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Five Orioles Questions Before the September Roster Expansion

Every September, major league clubs will have the opportunity to increase their active roster size from a max of 25 players to a whopping 40 man group. While it’s unusual that teams use up all the roster space, there is normally a group of 5-10 minor leaguers that get the call over the course of the month. According to MLB.com, “Buck Showalter said he would “rather not” have more than 31 or 32 players, if the Orioles were to make a playoff run this year.”

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

Like most every team, the Orioles won’t bring everyone up on September 1st, but with the Norfolk Tides out of the layoff race, there should be no hesitation in calling up a Triple-A ballplayer if Buck thinks he can help the club in the wild card race. It should also be noted that the Bowie Baysox are destined for a playoff spot, so that will factor in regards to the team opting to give some of their better prospects their first taste of the big leagues.

Many of the players that are going to get brought up, fans have seen before, given the Orioles heavy use of the taxi squad throughout the 2017 regular season. To get a better feel of who may get the call, be sure to look at who’s on the team’s current 40 man roster because it means that they won’t have to subject a player to waivers if they wish to make them part of the major league ballclub.

The September call ups are always fairly interesting to follow, especially because of the Orioles current hot streak. The team will definetly need some extra arms and maybe a few bats to go “all in” on that second wild card that they desperately want.

1. Will Chance Sisco get his first taste of the big leagues?

Baltimore always brings up an emergency third catcher for the final month of the regular season as there are no real consequences to having a fallback option in case of injuries or other game situations that take place. Normally, that honor goes to the starting catcher at Norfolk. However, the decision is a bit more complex now that one of the O’s top prospects, Chance Sisco, has been the everyday catcher at Triple-A. Sisco and backup Francisco Peña are not currently on the 40 man, so there’s no benefit of not having to outright a player for either one, but the latter backstop has already seen major league time, while Sisco would be getting his first taste.

Sisco would not receive much playing time if he were to get the call, as it would be more of a learning experience in preparation for a possible starting role in 2018. Peña is regarded as the better defensive catcher, which the Orioles may value more in this particular role. It’s a tough choice, but I’m thinking that the Orioles bring up Peña first because of his defensive chops. But the catch is that if Baltimore were to fall out of the race, Sisco would be brought up immediately to get his feet wet for next year.

2. Which relievers get the call first?

It’s no secret that the O’s have rolled through their fair amount of Triple-A arms since April. In fact, Buck has used 24 different pitchers this season, and you’ll see a lot of the same faces again over the coming month because there’s no real downside to having those extra arms, except for a bit of a crammed locker room.

To see which relievers may get the first chance to prove themselves, looking over the 40 man will give you a good idea. The likes of Mike Wright, Alec Asher, Tyler Wilson, Jayson Aquino and Gabriel Ynoa are all on the 40 man and are currently the starters in Norfolk. All five would give you length as another swingman, so the team doesn’t have to burn up their more useful arms in a blowout. Out of this group, I like Asher and Aquino to get the immediate looks as both have been pretty successful in Triple-A, while also seeing time in the Orioles starting rotation.

Donnie Hart had just rejoined the team to give the O’s another lefty to match up late in the game too. Apart form Hart, the Orioles should have room to bring up at least one more reliever, with Stefan Chrichton likely to see time because he has already appeared eight games, albeit with poor results.

3. What about the hitters?

The September intrigue usually revolves more around pitching because teams are always looking for innings to get through the remainder of the regular season. The Orioles will bring up another hitter besides that other catcher, and could give the call to a few more given how the playoff run works itself out over the next few weeks.

Unlike, the girth of Triple-A arms on the 40 man, the Orioles do not have many position players that they are ready to bring up without making a corresponding move. Joey Rickard seems like the most logical choice given his recent history and that he is on the 40 man. Apart from him, no one else in Triple-A seems like a sure bet to be promoted with the roster expansion. Pedro Alavarez and Ruben Tejada seem to be the most likely choices given that Tejada can give you some infield depth and Alvarez has some pop the O’s can tap into of need be.

4.  Which players will be removed from the 40 man?

Baltimore will inevitably have to outright at least two players from the 40 man with a third catcher and another utility infielder assuredly on the way to the majors. The question remains, who’s the most vulnerable?

Jesus Liranzo and Yefry Ramirez are in Double-A at the moment, but both won’t be going anywhere. Also, as previously mentioned, the Orioles have a lot of pitchers in Triple-A who they may need over the course of the coming month. It would seem that this decision would have a lot to do with who the Orioles decide to promote among those 40 man Norfolk hurlers.

Tyler Wilson and Logan Verrett are two of the older pitchers in that group, which means that it might be easier to let them off the 40. The likes of Chris Lee and Andrew Faulkner seem to be safe given their youth, even though neither has seen major league time this season. Ynoa, Asher and Aquino I see more helping the big league club for the remainder of regular season, so it would be counter productive to outright them as well. It doesn’t mean much given that most of these arms would see their way through waivers and return to the organization, but you want to take as little risks as possible, especially with some of the teams out of the race looking for potential minor leaguers to snag from contenders’ graps.

5. Will any top Bowie Baysox prospect make their MLB debut?

At the moment, Chance Sisco seems like the O’s most likely choice for a top prospect to debut. However, the Bowie Baysox are clearly the most loaded team in the Orioles farm.

Austin Hays has shot up prospect lists this season, especially after he made the leap from Frederick to Bowie without any fuss. Cedric Mullins is a more under-the-radar outfield prospect, but he could give the Orioles some much needed speed off the bench should the front office choose to call upon him. However, Tanner Scott may be the most reasonable choice to see some major league time in 2017 because bullpen arms are usually more sought after when September rolls around. Donnie Hart has had his moments, but he doesn’t come close to the type of arm talent that Scott has, in fact, not many left handers do.

The former sixth round pick back in 2014, can throw effortlessly into the triple digits and his slider has made some nice progress of the course of 2017 as well. The control is still the number one concern, with Scott managing to walk just about six batters per nine innings this season. But still, being able to match up lefty on lefty with a guy who throws this hard would be a treat to see as Scott figures to squarely fit in the team’s bullpen plans for next year.

With that being said, if the Orioles were to fall out of the playoff race, these promotions would have a much higher chance of happening, especially with Tanner Scott. However, with Bowie fighting for a playoff spot and the team having a number of hitters and pitchers to turn to, it seems more likely that Hays and Mullins would receive their first taste of major league ball early in 2018 with the team opting to use more of their Triple-A options this September.

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Written by Greg Goldstein
3 months ago
Baltimore Orioles, ,

Greg Goldstein

Greg Goldstein is a scout/contributor covering the Eastern, Carolina, South Atlantic and NY Penn Leagues for Baseball Prospectus. Greg also is a contributor for the FanSided general baseball blog, Call to the Pen. Having graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in May of 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, Greg was a beat reporter for the SB Nation blog, Testudo Times, covering the Maryland baseball team during their 2017 season. Greg can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @greg_goldstein1.

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