September Drawing Nigh
A team in the Major Leagues plays for five months of every season with a 25-man limit (26 on days with double-headers) to their roster size. The vast majority of the games played are done so with the same relative construction to the available players.
Then September shows up.
The phrasing is “roster expansion” but what is basically means is that you can have as many of your 40-man Roster up in the bigs for the final month of the regular season. Nobody does that, mind you, but you can.
The Brewers’ collective philosophy is one of not calling players up for the sake of calling them up. Brewers field manager Ron Roenicke prefers to have guys around who he’s confident in using. He is on record as saying that having too many guys around can be a hindrance as it throws off routine. One example he’s mentioned in the past is that there are only so many reps during batting practice to go around and he needs to keep his season-long players ready. And while general manager Doug Melvin prefers the same, he spoke openly over the winter about one player he feels he should have called up last September. More on that later.
When asked last week about the upcoming expanded rosters, Roenicke was expectedly non-committal. He said that they haven’t even thought about that yet because of how far away they really still were.
Well, despite what Roenicke said in a random media availability session, I guarantee you that there are people thinking about it. Many times teams will call up a third catcher, an extra bullpen arm or two, and maybe a bench player with a specific skill be that a base running burner or a power-hitting pinch hitter. And while the announcements will probably come after the game on August 31st in San Francisco, Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash, and their staff are certainly considering who could be on their short list.
As you may have figured out by now, I’ve been thinking about it too. I was asked about it a few days ago during one of my twice weekly radio segments on The Mike Heller Show*.
I think that there are three virtual locks to come up on September 1 (or as soon as Nashville’s season ends), along with one who will come up when deemed healthy. I’ll also give you another couple of names so that you can’t be shocked if they make September cameos.
The locks are Logan Schafer, Rob Wooten, and Hunter Morris. Here’s why on each.
Logan Schafer will come back up because he offers a decent pinch-running option, is a top notch defensive replacement for late in games, and is currently hitting the ball well again now that he’s been getting consistent playing time with Triple-A Nashville following his demotion as a result of the Gerardo Parra acquisition. Schafer’s best asset is the aforementioned defense though. Imagine a late game defensive alignment of Schafer, Carlos Gomez, and Parra from left to right. Would anything hit in the air to the outfield get down to the grass?
Rob Wooten would return because at least one extra bullpen arm helps keeps all the others fresh and Wooten is a guy who Roenicke trusts with late inning work. Someone else will also go to the bullpen (whomever vacates a rotation spot when Matt Garza is finally ready to return), so you probably don’t need a second bullpen call up, for what it’s worth.
As for Hunter Morris, he’s the “more on this later” from up the page. Melvin feels he made a mistake in not calling up the 2012 organizational player of the year when rosters expanded in 2013. Melvin felt in hindsight that the experience would have benefitted Morris. For his part, despite missing a significant chunk of time due to injury, Morris is hitting pretty well in a little over 300 at-bats so far in 2014. Morris deserves the experience and since he’ll likely be back in the mix for the first base job in Maryvale in 2015, it certainly wouldn’t hurt him to get a taste of the big league way of doing things.
I think Wei-Chung Wang might be back once he’s deemed healthy, if for no other reason than that he put in quite a bit of time in 2014 and certainly won’t suffer from having a bit more time around the big leaguers. He wasn’t pitching much before his injury so having him around shouldn’t adversely affect much in terms of making sure everyone gets enough innings to stay sharp. Jeff Bianchi could also return at some point. For use in double-switches and straight up defensive substitutions, it never hurts to have another capable utility defender active.
The other guys I think you should at least be aware of are Alfredo Figaro (he of the upper-90s fastball), and Jason Rogers (in case Melvin decides to not only fix his mistake with Morris, but not make the same potential mistake with Rogers).
Those are my thoughts. Let’s hear yours. Respond in the comments.
Follow me on Twitter for Brewers news, analysis and commentary: @BrewerNation
* – You can hear The Mike Heller Show on AM radio in the Milwaukee (The Big 920), Madison (The Big 1070) and Eau Claire (Sports Radio 1400) markets from 2pm-6pm CT. My segments are usually on 2:30pm CT on Mondays and Fridays.