For every team, September is a time of learning in some ways, because you bring guys up from the minor leagues and try to see what you might get from them in the years to come. In these three cases—the Nationals, Red Sox, and Braves—each team has learned one strong piece of good news and a corresponding negative.
On the good side, Danny Espinosa is ready for the big leagues. In his two full minor league seasons, Espinosa has amassed 40 home runs and 54 stolen bases—but he combined that with 245 whiffs and a mediocre .266 batting average. He will enter spring training as the favorite to be the Nats' second baseman.
The flip side is that pitcher Yunesky Maya is a bit of a mess. He's 29, and partially as a result of that age, he got called up after facing 94 batters in the minors. The problem is, his fastball only lives in the mid-to-high 80s. When that's the case, you need pinpoint control. Maya lacks that.
In the plus column, Ryan Kalish could be an answer in the outfield in Beantown. Kalish got a lot of playing time because of injuries, went into a slump, but has rebounded well—he has a .514 slugging percentage in September. His scouting reports are, for the most part, all positive. Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, and J.D. Drew are all slated to be in Boston in 2011, but after the trio combined for less than 200 games this year, there should be plenty of at-bats available for Kalish next season.
The bad news here is the bullpen. Daniel Bard is really the only reliable reliever on the staff, and late-season callups such as Dustin Richardson, Robert Manuel, Robert Coello, and Matt Fox are little more than warm bodies. Let's face it, when you are giving Rich Hill another chance, something has gone horribly wrong.
The good news is the development of reliever Craig Kimbrel; he has gone from Bobby Cox's doghouse to someone who could get a playoff roster spot (if the Braves make it). He has 37 strikeouts in 19 innings and has walked just three guys since September 10. Both stats are extremely impressive. If Billy Wagner is retiring, the in-house replacement is ready.
Freddie Freeman, though long a main Braves prospect, looks overmatched. He hit .319/.378/.521 at Triple A before he turned 21; that's extremely impressive. Yet the first baseman has seemed almost lost in Atlanta, going 2-for-21 with eight strikeouts. That's a small sample size, but Atlanta might want a backup plan for next year.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .