September is coming, which for most of the past eight seasons has meant that the Texas Rangers were contending for a playoff spot and not holding rehearsals for the next season.
But the 2018 Rangers won’t be going to the postseason or even sniffing October baseball. Their targets are 2019 and 2020, and they have already taken a long look at many young players who figure into future plans.
The Rangers haven’t seen all of the prospects who might contribute down the road, not even close, but the annual September expansion of rosters will give a handful of minor leaguers the chance to put a foot forward for 2019.
Beginning Saturday, the Rangers can added up to 15 more players to their roster. They are likely to add four from the disabled list and as many as six from the minors.
“With September call-ups, we just can’t snap our fingers and say we want this, this and this,” manager Jeff Banister said. “We’re relying on our development people and scouts on who’s ready, is it necessary, and what are we looking for? Are they coming up to be a part of or are they come up to be in? The other part of that is, who’s out?
“It’s a fascinating process. It’s probably one of the tougher decisions you get throughout the year.”
Some might be delayed a few days until the minor-league season ends. Some spots on the 40-man roster might need to be created. When the dust settles from all the roster work, those who are added will have to make the most of what little time will be made available to them.
“There are guys on this team right now we need to continue to see,” Banister said. “There are still improvements that need to be made as long as we’re playing games and as long as we’re competing.”
The Rangers were going to add a catcher, and they did that Saturday by bring up Carlos Perez as Hanser Alberto hit the DL. So, there’s one name to cross off the list of potential call-ups.
Here’s a look at some other candidates who will, should or could be added in September:
On 40-man roster
OF Willie Calhoun: The safest bet on the board. Calhoun will return after being sent down earlier this month for regular at-bats as Nomar Mazara came off the disabled list. The Rangers want to give Calhoun steady playing time, though that might be difficult with so many outfielders already on the roster who also need to play regularly.
LHP Yohander Mendez: The Rangers need to look at Mendez, who will be out of options after this season. He wasn’t ready in June, and then he slipped up and was sent to Low A for a reboot. Mendez has taken to the program the Rangers created for him, and he has been better on the mound. Better, but not great. A strong September would help him make a case for the 2019 rotation.
RHP Connor Sadzeck: This big, hard-throwing right-hander has never pitched in the majors, yet he will be out of options after this season. The Rangers need to take a look at him, too. Sadzeck’s fastball has been clocked at 100 mph, and he has been better as a reliever this season after a rough transition from starting in 2017. There’s a lot to like about his potential.
RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx: ABD has been up a few times this season, and his place on the 40-man roster is the biggest thing he has going for him. Depending on how the Rangers map things out for their starting rotation, they could very well need more relievers who can cover multiple innings. Bibens-Dirkx can do that.
RHP Jonathan Hernandez: Only a few weeks ago, a Rangers official said that Hernandez might become an option for September if he could turn things around at Double A Frisco after a dominant start to the season at High A Down East. Hernandez must have the official’s phone bugged, as he has allowed only three earned runs in his past four starts. He has cut down on his walks the past three starts, including an eight-strikeout, no-walk, two-hit gem Thursday over six scoreless innings.
Not on 40-man
OF Scott Heineman: A candidate to be the Rangers’ Minor League Player of the Year, Heineman is in a difficult spot. He must be added to the 40-man roster during the off-season to avoid exposure to the Rule 5 draft, and one thought is to promote him in September. But the Rangers have too many outfielders as it is, and Heineman would get stuck to the bench if called up.
LHP Brady Feigl: When the Rangers needed a left-hander to replace Jake Diekman, Feigl was the runner-up to Jeffrey Springs. Springs’ advantage was that he could log multiple innings, whereas Feigl is better when having to record only three outs. Entering Sunday he had allowed 39 hits in 39 1/3 innings, but none of the hits had been a home run.
RHP Chris Tillman: This MLB veteran signed a minor-league deal with the Rangers and spent nearly a week working out with them before heading to Round Rock, where he was promptly injured (groin). The Rangers seem intrigued with him as a potential veteran for the 2019 rotation, and it seems hard to believe he would have signed without a chance to pitch in September.
1B Tommy Joseph: A right-handed-hitting first baseman with power? Yes, please. Joseph has a chance to be on the Rangers’ roster next season as a complementary piece to the lefty-hitting Ronald Guzman. Joseph, who was acquired late in spring training, is regarded as an excellent clubhouse guy based on his time in Philadelphia.
RHP Deolis Guerra: If September is about rewarding players who have performed, Guerra will get promoted. The big right-hander has been susceptible to home runs, but he has also been a strikeout machine (70, entering Sunday) while minimizing walks (15) in 57 innings. The Rangers could use a righty, especially with Tony Barnette and Matt Bush limited.