September roster expansion can be an exciting time of year. For teams who are competing to make the playoffs, roster expansions provide an opportunity to deepen pitching staffs and add extra offensive or defensive weapons off the bench. For teams whose playoff hopes have long since dwindled, September can provide a shot in the arm for organizations and fans alike as fresh faces arrive from the minor leagues, some for the first time.
Here is a look at some of the names who are poised to realize the dream of playing in the Major Leagues for the first time.
Frankie Montas (White Sox): Coming off a stellar season at Double A Birmingham, the flame-throwing right-hander joins the White Sox for the second time this season. After failing to make an appearance during his brief stint earlier this summer, Montas should find work down the stretch for the South Siders.
With velocity that regularly hits 100 and higher, Montas could put on an occasional show during otherwise meaningless White Sox games. In 23 starts for Birmingham, Montas worked 112 innings, striking out 108 against 48 walks on his way to a 2.97 ERA.
Despite their stated commitment to develop Montas as a starter, pitching coach Don Cooper has already declared that Montas will work from the bullpen in September with Erik Johnson slated to get first crack at any available starts. Montas may be best suited for this role in the long run, but his ability to hold his velocity and improved control is intriguing as a starter. Regardless of role, Montas could go a long way towards cementing a role in Chicago for 2016 with a strong September.
Hector Olivera (Braves): The 30-year-old Cuban defector who signed with the Dodgers for $62.5 million this off season, Olivera was the principal return for the Braves in the massive 13-player deadline deal in which they gave up Alex Wood and Jose Peraza. Between the cost to acquire him, the massive contract, and the general mystique surrounding Cuban imports, Olivera will have a lot of eyes on him this month.
His minor league track record, which consists of 35 games, six teams, and two organizations, doesn't really offer any insight beyond the initial scouting reports. The belief is that he could be a strong right-handed bat at a time when offense is on the decline. The curtain is about to be pulled up and at his advanced age, what you see may be what you get.
Miguel Almonte (Royals): Almonte has spent the season in the high minors for the Royals making 17 starts at Double A Northwest Arkansas before a promotion to Triple A Omaha in July. Almonte made his last four appearances out of the bullpen for the Storm Chasers as the Royals prepared him to pitch-in during the season's final month.
With a fastball that works into the mid-90s and a strong change up, Almonte has long been held up as a potential mid-rotation starter. A mediocre showing in the upper-minors calls his ultimate ceiling into question. We should know more about what he might be able to contribute in 2016 after his trial run.
Brandon Drury (Diamondbacks): Acquired by the Diamondbacks from Atlanta in the Justin Upton trade, Drury has established himself as one of the top hitting prospects in Arizona's system. With above-average power potential and respectable defensive chops, Drury has a chance to be a solid contributor as Arizona looks to build towards its next contending team.
He has seen nearly equal time at both Double A Mobile and Triple A Reno as well as at second and third base in 2015. Arizona's long term infield picture is muddy as Jake Lamb has been respectable at third while Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings have struggled offensively up the middle for much of the year. All four players have virtues and it will be interesting to watch the organization juggle the infield playing time down the stretch.
Luke Jackson (Rangers): Flash back to June of 2014 and Jackson appeared to be on the fast track to Arlington on the strength of 83.1 excellent innings for Double A Frisco in which he struck out 83 and allowed a .191 BAA. Jackson was promoted to Triple A Round Rock at the end of that month and promptly saw the express train derail.
His control regressed and Jackson finished with 40 innings and a 10.35 ERA at the highest level of the minors. Jackson began 2015 back in the Round Rock rotation where he made five starts resulting in 22.1 innings, 17 strikeouts, 13 walks, and a 5.64 ERA before shifting to the bullpen for the rest of the season.
With a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a plus breaking ball, Jackson fared better out of the pen including 62 strikeouts in 44 innings and a 3.68 ERA. Jackson has a chance to stake a claim to a bullpen role for the Rangers with a solid September.
Elias Diaz (Pirates): Other than pitchers, the extra catcher is perhaps the most common species of September addition. Diaz has carried a reputation as a strong defensive backstop with him through the minors. Despite poor offensive production early in his career, Diaz continued to climb the organizational ladder and broke out for High A Bradenton during his age 22 season in 2013 with a 128 wRC+ mark in 57 games.
He answered the requisite call to prove his production was legitimate for Double A Altoona by posting 129 wRC+ in 91 games before a brief promotion to Indianapolis in 2014. His return to Indy has been respectable as well to the tune of 106 wRC+ in 93 games this season on the strength of respectable contact and on-base markers.
Pittsburgh has not been shy about acknowledging their preference for athletic, defense-first catchers at the Major League level. Francisco Cervelli's breakout is one thing, but veteran Chris Stewart does not figure to be a significant obstacle for Diaz in the long run. He could be ready for a more significant role starting next season.
Zach Davies (Brewers): Like Montas, Davies pitched in the 2015 Futures Game in Cincinnati. That's where the similarities end. Listed at 6'0", 160 Davies has had to pitch his way through the industry's bias against small right-handed pitchers. With a fastball that occasionally scrapes the low-90s, Davies finds success by changing speeds and keeping the ball in the park.
The Brewers acquired Davies in exchange for Gerardo Parra at the trade deadline. It seemed at the time that a move to the National League could provide Davies a chance to succeed at the back end of a rotation, and now the Brewers want to find out what they have. Manager Craig Counsell plans to leave Davies in the rotation for the rest of the season where he will have a chance to cement himself in the team's long term plans.
Any 26th round pick reaching the majors is a fun story. Davies could become the story that high school coaches around the country tell their guys who are just a little too small, or just a little short on velocity. It's hard not to root for this guy.
The Crash Davis "21 Greatest Days of My Life" Club
Not all September call ups are destined to be stars or even regulars in the "show". Here are the lesser-known roster additions seeking to make their debut:
Seth Alexander (LHP, KC), Jett Bandy (C, LAA), Carson Blair (C, Oak), Ramon Cabrera (C, Cin), Ryan Dull (RHP, Oak), Rocky Gale (C, SD), Cody Hall (RHP, SF), Raudel Lazo (LHP, Mia), Luke Maile (C, TB), Colton Murray (RHP, Phi), Rico Noel (OF, NYY), James Pazos (LHP, NYY), Pedro Severino (C, Was), Tony Zych (RHP, Sea)