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Who Can Provide a September Boost?

In September, the rosters expand to 40 players. Here’s who can help the Cardinals down the stretch.

When it comes to September call-ups, every team handles it differently. Even amongst those looking for a playoff push, we see different strategies. Some will bring up as many relievers as they can so as to rest their regular bullpen arms. Some will bring up players with unique traits like the guy who comes in just to pinch run every game. And then, of course, some teams just bring up their best minor league players.

A team can only call up the players on its 40-man roster, but that roster often changes before the call-up date. As of right now, here is a list of players in the minors and on the Cardinals’ 40 man roster that can help in September.

Dean Anna, Middle Infielder

Anna enjoyed a brief, 12 game stint in the majors with the Yankees in 2014, and wore a St. Louis Cardinals uniform for one game last season. He is tough to peg because while he shows some good numbers, he is a 29 year-old minor leaguer; he should do that. Since we’re looking at what a player can add, though, let’s be optimistic.

He shows a tendency to get on base a good amount, sporting a very high walk rate. He also doesn’t strike out too much, which is always a worry with guys who spend their careers in AAA. His best attribute, though, might be his fielding. Yes, there is a Cardinal who can play shortstop. Anna recorded plus 2 defensive runs saved in 49 innings with the Yankees at shortstop. That is an incredible and unsustainable pace, but he has the skills to play the position. Even if he doesn’t get to the plate, Anna can provide value as a defensive replacement.

Anthony Garcia, Outfielder

Garcia is a 24 year-old outfielder who is not going to be found on too many top prospects’ lists. However, he does show good patience at the plate and some pop. His career minor league walk rate is right around nine percent, well above the major league average, and has eleven home runs this season in 100 games across AA and AAA. The power numbers aren’t staggering, but they are better than what the average minor leaguer provides. For reference, Gary Sanchez only hit 10 homers in Triple-A this year before reaching 11 in the majors. I’m not saying that Garcia will be Brandon Moss from the right side, but there is some upside here.

Mike Mayers, Pitcher

His major league audition was ugly, but I am pretty confident that he will be back in St. Louis soon. That isn’t a bad thing, either. I don’t know about Mayers long term prospects as a starter, but he may be able to carve out a role in the bullpen. With the exception of 2015, Mayers showed good control throughout his entire minor league career. You’re not going to see two walks and two home runs every fourteen batters in the majors.

His strikeout rate is on the low side, but that could jump in the bullpen. Mayers has spent his whole career as a starter, and just recently experienced an increase in strikeouts. I’m always skeptical of one-year improvements as big as Mayers’ nearly two strikeouts per nine jump, but he is showing some promise. I think he will regress towards his mean in that category unless moved to the bullpen. There, he will likely be able to operate in the mid-90s with a plus changeup. His curveball could use some work right now, but he wouldn’t need it as a reliever. He can provide qualities relief appearances down the stretch for the Cardinals.

Sam Tuivailala, Pitcher

You can read what I have to say on Tuivailala’s control and ability to pitch effectively here, since I won’t repeat all of it in this space.

Tuivailala is going to be a nice piece for the Cardinals’ bullpen sooner or later. He has the stuff, his control is improving, and he has a long track record of minor league success. If I were to put one of these September call-ups into a big spot, I would choose Tuivailala. With Alex Reyes and Zach Duke providing relief help, there may not be a need to stick him into a big spot, but I would be comfortable putting him in one. I know that may not be a popular decision given his history of control issues, but Tuivailala can pitch. The Cardinals will likely give him a fair shot to win a postseason spot, and I don’t think he’ll disappoint in September or October.

The Rest

The rest of the guys either won’t play due to logjams (Mike Ohlman), are hurt (Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales), or probably won’t contribute much. I know some may be wondering where Jose Martinez (2015 league batting champ) is, but I am not sure he’ll be able to give much. Outside of 2015, he has never been more than average at the plate and struggles in the field. We will probably see him pinch hit here and there, but I don’t expect much.

Many also like Dean Kiekhefer, but he’ll need to miss more bats before he becomes effective in the big leagues.

In total, the Cardinals should at least get one good fielder, two strong relievers, and a decent power bat off the bench. That is a pretty good addition for one final month of baseball before the postseason. I don’t think any of these players will be the difference between a playoff berth and an early exit, but each one should help. The Cardinals are in a good position to hold their second wild card lead, and possibly take over the first. I think these additions will cement their floor of the second wild card spot, and the pitchers might even make the postseason roster.

Photo credit: Scott Rovak – USA TODAY Sports