Potential September Call-ups for 2014 and The Mets 40-Man Roster | Astromets Mind

Monday, August 18, 2014

Potential September Call-ups for 2014 and The Mets 40-Man Roster

Will there be a potential rematch between these two this September?

With September call-ups looming, there are several factors for the Mets to consider as they decide who to call up.

            Major League rosters expand from 25-to-40 players every September, allowing contending teams to bolster their bench and bullpen down the stretch, while teams who have fallen out of the hunt often use the time to look towards the future by playing their top prospects. The Mets currently fall more towards the latter group, though they are not mathematically eliminated from the former group just yet. Still, I’ve already seen some excitement and opinions on which players the Mets should call up on September 1 based on their performance-to-date. With that in mind, I wanted to consider some of the other factors that will play into whether a player gets promoted this September.

Minor League Playoffs

As I recently went into, the Mets minor league affiliates are all in the hunt for the postseason, so the Mets call-ups likely won’t start on September 1. The Mets are not going to pull anyone up from below AA, so they will be waiting until the Las Vegas 51s and Binghamton Mets finish their postseason run. Both the PCL and EL Championship Series will last until the end of the 2nd week in September, splitting the Mets potential preview time in half. The Mets could choose to not care about their minor league playoff hunt and promote some of their top prospects, but that’s the type of thing that can make affiliate relations shakier, and the Mets might not have a choice but to re-sign with the 51s this offseason. On the other hand, the Mets have a lot of good starters between their AA and AAA affiliates, so they could promote certain guys and still have enough good pitchers to fill out the postseason rotations.

40-Man Roster Space/Options

These two factors really go hand-in-hand, as once a prospect is added to the 40-man roster, their three-year option clock starts and (big injury withstanding) he’s a permanent fixture on the 40-man roster, which might cause problems down the road. After being added to the 40-man roster, each year a player spends more than 20-days in the minors, he burns an option year. There is an uncommon 4th option year given to players who meet certain conditions of inactivity during a given season, but it doesn’t appear to apply to any Met prospect.
For example, Wilfredo Tovar was added to the 40-man roster when he got called up last September, and has been on “optional assignment” with the B-Mets all year, so the Mets have used one of his options, and he’s used one of their 40-man roster spots, despite not really being on the radar to help the big league club in 2014. When the Mets DFA’d Omar Quintanilla to call Flores up in May, they chose to retain Q and play him with the 51s instead of Tovar, even though Tovar had improved upon his AA performance from 2013 
Tovar was called up due to the Mets need after Tejada broke his leg, but the Mets won’t be in a rush to call someone up if they aren’t on their 2015 radar. Similarly, some players might be on the Mets radar to help later on in 2015, and the Mets might not want to start their option clock/waste the roster spot now.
The Mets currently have 38 players counting towards their 40-man roster plus Matt Harvey and Bobby Parnell on the 60-day DL, which they will come off of at the end of the season (Side note: please Harvey, just play it smart, don’t come off sooner). Of course, not all of those guys are coming back or need to stay on the roster at the end of the season. For example, both Buddy Carlyle and Dana Eveland have been great with the Mets since their call-up (and they were good with the 51s too), but they were signed to minor league contracts, and will be looking to turn their success into a guaranteed Major League deal. Taylor Teagarden is in a similar situation, except he’s only had his success with the 51s so far this season.
The Mets also have a few non-tender/DFA candidates that could open up more roster spots. Andrew Brown, Eric Young Jr. and Scott Rice have not had great seasons, and are not going to bring much back in a trade.
            That makes two open 40-man roster spots for September and three guaranteed open spots for this offeseason. But, that’s not the whole roster story, as the Rule-V draft takes place in December, and the Mets will have to add some of their top prospects to the 40-man for their protection.

Rule-V Eligibility

Thanks to @TPGMets, a list of the Mets players eligible for the 2014 Rule-V draft has already been created and can be seen here. Players have to be added to the 40-man roster by November 20th or else they will be available to every other team on December 11th, when the draft takes place. The Rule-V draft is like $25,000 bet that a player will be Major League ready the following season – $25K to tryout another teams player in the majors. Because if the player isn’t ready, that’s all the drafting team is out, and if they are, the extra $25K paid to get the player was more than worth it. 
The list is very long, so I’ll just focus on the names most likely to be taken if left unprotected:

Right-handed relief: These guys could potentially help a major league bullpen next season, but since right-handed relief pitchers are not uncommon, they could easily go undrafted – alternatively, they could be drafted, struggle and be offered back to the Mets.

