It’s September and with that comes roster expansion, where teams are now allowed to carry up to 40 players on their active roster instead of the regular 25. Some organizations only promote a few players, some promote practically everyone on the 40-man roster, and every team often makes their call-ups in waves. The first always come on the first day of the month, while the others often come when the minor league season ends. The Rochester Red Wings actually end their season on Monday, but that didn’t stop the Twins from adding a few players. Your newest members of the big league club are catcher Chris Gimenez, outfielder Johnny Field, righthanded pitchers Tyler Duffey and Matt Belisle, and lefthanded pitcher Andrew Vasquez. Additionally, lefthander Adalberto Mejia was moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list to accommodate the addition of Vasquez to the 40-man roster.
Vasquez is the lone unknown in this group but he is certainly deserving. I literally just learned about the 24-year old yesterday as I was scouring the Red Wings roster for possible call-ups and was amazed to see he struck out 12 batters in just 5 2⁄3 innings. I dug a little deeper and found that the 32nd rounder from the 2015 draft started the 2018 season at High-A, then was promoted to Double-A and subsequently Triple-A. His rapid ascent wasn’t a flash in the pan either, as he’s been dominant at every stop throughout his minor league career. A 1.52 ERA and opponent’s batting average of .198 while striking out 36% of the batters he’s faced (2018 major league average is currently 22.1%) showcases his success, while his one weakness is that he’s handed out too many free passes (10% of batters faced). Another impressive fact is that he routinely had ground ball rates north of 60% which would rank him amongst the best sinkerballers in the majors.
A large man at 6’6” and about 230 lbs, there are differing reports on what he throws. This report states that he primarily throws a nasty curveball with an occasional fastball (and I’m hoping a typo as it claims his fastball hits the mid-80s), while Seth Stohs of Twins Daily interviewed Vasquez last fall and Vasquez himself said he was mainly a fastball and slider pitcher with a handful of change-ups and curves. Regardless, he’ll rack up strikeouts and grounders and hopefully he’ll impress the Twins brass this month.
As for the remaining players, all are familiar faces to Twins fans. The most recognizable would be Duffey and Belisle, who have both been ineffective this season. Duffey has nothing to prove in Triple-A while Belisle is there for his veteran leadership. For what it’s worth, Belisle is messing with his arm angle though, so maybe he’ll follow in the footsteps of James Shields and become somewhat adequate again? We also remember Gimenez from last year, and his promotion comes on the heels of him being reacquired from the Cubs in the trade that shipped out fellow catcher Bobby Wilson. This might cut into the playing time of Willians Astudillo (NOOOO) but like Belisle, Gimenez is reportedly a good clubhouse guy and should keep the team’s spirits up for the last month of the season. As for Field, he was just 1-for-16 in his first appearance with the Twins and hit .213/.253/.373 in 179 plate appearances for Tampa Bay earlier this season, but he’ll be a 5th outfielder once Eddie Rosario is healthy and it’s not worth losing sleep over Field.
Oh, and there’s a bonus promotion! Though technically not part of the first group, righty Zack Littell will also join the Twins and apparently has already been announced that he’ll pitch Sunday against the Rangers. Acquired last season from the Yankees in the second Jaime Garcia trade, Littell has pitched fairly well in Triple-A but had been lit up in two major league appearances this season. Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press hypothesized that the Twins might go with “the opener” on Sunday and it’s still entirely possible as Littell has four minor league relief appearances this season, but it’s equally likely that he’ll just start the game anyway. Regardless, my bold prediction and hope is that Vasquez gets the first inning on Sunday and is followed by Littell.
Finally, the last noteworthy decision is that Byron Buxton wasn’t brought back to the major leagues. He’s been raking lately in Triple-A, but he’s been pulling the ball a ton and his plate discipline is still bad. While the Twins could certainly use his defense in center field, which would push Jake Cave to a corner and Robbie Grossman back to the bench with Rosario out, they seem committed to getting him back on track. There’s still a chance they’ll call him up when Rochester’s season is over, but that’ll be the last time they’ll consider it. With Buxton’s service time issue looming (the Twins get an additional year of control if Buxton fails to record 13 more days of major league service time this season), any mid-month promotion will be rightfully scrutinized. However, I don’t think Buxton will have any case even if he files a grievance, as I’m sure the Twins will point that his approach at the plate is still lacking in spite of his success to close out the season.
Who will make the biggest difference for the Twins in September?
This poll is closed
Byron Buxton (assuming he’s promoted)
He hasn’t been promoted yet