September is right around the corner, and while most of the fantasy sports world will indeed hang up its baseball cleats in order to strap on football helmets, there are nevertheless going to be at least a few owners who will still have some important baseball left to be played before they can claim their 2017 championships.
September is also the month when major league teams are able to open up some extra space in their clubhouses to reward some minor leaguers who have done well over the course of the year with a much-coveted "cup of coffee." While only a small percentage of these minor leaguers will eventually become fantasy relevant in the long term, when they do get into the lineup over the final month of the season, their hits, steals, home runs, wins, saves and strikeouts will count just the same as those produced by 10-year veterans.
With that in mind, here is a list of one current Triple-A player from each of the 30 major league clubs who may be able to provide you with some statistical assistance over the last few weeks of the season, should they get the call:
Arizona Diamondbacks: Christian Walker started the spring with Baltimore before being placed on waivers, only to be claimed and waived by Atlanta and Cincinnati before ultimately landing at Triple-A Reno. As a first baseman, he's got little future in Arizona unless Paul Goldschmidt gets hurt, but he has dabbled at third base and the outfield and has hit a Reno-record 31 home runs.
Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuna, a 19-year-old outfielder, started the season at Class A and has already been promoted twice. At Triple-A Gwinnett, through 36 games, Acuna is batting .347 with 8 home runs and 4 steals. Combined, he's hitting .323 with 20 HRs and 37 SBs in 2017. A few at-bats in Atlanta to close out the season would be quite the grand-slam cherry on top for this rising star.
Baltimore Orioles: Third baseman Drew Dosch started the year at Double-A but got promoted to Norfolk after only nine games of a .424 batting average. He struggled at first but has hit .304 since the Triple-A All-Star break. With Manny Machado, Dosch is clearly blocked, but that's no reason the O's can't give him a few starts once they're eliminated from the postseason picture.
Boston Red Sox: Jalen Beeks is not currently on the Red Sox 40-man roster, but to avoid potentially losing him to the Rule 5 draft, he will likely be added before the November deadline. Why not do it in September and have an 11-5 pitcher with a 2.69 ERA over two levels of play this season -- and a 9.0 K/9 and .221 BAA at Pawtucket -- get a start or two down the stretch to allow the rest of the Red Sox rotation to recharge before the postseason.
Chicago Cubs: Most of this team's top prospects have already made the jump, so there's not a "must see" player left for fans to look forward to in September. Still, the Cubs thought outfielder Mark Zagunis was good enough to get a shot earlier this season when Jason Heyward was hurt. Although he went 0-for-14 in his limited June stay, the .859 OPS slugger at Iowa will probably get another shot at getting his first major league hit once rosters expand.
Chicago White Sox: D.J. Peterson never quite clicked at the Triple-A level for the Mariners, so they designated him for assignment at the end of July. The White Sox claimed him on waivers a week later, and while he has not done anything much of anything yet to earn a promotion (.220, 1 HR, 3 RBIs) at Charlotte, why not use September to see if the first baseman is going to have a shot at being even a small part of the Yoan Moncada era?
Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Mahle threw a no-hitter in Double-A back in April en route to earning a promotion to Louisville in June. Now nine starts into his Triple-A career, Mahle has a 2.58 ERA, with a .219 BAA and a 1.07 WHIP. Rewarding a strong season with, at the bare minimum, a chance to make his big-league debut would be a nice way to give the 22-year-old a taste of what he'll be working towards next year.
Cleveland Indians: Ronny Rodriguez had home runs in four consecutive games earlier this month and is batting .296 with 17 homers and 11 steals for Columbus. It's a huge step forward for this 25-year-old infielder, who might end up being a better short-term bench option for Cleveland than the likes of Yandy Diaz or Giovanny Urshela.
Colorado Rockies: Cornerman Ryan McMahon has already had a chance to play some for the Rockies this season, and while he was just sent back down to Albuquerque on Friday, a guy hitting .377 in Triple-A will be back for certain when roster expand. Outfielder Noel Cuevas could go with him, as he's hitting .320 on the year, with a nifty power/speed combo (15 HRs/16 SBs).
Detroit Tigers: Since coming to Detroit in the Justin Wilson trade, Jeimer Candelario has struggled -- batting only .236 in 16 games at Triple-A Toledo. Still, it's just a matter of time before he's manning the hot corner for the Tigers, forcing the move of Nicholas Castellanos to the outfield. Since they already called him up for a game when Jose Iglesias went on the bereavement list earlier this month, his September promotion is a virtual lock.
