We are close to one of the most magical days of the entire baseball season. Major League Baseball, for whatever reason, is fond of relatively arbitrary days on the calendar when special things happen. The Day Pitchers and Catchers Report, Opening Day, All Star Break, Trade Deadline....
But all of those have come and past this season, and the next one is September 1st. The big thing about September 1st is we put aside the whole rule about how many players you can have and tell teams “You know what, you've worked pretty hard so far, call up just about any one you want and have them do anything you want.” It's like the last day of school but it stretches over a month. Whereas prior to September 1st, you have a hard limit of how many players you can carry, after September 1st, you can have as many as forty guys on the active roster. Which is crazy because forty is way more than you can ever really use, unless you get really Tony La Russa-matchup and substitution crazy.
It's great, in case my tone left any doubt. It's one of my favorite times of the year because things get weird and experimental and I love weird and experimental things. Teams that have no reason to go on start evaluating players for next year, contenders fill in cracks, and everyone takes a long, hard look at guys they could potentially lose to the rule 5 draft over the winter.
This serves to look at the guys the Rangers might call up, in three sections; the guys they're likely to call up (already on the 40 man roster), the guys they're not likely to call up (already on the 40) and the guys they're likely to call up that are not on the 40 man roster.
First off, a statement: The 40 Man roster is really, really important. Putting guys on it is not something you take lightly. Neither is taking guys off. Put simply, there's almost nothing that trumps the 40. In fact, I used to know a guy who would yell at you across a Dairy Queen parking lot that the 40 trumps all. I mean, recreationally, he would do this. For fun, in his free time.
The 40 is important, is what I'm saying.
40 Man members likely to be called up:
Joseph Ortiz: Maybe the most likely of all the ones below. He's a lefty, and he has good stuff, and he's had success in the majors.
Engel Beltre: Beltre's ability to perform at the Major League level is going to inform a lot of decisions the team makes over the winter; plus he's probably the most physically gifted ballplayer the Rangers have between Round Rock and Hickory from a tools perspective.
Josh Lindblom: Despite his unimpressive run in the Majors, Lindblom has been one the Rangers' sturdiest minor league starters in the upper levels (98 IP, 2.85 ERA) from a results standpoint.
Michael Kirkman: More of a return than a call-up, Kirkman's going to get every feasible chance, because he pitches left handed and can sit 95. Plus, it's not like the Rangers to dump a guy after a bout with skin cancer. Lindblom and Kirkman get extra points for being stretched out, in the event the Rangers need yet another starter over the season's final month.
Robinson Chirinos: Extra catchers are always welcome, and Chirinos may be the most advanced right-handed bat the Rangers have. I still think he'd be at least as productive as Soto (at about one-sixth the price), so evaluation for next season could be important, as well.
On the 40, but not likely to be called up
Wilmer Font: This one hurts, because Font is one of the Rangers' best physical specimens, and he can be an absolute beast. But he's turned into a one-trick pony of late, living almost entirely off his fastball. His fastball is awesome, heavy upper 90's stuff, but it takes a special heater for a guy to be able to live solely off it. If he does get called up, I'd expect very sparse, very low leverage duty.
Justin Miller: If recovery from Tommy John surgery is like a night of heavy drinking, Miller's in the phase where you start wondering who you're going to call, not whether calling people is the right decision to make. Like Font, Miller has powerful stuff (striking out 9.82 batters per nine innings pitched at AAA) but is struggling badly with control (7.36 walks per nine, including 5 of the last 19 he's faced).
Chris McGuiness: McGuiness' intro to Major League ball did not go well. Zero walks and thirteen strikeouts in thirty four plate appearances is really, really bad for a player who's calling card is using walks to get on base. Of course, it's only 34 plate appearances; but the Rangers are likely in a dogfight for the division and likely don't have the headspace to potentially waste plate appearances.
Joey Butler: Here's another guy I can go back and forth on. Butler's a really good guy, and has played the part of organizational soldier for a long time, so the Rangers might give him a cup of coffee. But he's also very likely not a part of the major league team going forward; if the Rangers need a spot on the 40 man roster, he could be a casualty. I'd be sad to see him go, if so.
Joe Benson: Benson started out his Rangers career looking like a stud, but he's currently sitting at a 200/278/408 triple slash line in AA. It's very hard to see that translating to any kind of success against major league talent.
Cory Burns: Since July 28th, Burns has faced 49 batters. 12 of them have hit safely, and another 9 have walked. Neither is terrible, but neither jump off the page to me as a guy who's ready to contribute in a pennant chase in the major leagues; not when guys with comparable stuff are getting guys out.
Not on the 40, but likely to be called up:
Ben Rowen: <a href= http://www.wfaa.com/sports/Rangers-Who-is--219598111.html>My love for Rowen is well documented</a>. Aside from that, Rowen will need to be on the 40 man roster this winter, or the team risks losing him for nothing. Rowen's a good candidate to come up and get some low-pressure outs, particularly against right handed batters.
Jim Aducci: Aducci's sudden popularity (today both Jamey Newberg and Jason Cole wrote at him) isn't surprising. Aducci's left-handed, has hit 296/378/465 for Round Rock, and can play all three outfield spots while moonlighting as a first basemen. Like Engel Beltre, Aducci could figure in to how the team plans for next year; if the team is confident he could be a mirror image of Jeff Baker next year (with centerfield mixed in), it changes the outlook of how the team approaches rebuilding the outfield this winter.
Luis Sardinas: Sardinas and Jurickson Profar signed on the same day. A lot of smart people thought Sardinas was the more talented of the two. Some people held on to that thought until Profar smashed his way into their hearts. Still, Sardinas is an elite defensive shortstop prospect, with elite/near elite speed. He's never going to hit much, but he's got good bat control, and he typically walks into the batter's box with a decent idea of what he can do. Sardinas probably needs protection on the 40 man roster this winter (sometimes it gets a little cloudy with Latin American prospects), and the team might like to reward him with some time on the big league bench next month. Sardinas is by far the least likely on this list to actually be called up, and if he is called up, the least likely to see playing time. But the team could use it as a reward for a good season and for the rub-off effect being around guys like Kinsler, Elvis, and Adrian Beltre could provide.
This is the part where you'd expect I make a guess at who comes up and who doesn't, and you're right. I'd say Ortiz, Beltre, Rowen, and Kirkman come up and actually contribute a little; Lindblom, Chirinos, and Aducci come up but spend a lot of time working on their sunflower seed game. For everyone else, the next Magic Day is Pitchers and Catchers Report Day.