First Pitch: Who Will the Pirates Call Up When Rosters Expand?

In a little less than a week, rosters will expand around baseball, allowing teams to carry up to 40 guys on the active roster, being limited to anyone on the 40-man roster. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, this will almost certainly mean the arrival of some bullpen arms to help out, along with some extra bench players, and the return of Gregory Polanco.

Rosters expand on September 1st, at which point we should see a lot of moves (Polanco can’t come back until the 2nd, when the Indianapolis season is over). As a preview of who should be coming up, I decided to break down the possibilities into sections, sorted by the likelihood of the players being called up.

Should Return to the Majors

Jaff Decker, Andrew Lambo, Michael Martinez, Brent Morel, Gregory Polanco, Casey Sadler, Tony Sanchez

Everyone on this list is on the 40-man roster, and has been in the majors already this season. You can expect them all to return when rosters expand. Gregory Polanco is definitely returning when rosters expand. Brent Morel and Michael Martinez were recently on the team, and both should be expected to return to play off the bench in September. Fortunately, the Pirates won’t need them in starting roles this time around, now that Clint Barmes and Neil Walker are healthy.

Jaff Decker, Casey Sadler, and Tony Sanchez have only been up for brief appearances this year, and all three should return. Sadler gives another arm out of the bullpen. Decker gives the team an additional outfielder, and another guy who could play center field. Sanchez would be the third catcher on the roster. I also expect Andrew Lambo to get called up, since he was a September call-up last year.

Could Get a Look at the End of the Year

Ernesto Frieri, John Holdzkom, Bobby LaFromboise*, Vin Mazzaro, Chris McGuiness*, A.J. Morris, Andy Oliver, Rafael Perez, Mel Rojas

One thing about the list above is that there aren’t many pitchers. In fact, the only pitcher is Sadler. The Pirates will have a few guys returning from the DL, which I’ll get to soon. But first we’ve got the list of guys who could possibly see the majors in September, with most of them being pitchers.

Vin Mazzaro and Ernesto Frieri seem the most likely from this list. Frieri is being paid $3.8 M by the Pirates, so you know they’re going to call him up and give him another shot. With an expanded bullpen, they don’t need to use him in any high pressure situations. Mazzaro has been up this year, and has cleared waivers twice. He’s not going to be an impact reliever, but could be a useful arm out of the bullpen.

I highlighted Chris McGuiness and Bobby LaFromboise just because they’re both on the 40-man roster. I don’t think that guarantees they’ll be up. LaFromboise has a shot as a third lefty in the bullpen. Andy Oliver and Rafael Perez could compete for that role as well. Oliver has suffered control issues, while Perez mostly gets by with his off-speed stuff. His low-80s fastball probably won’t have success in the majors.

An interesting right-hander is John Holdzkom. He has been working consistently in the upper 90s, and while he does have some control problems, he has looked dominant in his limited time with Indianapolis. A.J. Morris was doing well before his injury, and could be another option if he’s healthy enough.

I added Mel Rojas here, just because he has to be added to the 40-man roster over the off-season to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. That doesn’t necessarily mean he will be up in September. The Pirates have plenty of outfield options, so they don’t need Rojas. He might be a better option than Decker, since he has more value from a speed/defense standpoint.

On the Disabled List or Designated For Assignment

Charlie Morton, Jayson Nix, Stolmy Pimentel

Stolmy Pimentel has been rehabbing in Altoona recently, and should be set to return when rosters expand. Charlie Morton will be making his first rehab start on Thursday, and will need at least one more start, if not more than that. This would put his return after the rosters expand.

Jayson Nix was designated for assignment recently, and will probably go through the waiver process. The Pirates could choose to bring him back when rosters expand, although with everyone healthy, there might not be a need for Nix on the roster.

Predicting the Call-Ups

I think everyone from the first list is certain to come up. The only guy who might not come up would be Jaff Decker, depending on who they might bring up as an outfielder. I’d also say that Brent Morel and Michael Martinez aren’t guarantees, but that would only be based on my evaluation of those two, and not how the Pirates seem to feel about them.

From the second group, I definitely think Frieri and Mazzaro will come back. John Holdzkom would be my sleeper from that group. They’ll probably also bring up a lefty, and LaFromboise seems to be the best bet right now, only because he’s on the 40-man roster. Andy Oliver seems like the better option, just to give him one final look before he’s eligible for free agency this off-season. The Pirates would have to clear a few spots on the 40-man roster for these guys, although they’ve got some easy decisions after all of their waiver claims this month.

Finally, Pimentel will return, and Morton should return. That would put the roster at 38 if everyone from the first group gets called up, and if they call up Holdzkom and a lefty. Usually they only have around 34-35 players, so there could be a few guys left off this list.

