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August 28, 2013

Sporer Report

Six September Stashes

by Paul Sporer

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For the third straight week now the Sporer Report has an eye on September. This time around, I’ve got six potential National League September call-ups, all pitchers, who could bring solid value down the stretch. This is some deep speculation, so keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to take the plunge. The recent news in Queens takes some punch out of a couple of these, but you’ll have to trust that they made my list last week when I compiled both the AL and NL lists.

Those of you in 10- and 12-team mixers likely don’t need to pounce just yet and in fact shouldn’t pounce just yet unless you’ve got remarkably deep rosters. Instead, use this as a cheatsheet of who to keep tabs on as we now sit just four days from September 1. Those of you in deeper leagues might find a few of these guys already rostered, but most should be available, and if you have the roster space, then you should consider getting the jump on your league mates. These are ranked in order of potential impact which accounts for the likelihood that they even get the call.

Rafael Montero, New York Mets
With Daisuke Matsuzaka getting a start last Friday against the Tigers, I felt good about having a Met on the list that I’d made the Tuesday before that, but then news hit about Harvey and it was a certainty that at least one Met would be included and I considered doubling up to include Noah Syndergaard. He might actually be the bigger speculation over Montero considering the fact that he is still in Double-A, but now it just seems unrealistic for them to bring up a 20-year-old who would be skipping Triple-A and is already sitting at 14 innings over his 2012 total.

Montero is 27 innings clear of his 2012, but he’s two years older and he has spent most of his season in Triple-A handling the hellish conditions of Las Vegas with aplomb. He has a 3.28 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 82 1/3 innings, plus a 21 percent strikeout rate and seven percent walk rate. He destroyed Double-A in 66 2/3 innings before that with a sparkling 2.43 ERA and 1.12 WHIP to go with his obscene 28 percent strikeout rate and four percent walk rate. He’s on the smaller side at 6-0, 170, so the Mets should be somewhat mindful of his innings jump, but he could nab a handful of starts as the Mets now have two open spots with Harvey sidelined and the Matsuzaka experiment looking like a clear failure.

Robbie Erlin, San Diego Padres
The 22-year-old lefty is one of my favorite secondary prospects as a command-first fly-ball pitcher who has shown some bat-missing ability and whose skills will play up in a place like Petco Park. He made his MLB debut earlier this year back in late-April and then made his debut in the rotation about a month later. He looked good in his first two starts before the Red Sox and Nationals ran him back to Triple-A.

It’s been a struggle down there this year, his first struggle at any of his professional stops, with a 5.07 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in his 20 starts spanning 99 1/3 innings. Oddly, his primary asset (command) has failed him, leading to a 1.0 HR/9 and 7.5 percent walk rate, which is actually quite high for him despite being above average for most. He has a five percent career rate in 426 innings outlining just abnormal this year rate has been for him.

With Edinson Volquez getting DFA, the door is open for Erlin if they want to give him another shot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sean O’Sullivan rejoined the rotation or they looked to 23-year-old Burch Smith, who was trounced to the tune of an 11.37 ERA in his 12 2/3 inning MLB debut this year, but has better Triple-A numbers than Erlin.

Brian Flynn, Miami Marlins
Acquired in the Anibal Sanchez-and-Omar Infante deal with the Tigers last year, Flynn was more of a secondary piece, but he’s enjoying his best professional season in his first full one with the Marlins. The organization was convinced after just four Double-A starts to push him to Triple-A and he has continued to dominate. His composite numbers have yielded a 2.67 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 155 innings along with a 3.4 K/BB ratio. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound lefty never projected as much more than a back-end starter, but this breakout season could be pushing him toward a higher ceiling. Either way, Tom Koehler shouldn’t be blocking anybody, but if they insist on using him, then Jose Fernandez will eventually get shut down, opening up a spot.

Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
No wonder the Cubs did business with the Rangers again this year. Hendricks was a secondary piece in the Ryan Dempster trade a year ago, and like Flynn, he has emerged in his first full season with the organization. He was only recently promoted to Triple-A after posting a 1.85 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 126 1/3 innings at Double-A. His four Triple-A starts have yielded nearly identical numbers across the board. In fact, his strikeout and walk rates are both a tick better. He has never been touted as much of a prospect, so temper expectations if he gets his chance, but it can’t hurt for the Cubs to see how legitimate this huge season is for the 23-year-old.

Eddie Butler, Colorado Rockies
Butler made the Rockies list as a “Prospect on the Rise” after 67 2/3 strong innings last summer following his selection as the 46th-overall pick in the draft from Radford. In more than double the innings, he has been even better, splitting time between three levels and getting better at each stop. He put up a 24 percent strikeout rate in A-ball and High-A over 54 1/3 and 67 2/3 innings, respectively, before pumping it up to 26 percent in 20 innings at Double-A. His walk rate has slid from 12 percent in the first stop, down to eight percent, and finally to just three percent in his four Double-A outings. He is still 23 2/3 innings away from his 2012 total, and the Rockies’ no. 5 spot is there for the taking.

Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates
The 1A to Gerrit Cole’s no. 1 prospect status for the Pirates, Taillon was taken with the second-overall pick a year before the Pirates got Cole with the top selection. They have handled Taillon carefully throughout his minor-league career, but now we’ve seen him in the high minors for 151 innings between this year and last. He has a 3.39 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 23 percent strikeout rate, and seven percent walk rate in 127 Double-A frames and a 3.75 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 24 percent strikeout, and 12 percent walk rate in 23 Triple-A innings. He clearly hasn’t mastered Triple-A, but neither had Cole when he got the call (18 percent strikeout rate and 10 percent walk rate, but the 5.8 H/9 rate was indicative of his stuff). He may be the most talented arm on this list, but he’s the longest shot as the Pirates might be unwilling to thrust him into the midst of their playoff run. That’s especially true since they are likely to give Jeff Locke a decent-sized leash in return for the four months of excellence he provided before his August implosion (7.93 ERA in 22 2/3 IP).

Paul Sporer is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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