Orioles September call-ups: Breaking down who the club likely will and won't add when rosters expand

Like most years, the Orioles’ September roster additions will come in spurts and stops, with no true incentive to call players up before the end of the minor league season with the major league stretch run wholly devoid of competitive meaning.

But this year’s decisions hold plenty of intrigue into the future, as they could provide a glimpse into the team’s plans for both the offseason and next spring. The Orioles could get a jump on adding some of their newly acquired prospects to the 40-man roster ahead of this year’s Rule 5 draft, and in some cases, get a look at them ahead of a possible role next year.


Outfielder Austin Hays and utility man Steve Wilkerson will each continue their respective seasons with Glendale in the Arizona Fall League in October.

It could also be a demonstration of some newfound patience, in that the Orioles might not replicate what they did with top prospect Austin Hays last year by adding someone before it’s time, since the competitive incentive isn’t there.

Here’s a rundown of the candidates to join the Orioles’ roster when the 25-man limit is removed Saturday, including the case for and against doing so.

Familiar faces

Joey Rickard: Rickard, 27, left Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday to join the Orioles in Kansas City and was activated before Friday’s game with fellow right-handed-hitting outfielder Craig Gentry designated for assignment. Rickard and John Andreoli, another right-handed-hitting outfielder, could have more playing time available with Trey Mancini and Chris Davis rotating at first base and designated hitter.

Chance Sisco: Sisco, 23, began the year on the Orioles’ major league roster, but since then, pretty much nothing has gone according to plan for him. He has, however, hit .306 in his 11 games entering Friday to start things moving in the right direction for a call-up that’s inevitable. The only question is whether it’s Saturday or if he finishes out the playoff push for Norfolk, which has dropped to three games out of a wild-card spot with five games to play.

Breyvic Valera: A veteran utility infielder acquired in the six-player trade that sent Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 26-year-old Valera will likely join Jace Peterson as a bench infielder as the Orioles try to get their best look at the trio of Renato Núñez, Tim Beckham and Jonathan Villar on the infield.

Donnie Hart: Every time Hart, 27, goes down to Norfolk, he pitches well — a run of 14 straight appearances without an earned run over five minor league stints ended Wednesday when, acting as the starter in a bullpen game, he allowed two runs (one earned) in three innings. He’ll have to compete for innings with fellow lefties Tanner Scott, Paul Fry and Sean Gilmartin should he come up.

Jimmy Yacabonis: Yacabonis, 26, is in his first season as a starter and ran his innings total up to 95 1/3 between Norfolk and Baltimore with his start Thursday. His previous career high is 82, so there’s still some innings to work with if the Orioles bring him up. If nothing else, it would be a nice gesture toward a player who has made six major league appearances this year while spending a total of eight days accumulating service time in the minors.

Cody Carroll and Evan Phillips: These two newcomers from last month’s trades made quick impressions, then struggled some in their first major league stints with their new team. Carroll, 25, can’t return until he spends 10 days in the minors after being optioned following Monday’s game. But Phillips, 23, will be eligible as soon as rosters expand, should the Orioles decide his command has come along to the point of adding him.

Pedro Álvarez: Last year, even without a true role, the Orioles brought the veteran slugger up for September after he performed well at Norfolk. There’s less incentive to pay what would likely be a pretty significant salary for a month of him serving as a bench bat, but the 31-year-old Álvarez has again done everything asked by the club from a baseball sense, batting .285 with a .798 OPS and eight home runs in his first 43 games with the Tides.

Roster protection candidates

Luis Ortiz: A 2014 first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers, Ortiz came from the Milwaukee Brewers in the July 31 trade for Jonathan Schoop. The 22-year-old is just past his innings mark from last year at 94 2/3 with one start remaining for Norfolk, where he has posted a 3.04 ERA in five starts. If the Orioles want to bring him much past that, a major league call could get them a look at what they have in the big right-hander in the process.

