With September call-ups just a few weeks away, let’s take a look at the players the Red Sox may promote from the minors to add to the active roster for the stretch run.
In the past five years, the club has added somewhere between seven and 11 minor leaguers to its active roster each September, in varying capacities -- some have come aboard as impact role players, while others join the club just to get their first taste of a major league clubhouse atmosphere. Similarly, some are added immediately on Sept. 1 when the active roster expands from 25 to 40, others are not promoted until Triple-A Pawtucket’s season ends (which is Sept. 5 this season, but could be later as the PawSox have a good chance at making the playoffs), and still others are only promoted for a cup of coffee if and when the club clinches a postseason berth.
Here’s the pool of players Boston will look to when considering who will make the active roster this September. Please note that this analysis could change considerably if the Red Sox make a waiver trade or two. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if such a trade included one or more of the players on the below list.
RHP Kyle Weiland -- The 24-year old righty got his feet wet with two starts for the big club in July, and is a sure bet to come aboard in early September as a middle-inning reliever and perhaps a spot starter for Boston. He could be a potential impact bullpen arm late in the season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him earn a spot on a playoff roster.
LHP Felix Doubront -- Doubront has been on the disabled list with a hamstring strain since July 24, but should return to the PawSox rotation in the next week. The 23-year-old Venezuelan left-hander is in a similar boat to Weiland. He’ll be one of the first players called up to the big leagues, and Sox manager Terry Francona won’t be averse to using him in high-leverage situations. He’s another potential impact reliever for the Sox down the stretch.
RHP Junichi Tazawa -- Still recovering from April 2010 Tommy John surgery, Tazawa was promoted to Pawtucket on Aug. 8. He’s been inconsistent in his return to the mound this season and has been kept on a strict pitch count. But as the Sox have begun to let him loose, the results have improved. He’ll get a shot on the active roster in September, but he’ll have to earn the right to be used in high-pressure situations.
SS Jose Iglesias -- Iglesias’ bat has yet to come around -- he’s hitting just .224/.269/.242 with Pawtucket -- but his defense is more than major league ready right now. He’s an ideal candidate to be a late-inning defensive replacement and a pinch runner during Boston’s push for the playoffs.
OF Ryan Kalish -- At the outset of the season, many projected that Kalish would make an impact with the big league club as early as May, but he partially tore his labrum on April 21 and suffered complications with neck and back pain, keeping him out of action until just recently. He returned to the PawSox lineup on Aug. 8, and is already looking like his old self. He should make an impact as a valuable bench player and possibly even a part-time starter for the Sox in September, and is another player that is an outside candidate for a playoff roster spot.
1B Lars Anderson -- Coming into the season with high expectations, Anderson was mediocre at best in the first half, hitting just .254 with 7 home runs for Pawtucket. But in the 25 games since the Triple-A All-Star break, Anderson is hitting .300/.411/.589 with 6 home runs. He’ll probably be added to Boston’s active roster as a bench player after Pawtucket’s season ends, and likely will be utilized largely in a pinch-hitting role.
C Ryan Lavarnway -- The 24-year-old backstop has punished Triple-A pitching since his promotion to Pawtucket on June 13, hitting .332/.408/.658 with 15 home runs in 187 at-bats. For the season between Pawtucket and Double-A Portland, he’s already hit 29 home runs in 104 games. But his defense behind the dish is still a question mark, and it’s questionable whether the club will give him too many reps behind the plate, especially as he hasn’t worked with many of the pitchers on the major league roster for extended periods of time. Regardless, the club will find a way to get him some at-bats. A spot on the 40-man roster will have to be opened up for Lavarnway to join the active roster, and while that space is at a premium right now, Lavarnway needs to be added in November anyway to avoid eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft.
On the Bubble
OF Che-Hsuan Lin -- A 22-year-old center fielder from Taiwan, Lin is a plus defensive player with a cannon arm, plus speed, and outstanding plate discipline from the right side of the plate. He just hasn’t shown much power to date, generally making weak contact resulting in a lot of groundball outs. Like Iglesias, he would make an ideal late-inning defensive replacement and pinch runner option. However, like Lavarnway, he’s also not on the 40-man roster, but needs to be added by November. Ultimately, he’ll probably be added unless the club adds a similar player via trade or waivers.