Links and Notes

**The 2014 Prospect Guide is on sale in the Pirates Prospects store. The paperback version has dropped to $14.99 plus shipping. We currently only have one case of books remaining, and the offer is only valid while the books are in stock. There is also an eBook version available for $9.99. The 2013 Prospect Guide is on clearance for $1.

**Prospect Watch: Big Days For Tito Polo, Chase Simpson, and Reese McGuire

**Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez Leave Tonight’s Game Early

**Gregory Polanco looks to find swing in Triple-A

**Pirates AFL Roster Includes Glasnow, Kingham, Bell, Sampson, and Diaz

**Josh Bell Moving to First Base in the Arizona Fall League

**Tyler Glasnow and Josh Bell Win FSL Season Awards

**Morning Report: More Than Just a Cool Name, DuRapau Can Pitch

  • “Whom.” A professional writer should know the difference between objective case and subjective case pronouns. Just saying.

    • Thanks for the tip. I’ll continue to not care, just like 99% of the world when it comes to who/whom. Just saying.

      • You’re welcome Tim. I am glad to help. You sound like a true professional and a really nice person.

        • You sound like you spend too much time focusing on little things that don’t matter.

          • I suppose that is true. Unfortunately for me my (government) job is both boring and extremely easy, so I have to find ways to kill 8 hours a day. Esoteric things like the lost art of grammar helps me get through the day. Reading about the Pirates helps, too. To each his/her own, yes?

            • Hey grammar nazi, how about you not goof off and put in a solid 8 hours while you’re on the taxpayer’s dime? I find that actually working really helps kill the time while I’m at work.

              • There is really no work for me to do most days. The taxpayers created my job and hired me, so they get what they pay for. Me think me will read about Base Ball and watch horse racing today.

                • Find some work to do. Grab a broom and sweep up. Something. You’re pretty unmotivated for someone who has such a high opinion of himself.

                  • Why would I possibly want to do that? That does not sound fun or rewarding. I prefer to read about baseball, get my workout in, go to lunch, watch horse racing and baseball on the television in my office and add to the lively discussion on Tim’s website.

                    • It’s work, pal. It ain’t necessarily ‘sposed to be fun or rewarding.

                      Entertain yourself and workout on your own time. The taxpayers ain’t paying you to goof off. Way to live up to the stereotype of the lazy, entitled government worker.

                      I’ve been a government worker at times and I’ve known and still know quite a lot of them. The vast majority were/are capable and hardworking. However, there’s usually someone like you around to game the system.

                      So you’re a nitpicking grammar corrector who isn’t the least bit bothered that he’s not really earning the money he’s being paid by his employers? Congrats.

                    • Thanks. I didn’t “game” any systems. I was lucky enough to get an easy job. I am not sure why anybody would want me to find ways to make my job harder. I can retire with a full pension at age 50, after which I might decide to find a more demanding job. For now, I will keep on keeping on. I hope you are as content with your job as I am with mine. Go Bucs!

                    • You’re gaming the system by getting paid to goof off. That’s not what work is for. What’s worse: you won’t even put forth any effort to find any extra work to do or show any initiative or motivation that might end up with the taxpayers getting an honest day’s work outta you.

                      I’m very content with my job. What I’m not content with is paying taxes so you can goof off. You shouldn’t be content with getting paid taxpayer money to goof off either– it’s dishonest. If it were up to me, I’d fire you and give your job to someone who will actually give the taxpayers the full 8 hour workday they’re paying you for. It’s a tough economy; I’m sure I could find someone glad enough to have such a job that he/she would be motivated to work a full day– or at least not flaunt that fact that he/she is the stereotypical lazy, entitled government worker.

                    • Wow. Thank goodness it is not up to you. The taxpayers elected the people who created my job. They are getting what they want from me. I did not write my own job description.
                      It sounds like we are both content with our jobs, and presumably we are both fans of baseball and the Pirates. We have a lot in common.

                    • If you’re spending the work day goofing off, I can assure that neither the taxpayers nor your bosses are getting what they want from you.

                    • Most people seem to prefer when bureaucrats like me stay out of everybody’s business. You actually want me to go out of my way to find extra work that the government has not asked me to do? Why would I want to do that?
                      Go Bucs!

                    • I’ve explained why. Multiple times. Here it is again: you should work hard the full 8 hours because you’re being paid to do so.

                      If you think government functions best when you’re not actually doing your job, then come up with a way to fix that. Do research. Write memos. Educate yourself to do your job better. Clean the office. Do something, fer chrissakes.

                      This ain’t Parks and Recreation and you ain’t effin’ Ron Swanson. You’re just a lazy jerk.

