Tomorrow is the first of September. For baseball fans, that marks the day at which they can get a look at some fresh faces that might help their team make a final playoff push or possibly be part of building for the future. Given the way things have gone for Arizona this season, only the latter applies with regard to the Diamondbacks.
With rosters expanding tomorrow, who might the Diamondbacks call up over the next 30 days? Given this front office’s reluctance to make 40-man roster moves and the fact that Michael Bourn, Rickie Weeks, and Dominic Leone all still hold slots on that roster, it is unlikely the team will promote anyone not already on the 40-man roster. That said, at least one move will need to be made if the team is going to return everyone from injury status. That could be the end of Leone’s time on the 40-man roster, or the team can kick that decision farther down the road by moving Nick Ahmed to the 60-day DL.
The roster additions will probably come from a few different categories; injury returns, performance rewards, and roster depth.
Rubby De La Rosa: There has been a great deal of chatter about the eventual return of De La Rosa from his forearm injury. Reports had been that he would return to the team to take up bullpen duty and simply work exclusively with the fastball and slider, abandoning the changeup until after the season. The plan here is that it would allow De La Rosa to return to game-shape and also help build his innings back up some. At the same time the logic behind the move seems destined to set De La Rosa up for failure. If the opposition knows it can disregard his changeup, that is an awful big advantage in their favor. Furthermore, one has to wonder about the potential pitfalls of returning De La Rosa to the mound in a lost season when his arm health is still not anywhere close to 100%. If the team is honestly serious about De La Rosa competing for a rotation slot next season, it may behoove the organization to simply leave him shut down in terms of pitching in MLB games and simply restart him again next season. If the team does decide to move forward with the plan to get De La Rosa back into games though, it will require a 40-man roster move in order to facilitate him coming off the 60-day DL.
Andrew Chafin: Andrew Chafin should be healthy enough to pitch in MLB games again at some point in the very near future. Given the organization’s dearth of quality left-handed arms for the bullpen, it makes plenty of sense that Chafin would be added to the roster to see if he has worked out the kinks that bothered him early in this season.
Chris Herrmann: The team is going to want to get Herrmann some more looks at the plate before the season is over. His return from the DL should also allow the team to cut back some more on Castillo’s season. With the season all but over, there is no reason to pile up innings on Castillo at this point, not when there are still questions about whether or not Herrmann’s bat will return with him from the DL, or if his extended time away is going to hurt him and bring his bat back to Minnesota levels.
Tyler Wagner: The information surrounding Wagner and the actual extent of his injury is pretty scarce. However, if he is able to toe the rubber again this year, he’s as sure a player as any to be given a September look at the majors.
This is one of those places where the lack of 40-man roster movement limits the choices. Despite having a rather solid season, solid enough that 20 or so other teams would probably consider a promotion, a guy like Kyle Jensen just isn’t getting the call for Arizona. He isn’t on the 40-man roster already, and the team has very little incentive to make a roster move just to call up a first baseman when the team has Goldschmidt, Lamb, Drury, Gosselin, and Tomas all on the 25-man roster to man the position. Ildemaro Vargas is another player having a decent season that will not be getting a look in September. Hetoo is not on the 40-man roster, and the team still has plenty of depth trying to step forward and make a case for being the starter for the team in 2017. That said, there are a few names that should expect performance-based promotions.
Mitch Haniger: Haniger forced his way into the 25-man roster earlier this year and acquitted himself just fine. His return to Reno was more procedural than anything else. He should be up with the big club as soon as Reno’s season officially comes to an end.
Socrates Brito: Brito is another one that forced the issu, albeit way back in March. His initial demotion to Reno was a procedural one in order to make room for bullpen arms when the 25-man pitching staff was getting slapped all over the yard in the first month of the season. Brito’s numbers in Reno have not been stellar, but he has done everything asked of him and has shown dynamic flashes in the past. Since he already has time with the big club under his belt, it seems likely he will return about the same time Haniger does, even if it is just to server as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
Vicente Campos: Campos completed the return from his injury woes by making his major league debut in August. If not for needing to make room for A.J. Pollock (and acknowledging that Campos was going to be unavailable for three or more days because of how long he worked), Campos is probably still on the 25-man roster as it is. Look for him to get some more Collmenter-like outings in September.
Steve Hathaway: One of the few left-handed options the Diamondbacks have to come out of the bullpen, Hathaway held his own during his brief call to the majors in August. A potential mainstay in next season’s bullpen, look for him to get some more innings under his belt this year to make sure he doesn’t crumple under the pressure.
Matt Koch: Assuming the team does not decide to shut Koch down when the PCL comes to a close in order to control his innings, Koch could be another arm called up in September to get some big league innings out of the bullpen. A starter by trade, Koch may be given the opportunity to see if he has what it takes to get big league hitters out with regularity before showing up to Spring Training to compete for a slot at the back of the rotation.
Despite being entirely out of any postseason races, the Diamondbacks are no different in their need for roster depth. It is a long season. Nagging injuries tend to take their toll as the games and innings pile up. There is also the practical point of sheltering stars like Goldschmidt from too many unnecessary innings that could result in injury, hurting the team moving forward. Players called up in this category are ones already on the 40-man roster with some considerable big league time under their belts, or ones that fall into the “might as well” category.
Zac Curtis: After getting off to a stellar start, major league hitters eventually figured out Zac Curtis. That said, the young man clearly has the stuff to be an important part of the bullpen moving forward. He has been serviceable since his demotion, and his presence on the team would provide yet another lef-handed arm out of the bullpen. Given the way the bullpen has been abused by the rotation and sometimes the offense this season, the more arms out there the better.
Evan Marshall: Whether or not Marshall does more than just keep a seat warm or do mop-up duties remains to be seen, but it is a pretty safe bet that the righty reliever will return to the bullpen.
Oscar Hernandez: Called up to fill in while the 25-man was thin on catching due to Castillo’s entry into fatherhood, Hernandez still represents the best the organization has when it comes to the glove side of catching, including receiving and calling a game. Calling up Hernandez would allow the team to give Herrmann looks in the outfield and possibly at first without subjecting his legs to the stresses of being the third catcher. Calling up Hernandez would also afford the team more opportunities to protect Welington Castillo from injury or simple overwork.
Peter O’Brien: O’Brien is a player that falls into the category of “why the hell not”. Ever since he rode his bat to a big league promotion he has been a dumpster fire of a hitter. The team did everything it could to stand by the slugger and let him get through the growing pains of adapting to the big leagues. Even that was not enough though, and he was rather decidedly drummed out of Arizona and back to Reno. Since his return to Reno, things have not improved for O’Brien, despite the hitter-friendly league and environment. There really is no reason to call O’Brien back up. However, since he already has service time under his belt, and he can deposit balls into the seats, he might get brought up to ride the bench once Reno’s season ends, where he can hope to see some action as a “slugging” pinch hitter.
Assuming every player listed above is indeed called up, that would leave Gabriel Guerrero as the lone member of the 40-man roster not to be called up in September. It seems quite possible that Peter O’Brien may sit at home with Guerrero, but for the reasons listed above, he could still get the call. Guerrero will need to improve on his 2016 stats by quite a bit if he wants to have a chance at seeing some action next September instead. Trying to force his way onto a roster populated by Pollock, Tomas, Peralta, Haniger, and Brito in the outfield is no small task and will likely take Guerrero living up to the as-yet untapped potential that was seen in him when he was acquired in the Mark Trumbo trade that brought Welington Castillo to the team.