Through 15 days in August, the Washington Nationals have posted a record of 12-4, bringing their overall record to a league leading 73-45. With just 13 games remaining through the final 16 days of the month, three of which will be of utmost importance to the 2012 season, it is time the organization begins to seriously consider their options regarding their roster, which will expand to 40 men on September 1.
The expanded roster, along with the September call-ups that come with it, provides organizations the chance to not only relieve a fatigued active roster down the stretch, but also the opportunity to offer minor league talent the chance to gain major league experience, and in turn, evaluate that talent.
Among the call-ups from September 2011, were such familiar faces as Steve Lombardozzi and Craig Stammen, both of whom have been mainstays on the Nationals’ 25-man roster in 2012. Others included outfielder Corey Brown, who has already appeared in nine games for the Nationals this year, and pitchers Yunesky Maya, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone.
Last year, the Nationals were far from contention by the time September arrived, allowing the expanded roster to serve primarily as exposure for minor leaguers. Perhaps most importantly, it provided Peacock and Milone the opportunity to showcase their talent, which was no doubt integral to the decision that led to the December 2011 trade that brought left-hander Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals.
This year, the Nationals will head into September atop the National League East, making the upcoming decisions more important than ever. Having said that, let us take a moment to review a few of this year’s possible call-ups.
Corey Brown, who is currently patrolling the outfield in Syracuse, is almost certain to receive a call-up. As noted, Brown was among last year’s call-ups and has already appeared in nine games for the Nationals, in which he posted a .188/.188/.438 line in 16 at-bats and hit his first career home run.
In 107 games for the Syracuse Chiefs, Brown has posted a .295/.356/.487 line with 21 doubles, 22 home runs and 63 RBIs. Brown was also named the International League Player of the Week for the week of May 21.
Eury Perez began the season with the Nationals’ Class AA affiliate Harrisburg Senators, where the 22-year-old outfielder posted a .299/.325/.342 line with 11 doubles, 30 RBIs and 26 stolen bases in 36 attempts.
His stellar performance in Harrisburg earned him a promotion to Syracuse on July 19. The transition proved simple for Perez, who began his stint in Syracuse with a 19-game hitting streak, during which he batted .350 and scored 15 runs. In 25 games with Syracuse, Perez is batting .330/.374/.390 with six doubles, five RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 14 attempts.
With the departure of Rick Ankiel earlier this year, Perez’s value will come as a late-inning defensive replacement with blazing speed.
Anthony Rendon, the Nationals’ sixth-overall pick in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, is on the Nationals’ 40-man roster but appears unlikely to receive a call-up given his inexperience.
Rendon missed a large portion of his first professional season after suffering a partial fracture in his left ankle. In fact, he has only played in 10 games this year between the Potomac Nationals and the Harrisburg Senators.
Still, a call-up is possible and when asked in a recent interview, Nationals manager Davey Johnson was hesitant to rule out the possibility. Asked about the prospect of a call-up, Johnson responded with the following:
“He might be. We’ll see how he finishes up,” Johnson said. “This is the year of the young guys all around baseball, and he’s another one right in that mold.”
John Lannan is much more than a possibility, he is a sure bet. The veteran left-hander was a mainstay in the Nationals’ rotation from 2008 through 2011 and was a favorite to earn the fifth spot in 2012 before losing it to Ross Detwiler at the conclusion of spring training.
In 21 starts at Syracuse this year, Lannan has posted a record of 7-11 with a 4.99 ERA through 124.1 innings pitched. He has fared much better in his two spot starts with the Nationals, winning both and posting a 3.46 ERA through 13 innings pitched.
Lannan is fully expected to step into the fifth spot in the rotation when it comes time for Stephen Strasburg to be shut down.
Yunesky Maya is another example of a player with major league experience who is a candidate to receive a call-up in order to provide much-needed relief to an overly taxed bullpen.
Maya has been one of Syracuse’s most valuable pitchers in 2012, posting an 11-8 record with a team-leading 3.52 ERA through 145.2 innings pitched.
The following is a short list of players who are not currently on the 40-man roster, but are either major league veterans or players who have enjoyed standout seasons. Each would provide value if they were to find their way to the 40-man roster prior to September 1.
Zach Duke, who was spotlighted earlier this week on Positive Mental Natitude, is a veteran left-hander with nearly 200 major league appearances under his belt. A former top prospect in the Pittsburg Pirates’ organization, Duke has rebounded this year after suffering a broken hand by posting a 13-5 record with a 3.57 ERA through 143.2 innings pitched.
After undergoing two Tommy John surgeries, Christian Garcia has proven to be a force in his 38 appearances, which have been split between the Harrisburg Senators and the Syracuse Chiefs. In 2012, Garcia has posted a record of 2-0 with a 0.79 ERA, 16 saves and 61 strikeouts through 45.1 innings pitched.
Speculation will be put to an end in just 16 days when the rosters are expanded.