A look at some notable Sept. 1 callups by division, with capsules from J.J. Cooper, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris.
Daniel Norris, lhp, Blue Jays: It’s pretty amazing what happens you find command, isn’t it? Always blessed with a strong arsenal, Norris harnessed it this year and dominated at three levels. He’s armed with a fastball up to 97 with late life from the left side as well as a slider and a changeup that both have the potential to be plus. He struck out more than 11 per nine innings this year and will likely bring his wipeout stuff to the bullpen before getting a look at the rotation next year.
Dalton Pompey, of, Blue Jays. One of the Blue Jays’ two breakout prospects this year, Pompey breezed through the Florida State and Eastern Leagues, then put up a solid two weeks in Triple-A. He’s a true center fielder with a strong, accurate arm and quick-twitch athletic abilities. He’s spray hitter with some power, but line drives are more his game than longballs. His .317 average was second in the organization this year, and he finished at .317/.392/.469, 22 doubles, nine triples, nine homers and 51 RBIs, and his 43 stolen bases were the second best in the organization.
Terrance Gore, of, Royals: In no way is Gore ready to help a big league club as a well-rounded player. Gore hit .218/.284/.258 in high Class A Wilmington this year, coming off of a .215/.334/.242 stat line in low Class A Lexington in 2013. He’s unlikely to get even one at-bat during his September callup. Despite that, Gore could make a significant impact in the Royals’ battle with the Tigers and Indians for the AL Central crown because of his blazing speed. Gore is one of the fastest players in baseball. He has 80 speed on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, and he utilizes his speed extremely well. For his career, Gore has a 91 percent success rate on his stolen base attempts with 168 steals in 185 tries. The Reds’ Billy Hamilton showed last year just how much impact a pinch runner can make in the wacky world of September’s expanded rosters. At this point in his career, Gore is even more of a dedicated pinch runner. Think of Gore as a Herb Washington-type who will enter the game in a late innings situation, try to swipe a bag, then look to go from second to home on any hit to the outfield. Defensively, he’s solid defensively in left field and can play center, but he’s unlikely to see much time in the outfield on a club that has Alex Gordon, Jarrod Dyson, Lorenzo Cain and fellow September callup Lane Adams cutting off balls in the gaps.
Brandon Finnegan, lhp, Royals: With a shot at their first playoff appearance since 1985, the Royals are adopting an all-hands-on-deck approach. After its first wave of September callups, Kansas City’s active roster sat at 32 for Monday night’s game. The first 2014 draftee to make the big leagues, Finnegan could serve a purpose in a Royals’ bullpen that has a sensational back-end with Kelvin Herrera (3-2, 1.37), Wade Davis (8-2, 0.73) and Greg Holland (41 saves, 1.63 ERA) but a shaky bridge to get to the triumvirate. Kansas City hasn’t had a consistent lefthanded reliever all season, but Finnegan could fix that. Finnegan, the 17th pick in June’s draft, was 0-4, 1.33 with 26 strikeouts and four walks in 27 innings in the minors. With 93-96 mph fastball and a power slider, Finnegan could quickly become the Royals’ best option as a lefty matchup reliever.
Shawn O’Malley, Angels. Drafted by the Rays so long ago (2006) they were then known as the Devil Rays, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound O’Malley has one plus tool—run—and is a below-average hitter and hitter for power. What O’Malley is notable for is his ability to make contact and steal bases. The switch-hitting spray hitter has struck out only 516 times in 2,524 at-bats and is also a very efficient base-stealer, swiping 186 bases in 245 tries. O’Malley has a strong arm at shortstop, along with above-average range and soft hands and, like Gore, could help his team as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement.
Maikel Franco, 3b/1b, Phillies. Phillies fans have been looking for signs of hope this season, and they’re about to get one in Franco, 22, who looked dead in the water at Triple-A after the first two months of the season. He’s always going to be a free-swinger, but that’s mitigated by all the contact he makes. His swing is long, and some scouts believe he can be beaten inside, especially by righthanded pitchers. After June, however, Franco rebounded, posting a .324/.344/.580 slash line with 11 homers over his final 55 games. He plays a solid third base, which is helped by his well above-average throwing arm.
Dario Alvarez, lhp, Mets. One of the most unlikely September callups, Alvarez emerged as an interesting prospect on the strength of his 114 strikeouts against in 73 innings. Alvarez, 25, spent three years with the Phillies’ Dominican Summer League team, then didn’t pitch in affiliated ball again until last season, when he worked as a 24-year-old in short-season New York-Penn League. He’s armed with a fastball up to 95 as well as a solid-average slider and a below-average changeup. With the Mets long out of it, Alvarez represents a look at an intriguing arm.
Yorman Rodriguez, of, Reds: When Rodriguez signed with the Reds in 2008, Ken Griffey Jr. was the club’s everyday center fielder and Jay Bruce was a rookie right fielder. It’s been a long climb from Venezuela to the big leagues for Rodriguez, whose still only 22. His immaturity was apparent at times, as he struggled defensively and at the plate, forcing a return trip to low Class A Dayton in 2012.
He’s still an erratic player and scouts don’t like his low-energy approach, but he has extremely impressive tools with above-average speed, a quick bat and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He has power potential, but doesn’t show in-game power yet.
His long-term potential will be determined by whether he can continue to improve his selectivity and pitch recognition, but he’s a lot closer to a fourth outfield role than looked possible just two years ago.
Joc Pederson, Dodgers. Scouts and PCL managers believe Pederson can be a more-than-capable major league center fielder who will get on base, hit for power and strike out. There is some uncertainty on just how his power will translate to the majors, although one scout said Pederson would hit 20-25 homers and plenty of doubles. He pinch hit Monday night in his major league debut and struck out—which he did 149 times in the PCL. “He’s probably the best player in the league overall,” a rival PCL manager said, who was well aware that Kris Bryant played in the PCL as well. “He can do everything; He’s a really, really good center fielder; He’s aggressive on the bases.” Despite the strikeouts, evaluators say there are no red flags in Pederson’s swing, although one noted Pederson struggles with some lefthanders.
Cory Spangenberg, Padres. Now 23, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft did well in repeating the Texas League in 2014 (.330/.364/.468). Never the most patient hitter—he walked just 15 times in 2014—the lefty swinger has to hit to get on base but has a good feel for contact. With a flat swing plane, he doesn’t elevate the ball for home runs, but he did have 17 doubles and eight triples, accounting for his high slugging percentage. Spangenberg is a plus runner, but his ability to play multiple positions—he played second, third and center field this season—is the key to his future as a utility man.
Brett Bochy, Giants. The son of Giants manager Bruce Bochy, the 20th-round pick in 2010 from Kansas will be making his major league debut. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound righthander got as high as No. 30 in the Giants system following the 2012 season. The former Jayhawks closer had Tommy John surgery in April 2010, sapping some of his velocity from his 91-93 mph fastball. He now pitches at around 85-88 with tailing action and some deception, as well as a tight slider. He has feel for the change, but below-average command as his performance indicated this season (4.50 BB/9).