A Wish List Of 10 September Callups

Teams don’t wait for September to call up their top prospects. Many of them make it to the majors early, from Cody Bellinger taking the league by storm in May to Rhys Hoskins coming up earlier in August to set a major league record with 11 home runs in his first 18 games.

Rosters expand on Sept. 1, though, so plenty of interesting prospects will be coming to the major leagues for their first trip or possibly their first extended trip. This isn’t a prediction of who’s coming up; some of these players won’t, because of 40-man roster crunches or because of their big league teams’ situations. But these are 10 of the minor leaguers I most want to see called up, for a variety of reasons.

Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers

Since acquiring him from the Dodgers, the Rangers wisely have kept Calhoun in left field and just let him focus on that position. The 5-foot-8 lefthanded batter just doesn’t have the hands to be a second baseman, but his hands work at the plate. He has the best combination of power and contact in the minors, which would be a welcome complement to Joey Gallo in Texas’ lineup.

J.P. Crawford, SS/3B, Phillies

It’s been fun to feel the power of influencing events. Crawford had done very little in Triple-A for about a calendar year, prompting BA to drop him from No. 10 to No. 92 in our Midseason Top 100 Prospects. Asked on a podcast about this drop by Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, I responded that while we still saw Crawford as an everyday player at shortstop, we didn’t see him as an impact player anymore and thought he was no longer a cornerstone piece for the franchise. Crawford responded by tweeting, “All it is is motivation,” then went on an extended tear; since the Futures Game (the day the podcast was recorded), Crawford has fashioned a .297/.380/.500 line for Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

You’re welcome, Philadelphia.

Crawford has spent much of the past week playing third base, likely to prepare him for time at both short and third in September. He might not be a top 10 prospect anymore, but he’s better than No. 92 since we lit a fire under him. He can just be Rhys Hoskins’ wing man now instead of having to be the franchise, right?

Tom Eshelman, RHP, Phillies

The former Cal State Fullerton ace keeps doing Eshelman things, which mainly means living on the black of the plate and never walking anyone. By my count, just three pitchers who have significant Double-A or Triple-A time have better walks rates than Eshelman’s 1.1 per nine innings, and at 12-3, 2.52 overall in 143 innings, he has shown his approach can work in the upper minors. Not many starters, especially righthanders, survive with an 88-92 mph fastball these days. I want to see if Eshelman and his extreme command can.

Wilmer Font, RHP, Dodgers

The minor leagues are full of good stories, and Font has one. He missed all of 2011 with Tommy John surgery before reaching the majors by the end of 2012 with the Rangers, who also called him up briefly in 2013. But he’s been cut (Reds, 2015) and pitched in indy ball (Can-Am League) before finding a home this year with the Dodgers. The 27-year-old has been the best pitcher in the Pacific Coast League. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Font is 10-8, 3.42 with 178 strikeouts in 134 innings; he leads the PCL in whiffs and ERA and is second in wins, giving him an outside shot to still win the PCL pitching triple crown. He’s also pumping mid-90s gas. The Dodgers don’t need Font and don’t have room for him on their 40-man roster, but I’d love to see Font get a shot as a reward for his 2017 exploits.

Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, Twins

Gonsalves’ long arm action hasn’t kept him from filling up strike zones and getting plenty of swings and misses throughout his minor league career. He’s overcome an early-season shoulder issue to post the best walk rate of his career (2.4 per nine) while maintaining a robust strikeout rate (9.7), and with the Twins in contention for the American League wild card, pitching depth is at a premium. Gonsalves should be able to help. Three of his four Triple-A outings have been quality starts.

Austin Hays, OF, Orioles

This one’s easy. Few players can match Hays’ minor league power production this season (.331/.366/.598, 31 home runs), and he’s making a high rate of high-quality contact. Hays earns plus grades from scouts for his power and arm strength and could be a plus hitter despite his lack of walks, thanks to his knack for the barrel. The red-hot Orioles might not need him, but he’s a strong defender who could at least help in that role or replace Craig Gentry as the righthanded platoon partner for right fielder Seth Smith. Hays has hit .407 with 12 homers in 147 at-bats against minor league lefthanders this season.

Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays

Honeywell has pitched a full Triple-A season, shined in the Futures Game—flashing his four-pitch mix—and ranks fifth in the minors in strikeouts. The Rays don’t need him; he’s not on the 40-man roster yet and doesn’t need to be; plus the rotation is the last spot where Tampa needs help. But Honeywell is fun. He’s likely consigned to the International League playoffs instead, which is great for us at Baseball America here in Durham.

Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays

Jansen ranked No. 22 in the Blue Jays system entering the season despite missing most of the past two seasons with left hand injuries (two different broken bones). He took advantage of the down time to see an eye doctor and get fitted for prescription glasses, which—along with a healthy left hand—have helped him have a breakout season. Moving from high Class A Dunedin to Double-A New Hampshire (where he was an Eastern League all-star) up to Triple-A Buffalo, he’s hit a composite .332/.409/.499, good for ninth in the minors in batting. Jansen always has had tools and already is on the 40-man roster. That’s why it’s a bit odd that Toronto opted for veteran journeyman Raffy Lopez over Jansen in August to back up Miguel Montero with Russell Martin on the disabled list, but Jansen should get a look once the IL season is over.

Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox

Who doesn’t want to see the dude who throws 100 mph? Kopech has made mighty strides this season, but the only callup he’ll get this year is making his last three starts in Triple-A Charlotte (the first two have gone smoothly). He’s not coming up; the White Sox don’t need to put him on the 40-man roster until after next season. But he would give White Sox fans a reason to watch an otherwise-tanking team.

Chris Shaw, OF/1B, Giants

San Francisco needs to hit the rebuild button, if not the reset. Shaw has had a year of highs and lows, including an unhinged 101-18 strikeout-walk rate in Triple-A. But he has plenty of power and feel for the barrel, and the Giants could evaluate him in left field, where the likes of Jarrett Parker and Gorkys Hernandez have proved they are not the answer.

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