- Chase Bradford has excellent control, but he’s been giving up a lot of homerun with the 51s lately (5 allowed in his last 15.1 IP after only 1 allowed in his first 23 IP).

- John Church might be a stretch, but he’s been effective at the upper levels of the minors in consecutive seasons while averaging about a strikeout per inning, and has improved his control to slightly above-average this season. NOTE: He was recently placed on the AAA DL and I haven’t heard if that was an injury or roster space move.

- Zack Thornton has had an up-and-down season, looking very sharp over his first month with the 51s (14 G, 17.1 IP, 2.60 ERA, .620 OPS, 3.62 FIP through 5/25), then struggling over the next month (13 G, 7.43 ERA, 1.057 OPS, 4.43 FIP through 6/22), and has been mostly reliable since (18 G, 23.2 IP, 3.04 ERA, .613 OPS, 3.46 FIP).

- Randy Fontanez earned a mid-season promotion to the B-Mets and has been very strong outside of one early rough appearance. I want to review the tape and see if I can get some consistent velocity reads on his pitches, but I’ve seen a nice curve that keeps AA hitters off of his fastball. (If I haven’t mentioned, I love a good curveball)

- Jon Velasquez was named an Eastern League All-Star and has been one of the B-Mets most consistent relievers this season. He’s older (will be 29) because he spent three seasons starting in independent ball, but he’s an experienced pitcher, who has seen his control improve in the bullpen.

- Akeel Morris would be making a huge jump, but teams might be willing to take the risk of carrying him on their roster all season in order to acquire his live arm.

Left-handed relief:
- Jack Leathersich was sent back to AA at the start of 2014 but has made his way back to Vegas. His walk rate with the B-Mets did improve some, and he has yet to walk any of the 9 PCL batters he’s faced, but his control still needs some work. This is his first time eligible for the draft, and despite the control concerns, he is a real risk to be taken if left unprotected.

Right-handed starters: Most of these guys are going to need a roster spot.
- Cory Mazzoni has missed significant time due to injury in consecutive seasons, but has pitched effectively when healthy. He’s got a strong 3-pitch mix, although some have questioned whether he will be able to start in the majors.

- Noah Syndergaard is going to be protected.

- Logan Verrett could be interesting for a team in need of starting pitching competition, as he could fill a 5th starters role in the majors in the right situation (like San Diego). He’s got great control (5.1 BB% in the PCL this year) and hasn’t given up too many homeruns (0.9 HR/9 IP) despite having average stuff in the HR-happy PCL.

- Gabriel Ynoa is going to be protected.

Position Players:
- Dilson Herrera is going to be protected.

            In total, Thor, Dilson and Ynoa are definitely going to be protected this offseason, and Mazzoni seems like a sure bet too. Leathersich and Morris are live arms that could help in the bullpen – Leathersich as soon as next year and Morris by 2016 – so either could end up protected, although Morris seems like a stretch (perhaps that's why the Mets left him with Savannah?). The rest are probably going to have to be left open for the vultures, unless the Mets happen to be high on anyone in particular. (I considered mentioning Daniel Muno, but I’m not sure teams would be looking to acquire a player likely to be used off the bench next year.) That means the Mets will need at least 4-6 spots open, and they only have the three guaranteed open spots. That said, it’s unlikely that the Mets call-up anyone not on the 40-man or on the verge of needing roster protection. Specifically, Matt Reynolds is looking like a long shot right now.

Innings Caps for Pitchers

Another consequence of the playoff races mentioned is the increased innings totals for the Mets top pitching prospects. Noah Syndergaard is the obvious name to consider for a September call-up, but he’s basically matched his 2013 innings count already (117.2 IP in 2013, 113.1 IP so far in 2014), and the Mets don’t want to go much beyond 150 IP with him this year. Depending on how the Mets/51s choose to use him, he could have 4-6 more PCL starts before a potential promotion. Depending on how well Thor pitches in those starts, and his approach has been improved lately leading to better results, he could easily be at his innings cap by the time the 51s postseason is over. If he’s not at the innings total the Mets envision for him, then we might see him get some bullpen action and maybe a start for the Mets.
Steven Matz is another name that the Mets could consider, as he’s already on the 40-man roster and having a great season. Unfortunately, he’s already past his 2013 total (106.1 IP last year, 123.2 IP this year), and the Mets are already spacing his starts out more – this will be his second straight start with six days of rest between starts.
Gabriel Ynoa is the next name to consider, as I think he’s going to be added to the 40-man anyway. He’s not yet matched his inning total from 2013 (he had 135.2 IP last year and is at 127.1 IP so far in 2014), and the B-Mets are going with a 6-man rotation, so he’s unlikely to reach his innings cap in the minors. He likely wouldn’t be used in anything more than a relief role, but it would be cool to preview the 21-year old this September.
Cory Mazzoni is in a similar boat to Ynoa, except that Mazzoni won’t be coming close to an innings limit this season, and he’s closer to contributing with the big league club.

