Yesterday afternoon before the ugly Yankees/Red Sox game, the Yankees announced which minor leaguers would be coming up to the big league squad to join them in September. The list featured some familiar names, some recently acquired veterans, and few who are likely to be factors beyond 2014. Such is the nature of September call-ups; the excitement brought by a hot prospect like Jesus Montero in 2011 does not come around very often.
There's no Jacob Lindgren, who was running up against an innings limit, nor is there Rob Refsnyder, who the Yankees would rather see already beginning his off-season workouts to possibly compete for the Opening Day second base job next year. Thus, none of these names are very enthralling. Nonetheless, there's always an off-chance that someone could be recalled and stun everyone the way Shane Spencer did in 1998, however unlikely that might be. Here are the Yankees' eight September call-ups for 2014:
John Ryan Murphy
The defensively savvy catcher made his MLB debut as a September call-up last year after a sensational minor league season in which he kept hitting between Double-A Trenton and Triple-Scranton, posting a .269/.347/.426 triple slash in 110 games. He reclaimed his prospect status really made a great impression, and that's why he was called up earlier in the season instead of fellow Scranton catcher Austin Romine when Francisco Cervelli went down with a hamstring injury in April. Murphy got off to a hot start upon his call-up and even hit his first big-league homer. However, he slumped before long and when he was sent down after Cervelli returned to health, his MLB triple slash was .286/.308/.365 in 24 games, a shaky 86 wRC+.
Murphy never really got into a groove with Scranton during his time in the minors and actually matched that 86 wRC+ with a disappointing .246/.292/.397 triple slash in 51 games in Scranton. He also missed about a week and a half due to a likely concussion in August. Murphy's thrilling 2013 still makes people excited about his future, even with Brian McCann in front of him on the big league roster. Again, they recalled him over Romine, so the Yankees still like him. Since he's only 23 and already an acclaimed backstop, it's hard to say people are wrong for their optimism.
The 23-year-old with a dynamic repertoire had a very weird season. He started off in Trenton, where in 14 games he continued his frustrating pattern of high walk rates (4.3 BB/9) and ERA (4.84) despite intriguing strikeout totals (8.8 K/9). Upon a midseason promotion to Scranton though, something clicked, and the righty starter pitched better for the rest of the season, cutting his walk rate to 3.5 BB/9 and ERA to 3.67 in nine games. After a couple brief cameos on the big league roster without actually appearing in a game, Mitchell at last made his MLB debut on August 10th, pitching two scoreless innings without allowing a hit and striking out two in the process. That was his only big league appearance this year, but it would not be surprising to see the Yankees try him out in more situations in September, albeit in relief.
Well that got less exciting in a hurry. An All-Star in 2010 with the Diamondbacks, the position player version of Chris Young has struggled since leaving Arizona in 2012. He only hit .200/.280/.379 with 12 homers and an 83 wRC+ with the Athletics in 2013, and after being signed by the Mets to a one-year, $7.2 million deal for 2014, he slumped some more with a .205/.283/.346 and an 80 wRC+. He was ultimately cut in mid-August, and the Yankees took a flyer on him in hopes that he could bounce back as a reserve outfielder for them. He's off to an inauspicious debut after striking out on three pitches last night. Huzzah.
Whitley's no stranger to the 2014 Yankees. The 25-year-old righty got off to a rousing start with the Yanks, pitching to a surprising 2.56 ERA in his first seven starts with the Yankees after being recalled from Scranton to provide rotation help. However, a middling repertoire combined with likely fatigue after playing a full season in the rotation for the first time in his professional career led to his demise. Since the middle of June, his ERA is an unsightly 9.20 with a .385/.433/.646 against in 12 games (seven out of the 'pen). He was better in 10 minor leagues games with Scranton, pitching to a 2.01 ERA and 1.76 FIP, but hoping for much more than mop-up work for Whitley would probably not be the best idea.
Well, the first half of 2013 was fun for Claiborne anyway. Like Whitley this year, he got off to an impressive start, though out of the bullpen, and he hit a wall once the league figured him out. He hasn't been much better in 15 big league games this year, and in 20 1/3 Scranton innings, he has a 3.54 ERA and 3.01 FIP. That's not bad, and on the surface, his 3.57 ERA and 3.81 FIP in the majors don't appear to be ugly. However, watching him pitch has been like walking on eggshells this year. It does not seem like he's a major league reliever, and that's why he didn't even make the Opening Day roster. Use with caution.
A 30-year-old minor leaguer with just nine career MLB games is not exactly exciting, even though he did hit .271/.380/.364 with a 114 wRC+ in Triple-A that is basically identical to the 117 wRC+ of Jose Pirela that some fans were clamoring for. Like Pirela though, Richardson doesn't really impress scouts. He does have good speed on the bases with 26 steals on the year for Scranton and just one caught stealing. Expect to see him as a pinch-runner. Is he better than Zoilo Almonte, who was one of the players cut to bring this slew of minor leaguers up? Probably not, but oh well. Zoilo's not worth losing sleep over since neither his MLB statistics (39 career wRC+ in 149 PA) or scouting reports indicate that he'll be very relevant as a major leaguer despite nice minor league numbers.
Hill barely counts as a September call-up since he was just with the MLB team about a week ago before getting sent down in favor of Josh Outman, another LOOGY. Hill is a 34-year-old lefty reliever who has hung around for parts of 10 big league seasons, though never really impressing thanks to a career 4.72 ERA (106 ERA-) and 4.44 FIP (FIP-). He was a starter until the 2010 season, when he was moved to the bullpen, and he's stayed there since. Unfortunately for him, he's been so unimpressive that he's only had a chance to spend a full season at the big league level once since then, and in that year (last season with the Indians), he was rocked for a 6.28 ERA and 3.82 FIP in 63 games (38 2/3 innings). Lefties have only hit .212/.338/.337 in their career against him though, so that's why he's here. With some luck, he won't pitch much.
Since being drafted in 2005, Roe has only broken into the majors once, last season with the Diamondbacks. During that brief stint, he he posted a 4.03 ERA, 3.68 xFIP and 9.67 K/9 through 22.1 IP. He spent all of this season with the Marlin's Triple-A team, where he's had a good season. Through 64 IP, Roe has a 1.16 WHIP, 3.66 ERA, 10.13 K/9, 2.95 BB/9 and 0.70 HR/9.
Since he's a 27-year-old career minor leaguer though, it's not surprising that he was hit around by the Red Sox last night in his Yankees debut, even though Yoenis Cespedes's triple was not exactly a line drive. Still, it's best not to expect much from him.
There's a good chance that none of these guys will end up making a huge difference in the Yankees' future. Regardless, the few exciting young players like Murphy and Mitchell could at least be people to watch both right now (sparingly) and perhaps in the next couple years as well. Baseball is a crazy game. You never know when an exciting career is beginning before your very eyes.
The Antoan Richardson Era has begun. Welcome to the next generation and good luck on the end-of-year team Sporcle quiz.