September is right around the corner, and for what may be the last time, teams can call up everyone on the 40-man roster. Beginning next year teams will be limited to having a 28-man roster in September.
At least one more time the debate for who will and who won’t be called up could have more than a few names to discuss. Today we’re going to talk about the position players who could potentially be called up in September. But let me preface this by saying that I will only be discussing players on the 40-man roster. The reasoning here is simple: I don’t believe there’s anyone not on the 40-man that the team will be looking to get playing time to this September, so they aren’t going to designate anyone for assignment/release them to create a spot for someone to come up and sit on the bench.
Alex Blandino began the 2019 season on the injured list as he recovered from a torn ACL. Eventually he was healthy enough to play and was activated and then optioned to Triple-A Louisville. He didn’t begin playing until June 3rd, just under 11 months after his initial injury against the Pirates last season. He’s hitting .253/.393/.385 in 65 games with the Bats this year. In 2019 when the Triple-A baseball is juiced to the gills, a .778 OPS backed with a .385 slugging percentage doesn’t stick out much.
When we look at his splits, a few things jump out. Let’s first talk about the good: Alex Blandino has beat up on lefties. He’s had 95 plate appearances against them in Triple-A this year and he’s hitting .304/.421/.532 against them with 11 walks and 23 strikeouts. Four of his five home runs on the year have come against lefties, too.
But there’s also some not-so-good in the splits. In 18 games in June he had an .877 OPS. In July that dropped to .813. During August he’s hitting just .232/.321/.319. His walk rate has dropped from 16% in June/July to just 9% in August. That combined with the complete lack of power in the month has him hitting at his worst during the season.
While Alex Blandino does have some position flexibility, he can cover you at third base, second base, and shortstop – the Reds have several other guys who can also do that right now. They are going to have trouble finding playing time around the infield as it is in September with Derek Dietrich, Freddy Galvis, Josh VanMeter, Jose Iglesias, Eugenio Suarez, Kyle Farmer, and Joey Votto all looking for at-bats. Combine that with the struggles at the plate in August and it feels like he is a guy who may not be recalled when rosters expand.
It’s been a back-and-forth month of August for Brian O’Grady. He was added to the 40-man roster and called up earlier this month. Since then has been optioned back to Louisville twice. The 27-year-old went 1-12, almost exclusively as a pinch hitter in his two stints with the Reds.
On the season in Triple-A he’s hitting .277/.358/.554 with 28 doubles, a triple, 27 home runs, and 17 steals in 21 attempts. He’s capable of playing first base, left field, center field, and right field. Like Alex Blandino, there’s some positive and some negative in the numbers.
Starting on the negative side, there’s some swing-and-miss to Brian O’Grady’s game. He’s struck out 28.2% of the time this season in Triple-A. That’s really the only issue in the numbers. At least in Triple-A he hit both lefties and righties. In fact, he had a much higher OPS against lefties, hitting .325/.370/.650 against them in 123 at-bats this season. Against right-handers he hit .255/.353/.511 in 278 at-bats.
For Brian O’Grady I believe that he will wind up being recalled. While he may face some playing time issues because he plays positions that are covered by more than a few others, as a bench player he can provide a little more value thanks to his ability to pinch run, cover center field (and the other spots – but center is the important thing here), and provide some threat of power off of the bench.
When it comes to tools it’s tough to find someone in the farm system that matches what Jose Siri brings to the table. But tools don’t always translate to skills on a day-to-day basis on the field. Right now there are some clear tools that do for Siri – his speed and his defense. He is arguably the best defensive center fielder in the organization, and he would most certainly be the best defensive outfielder on the big league club. There’s also a chance that Siri would be the fastest player on the big league club if called up. Defense and speed, those things will play and they’ll play right now.
With that said, his bat hasn’t been very good this year. He began the year in Double-A with Chattanooga. While playing in 101 games for the Lookouts he hit .251/.313/.388 with 33 walks and 126 strikeouts. His OPS was a little better than the league average. However, he struck out 31.1% of the time he stepped to the plate and his power was down from where it’s been in the past – even last year when he was also in Double-A. At the start of the month he was promoted to Triple-A. To say it’s been a tough go would be an understatement. Even after going 3-4 last night with a double, triple, and a walk he’s hitting .156/.235/.221 for Louisville in 23 games played.
Right now he seems like a long shot to get called up. His bat simply wouldn’t be used given how he’s hit lately and the other options available. Defensively and on the bases he would be useful right now. But with where the Reds are, they probably don’t need that kind of player on the bench. If they were in a situation of competing, having the threat of his speed on the bench, or as a 9th inning defensive replacement could make more sense. That’s just not where the team is right now, though.
There are only three healthy position players on the 40-man roster who aren’t in the Major Leagues right now. Scott Schebler is also on the 40-man, but he had shoulder surgery and is out for the season. There’s a chance that the Reds could lean more towards a yes on a guy like Alex Blandino and he could join Brian O’Grady in a call up. But it feels like the position player call ups are going to be very limited this year. I could see it being just one guy – O’Grady – joining the Reds when the rosters do expand.