The Blue Jays have announced their first wave of September callups which, surprisingly, only has one pitcher. Michael Saunders, Teoscar Hernandez, Carlos Ramirez, Richard Urena and Luke Maile are the ones headed up to Toronto.
Saunders is the best known of these players, of course, having been a Blue Jays regular just last year. After his terrible second half of the season, Saunders was allowed to become a free agent and signed with Philadelphia for $8 million where he hit just .205/.257/.360 with nine doubles, two triples and six home runs in 61 games. He was released and signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays and joined the Buffalo Bisons. In Buffalo, Saunders struggled at the start but has turned it on lately, hitting .329/.356/.471 in August. Saunders gives the Blue Jays a little more depth in the outfield with Norichika Aoki released.
Teoscar Hernandez will make his Blue Jays’ debut some time this month. Hernandez was the key piece of the Francisco Liriano trade this year, bringing him to Toronto from Houston. Hernandez has 42 major league games under his belt (although none this year) and was assigned to Buffalo after being acquired. Hernandez has been getting rave reviews after a rough start in Buffalo and has been excellent, showing off good range as a right and center fielder, a strong arm (which I’ve seen personally) and a very solid bat as long as he’s being selective at the plate. In his last 16 games, Hernandez is hitting .292/.333/.692 (1.026 OPS) with four doubles, two triples and six home runs, giving him a red hot finish to his time in Buffalo. I can see Hernandez getting starts in right field for the Blue Jays down the stretch with Jose Bautista moving to third and Josh Donaldson to short. This gives the Jays a much higher upside player to take a look at in right field in this configuration and could give us a look at the heir apparent to Joey Bats in right.
About a month ago, I wrote an article about why I thought Carlos Ramirez, about whom few people were talking, would get a September callup with the Blue Jays. My prognostication came true as Ramirez was announced as one of the players to join the Blue Jays. A former outfielder, Ramirez rocketed through the organization after figuring out the ins and outs of pitching over the past four seasons, really coming into his own this year with his fastball/slider combination. In 37 2/3 innings this season with New Hampshire and Buffalo, Ramirez has allowed a grand total of two runs (both unearned) and 16 hits while walking 10 and striking out 45. A masterful performance worthy of a call up to Toronto but combined with Ramirez’s contract status (likely a minor league free agent after this season) and, should he have re-signed on a minor league deal, his Rule 5 draft eligibility, it only makes sense for the Jays to keep Ramirez in the fold by putting him on the 40-man roster.
Richard Urena’s callup in September makes sense. On the 40-man roster, Urena’s a shortstop with some upside and was impressing people with both his defense and his offense in 2015 and 2016. Urena got a good look this year in spring training, hitting .320/.393/.360 in 13 games but once the year got started, Urena’s production slowed dramatically. In Double-A New Hampshire, Urena has a .247/.286/.359 slash line, showing less power than he has in a while. Still, he’s turned himself into a fine doubles hitter, hitting 36 with three triples and five home runs. After seeing Urena a few weeks ago, I think he has a long way to go in his approach at the plate to become a major league hitter despite some loud tools and unexpected power. Still, Urena will provide a late-inning defensive replacement if necessary, and can play second base too (he’s been flip-flopping with Lourdes Gurriel at short and second) and I’d expect him to make a few starts here and there but don’t expect him to take time away from Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney.
The final initial callup for the Jays is catcher Luke Maile. Maile is finished his rehab assignment and I had figured that the Jays would wait until September 1 before calling him up to avoid having to DFA anyone else. Maile is a good-catch, no-hit catcher who hit .121/.154/.202 in 33 games this year with the Blue Jays and it will be interesting to see how he gets into a rotation behind the plate with Miguel Montero and Raffy Lopez.
I also assume that there will be more reinforcements coming when the minor league seasons end in Buffalo and New Hampshire on Monday. Folks are talking about getting Danny Jansen to Toronto (who would need to be protected on the 40-man roster from the Rule 5 draft following the season anyway) while Dwight Smith Jr. and Anthony Alford are both on the 40-man roster already but would crowd the crowded outfield even more. Folks are thinking that Ryan Borucki, already on the 40-man roster, might be another callup, possibly as a reward for his outstanding season that started in Advanced-A Dunedin and finished last night with a six-inning-scoreless start in Buffalo. Chris Rowley and Nick Tepesch are also available to be recalled without having to shuffle the roster while Lourdes Gurriel and Harold Ramirez are both on the 40-man roster although I have my doubts about their recall sometime this month with Gurriel headed for the Arizona Fall League.
What do you think? Who’s going to be in the next wave of callups?
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