For some reason, I’ve always had an affinity for the September call-up period. I really shouldn’t because there is seldom ever a case that a September call-up makes a huge impact. The only time I can think of was when when K-Rod got added to the roster in 2002. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I like this period so much. Because of that one time that it actually became a big deal. That means it can happen again!
It can happen again, but it probably won’t happen this year. The Angels don’t have any hot prospects awaiting a promotion and because they are in contention, they don’t have much playing time for a minor league scrub anyway. What could happen this year though is that they might be able to dig up a few players could could make small contributions down the stretch. That’s not nearly as sexy as another K-Rod-type player, but it will have to do.
The Bullpen Reinforcements
As Jerry Dipoto has made abundantly clear with his trade machinations, he feels that there is no such thing as having too much bullpen depth. Good thing he has that way of thinking because the Angels bullpen, while highly effective, are being worked harder than a 10-year old Korean kid in a Nike sweatshop. They need some other solid arms to soak up a few innings whenever they can.
For that, the Halos will likely turn to Vinnie Pestano and Cam Bedrosian. Neither are going to be difference makers (at least not this year) but both should be competent enough to pitch in low leverage situations without triggering a disaster. Both have the potential to be pretty good, actually, but they aren’t likely to find much upward mobility on the bullpen depth chart.
They also have a lower tier of arms that they could call on to work some mop-up duty that is comprised of Michael Kohn, Dane De La Rosa and David Carpenter. All of them have some big league experience, so it isn’t as if they are kids being thrown to the wolves. Mostly though, those three would be called up just because they do have big league experience and the organization might feel like they are owed a call-up, just to save face.
The Rotation Alternatives
Apologies to Wade LeBlanc, but after the egg he laid last night, there is exactly zero belief in the Angelsphere that he is going to be able to survive the rest of the season as Garrett Richards‘ replacement in the rotation. Fortunately, Dipoto planned for that as well. Well, sort of.
Behind LeBlanc are veterans Randy Wolf and Chris Volstad. They both probably stink, but at least they have been in The Show before, so they won’t be working through nerves right in the middle of the Angels competing for the AL West crown. Wolf isn’t going to be a difference maker, but his long track record gives at least some confidence that he won’t get his brains bashed in like LeBlanc just did. Volstad very well could get his brains bashed in, but he had the one pretty good season a few years ago, giving the tiny sliver of hope that he might be able to recapture that form for a month. Or at least that is what you might talk yourself into until you learn that Volstad got lit up like Christmas tree in the Korean league before getting kicked to the curb.
As far as guys with actual potential to be something more than replacement level, the options are slim. Michael Roth doesn’t profile as much of a big league starter, but he’s been excellent in the admittedly pitcher-friendly Texas League this year. However, he is a guy with a lot of deception that could allow him to take the league by surprise for a month. There is also the intangible factor, if you are into that sort of thing, where he was basically the greatest College World Series pitcher ever. If there’s a youngster who can handle the pressure, it is Roth.
If all else fails, there are non-prospect types like Drew Rucinski, Caleb Clay and Jarrett Grube who could get a shot. None of them are a good bet to even survive a single big league start, but they’ve all overachieved in the minors either this year or last, so there is a non-zero chance that one of them might be able to translate that into a sliver of success in the Majors.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but I’d love to see the Angels try a tandem starter arrangement instead of just hitching their wagon to one guy and hoping it works out. Why not have the Roth and all his wacky arm angels go through the order one or two times, then replace him with Rucinski (or some other righty, thus negating any lineup machinations teams would’ve made to stack righties against Roth) for another time or two through the order before turning the game over to the bullpen after the fifth or sixth innings? This is the one time of year where you can carry enough roster depth to make it work without blowing out all your relievers.
DO IT, SCIOSCIA. DO IT.
Or they could just trade for a real starting pitcher. I suppose that would work too.
The Right-Handed Bats
A week ago, this seemed like the one need on the Angels roster that the September call-ups were actually going to make an impact. Then they went and acquired Gordon Beckham. Between him and Collin Cowgill, the Angels now have fully stocked the right-handed half of their DH platoon. Sure, Beckham can’t actually hit, but those are just minor details.
If/when Scioscia wises up to the fact that Beckham is inept, he could turn to C.J. Cron. He had real plate discipline issues in his earlier stints in the majors, but he’s also still got that tremendous power. If you are going to have someone in that role making a ton of outs, you might as well have someone who can hit the ball real far in the rare instance he isn’t making an out. At a minimum, Cron can be that big scary power bat looming on the bench that will give opposing managers pause about bringing in a left-handed reliever.
Or you could just go with Grant Green, who is basically what the Angels are hoping Beckham to be. Green has shown he can hit for average in the brief time the Angels have given him in the lineup. He may not have as much pop or defensive ability (OK, he definitely doesn’t have as much defensive ability), but at least there is a high probability that he won’t be an OBP sinkhole.
Oh, Luis Jimenez is there, too. He can’t hack it in the bigs, but I’m sure one of you was going to be upset if I didn’t mention him. Consider him mentioned.
The Left-Handed Bats
What the Angels actually need is for a left-handed bat to step up and take over the left-handed part of the DH platoon. That job currently is being shared by Efren Navarro, who can’t hit, and Collin Cowgill, who isn’t actually left-handed, which is kind of a proble.
They recently tried to give Brennan Boesch a shot at the job, but he lasted only a few games. That wasn’t a fair audition though, so maybe he’ll get another one. He’s really the closest thing they have to a left-handed bat with upside.
There is also old friend J.B. Shuck. You know my feelings on Shuck by now, but Scioscia seemed to have an affinity for him, so maybe he’ll be given a chance to earn some playing time. More likely though is that Shuck will serve as a pinch-hitter since the one thing he does well is put the bat on the ball.
Ryan Wheeler is a dark horse option. He was recently claimed off waivers from Colorado, so there must be something they see in him. He couldn’t even hit in Denver though, so I’m not sure what exactly they see. Thus the “dark horse” designation.
We finally get to the meat of it. We can wishcast all we want about Boesch suddenly starting to slug out of the DH-slot or Michael Roth reliving his South Carolina glory days down the stretch, but those are really just pipe dreams. Where the Angels are actually likely to get some value out of their call-ups is with the specialists they will be adding.
John Buck will be getting the nod as the token third catcher. He may not get a single start in September or even very many plate appearances, but his presence will enable Scioscia to pinch-hit and pinch-run more freely for Iannetta and Conger. With Conger’s noted offensive struggles and both catchers’ lack of speed, being able to sub either out in a high leverage situation without fear of being exposed to injury is worth at least a little bit of utility. It also doesn’t hurt that Buck has a little bit of pop in his bat, so he won’t be entirely useless should he ever get a plate appearance.
As for who will be doing the pinch-running, look no further than Tony Campana. He was an unexpected throw-in to the Joe Thatcher deal, but it quickly became apparent that Campana was acquired specifically to be the designated pinch-runner in September. The Halos have a glaring lack of speed on their bench right now, but Campana will change that. He’s an exceptional baserunner having stolen 66 bases on 74 attempts and amassing 13.6 runs above replacement on the basepaths in his 239 game career. He can’t do much of anything else, but he should be able to swipe a few key bags in late-game situations in the final month of the season.