Houston Astros: Because Rogelio Armenteros is not on Houston's crowded 40-man roster, there's every reason not to promote him in September. Still, he's 6-1 with a 2.38 ERA (.220 BAA) and an 11.9 K/9 rate in eight starts since his promotion to Triple-A Fresno. With a big lead for home-field advantage in the AL, and no real chance to catch the Dodgers, why not see if Armenteros can fool major league hitters the way he's handled them at the lower levels?
Kansas City Royals: Ryan O'Hearn was "supposed to be" the next first baseman to emerge at Triple-A Omaha. While he did hit 18 HRs for the Storm Chasers over 114 games, he also hit just .252 (with 119 K's) before getting demoted to Double-A last week. Part of the reason for that move was first baseman Frank Schwindel, who had a 16-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday. Schwindel is batting .314 in 85 games at Triple-A, with 21 home runs (and only 73 strikeouts) over 119 games and two levels. Consider him "ahead" in the race to be Eric Hosmer's backup.
Los Angeles Angels: Matt Thaiss was the team's first round pick in 2016. At only 22 years old, his power has yet to materialize, if it ever will at all. However, the first baseman is hitting .318 since a midseason promotion to Double-A Mobile. Given the way the Angels handle their prospects, he'll probably not rise above the Triple-A level next season, but to give him a two-week tour of a major-league clubhouse to close out 2017? That's a move likely to help his development.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Alex Verdugo should be a big star for the Dodgers someday, but with the addition of Curtis Granderson to the clubhouse, Los Angeles doesn't need another outfielder right now. Pitching, on the other hand -- you can never have too much pitching. That's why I'm eyeballing Wilmer Font, who has spent the last ten years toiling in the Texas and Toronto organizations. Still just 27 years old, Font has a 12.1 K/9 rate and a.217 BAA this season at Oklahoma City. He could get a shot down the stretch, especially if either Clayton Kershaw or Yu Darvish end up suffering setbacks.
Miami Marlins: Sure, Martin Prado could come back from his knee surgery before the end of the season. Calling up Brian Anderson to play third base might be a wiser course of action. Anderson has 21 home runs over two levels this season, including a .354 batting average at Triple-A New Orleans, including an active nine-game hitting streak. Anderson has missed the last few days with a concussion, but once he's back in the lineup, the hits should continue, as well as the pressure for the Marlins to give him a call. Derek Dietrich is hardly the future.
Milwaukee Brewers: Jonathan Villar has had a disappointing season (.228) at the plate, but perhaps his last seven games (.407 BA, 3 SB) is what has staved off a potential promotion for infielder Mauricio Dubon. Dubon started the season at Double-A and has played the last 46 games with Colorado Springs. He has 38 steals over both levels and, while it doesn't count for fantasy, a glove that could make him a fixture in a major league lineup should he get the chance. September could give him a chance.
Minnesota Twins: Zack Granite's short stay in Minnesota earlier this season started slowly (.091), then picked up a bit with a nine-game hitting streak (.412) before the team needed his roster spot and they returned him to Rochester to get consistent playing time. With a .337 batting average in 69 games at Triple-A, Granite's bat is too good to not spend the last month of the season back with the Twins. Pitcher Stephen Gonsalves, who started the year at Double-A, could also potentially extend his 2017 at the big-league level, if the team is so inclined.
New York Mets: The rebuild is well underway, as only three of New York's eight Opening Day position players are still with the team, and Asdrubal Cabrera might well be on the move as well, leaving just Jose Reyes and Yoenis Cespedes in Flushing. As a result, the young players who were likely to come up in September (Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith) are already here. Still, over the weekend, reliever Jacob Rhame (and his 98 mph fastball) was named a the PTBNL in the Granderson deal. As he was named so promptly, I fully expect him on the Mets expanded roster this season.
New York Yankees: Chance Adams has already thrown more innings in 2017 than he did last year, when the Yankees shut the pitcher down early. While Chance is good and could help the Yankees down the stretch, chances are good he won't be given the opportunity. However, with Scranton/Wilkes Barre ticketed for the International League playoffs, few call-ups are likely until they are eliminated. Outfielder Jake Cave (.338, 14 HRs) would be the bat to consider, though the Yankees' outfield is fairly crowded already.
Oakland Athletics: In his four August starts, 6-foot-7 left-hander A.J. Puk has a 13.7 K/9 rate. The team's first-round draft pick in 2016 has already risen to Double-A Midland and is likely to be a midseason addition to the A's rotation next season. He's thrown only 112 innings thus far, so 2-3 appearances at the major league level might be a good way for the 22-year-old to cap off a successful season of progress.
