Gone are the days when Major League Baseball teams have the ability to boast a roster of up to 40 players once the calendar hits September 1st. Now, for the first time under the new rules that were established after the 2019 season (that were supposed to be implemented in 2020, but COVID-19 had other plans) teams will now be required to have just 28 players on the active roster.
We’ve talked a little bit on the site about the roster crunch the Rockies will face in the coming weeks, but let’s take a closer at the candidates who could earn themselves one of the coveted spots on the 28-man roster. Keep in mind that these are players who could earn call-ups and we won’t be considering other corresponding moves like players designated for assignment or optioned back to the minors.
Note: All stats below will not include those from Saturday’s matchups
The injured reserves
In his return from Tommy John surgery, Peter Lambert seems like a prime candidate to get a September call-up. He is currently with the Rockies’ High-A affiliate in Spokane on a rehab assignment, where he tossed two scoreless innings in his first start, throwing 21 of his 32 pitches for strikes. Getting a call-up would be likely just so he can get some starts against big-league talent and test his comfort level. Lambert started 19 games back in 2019 but struggled to a 7.25 ERA in 89 innings of work. A call-up would give him an opportunity to prove his worth to a Rockies team that is already solid in their starting rotation.
Injuries have undercut an otherwise good season for Jordan Sheffield. Selected from the Dodgers during the 2020 Rule-5 Draft pick, Sheffield was an early highlight out of the bullpen until an injury sidelined him in June. For the Rockies, this season he has pitched in 19 innings allowing just seven runs while striking out 16 batters, and his 3.26 ERA worked well in a middle relief role. He is expected to go on a rehab assignment sometime soon, and if he is not back with the team prior, September will make for a good return.
The known commodities
The Rockies optioned Joshua Fuentes down to Triple-A Albuquerque after his struggles were beginning to become too much at the big league level. In 90 games this season, Fuentes slashed .228/.261/.357 with seven home runs and 32 RBI. The glaring problem at the plate was his 112 strikeouts to just 15 walks. He was sent down to give him a chance to work on a better approach at the plate. So far in 18 games at Triple-A, Fuentes is batting .254/.333/.343 with 13 strikeouts and 6 walks which is a better sign of improvement. Fuentes's future with the team is still up in the air, but it’s possible they bring him back to see if he fits into their plans going forward.
Claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles, Rio Ruiz has spent the majority of the 2021 season down in Albuquerque to great success. The utility infielder has played in 58 games, slashing .300/.359/.495 with 28 extra-base hits. He has also shown decent plate discipline, striking out just 39 times while drawing 20 walks. Ruiz didn’t do much in a brief call-up this season, but, like Fuentes, could try to audition for a utility spot with the team in 2022.
Making their debut
Our pal Justin Wick covered this topic earlier in the week, and it warrants plenty of merits. Julian Fernández has had a strong 2021 season in the minors, and if he is hitting 103 MPH on the radar, that bodes well for the bullpen. Major League bullpens today seem to go with the power arm approach, and the Rockies have followed suit. However, they don’t have a guy like Fernández pumping the gas, and it seems it's time to get his feet wet in September.
Colton Welker is one of the Rockies’ prospects that are knocking on the door for a promotion. Welker had a stellar Spring Training where he was making a strong case to make the big league roster. However, after serving an 80-game PED suspension, Welker has been making the rounds in the Rockies system to rehab and get back in game shape. Currently, at Triple-A, Welker has played in ten games, batting .341/.413/.585 with two home runs and 13 RBI. The Rockies could hold off on a promotion due to the suspension, but if he keeps producing at this rate, they need to see what he can do against big league pitchers.
Ryan Vilade is another prospect that is knocking on the door to get on the Rockies roster. He has been in Triple-A this season after skipping the Double-A level and he has had a strong season. In 84 games, Vilade has batted .281/.339/.418 while driving in 34 runs. He has shown a knack for putting the ball in play and cutting down on strikeouts. Vilade is on the cusp of making it to the majors, but he might not be ready just yet. The Rockies may decide to let him finish out the season in Triple-A and reassess during Spring Training because fact that he is not on the 40-man roster yet plays a factor in these decisions.
