September is nearly upon us, bringing with it (perhaps mercifully) the final few weeks of games for our beloved Milwaukee Brewers. The season didn’t go near as expected, causing the focus to shift from a possible pennant race to taking a look towards the future and seeing who will be playing a role with Milwaukee through the next rebuilding phase.
Teams can expand their rosters on September 1st and are able to bring up any players on their 40 man rosters. This annual event gives the Brewers a chance to get a first impression of some of their young, hot shot prospects as well as allowing them to see what organizational depth players and veterans might be worth holding on to this offseason. Manager Craig Counsell has said that there likely won’t be a significant number of call-ups this year, but we should still expect to see some reinforcements that will be looking to try and solidify a role with the organization going forward. The Brewers currently have 37 players on their 40 man roster, meaning they have three slots to add additional players that they see deserving of a call-up.
Here are the candidates that we should be expecting to see in Milwaukee in about another week:
On 40 Man Roster
RHP Preston Guilmet
The Brewers claimed Guilmet from the Dodgers earlier this season, and he appeared in just two big league games (giving up six runs in 2.0 innings) before being optioned to Colorado Springs. The 28 year old does have a sparkling 1.98 ERA in 41.0 innings at AAA this season, however, including just two runs allowed in 8.2 IP with the Sky Sox.
RHP Brandon Kintzler
Kintzler was once a trusted setup man in the Brewers’ bullpen, but he found himself designated for assignment twice this season, though the second was rescinded in place of a DL stint. Brandon gave up five earned runs in 7.0 innings at the major league level this year, and he has a poor 6.00 ERA in 12.0 innings for the Sky Sox since coming off the disabled list. At age 30, this could be Kintzler’s last chance to convince the organization to hold on to him.
LHP Mike Strong
This being his first year on the 40 man, Strong has performed well between AA and AAA in 2015. He has a cumulative 2.80 ERA in 61.0 innings, striking out 60 batters while walking 27. Strong has the capability to go multiple innings and has been effective against both lefties (.536 OPS against) and righties (.508 OPS against) this season.
C Juan Centeno
Centeno was used sparingly during his call-up to the Brewers earlier this season, collecting just one hit in 23 plate appearances while Jonathan Lucroy was on the DL. He’s hit a much better .303/.315/.387 in 41 games for the Sky Sox this season, however, and provides above average defense behind the plate. He’ll likely only provide additional catching depth at this point, as teams usually try and carry three catchers in September.
1B Matt Clark
Clark flashed his trademark power by slugging three home runs in 31 plate appearances last September for Milwaukee, and he’s enjoying another strong campaign in AAA this season. In 116 games, Clark has slashed .279/.346/.472 with a team leading 18 home runs. Clark showed some flexibility with 21 games in the outfield this season, and should be able provide some left handed pop of the bench in September. If Adam Lind is moved this offseason, we could open 2016 with a possible Matt Clark/Jason Rogers platoon at first base.
3B Matt Dominguez
Dominguez was once a top prospect with the Astros organization, but after a putrid .586 OPS in 157 games with Houston last season, the lefty swinging 25 year old found himself banished to AAA for the win-now club. The Brewers claimed Dominguez off waivers back in June, and he’s provided his signature below average offense (.244/.297/.357 in 59 games since being claimed) along with his usual terrific defense (two errors in 93 games at 3B this year) for the Sky Sox. Dominguez has the most big league experience of any of the candidates to take over the third base position and figures to get a fair shake to prove himself for next season.
IF Luis Sardinas
Sardinas made a 20 game cameo in the majors earlier this season, posting a .493 OPS while filling in for an injured Jean Segura. The 22 year old switch hitter looked much better at AAA this season, however, hitting .279/.321/.365 with 13 stolen bases in 346 plate appearances. A defensive wizard around the infield, if Sardinas can prove the ability to get on base enough it would make it a lot easier for the Brewers to pull the trigger on a future Jean Segura deal.
Not On 40 Man Roster
RHP Zach Davies
The Brewers acquired Davies from Baltimore at this year’s trade deadline, and he stands as their most polished and MLB ready pitching prospect. The lanky right hander has struggled a bit since coming to the Brewers organization, though there’s little doubt that pitching in an offensive environment like Colorado Springs has taken some adjusting to. The 22 year old has been for the most part terrific this year, posting a cumulative 3.24 ERA in 121.1 innings between the Brewers and Orioles AAA affiliates. He’s induced a terrific 54% ground ball rate and 98 strikeouts against 44 walks, and looks to be ready for an audition for the 5th starter role. The only thing holding Davies back could be service time considerations. If Milwaukee waits until the middle of next April to promote Davies, they could squeeze an extra year of club control out of him, or if they wait until June, it could stave off Super Two status.
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C Nevin Ashley
Ashley, a career minor leaguer, was signed last winter to provide a veteran presence behind the plate for the Sky Sox pitching staff. The recently turned 31 year old has exceeded expectations offensively, however, providing a strong .321/.389/.461 slash with seven home runs in 348 plate appearances. He’s thrown out a solid 33% of baserunners this season, as well. If the Brewers decide they’ve had enough of a look at Juan Centeno, perhaps Ashley will get his first big league call-up after toiling in the minors for the last decade with four different organizations.
RHP Hiram Burgos
Burgos was once a touted prospect within the Brewers organization and has started six major league games in his career, but hbe found himself off the 40 man roster after back-to-back injury riddled seasons in 2013 and 2014. The Brewers brought Burgos back on a minor league deal before this season, starting him in high-A and allowing him to work back from his injuries. Those issues seem far behind Burgos now, as he has thrived this year: a 3.72 ERA in 24 starts, including a 3.50 mark in 64.1 innings for Colorado Springs. Hiram has struck out 139 batters in 133.0 innings in 2015, and boasts just a 1.195 WHIP. Burgos recently turned 28 and perhaps could still have a big league future.
Players We Won’t See
With the Biloxi Shuckers headed towards the AA playoffs, we shouldn’t be expecting to see any important players called up to the major leagues. This means that we won’t be seeing top prospects like Orlando Arcia, Brett Phillips, Tyrone Taylor, Jorge Lopez, or Tyler Wagner. Infielder Yadiel Rivera was recently reassigned to the Shuckers after appearing in 81 games at AAA (where he managed only a .570 OPS), helping to solidify the roster for a championship run. While it would certainly be exciting to see some of these prospects getting some major league experience, it simply doesn’t make sense to jump start any of their service time clocks this soon. There is something to be said for the importance of experiencing winning and a playoff atmosphere as a part of a player’s development, as well. We wish the whole Shuckers organization good luck as they look to cap off their odyssey of a season with a AA Championship!