With September 1 literally just hours away, major league teams can expand their active roster to include anyone occupying a spot on their 40-man roster. Traditionally, teams have utilized the "September call-up" in one of several ways:
1) For contenders, it's a chance to give their regulars a night off here and there in preparation for the gruel of the playoffs
2) For middle of the pack teams, it's often a reward to long-time minor leaguers or AAAA-types toiling in obsurity
3) For bottomfeeders, it's an opportunity for a chance to see that prospect that everyone is excited about, even for just a quick appearance
The Nats seem to fall into all three categories this year.
The Nats have already indicated that they will wait until Syracuse's season is over before calling anyone up, though. So any help will still be at least a week away from arriving in D.C.
Because of the rash of injuries, trades and bullpen struggles, general manager Mike Rizzo has already made the bulk of his September call-ups before the roster expansion happened. Jorge Padilla, Pete Orr, Justin Maxwell, Mike Morse...even pitchers like J.D. Martin, Tyler Clippard and Jorge Sosa would have been prime candidates, were it not for the need earlier in the season.
So who is left? Let's take a look!
ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER
By my count, with Justin Maxwell's impending promotion there are currently 14 players on the 40-man roster NOT on the active 25-man roster:
SS: Ian Desmond (AAA-Syracuse)
Players on the 60-day DL do not count toward the 40-man roster, so there may still be some wiggle room to place a player or two on the 60-day to open 40-man space.
Of the 14 players on the 40-man, Flores, Morgan, Olsen and Mattheus are out for the season with injury. And from the sounds of this, Kearns is probably joining them. So we can rule all of those players out.
Rizzo has already been on record that Chico is not likely a candidate, and Strasburg's plans have been laid out in excrutiating detail. Additionally, Rizzo has all but ruled out a cameo for Drew Storen, blazing his way up the minor league chain after being selected No. 10 overall in this year's amateur draft.
That leaves Desmond, Detwiler, Balester, Martis, Estrada and Atilano off the 40-man roster eligible. It's been assumed that the Nats will recall a couple starters to relieve some of the burden from young arms accumulation of innings. But with the signing of Livan Hernandez, who eats innings as well as any pitcher in the majors, maybe that goal has already been achieved.
Still, I can envision seeing Balester, Detwiler, Martis and Estrada all being recalled and utilized as starters or swing-men in September.
And I'll also pencil in Desmond. He's had a terrific season, and the Nats have to be wondering if the best arm and range in their minor league system can handle the bat enough at the big league level to replace the very quickly aging Cristian Guzman and his bunions.
Atilano is 2-0, 2.45 in two starts since his promotion to Syracuse, and the one-time first round draft pick of the Altanta Braves has enjoyed a fine season overall, but the Nats are probably happy to let him finish the season and head into spring training.
As for players currently not on the 40-man roster? There are certainly some candidates, and most of them are bullpen guys that could again help manage the workload of some of the young starters.
There are six relievers in Syracuse that could certainly get "The Call" : RHPs Zech Zinicola, Zack Segovia, Josh Wilkie, Clint Everts and LHPs Jack Spradlin and Yunior Novoa.
Segovia has some major league experince, a 2.70 ERA and five saves for Syracuse. Everts was the Expos 2002 first round pick. In 2009, in over 57.1 IP at three levels (Potomac, Harrisburg & Syracuse), Everts has been outstanding (8-1, 1.41 ERA, 1.116 WHIP, 10.4 K/9). Spradlin is 4-3 with four saves and has a 3.19 ERA and 1.212 WHIP across AAA-AA in 44 games. He has struck out an even 7.0 per nine.
Wilkie was an unheralded pitcher from George Washington University (sound familiar?) and has been promoted twice this season. Novoa has a great change but has only been "just decent" this season, despite being promoted three times this season. Zinicola (6.04 ERA) has struggled this year.
Most of them are already with the big club. Rizzo said the other day he doesn't envision calling up a third catcher just for the heck of it. Montz is the only other catcher on the 40-man, and he's really regressed this season (.184/.295/.314 in 347 plate appearances) after hitting 16 homers last season.
Could Seth Bynum (.263/.306./453, 18 HR, 62 RBI in 433 ABs), Kory Casto (.268/.332/.373, 7-55), Norris Hopper (.291/.342/.344, 23 SBs), Brad Eldred (.267/.338/.478, 16-56) or Daryle Ward (.235/.320/.389, 12-45) get promoted? Possible, but not likely. The only compelling possibility is Hopper, who is a plus defender in center. But you have to figure whatever at bats Wee Willie Harris doesn't get are going to go to Justin Maxwell, in what could make or break his tenure in the organization.
SURE TO BE INCORRECT PREDICTIONS
The Nats add a bunch of arms, but just one more hitter, injury notwithstanding.
From the 40-man: RHPs Balester, Detwiler, Martis, Estrada and SS Desmond
Need to be added to 40-man: RHP Everts and Segovia and LHP Spradlin
Your guess is as good as mine, though. Let's hear 'em in the comments.