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Justus Sheffield and other AL September impacts

While the last two-and-a-half seasons have produced remarkable production from the Yankees’ first year players, Justus Sheffield and other rookies might still make a big impact this September.

Sheffield is currently making the transition from starter to reliever at Triple-A Scranton in the hopes the Yankees can add another hard throwing left-hander to the stretch drive. The plan is for Sheffield to remain a starter next year but with 112.2 innings currently in the books (an increase of 15 percent over last year), the bullpen is a good way to limit the 22-year old’s innings without shutting him down completely.

In addition to Sheffield, outfielder Clint Frazier, infielder Tyler Wade and pitchers Chance Adams, Luis Cessa, and George Kontos  are ready to re-join the big club’s active roster once Sept. 1 hits. There is also an outside chance that pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, currently on the DL with shoulder inflammation, could be added in September, as well as outfielder Ryan McBroom. The hesitation on recalling McBroom is that he doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster just yet.

Here’s a look at the rest of the AL:

Red Sox

There are a couple of intriguing options for the Red Sox this September. A lot of people have probably forgotten that DatDude himself, Brandon Phillips, is playing for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox. The veteran second baseman has an .841 OPS and could take at-bats away from Ian Kinsler, who, as of this writing, has posted an anemic .556 OPS since joining Boston at the non-waiver trade deadline.

Another player that might contribute from the right side of the plate is Michael Chavis. Last year, Chavis produced 31 HR and 94 RBI between High-A and Double-A ball. Due to a failed PED test, an 80-game suspension slowed down the 23-year old’s progress. The highly rated prospect returned and has played 41 games, most of them at Double-A and has recorded a 1.012 OPS.

Neither Phillips or Chavis is currently on the Red Sox’ 40-man roster. Those on the 40-man roster that are likely ticketed to Boston are lefty reliever Bobby Poyner, infielders Tzu-Wei Lin and Tony Renda, and outfielder Sam Travis.

Indians

With the Indians’ July 31 trade of their top prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia, to the San Diego Padres for reliever Brad Hand, there’s not much in Triple-A that could contribute down the stretch. However, reliever Ben Taylor could help solidify the Indians’ bullpen.

With closer Cody Allen not as automatic as he once was and Andrew Miller battling injuries all year, the addition of Hand was tremendous.

Taylor has had a couple of cups of coffee in the Majors (with Boston and Cleveland) without much success but has pitched well in the minors. With an average of better than 10 K’s per/9 innings pitched and only nine walks issued in 55.1 innings pitched, Taylor could share the setup role.

With Mejia gone, Eric Haase will join Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez as the team’s third catcher. Though he sports a weak .289 OBP, Haase’s 18 home runs, 22 doubles, and three triples has helped him to a .423 slugging percentage.

Additionally, a big plus for Haase is the 50 percent of would-be base stealers that he has thrown out this season.

Astros

Houston selected Kyle Tucker with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Amateur Draft and he quickly worked his way up to a top-20 MLB prospect.

The 21-year old made a 20-game appearance earlier this season when the Astros were hit with a rash of injuries. Though he didn’t fare well, he’s still considered to be the real deal. Playing for Triple-A Fresno (PCL), Tucker’s splits are  .327/.388/.586. His 220 total bases in 95 games includes 24 HR, 25 doubles, and a pair of triples. Add to that 89 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 24 attempts.

Tucker might very well be a 30-30 player in the making.

Even though the Astros are fourth in the Majors in runs scored and ninth in home runs, slugging “initials” AJ Reed and J.D. Davis would add punch off of the bench.

Fellow first baseman Yuli Gurriel and a red-hot Tyler White are blocking Reed’s path to the Majors at the moment, but the former second round pick has produced 27 HR, 106 RBI, and a .517 slugging percentage for Fresno this season.

Davis, a third baseman selected one round after Reed in 2014, struggled at the plate in 30 games for the Astros earlier this season. A product of Cal State-Fullerton, Davis has put up big power numbers everywhere he has played in the Astros’ farm system. He’s currently hitting .345 and slugging .597 for Fresno.