                    • No. I prefer not to do those things. Other people get paid to clean the office. I do not get paid to research ways of improving gov’t efficiency. I get everything done that I am required to do. I am not looking for extra work.
                      The Bucs are only 4 games behind Milwaukee. I hope you join me in rooting for them to make the playoffs again this year, and hopefully win it all!

                    • You don’t get paid to work out and argue on the internet during work hours, but that doesn’t seem to deter you at all from it. This is work; it ain’t about what you prefer, Bartleby. Selfish. Lazy. Jerk.

                    • We should agree to disagree about the “work” issue. I agree with you on the issue of me being a selfish, lazy jerk. Let’s go Bucs!!!

  • Please, Jaff Decker should never grace a ML roster again.

  • MDFitness1975
    August 27, 2014 4:19 pm

    As historically incompetent as Martinez is, he is actually an ideal Sept. 1 guy to call up – designated pinch-runner (the Pirates dont have any real pinch runners outside of him – tho i persoanally would give his spot to d’Arnaud because of his elite base stealing ability) who can play almost every position, and who will never have to bat because the expanded rosters will allow you to PH for him if his turn should come around again.
    I fear Tim is being overly optimistic on the roster management abilities of Hurdle and the F.O. Of course they should call up all these guys – I mean why wouldnt you?! Gives you lots of options to play match-ups and pinch-run and defensive replace at will, and protects you if any games go extras (still waiting for this year’s 19-inning game) – but time and time again I am disappointed in the overall roster construction and decsion making process, so I’m literally expecing them only to bring up freakin Cabrera as the 3rd catcher (even tho Sanchez would be a nice PH option), Morel as the only INF, and Decker as the only OF. I kid – I hope – they better call up Lambo, Sanchez and Martinez/d’Arnaud at freaking minimum.

  • Would like to see Holdzkom called up, power pitchers sometimes look very good against tired hitters in September.

  • Lambo hasn’t been in the majors this year has he? Holdzkom seems the most inspiring, I would add him to the 40 Man and can think of about 3 or 4 guys that I wouldn’t keep him over.

  • Scott Kliesen
    August 27, 2014 5:37 am

    In my best, crazy, Gary Oldman voice, “BRING EVERYBODY! E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y!”

    • And, I would start with Gregory Polanco – if not last night, then this morning and get him here quickly. Snider looked like a kid having a breakthrough and is now 1 for his last 19 AB’s. With ‘Cutch pulling himself from the game last night, I would not hesitate to get Polanco on the next greyhound bus. Our pitching is going to be well rested, thanks to back to back solid efforts from Liriano and Cole, plus the fact that we have a day game today and a day off tomorrow, so at least 48 hours of rest in between games, and probably all RHP’s today and through the weekend.

      • Scott Kliesen
        August 27, 2014 7:46 am

        I don’t think he’s eligible to be brought up unless someone goes on DL until 9/2.

        • Yep. And Cutch says he’s starting today. Plus Tabby is already up, and he’s got a good track record vs every remaining opponent except Phils – and somewhat reverse splits.

          • Id actually hope the team, from trainer to manager, force him to sit a game. I get Cutch wanting to play, i love that. But each swing last night after hitting the wall showed a guy not comfortable. Give him today off so he gets 2 days in a row to rest and get ready for the next series.

  • Monsoon Harvard
    August 27, 2014 5:31 am

    I’m looking forward to Holdzkom most of all.

  • Tim, if I’m reading this correctly, you think there could be 3 additions to the 40-man in Frieri, Mazzaro and Holdzkom. Let’s assume that Angel Sanchez and Ramon Cabrera are the two obvious casualties, but who is the third? You’re already accounting for Decker, Morel and Martinez, and I think it’s safe to assume Joely Rodriguez and Alen Hanson aren’t going anywhere, so that leaves…McGuiness?

    • LaFrombiose would not surprise me they seem to keep trying to claim a guy then put him on and clear him threw waivers. Additionally i am not sold on Martinez after his overly poor performance offensively.

    • Leefoo Rug Bug
      August 27, 2014 7:39 am

      I don’t think any of us would lose any sleep over McBeer being DFA’d.

    • Cabrera isn’t going anywhere. They will keep their catching depth.

  • I’d much rather have Oliver or Perez instead of LaFrombiose. I also hope they give Holdzkom a look.

    • Monsoon Harvard
      August 27, 2014 5:36 am

      Jeez-o-man, there’s too much Oliver Perez in that sentence. If you were a Pirates fan during the Ollie Perez years, you’ll understand.

      • Yeah I will admit it was late and I was not think straight but yes those were the days

    • Id like no part of Oliver in the bigs. He may have one great outing, but its wrapped around a few 3 walk 2 hit affairs. Control isnt there.