Yet another highly touted prospect that many assumed would debut this season with the Rockies. Unfortunately for Ryan Rolison, freak injuries have gotten the better of him this year. First, he dealt with an appendix issue, then when he returned he broke his finger during practice and is inching towards a return. Across three Rockies affiliates this season, Rolison has pitched to a 4.32 ERA with 44 strikeouts and just seven walks along with a .246 opponent batting average. He may be another player that could get added to the 40-man roster for a cup of coffee, but he could be better off waiting until next year.
Like Austin Gomber, Elehuris Montero has been proving himself as a quality piece in the Nolan Arenado trade. At Double-A Hartford, Montero has a quality slash line of .274/.362/.535 with a career-high 22 home runs. He has the advantage of being on the Rockies 40-man roster already, so if they don’t want to add Welker or Vilade just yet, they can call up Montero and give him some opportunities at the tender age of 23.
There are many other players the Rockies could call up in the coming weeks and in September, and there could be significant moves to open spots for more players, but the future is coming and the Rockies can use September to get a better idea of where they stand going forward.
Who would you like to see get a call-up in September? Sound off in the comments below!
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When Jon Gray mentioned prior to the Trade Deadline that he wants to stay in Colorado, that seemed to set the wheels in motion for a possible extension with the club. Danielle Allentuck reports that this appears to be the case as those extensions talks are starting to happen this weekend. Allentuck also reports that Jon Gray is hoping for a three or four-year deal and that he hopes a deal can be reached before the end of the season. Gray has turned in one of his best seasons in Colorado this year and has climbed the ranks in the franchise record books.
This article from Thomas Harding expands more on what was mentioned earlier about Julian Fernández. It covers more of his baseball history, along with interesting quotes from coaches and scouts that help get a better idea of what he can offer on the mound. Harding also makes note of Chad Smith, who has been succeeding in the minors and could make his debut this season.
On the farm
The Isotopes tried to rally late in the game, but were unsuccesful in their attempt as they fell to the Las Vegas Aviators. Ryan Castellani started on the hill and his 2021 struggles continued as he allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings of work. The offense didn’t go down without a fight as they pounded out 12 hits on the evening. Joshua Fuentes, trying to work on his plate approach, had a two-hit night including second home run of the season at Triple-A. Scott Burcham added plenty of offense at the bottom of the lineup bytallying three hits, but the most damage came from Brian Serven who had a multi-hit night and drove in two runs for Albuquerque.
The ball was flying for Hartford as they swatted four home runs to power their offense to an 8-5 victory over New Hampshire. Sean Bouchard had a strong evening going 3 for 5 with a home run and 3 RBI from a top spot in the lineup. Jameson Hannah also added a three-hit night ahead of him and scoring two runs. Starting pitcher Ryan Feltner didn’t need much help, however, as he tossed six strong innings allowing just one run on two hits and striking out seven batters. Brian Gonzalez was roughed up in the seventh, allowing four runs on four hits, but Hartford’s bullpen managed to close out the game with two clean innings to secure the victory.
A back-and-forth affair ended with an extra-inning walk-off victory for Spokane. Hillsboro took the lead in the top of the ninth and the tenth, but Spokan managed to rally both times to tie and ultimately seal the victory. Ryan Rolison, working back from injury, pitched five strong innings, allow just two runs on four hits. Aaron Schunk led the offense with three hits, including his fifth homer of the season.
Sometimes all it takes is one inning to decide a baseball game as evidenced by the third inning in Fresno’s loss to Visalia. The Grizzlies scattered six hits on the night, with their lone runs coming in the top of the third after Julio Carreras hit a two-run single with two outs, and he would end the night with two hits. Austin Kitchen had a rough third inning in an otherwise promising start, allowing five runs on eight hits in five innings of work. The majority of the damage came in the bottom of the third, when he gave up a three-run homer to Neyfy Castillo. Tim Tawa would then hit a two out triple to score their fourth run. The Rawhide bullpen took care of the rest and kept Fresno off the board the rest of the game.
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