Tomorrow is September 1st, which is the day for MLB rosters to expand from a maximum of 25 guys to a maximum of 40. Teams call up additional players on September 1st, either to help for their playoff run if they are contending, or to give younger players a look for next year if they aren’t contenders.
You can only call up players who are on your 40-man roster, which explains the limit of 40 guys. You don’t see teams call up anywhere close to that amount, since it would be nearly impossible to play that many players.
The Pirates aren’t contenders, although it’s a question mark how they will approach things early in September, since they have a “play until you’re officially out” motto, which would mean they wouldn’t throw in the towel until they are officially eliminated, which likely would be around the middle of the month.
They also have their Triple-A team, the Indianapolis Indians, in a playoff race right now. If they make the post-season, the Pirates will likely keep a lot of younger players down for that experience, then call them up after the Indianapolis season is over, based on previous experiences.
So don’t expect everyone who might come up to the majors to come up tomorrow. For that reason, let’s look today not at who could come up on September 1st, but who could come up during the entire month of September.
There will be a lot of pitchers who come up, giving the Pirates some bullpen depth so they don’t have to dip into the minors the next day after the bullpen has a long game. Most of the guys who have been up already this year should be up when rosters expand. That list would include Tanner Anderson, Buddy Boshers, Michael Feliz, Clay Holmes, Alex McRae, and Dovydas Neverauskas.
There would be two interesting additions here. The first would be Rule 5 pick Nick Burdi, who is currently rehabbing in Indianapolis. The Pirates need to keep him on the active roster for 90 days to remove his Rule 5 status and send him to the minors. At best, they could get 30 days this year if they activate him on September 1st, which means they’d have to keep him in the majors for 60 days at the start of 2019 to keep him for good. It would make a lot of sense for him to get the call tomorrow, since every day he’s up in 2018 is one less day he has to be up at the start of 2019.
The other interesting case is Jesus Liranzo, who has a lively fastball that hits triple digits, but who has been struggling lately. He gave up nine earned runs in three innings over his last two appearances, and has dealt with control problems throughout the year. This might be a good time for the Pirates to see what they have in him, since they might need his roster spot by the end of the year.
The other candidates are the guys who are Rule 5 eligible this offseason. That list includes Casey Sadler, who was already up this year, Tyler Eppler, JT Brubaker, and Brandon Waddell from the Triple-A squad. They don’t have to call these guys up to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. All they have to do to accomplish that is to place them on the 40-man roster this offseason. And if there are any of these guys who they don’t intend to protect, then keeping them out of the majors right now and off the 40-man roster is the best way to try and keep them around, since a spot on the 40-man now means they might need to be DFAd later, making it easier to lose them.
A.J. Schugel is the other candidate who could come up. He’s not currently on the 40-man roster, after being outrighted to Indianapolis this week, but could get the call back up once rosters expand and once it’s easier to keep him on the active roster.
Finally, I’ll add that you shouldn’t expect Mitch Keller to arrive this year. The Pirates might call up lower ranked prospects, but they’re not going to call up their top guy to burn service time when he’s not ready.
The Position Players
Normally we’d be talking about a guy like Kevin Newman as a candidate for a call to the majors, and a candidate to get some starts. However, Newman is already in the majors, so there’s no need for that discussion. That same discussion could be had for Kevin Kramer though.
Out of the call-up candidates on the position player side, Kramer is the only one who could be a potential starter, and who could benefit from starts this year. If the Pirates part ways with Josh Harrison before next season, then Kramer would be the internal option with the most upside as the starter at second base. If they wanted to go with him on Opening Day, he would probably need to be in the majors this year, getting some initial experience.
If they only want him in the majors to get the experience of the locker room, they don’t have to call him up. They can bring him to the majors for that experience alone, without having him on the active roster. This is something they’ve done with prospects in the past, calling them up for the clubhouse experience only.
The rest of the guys who will be called up will likely be bench depth options. You can guarantee that Jacob Stallings will be up to provide the team with a third catcher. Max Moroff, Jose Osuna, and Jordan Luplow have been up this year, and should return to give some extra depth and additional bats off the bench.
Out of the guys who aren’t on the 40-man roster, Pablo Reyes might be the best candidate to make the roster. Jason Martin is Rule 5 eligible, and would need to be added to the roster to be protected. However, I’m not sure if he would be a candidate for a callup, as he’s not ready yet, and wouldn’t get much playing time this year.