Philadelphia Phillies: Second baseman Scott Kingery is working on an 18-game hitting streak for Lehigh Valley and is batting a combined .314 with 26 home runs and 27 steals over two levels of play this season. Because he doesn't have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, the Phillies may well choose to keep him off the 40-man roster in order to protect an asset that could be at a risk for selection. That would be sad, because this is a player who is more than ready. Meanwhile, J.P. Crawford does need that 40-man shield, so consider the shortstop, who is batting .338 in August, to be the more likely September addition.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Jordan Luplow, who went 0-for-9 in sporadic action during a brief July call-up during one of Gregory Polanco's many trips to the disabled list, is very likely to get another look once rosters expand. The outfielder has hit .341 in the 37 games since his promotion to Indianapolis, and .361 since getting sent back to the minors after his brief Pittsburgh foray. Even if it's only off the bench, the extra bat won't hurt the Pirates' fading playoff chances.
St. Louis Cardinals: Jack Flaherty was a Cardinals first-rounder in 2014. His progress was slow, but all things have seemed to click this year. Over two levels of play, the right-hander has gone 12-4 with a 2.17 ERA, a .217 BAA and a 9.2 K/9 rate. With Adam Wainwright's return far from guaranteed, it's not outside the realm of possibility for Flaherty to get a few September starts, especially since his workload is currently only 2 2/3 innings over last year's total.
San Diego Padres: Here's another team that has already opened up the Pandora's Box of prospects, with the likes of Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Dinelson Lamet, Franchy Cordero and Carlos Asuaje. Renfroe and Cordero will both most assuredly get back to San Diego in ten days' time. So too may middle infielder Luis Urias, currently hitting .304 at Double-A San Antonio. With 30-year-old journeyman Dusty Coleman currently getting his fair share of shortstop starts, the last few weeks of the season would probably be time better spent giving Urias a taste of the action.
San Francisco Giants: Brandon Belt is dealing with a concussion, and Ryder Jones has been doing his best to fill in at first base for the Giants. However, a .184 batting average from Jones is far from exciting, and former first-round draft pick (2015) Chris Shaw appears to be ready to make the climb to the majors. He's slugged 22 home runs over two levels this season, 16 at Triple-A Sacramento. In August alone, he's batting .303 with a 1.005 OPS.
Seattle Mariners: Perhaps Daniel Vogelbach is simply destined to be one of those Quad-A players. He got a few brief chances with Seattle earlier this season, but not nearly enough to avoid a swift return to the minors. Still, his OBP has hovered around .400 all season long at Tacoma, and the .297-16-81 certainly has gotten the job done at first base. The addition of Yonder Alonso makes his future with Seattle very cloudy, but as a late-inning pinch-hit option in September? That could work.
Tampa Bay Rays: Timing is everything, and the Rays have certainly been able to delay the arrival of Brent Honeywell so far in 2017. Once September comes, however, there's really no reason not to -- at the very least -- use him out of the bullpen, as many teams have done with starters of the future. Honeywell is finishing the season strongly at Durham, with a 3-0 record, a 1.86 ERA and an 11.2 K/9 since the Triple-A All-Star game. Only the politics of baseball -- 40-man roster manipulation and artificial innings caps -- can keep him down now.
Texas Rangers: Willie Calhoun came over to Texas from Los Angeles in the Yu Darvish deal. His biggest asset is his bat, as he's blasted 26 home runs at Triple-A this season, including five in 16 games at Round Rock since the trade. Defensively, he's not that great, and finding a position for him may be a struggle -- his second base skills are lacking, and he's been learning left field as well. Still, that's what Jurickson Profar has been for the team, and at least Calhoun has pop. For September, that should be enough for a look-see.
Toronto Blue Jays: Roemon Fields has averaged 45 steals per season over his four-year minor league career and is now just three away from setting a franchise record at Triple-A Buffalo. Since an early-season promotion, Fields has hit .301 for the Bisons. Considering the Blue Jays, as a team, have just 44 stolen bases on the year, at least in a pinch-running Terrance Gore-type role, why not add him to the roster? If Toronto does, a category-specific need for savvy fantasy owners could be met here.
Washington Nationals: Neftali Soto is a 28-year-old who started with the Reds organization back in 2007. He has played every single defensive position at some point during his career, though the corner infield spots are where he primarily finds himself in 2017. Spending time at both Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse this season, Soto has hit .313 with 20 home runs. Simply because of all the injuries the Nationals have endured this season, they're going to need some bodies on the bench. Soto, while he's only had a few cups of coffee in the majors (and not since 2014), at the very least, he shouldn't be starstruck if he gets the call.