For the majority of seasons for the Kansas City Royals, the rosters expanding in September meant an opportunity to see what players could do as a sort of audition for the following year. I can think back to late season call-ups for guys like Ruben Gotay and others who always got the Royals and their fans excited for the next season only for the next season to end in inevitable disappointment. For now, at least, things are different. As you know, this year’s version of the Royals has a chance to help fans start to forget the last 28 years of baseball without playoffs. One quirk of baseball is that September means the rosters expand and can house up to 40 players (all of whom must be on the 40-man roster). As long as the rules allow it, I believe the Royals should use that to their advantage and call up some specialists among the few who they bring to the big leagues to add to their roster.
I imagine there’s a good chane the Royals will call up without much thought seven of the 10 players on the 40-man roster who aren’t currently in the big leagues but have big league experience. That means the bullpen will likely get supplemented with Casey Coleman, Louis Coleman, Tim Collins, Chris Dwyer, Liam Hendriks and Michael Mariot. I don’t have much hope for some of these guys, but it’s worth noting that Louis Coleman and Collins have both been excellent in the big leagues in the past, so they could help to deepen an already excellent bullpen. The other guys are likely just depth guys who will be rewarded for a nice minor league season for them. Hendriks is interesting as he’s been really good in the minors this year, but I’m tempering expectations for him since he’s been so bad as a big leaguer in the past. I would imagine Francisco Pena will also get a call (and he should) to serve as the third catcher and a right-handed bat off the bench. I also believe Eric Hosmer and Scott Downs will both come off the DL at some point in September and be added to the roster seamlessly.
The three players on the 40-man roster who have big league experience who I didn’t name are Johnny Giavotella, Aaron Brooks and Blake Wood. I think Giavotella probably comes up next month, but you just never know with that story. He hasn’t done anything to earn more playing time, but there’s that whole argument that he never really got the chance. We don’t have to rehash that, but I get the impression that the Royals are basically done with him, and he could be someone to actually lose his spot on the 40-man roster to make room for someone else next month. Blake Wood looks like he might be about done, so I don’t know that the Royals will expose him to a big league roster, so I could see him as another guy to lose his spot. Aaron Brooks may have lost his chance at ever contributing in the big leagues with his brutal performances earlier this year.
There are only three other guys on the 40-man roster who have never appeared in the big leagues. They are John Lamb, Cheslor Cuthbert and Lane Adams. All have had nice seasons this year and have come up big at various times. Lamb’s velocity seems to have returned of late, which is great to build on heading into next season, but I just don’t think he gets to the big leagues this year. I believe Adams and Cuthbert have outside shots, though. I think it’s unlikely for both, but Cuthbert has hit decently in his move up to Omaha, and I wonder if he wasn’t moved up there to see if he could handle a month in the big leagues. Time well tell on that. Lane Adams might have been on a track to a September call-up, but he’s coming off an injury and that may have derailed those plans. He has started to really hit in AA and could be a nice bat off the bench if the Royals do decide to call him up, but I think it’s unlikely.
So that leaves us with the guys who I want to see called up as specialists of sorts. These guys will require a 40-man roster move to get them up to the big leagues in September, but I think there are plenty of candidates to make room for some of the players I suggest.
The two big names people mention a lot when it comes to September are two of the organization’s top pitching prospects. When the Royals drafted Brandon Finnegan this year, myself and many others postulated that he could be a weapon to come to the big leagues this season as a left-handed arm out of the bullpen. With his promotion to Northwest Arkansas, Finnegan is working as a reliever to prepare for that potential promotion to the big leagues. I think there’s a very good chance he’s promoted. Kyle Zimmer is the other pitcher who might have a shot to be on the big league club in September, but I think he’s a longer shot. His arm is fresh, though, seeing as he hasn’t pitched all year, but he’s just now pitching in games, so we’ll see on that. I thought Jason Adam would be in this group before he was traded for Josh Willingham, but the Royals promotion of Christian Binford to AAA to work as a reliever makes me believe he might have taken the place of Adam in the organization’s plans, so he’s a guy you could see next month as well.
Where I think the Royals could really help themselves is on their bench. Adding pitching in September is great and somewhat obvious because it can potentially allow a team to rest up a probably tired bullpen. On the bench, though, the Royals have a few guys who could serve as specialists, and if used correctly, they could impact the pennant race in a big, big way. The first player who comes to mind to fill this role is Terrance Gore. Gore isn’t much of a hitter, but he can really, really run. I know the Royals already have Jarrod Dyson on their roster, but the Royals have more than one plodder in their lineup, and a strategic pinch running move could be huge for the Royals down the stretch.
Interestingly enough, the biggest thing the Royals lack offensively at the big league level is something that there are some candidates to help with in the minors. The big league club hits for very little power, and that can be a hard way to win games. The Royals have a few guys in the minors who may not have what it takes to play every day, but could be used in a situation when the Royals really need an extra base hit. Guys like Matt Fields, Carlos Peguero and Justin Maxwell could all fill that role along with Pena. These are all guys who might only get a handful of at bats in September (if that), but they could provide some serious sock off the bench.
I don’t expect all these players to get a call-up, partly because that could mean too many 40-man roster moves and partly because Omaha is potentially going to be able to fill a playoff roster, but the big league club should come first. If there are players in the minors who can help the Royals cause, they should be up in September. Having Finnegan and/or Zimmer as a middle innings weapon could be absolutely huge. Being able to pinch run for Salvador Perez with Terrance Gore and then replacing Perez with Pena on defense could lead to a Royals victory in September. Maybe Carlos Peguero stays hot in Omaha and brings that home run stroke to the big leagues in September and hits a big home run pinch hitting for a guy like Omar Infante. Maybe none of that happens, but the rules allow the Royals to supplement their roster and save certain players for the perfect use. And they should do just that as they strive to make the playoffs for the first time in nearly 30 years.
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