Today is August 23rd, and in 9 days it will be September: that magical time when we get to take a look at the future of the St. Louis Cardinals!
For those of you who don’t entirely understand what “September call-ups” are, allow me to help you. Come September 1st, everyone on the 40-man roster is eligible to play in the majors. Basically, every team gets to have 40 players on their active roster instead of 25. Due to minor league playoffs and a variety of other reasons, not everyone on the 40-man roster will get called up, but all can.
Sadly, as the result of a variety of injuries and general pitching problems, many of those who we thought we’d be most excited about seeing in September, we’ve either already seen once, or see on a very regular basis (because they’re still on the 25-man active roster).
In addition, the most exciting prospect who we all hoped to see this fall was Oscar Taveras. But ankle surgery ended his season early, and now we have to find something else to look forward to.
Here are the players on the 40-man roster currently playing at the minor league level who will be eligible to play in September:
RHP Michael Blazek
RHP Keith Butler
RHP Eric Fornataro
LHP Sam Freeman
LHP John Gast
RHP Victor Marte
RHP Jorge Rondon
RHP Fernando Salas
3B/IF Jermaine Curtis
2B/IF Ryan Jackson
1B/OF Brock Peterson
CF/OF Adron Chambers
All but two of those players have appeared in a Cardinals’ uniform at least once this season. So, as the roster currently stands, Eric Fornataro and Jorge Rondon are the only fresh faces we might see, so we’ll look at those two quickly.
Eric Fornataro is 25 years old, and the Cardinals drafted him in the sixth round of the 2008 Amateur Draft. He pitched well at AA Springfield last year, posting a 2.39 ERA over 67.2 innings with 41 strikeouts. This year, he’s spent time at AAA Memphis and has struggled, providing a 7.19 ERA in 41.1 innings and striking out only 29. For this reason, I would be surprised to see him appear in a Cardinals uniform, especially with St. Louis still fighting for first place.
Jorge Rondon played in AAA last year, and performed reasonably well, pitching to a 3.60 ERA and striking out 20 in a mere 15 innings, good for a 12.0 K/9 rate. This year, his ERA has improved to 3.01 on the season, but his high strikeout rate has dropped to 5.4 K/9 with only 37 in his 61.1 innings pitched. Especially worrisome is his 37 walks, leading to a 1.0 K/BB ratio. Issues with control are bad, so as long as the Cardinals remain in such a close race with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, I doubt we’ll see much of him.
Since those two prospects are somewhat unlikely and essentially boring, let’s look at some even less likely (but far more exciting!) possible call-ups.
First up, left fielder Mike O’Neill. He spent most of his time in AA Springfield this year, putting up a .320/.431/.384 slash line. He earned himself a promotion to AAA, and has been even better in his 22 games there, hitting .338/.430/.363. He lacks power, but that’s not new, and his average indicates that he’s handling AAA pitching pretty well. It would be fun to see how well he deals with major league pitching.
Even less likely and less logical is left fielder Jamie Romak. He’s spent the last two years in AAA, and his only downside is that he can’t hit the broad side of a barn door. But when he does hit, the ball goes a long way. 52 of his 98 base hits this year have gone for extra bases: 31 doubles, a triple, and 21 homers. In spite of his low .237 batting average, he’s still put up a .461 slugging percentage, which is pretty impressive.
To sum everything up, thanks to all the great performances we’ve had from our rookies throughout this season, September’s call-ups will be pretty uneventful for the Cardinals. Hopefully, what we’ll get is continued good performances from the rookies we’ve already seen this year.
And if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see Jamie Romak launch a few.