So Whom Should We Expect?

Well, Bobby Abreu for one. According to Adam Rubin, the Mets will probably call-up Abreu at some point. Abreu probably wouldn’t have agreed to a minor league contract to return to Las Vegas for two weeks without some sort of September call-up agreement, so it makes sense that he’d be coming up. It makes less sense that the Mets would want to bring him back at all, although DePodesta makes it sound like the Mets are also hoping to build a good working relationship with Abreu, so the deal could be about more than just Abreu playing for the 51s/Mets in August and September of 2014.
If Daisuke Matsuzaka isn’t back from his rehab yet, he’ll obviously be added to the roster. Same goes for Jacob ∂eGrom. Unless there is a Major League need or someone specific the Mets want to demote/cut, it would seem beneficial for the Mets if these two stayed in the minors until the rosters expanded.
Gonzalez Germen will be back when the playoffs are over and would be back sooner if the Mets were in a playoff push – he’s been very effective for Vegas since returning.
Taylor Teagarden, Josh Satin and Andrew Brown should be added to the Mets bench when the 51s playoff run ends. Teagarden won’t be back next year, but he adds a 3rd catcher to the bench, so I could see him added before the playoffs end – just promote Centeno back to the 51s or activate Kai Gronauer to backup Plawecki. Centeno is also on the Mets 40, so there would be no harm in promoting him to be the 4th catcher on the bench.
Perhaps surprising to most, Erik Goeddel has a chance of being promoted. He’s already on the 40-man roster and has a live arm – he reaches mid-90’s on his fastball with consistency, has a good overhand curve in the upper 70’s and he’s been throwing an 83-85 MPH slider more often as of late. He’s been inconsistent in his first season relieving, but he has the stuff to make an impact for the Mets at some point next year, so they might want to see him against major league hitters.
Two wild cards that are currently on the Mets 40-man roster are Cesar Puello and Wilfredo Tovar. Mets fans will definitely be calling for Puello to get the promotion, and I can think of no reason not to give him some Major League at-bats, even if he only starts against lefties. The Mets used his last option this year, so they have nothing to lose by giving him the playing time. Tovar might not seem that exciting, but he has been hitting the ball well lately for Binghamton, and, if nothing else, he can sit on the bench as the emergency shortstop so the Mets never have to use Eric Campbell there again – sorry Soup! The Mets have little to lose by adding either, just the pro-rated minimum salary.
Assuming that the Mets do not make a trade by August 31, and that they do add Bobby Abreu in September, the Mets only have one available roster spot on the 40-man left. (Note: If Matt Harvey convinces the Mets to let him play in 2014, he will come off the 60-day DL and count against the 40-man roster, leaving zero). I have already established that Mets, as currently constructed, will have limited roster space available to protect players from the Rule-V draft this offseason – and that’s not including free agent additions the Mets will be looking to add to their roster this offseason – so the last spot has to go to someone expendable or one of those players. Considering everything, Cory Mazzoni seems like the perfect candidate for that last spot, as he would provide starting and relief depth for the Mets, and the Mets won’t have to worry about overusing his arm. Also, a player like Matt Reynolds – who has no need for Rule-V protection this offseason – is unlikely to get a promotion, as he’d just add to the roster crunch this offseason. Unfortunately for those hoping for Mazzoni, there’s one name I’ve left off until this point – John Lannan, who falls under ‘expendable’. Lannan is no longer on the Mets 40-man roster, but he has been starting for Las Vegas recently. I don’t know what personal business Lannan had to take care of earlier this summer, but he came back and worked himself back into shape in the Florida State League – you don’t do that unless you expect to make it back to the bigs.

To summarize, unless there's a surprise move, that’s a bunch of guys who are already on the 40-man roster, plus Bobby Abreu and Cory Mazzoni or John Lannan. It’s probably not going to be the names fans were hoping to see, but it’s what makes sense given the numbers. 

There was the best surprise move possible: DILSON HERRERA!! Happy to be wrong, though I couldn't have predicted a Murph injury.

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