C Luis Exposito -- Exposito hasn’t had the most impressive offensive season with Pawtucket, but he’s an above-average defensive backstop and he’s already on the 40-man roster. The club likes to have an emergency defensive catcher on the roster in September, and Exposito will probably fill that role this year. That is unless he is designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster, which appears unlikely at this point, especially as his offense has come around since the All-Star break (.297/.358/.446).
UT Drew Sutton -- Sutton has performed admirably when given the opportunity in 2011, and provides versatility and depth at several positions. But he’s redundant of infielders Jed Lowrie and Mike Aviles, and Iglesias will likely take the defensive replacement and pinch running role away from him. Despite his solid performance, Boston may need to use his space on the 40-man roster in some other fashion. However, it will be tough to cut a player who has hit over .300 for both Pawtucket and Boston.
LHP Randy Williams, RHP Scott Atchison, and RHP Michael Bowden -- The Sox will likely call up at least one of these relievers, and possibly all three. A lot will depend on whether the front office makes an additional bullpen acquisition prior to Sept. 1, and whether space is needed on the 40-man roster. Regardless, none of the three would seemingly be used in high-leverage situations at this stage. With respect to Bowden, despite excelling as Pawtucket’s closer this year, the Red Sox have not called upon him when given the opportunity. It remains to be seen whether he’s in Boston’s plans for 2012, when he’ll be out of options.
RHP Jason Rice -- A 25-year-old righty with a mid-90s fastball, Rice will be a minor league free agent at season’s end unless re-signed or added to the 40-man roster. He’s a long-shot, but the club could give him a cup-of-coffee later in September if they’re able to clear roster space. He’s presently posting a 3.58 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP for Pawtucket.
3B Will Middlebrooks -- Another long-shot as he’s not on the 40-man roster, but he’ll also need to be added this November anyway. The team may just decide to add him in mid-September if roster space can be cleared. He would only be called up to get acclimated to the majors, in the hopes that he’s ready to make contributions at some point in 2012.
OF Brett Carroll and OF Daniel Nava -- Carroll and Nava will likely only be called up in the event of a slew of injuries to Boston’s outfield corps, but both have major league experience if they do get the call.
Doubtful to no shot
RHP Stolmy Pimentel -- The 21-year-old was added to Boston’s 40-man roster last November to avoid Rule 5 eligibility. He began the 2011 season with Portland, where he pitched poorly enough (9.12 ERA) to receive a demotion to High-A Salem on July 11. He’s been inconsistent in six starts with Salem, but still shows a ton of potential, thus won’t be removed from the 40-man. But there’s also no shot that he earns a call-up to the majors this year.
2B Oscar Tejeda -- Tejeda is performing adequately for a 21-year-old in Double-A, putting up a line of .253/.306/.341. However, his plate approach still needs a lot of work and he’s not major league ready on defense. While he’s on the 40-man roster and still a highly-regarded prospect, he’s a major long-shot to join the big club this September.
LHP Hideki Okajima -- To put it nicely, Okajima did not ingratiate himself with the Sox front office when he told them he’d rather not be called up to Boston following the season-ending injury to Rich Hill, but instead asked for a trade. He has pitched well for Pawtucket this year, posting a 2.75 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in 27 appearances, but Boston has shown no signs of calling him up after his trade demand, instead opting for the likes of Tommy Hottovy and Randy Williams to fill the second lefty reliever role. Now that the club has lefties Andrew Miller, Franklin Morales, and soon Felix Doubront to work out of the pen, Okajima has likely thrown his last pitch for the Red Sox. He’s a candidate to be traded before Sept. 1.
RHP Alex Wilson -- Stuff-wise, Wilson probably could be a factor in Boston’s bullpen this year. He’s performed quite well at the top of Portland’s rotation, posting a 2.93 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 107.1 innings. But he’s now been in Double-A for 36 starts, and will seemingly be there through at least Aug. 20, when he’s slated to start for Portland during Futures at Fenway. Given that the club has yet to promote him to Triple-A, and given that he’s not Rule 5 eligible this off-season, the team will probably lean toward not using a premium 40-man roster spot on Wilson this season.