Just as the Yankees feel Sheffield could be a terrific addition to the September bullpen, the Astros may opt to do the same thing with starter Josh James. The right-hander, who is not currently on the Astros’ 40-man roster but must be added next season, is striking out Triple-A batters at a rate of 12.9/9 innings pitched. His 1.090 WHIP and 3.41 strikeout-to-walk ratio are also big pluses.

Athletics

Starter Frankie Montas might get his return to the Majors guaranteed with all of the injuries that have beset the A’s rotation. Montas fared nicely earlier this season in 10 starts at the Major League level – 5-3, 3.75 ERA – and with injuries to Sean Manaea, Brett Anderson, Andrew Triggs, Daniel Gossett, and Paul Blackburn, might find himself starting for the A’s for the final month of the season.

A player the Yankees and their fans would be interested in seeing is former Yankees’ prospect Jorge Mateo. While Mateo’s status has dropped a bit, he’s still considered one of baseballs top-100 prospects.

As you may recall, Mateo was one of the pieces sent to Oakland for starter Sonny Gray. He became expendable with the Yankees’ acquisition of Gleyber Torres in 2016.

Mateo’s splits – .229/.276/.353 aren’t favorable but his speed is. Despite a low average and OBP, 35 of Mateo’s 103 hits are for extra bases and he’s stolen 23 bases in 33 attempts. At the very least, he might be an interesting late inning weapon for the A’s.

Mariners

Seattle currently finds itself out of the playoff picture. They trail first-place Houston by seven games in the AL West and Wednesday morning they found themselves five and one-half games behind Oakland for the second Wild Card spot.

The fading Mariners could definitely use some extra “oomph” for the last month of the season. Unfortunately, there’s no sexy option awaiting them at Triple-A Tacoma. First baseman Dan Vogelbach and his 20 home runs and .979 OPS will be added to the roster, but he has not been able to translate his minor league success to the Majors, albeit in limited appearances.

There are a number of teams who can ruin the plans of  contenders come this September. Here are some of them and the September call ups that might have the biggest impact:

Blue Jays

It may or may not happen this season but if there’s one player that everyone wants to see this September, it would be Vladimir Guerrero Jr. His Major League debut would come just a month after his father, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Little Vlad” has been tearing up the minor leagues since the Blue Jays signed him in 2015. Prior to this season, Baseball America (#3), MLB.com (#3), and Baseball Prospectus (#4) each named him as one of the top five prospects in all of baseball.

In 61 games and 266 plate appearances for Double-A New Hampshire this year, Guerrero hit a ridiculous .402 with an 1.120 OPS. Once he was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo, Guerrero continued his onslaught on minor league pitching – a .349/.437/.581 in 24 games. Between the two levels, Vlad Jr. has produced 19 HR, 27 doubles, a triple, and 75 RBI.

White Sox

Guerrero is getting the majority of the attention, but White Sox fans are clamoring to get a look at their top prospect Eloy Jimenez for the last month of the season.

Jimenez was the key piece of a 2017 deadline deal that sent starter Jose Quintana to the Cubs. The change of organizations hasn’t negatively impacted Jimenez, who has destroyed pitchers’ confidence wherever he plays. The 21-year old started this season at Double-A Birmingham and earned a promotion after he put together a .317/.368/.556 slash line in 53 games.

Now playing Triple-A ball in Charlotte, Jimenez has a scorching .370/.411/.615 slash line in 50 games. For the two levels combined, Jimenez has a .973 OPS, 21 HR, 74 RBI, 27 doubles, three triples, and just 64 strikeouts in 397 at-bats. And, he’s already on the team’s 40-man roster.

Jimenez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, has hinted at filing a grievance if the White Sox don’t add his client to the roster in September. Controversy over the start of the player’s service time is becoming a bone of contention in baseball.

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