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August 27, 2014

The Lineup Card

Seven September Call-ups We're Excited to See

by Baseball Prospectus


1. Carlos Rodon
According to multiple reports, it appears that a September call-up for Rodon is inevitable. With Scott Boras as his agent, it's certainly odd that the White Sox would go against conventional wisdom, start his service clock, and, by doing so, lose a year of control rather than wait until next May to bring up the talented lefty. The South Siders are notorious for being very aggressive with their top draft picks, especially ones they take early in the first round out of college, as both Chris Sale and Gordon Beckham made the big leagues soon after being drafted. Perhaps bringing Rodon along quickly will build some goodwill between the White Sox and their top prospect, leading to Rodon falling in love with both the city and the organization, making him more amicable to an early extension, thus causing any service time issues to be moot. However, Sox fans shouldn't hold their breath on that rosy scenario coming to fruition with Boras running the show.

Rodon features one of the best sliders in the minors, a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a quickly developing changeup. The keys to his success may just be how well he commands that fastball and how far along his change has come.

It'll be interesting to see how the White Sox initially use Rodon, either out of the pen or starting. If the latter, he likely won't be getting more than three- to four-inning bursts in September, as he surely has pitched more innings than ever before in his career.

In whatever capacity he's used, the final month of the season will be a glimpse of what could quickly become one of the best front of the rotations in baseball, with Sale at the top, followed by Rodon, pushing the underrated and very talented Jose Quintana to the three spot. —Sahadev Sharma

2. Terrance Gore
It hasn’t been easy for Terrance Gore, a Kansas City farmhand who one Royals executive claimed is faster than Billy Hamilton, and who might be called up this September to pinch-run for Billy Butler and Raul Ibanez and, heck, Jarrod Dyson if it comes to that. Gore is, you see, too fast. He’s fast in the way that Lenny from Of Mice and Men was strong. He’s fast like a salt-shaker with a too-loose top is salty. He’s too fast for the universe’s physics. Consider a quick stroll through his life, as told on Twitter:

Sadly, though, he can’t. Even when he’s riding a horse, he is fast, and the horse’s poor joints can’t keep up. It’s like when Brand is riding his bike in Goonies and the dude in a car grabs his arm. It’s bad news for the horse and for Gore.

The problem for Gore is that he’s too fast to hunt ducks. If he shoots a gun at one, he is himself in danger of running into the bullet’s path and getting his darned self shot. He can catch the ducks by simply running them down, but then, what, he’s going to smash them with his bare hands? He’s not a monster. He just wants to shoot them, not crush them. Yeesh.

Gore lives in a world where an extremely powerful fan is always on, and it’s always centered right on him.

It is, for obvious reasons (fast-related reasons) impossible to follow Gore.

Indeed. Though, some say, Gore would have created the world in four days and used the final three days to crush ducks, but that’s just speculation. —Sam Miller

3. Alex Meyer
The 6-foot-7 righty isn’t one of the most-exciting pitching prospects, because he’s likely to step into the rotation and dominate immediately. Instead, it’s the potential and flashes of brilliance that are titillating. He features a high-90s fastball with a wipeout slider and a developing changeup, and Meyer goes through stretches when he seemingly can’t be touched. For example, he has struck out double-digit batters four times this season, including 10 in just 5 2/3 innings on August 20th, but the overall command problems and inefficiency on the mound have caused inconsistencies in performance. In September, though, the flame-throwing righty will hopefully bring his intimidating fastball/slider combination to Target Field. Baseball fans should be excited because if it clicks and Meyer can command his fastball to the bottom of the strike zone and limit his walks, he has a chance to be a legitimate number-two starter with gaudy strikeout totals. Of course, he could also receive a September callup and walk the world—similar to what Trevor May did in his debut with the Twins—but if that transpires, I imagine him struggling with panache on the mound. Whether he struggles or dominates, I’ll be entertained. And that’s what really matters when watching a non-contender in September, right? —J.P. Breen

4. Quintin Berry
It’s not a September playoff run without Berry somewhere in the hunt. In 2012 he was the Tigers’ de facto left fielder. Last year he was a September call-up for Boston and made the playoff roster as a pinch-runner. He is the only player to participate in the last two World Series, for you whackadoodle trivia hounds. This year he has toiled for the Orioles’ Triple-A Norfolk, putting up some of his best overall numbers offensively and defensively.

But his MLB asset remains those feet. He has never been caught stealing in 24 regular-season and five postseason attempts. Baltimore is last in the AL in stolen bases (David Lough leads the team with seven). Suffice it to say, he'll get to second quicker than Delmon Young.

And hey, since teams no longer employ pinch runners for full seasons, perhaps Berry should annually hold out his services until mid-August and then sign with the highest bidder. He’d get more than the prorated minimum, that’s for dang sure. —Matt Sussman

5. Daniel Norris
Daniel Norris was lurking behind Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez on Blue Jays' starting pitching prospect lists when the season began. Even Sean Nolin had made a big-league start before Norris got past A-ball. But the surfer from Tennessee has found a major wave this year, blowing through Double-A with great numbers and reaching Triple-A in the second week of August. I had the pleasure of seeing his debut with Buffalo. He absolutely dominated Durham, showing a mid-90s fastball with life that he threw with easy action, plus secondary stuff that was advanced for a 21-year-old. Since then he has continued to thrive, with 32 strikeouts and four walks in 16-plus innings over three starts. (Editor's note: This was written before last night's poor outing.) Stroman is already ensconced in the Jays' rotation and Sanchez is in the bullpen. Norris could join the latter in the September bullpen, which needs reinforcements, or audition to join the former in the 2015 rotation. Either way, he may turn out to have that trio's best stuff and brightest future. —Adam Sobsey

6. Brandon Finnegan
Drafted as a starting pitcher, Finnegan has been shunted to the bullpen on the last leg of his rapid ascent through the majors. He, along with Kyle Zimmer and Christian Binford, presents the Royals with a plethora of hard throwing arms with which to refresh their bullpen. The Royals' first pick in the 2014 draft, Finnegan owns some of the best pure stuff from that draft class, but fell due to shoulder stiffness in May, that hasn't caused a problem since.

At 5-foot-11, Finnegan satisfies my fetish for small pitchers with big stuff, and the Royals' willingness to inject him him into the heart of a tense playoff race makes the theater all the more exciting. While a bullpen role might be Finnegan's ultimate destiny, this run in relief is more Matt Moore/David Price style than it is Neftali Feliz (or at least that's my hope). With a fastball that touches the upper 90s and a wipeout slider, I'm exciting to see how Finnegan treats the big leagues, and vice versa. Craig Goldstein

7. Joc Pederson
Does it get more exciting than watching home runs and steals? This is a pretty personal question given the subjective nature of what excites, so if you do not mind me getting a little personal here, I will admit that yes, I find dingers and swiped bags to be riveting. Therefore, Joc Pederson, he of the first 30/30 PCL season in over 80 years, is a September call-up I am excited to see. Pederson’s modern hitting style (lots of strikeouts and walks to go with the power stroke) and growth from tweener/potential platoon outfielder to bona fide top prospect only make him more interesting to me.

What will not be exciting is watching Pederson sit on the bench. Unfortunately, it sound like Pederson will be doing a lot of sitting given Don Mattingly’s latest comments. Very little playing time means that many of the questions surrounding Pederson will continue to go unanswered and probably not even somewhat answered. Regardless, Pederson’s potential makes what little playing time he does get worth checking in on and worth being excited about. —Jeff Quinton

8 comments have been left for this article.

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