Dillon Tate: Like Ortiz, Tate was acquired in last month’s trades and is a former first-round pick now with his third organization. But unlike Ortiz, the 24-year-old Tate is well past his career high in innings at 117 2/3 — up from last year’s 83 1/3 innings — with one start remaining. A 30-inning jump might be seen as sufficient for this season, leaving Tate’s 40-man roster decision for the fall.

DJ Stewart: The Orioles’ top pick in the 2015 draft started well in his first season at Norfolk, but has fallen off since returning from a hamstring injury in early June. Stewart, 24, has hit .196 in his 52 games entering Friday, so even if the Orioles will be tempted to protect him in the offseason, exposing him to the majors at this stage wouldn’t benefit anyone.

Branden Kline: The feel-good story of the organization, the 26-year-old right-hander overcame three seasons of elbow injuries to return as a dominant reliever between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. He struck out 69 batters in his first 63 2/3 innings with a 1.55 ERA. The organization has been careful with his usage down the stretch; whether it was to save innings for a major league stint or just to ensure he got through the season healthy will be determined in the coming days.

One of the four players the Orioles acquired from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade, Double-A Bowie right-hander Dean Kremer has opened eyes over the past month.

Luis Gonzalez: Like Kline, Gonzalez has plenty of fans in the organization as a bullpen piece, and has reached Triple-A for the first time this season with his fastball-slider combo. Gonzalez, 26, could be a candidate to protect after the season, though he went undrafted in last year’s Rule 5 draft and is basically the same pitcher a year later.


Injury question marks

Anthony Santander: A knee infection landed Santander — a 23-year-old former Rule 5 draft pick who was optioned to Bowie once he filled his major league roster requirement — on the disabled list as he tried to settle back into an age-appropriate level again. He’s been on a rehabilitation assignment since Aug. 15, first with Short-A Aberdeen and now with Norfolk. A return to the majors after struggling since he was sent out in May might not be the best for his long-term development, which is where the club is now focused.

Steve Wilkerson: Wilkerson, 26, had an oblique injury that cut short his first stint in the majors, and once he got back to playing in the minors, he went down with a hamstring injury last week. The Orioles will work to get him back to full strength with the Arizona Fall League in mind, and if he’s ready before then, he could join the major league team in the interim.

Pedro Álvarez: Last year, even without a true role, the Orioles brought the veteran slugger up for September after he performed well at Norfolk. There’s less incentive to pay what would likely be a pretty significant salary for a month of him serving as a bench bat, but the 31-year-old Álvarez has again done everything asked by the club from a baseball sense, batting .285 with a .798 OPS and eight home runs in his first 43 games with the Tides. But he’s on the DL with an Achilles injury.


Top prospects

Austin Hays: Hays, 23, is in the midst of salvaging his season in August after two months of struggles and two months of injury at Bowie, but considering his assignment to the Arizona Fall League, it’s unclear whether the team feels he has played enough baseball to prevent him from being recalled once the Baysox’s season ends. He had a tough time in the majors last September, but another crack at it to try to end the regular season on a high note and show the progress he made this month won’t hurt.

Yusniel Díaz: Díaz, 21, doesn’t need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft until after next season. But considering how many players do require that to stay in the organization, Díaz might have to wait for his major league debut. He entered Thursday hitting .229 with a .712 OPS since being acquired for Machado last month.

Ryan Mountcastle: Mountcastle, 21, might be the best hitter in the system, but he’s still a year away from being Rule 5 eligible and the team can use his developing defense as a reason not to add him too early despite a .294 average with an .801 OPS and 34 extra-base hits in his first 98 games.

Keegan Akin: Akin, 23, has shown some of the effects of blowing past his career high in innings this year, allowing 10 earned runs on 16 hits in 7 2/3 innings over his past two starts to bring his ERA to 3.27. He was the most consistent pitcher in the system all season, but won’t join the roster conversation until next year.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun