While the White Sox are probably disappointed they can’t use this season’s September call-ups to help propel them into them into the postseason, it’s still a way to get a look at younger players who could potentially be a part of the 2014 team and beyond.
Rick Hahn and company have taken full advantage of roster size expanding to 40, calling up six players from the minor leagues. The organization called up catcher Bryan Anderson and left-handed pitcher Charlie Leesman on Sunday, and placed right-handed pitcher Erik Johnson, infielder Marcus Semien, right-handed pitcher Daniel Webb, and catcher Miguel Gonzalez on the major league roster earlier today.
The call-ups come at a good time, as after a solid stretch of play, our White Sox are back to looking like, well, the 2013 White Sox. Robin’s squad has dropped all four games to begin this road trip and have done so in incredibly sloppy and embarrassing fashion, all culminating in yesterday’s fourth inning debacle in the Bronx that featured seven Yankee hits, two walks, two errors, and Gordon Beckham throwing a ball to first on a double-play ball slower than a Shingo Takatsu “frisbee” pitch.
While the team is well out of the race, it sure looks like the squad could use a bit of a jolt of energy. At the very least, the six call-ups should bring that.
However, each of these guys comes up with a different significance in terms of their short and long-term impacts. So, let’s take a look at exactly what each of these call-ups means for the player and the Sox, starting with the one guy we’ve already seen up here….
We saw Leesman make a start back on August 9 in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Twins. You may recall that he threw pretty well in that outing, pitching out of jams to hold the Twinkies to one run over five innings in a 3-2 defeat. After that, we knew we’d see him again in September.
Barring an injury of some sort, however, we won’t see him in the rotation the rest of the way. With the team deprived of left-handed bullpen arms, Leesman will likely work as a left-handed middle reliever or long relief man, just as he did during Sunday’s loss at Boston. While he has been stellar at AAA Charlotte the past few seasons (a 4-3 record with 3.87 ERA this year), many see the 26-year-old’s big league future as being a left-handed bullpen arm. He’s a guy to really pay attention to this month, as he could really put his name into the conversation for 2014’s bullpen if he does well. I don’t think the Sox want to go into 2014 with the two left-handers back there being Donnie Veal and David Purcey, and I hope you don’t either.
Johnson’s a name many Sox fans have probably heard by now, as the 2011 second-round draft choice has absolutely dominated over the past two minor league seasons. This season alone, he’s 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA through 142 innings with 131 strikeouts, 40 walks, and a .197 average against. Yeah, he’s done well.
In fact, Johnson’s done so well, that Andre Rienzo’s opportunity as a major league starter looks like it’s coming to a close because of it. It appears as if Johnson is getting the start Wednesday night in New York, which would signal that the team either plans to move to a six-man rotation for this month or that Rienzo has been relegated to the bullpen. Considering the fact that Rienzo has walked 10 guys and allowed 19 hits over his last three outings, I’d anticipate it being option number two. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Johnson is the team’s top prospect at this point in time according to many.
This is Johnson’s try-out for next year’s rotation, so like Leesman, he’s someone to REALLY watch.
Webb, who was one of the pitchers the Sox acquired from Toronto for Jason Frasor in January of 2012, has been on an absolute tear for the Charlotte Knights. The righty reliever hasn’t allowed a run since July, finished with a 2.96 ERA for the Knights in 21 appearances, and struck out 38 and walked 17 in 27.1 innings for them. Before Charlotte, Webb made eight scoreless appearances for High-A Winstom-Salem and recorded a 1.77 ERA in 13 games for AA Birmingham. To say the 24 year-old skyrocketed through the system this season would be an understatement.
Like Leesman, Webb is another guy to watch in terms of the 2014 bullpen. After Addison Redd, Matt Lindstrom, and Nate Jones, the Sox should have at least one more bullpen spot open for a right-handed pitcher. It’s clear that the White Sox like Webb based on this call-up, so this is an early audition for one of those openings next year.
Semien is another guy who wasn’t high on the radars of Sox fans before the season began, but his play this season has put him into the conversation of the team’s top farmhands. After hitting .290 with 15 home runs, a .420 OBP, and 20 steals in 105 games for AA Birmingham, the 23 year-old hit .264 with four homers, four steals, and a .338 OBP in 32 games for AAA Charlotte. While he played mainly second base and shortstop for the Barons, he’s played a little bit of third for the Knights as well.
It will be interesting to see how the Sox implement Semien over the next month. The third base scenario is obviously REALLY up in the air for next season, and the Sox now have possibly four players on the MLB roster (Gillaspie, Keppinger, Semien, and maybe even Leury Garcia) that could play that position on the team next season. Yes, Semien also plays the middle infield, but Leury Garcia does as well, and it’s not like the Sox are about to platoon Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham. However, the Sox wouldn’t call him up if they weren’t at least thinking about having him be a part of the 2014 team, so Semien is going to get at least a start or two each week somewhere in the infield.
Bryan Anderson and Miguel Gonzalez
Both catchers, the call-ups of Anderson and Gonzalez have much less intriguing storylines attached to them than the other four call-ups. Anderson’s a 26-year-old who spent the season as Charlotte’s backup catcher, hitting .224 with seven home runs in 64 games. Gonzalez is just 22, but hit just .244 in on 37 games for AA Birmingham before being moved to Charlotte, where he hit .280 in 16 games.
Neither catcher is high up on the Sox list of prospects (in fact, Anderson has spent a little time in the majors in the Cardinals system already), and these two guys don’t figure to be a part of the team’s future. While Tyler Flowers struggled this season before going down with a shoulder injury, he’s probably your backup next season behind Josh Phegley if they are still here. If one leaves, the Sox would probably look to the free agent market for another catcher. However, maybe one of these two guys does extremely well this last month and puts themselves in the conversation to make the team next year. However, unless they hit .400 with a few home runs, it’s tough to see that happening.