, spanning 36 plate appearances.
But the balls that were falling in 2004 were finding defenders in 2005, with Reed hitting only .254 with a .675 OPS over 141 games, and by 2006, he had become a part-time player. He was traded to the New York Mets as part of a three-team deal that also involved Cleveland in December 2008, and was out of baseball by his 30th birthday in 2011.
2007: Daric Barton, 1B, Oakland Athletics
|Sept. 2007||18||.347||1.067||13 (4)||8||10/11||1-for-1|
|Rest of Career||533||.243||.706||122 (26)||176||280/337||12-for-19|
A corner infielder without power, Daric Barton has lasted as long as he has in Oakland thanks to great plate discipline, an above-average glove at first base and...perhaps some not-so-flattering photos of general manager Billy Beane?
The latter is really the only rational explanation as to why Barton remains with the franchise, as he's never been able to come close to duplicating the production he provided as a September call-up in 2007.
Sure, he led the American League with 110 walks in 2010, but that came in one of only two seasons in which he's appeared in at least 68 games. Of the 59 players who have made at least 600 plate appearances as first basemen since then, Barton is 57th in batting average (.216) and 59th in OPS (.608).
2007: Jeff Clement, C, Seattle Mariners
|Sept. 2007||9||.375||1.286||3 (2)||3||3/3||0-for-0|
|Rest of Career||143||.211||.620||27 (12)||36||23/107||0-for-1|
The third overall pick in the 2005 draft, Jeff Clement arrived in Seattle with big expectations in September 2007.
Seattle, trying to keep pace with Los Angeles for the division lead (the Mariners trailed the Angels by 6.5 games on Sept. 1), weren't about to hand over the starting catching duties to a hotshot rookie, especially with veteran Kenji Johjima still performing at a high level.
But Clement made his mark when the opportunity presented itself, and he looked like the left-handed power bat that the team desperately needed. After going without a hit in his first four major league at-bats, Clement had his coming-out party during a doubleheader against Cleveland on Sept. 26.
He collected the first hit of his career—a ground-rule double—as a pinch hitter in Game 1 and smacked his first career home run—also as a pinch hitter—in Game 2, a solo shot with two outs in the bottom of the ninth that tied the game at two. Seattle would win on a Mike Morse single an inning later.
He'd start at designated hitter for the next three games, going 4-for-10 with another home run—this one against Texas, a game-winning, two-run blast that also came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning—and a legend was born.
Clement couldn't crack the major league roster in spring training the following season and when he was finally recalled from the minors at the end of April, he looked like a completely different player at the plate. He hit only .227 before a knee injury ended his season in early September. That was the last time he'd appear in a Mariners uniform.
He'd re-emerge in the big leagues with Pittsburgh in 2010 and 2012, but hit only .193 in 77 games, and after hitting .220 for Minnesota's Triple-A club in 2013, his career seems to be over at the age of 30.
2008: Taylor Teagarden, C, Texas Rangers
|Sept. 2008||14||.341||1.255||10 (5)||16||5/15||0-for-0|
|Rest of Career||158||.189||.583||37 (16)||52||32/171||0-for-1|
While he's still an active player, currently serving as a backup catcher for the New York Mets' Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas, I'm pretty comfortable saying that Taylor Teagarden reached the pinnacle of his career in his first taste of September baseball in the major leagues.
Named one of the 80 best prospects in baseball by both Baseball America and BaseballProspectus.com heading into the 2008 season, Teagarden did nearly all of his damage for the Texas Rangers over a 10-game stretch from Sept. 1 to Sept. 15.
He hit .400 with four doubles, five home runs, 16 RBI and a 1.504 OPS in 30 at-bats, and it looked as if there'd be a three-way battle for the team's starting catcher job in spring training between Teagarden, Gerald Laird and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
That never happened, as Laird was traded to Detroit after the season, while Saltalamacchia outplayed Teagarden in spring training and took over behind the plate.
After hitting .205 in 102 games over parts of the next three seasons, Teagarden was traded to Baltimore in December 2011 for a pair of minor league pitchers, Randy Henry and Greg Miclat, neither of whom has made his major league debut yet.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and are current through games of Aug. 28 (for those players still active).
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