Update: Due to a number of roster moves since this article was published on August 26, a few changes have been made to the original post.
Next Thursday, the San Francisco Giants' roster can expand to up to 40 players. It's September call-ups, and it provides one of two perks depending on the status of the team. In 2016, with the Giants two games back of the Dodgers in the NL West race and 1.5 games up on St. Louis for the Wild Card, it allows the club to add reinforcements: mostly for the bullpen and bench, but possibly for the starting rotation, as well.
So who will become part of the active roster again, or for the first time next week?
We'll start with the easy ones; the players already on the 40-man roster that won't require extra moves in order to add them to the active roster.
Osich is seven appearances into his rehab assignment, and five deep since joining the Sacramento River Cats from Double-A Richmond. After a couple not-so-spectacular outings, Osich has just a single and a double against him in the last four innings to go along with six strikeouts. He is already eligible to come back from the disabled list, but the Giants are likely just waiting until Thursday to bring him up. Osich has some of the nastiest stuff of any Giants bullpen guy. He comes at hitters with a high-90s two-seam fastball that, at times, moves like a changeup. His changeup is also very good, and is a serious weapon against right-handers. The Giants will need him to improve his 4.6 BB/9 mark in September.
Suarez will certainly be added back to the active roster, considering Matt Cain is on the disabled list and current long-man Jake Peavy is back in the starting rotation for the time being. The Giants have Peavy slated to start Saturday's game against Atlanta, and won't need a fifth starter again until September 2 at Wrigley Field (Matt Cain has been announced for this game). Remember, Suarez was solid in his 55.2 innings as a big-leaguer this year. Averaging less than three walks per nine innings with a 4.20 ERA, 4.24 FIP, and respectable 6.5 K/9 mark, Suarez will be a welcome addition.
*Suarez was already called up on Saturday due to Jake Peavy's placement on the 15-day disabled list. He remained on the roster after his spot start as reliever Derek Law hit the disabled list, as well.
The 31-year-old veteran Reynolds still hasn't seen a run, earned or unearned, cross the plate under his watch as a minor leaguer in 2016. He's tallied 16.2 innings, split between Richmond and Sacramento, and only six hits and two walks have been registered against him. Reynolds was the odd man out when the Giants needed to clear roster space for Will Smith and Matt Moore on August 2. By no means was the option merit based.
Okert got his look, two looks actually, in a big league uniform back in April, and again in mid-June. He wasn't exactly amazing (8 H, 4 R, 3 BB in 6 IP), but Okert has the stuff to succeed in the majors. His 2.39 FIP in 2016 is the seventh lowest in the Giants' minors and his 11.8 K/9 mark is fourth highest in the organization among pitchers who have thrown at least 30 innings. He's widely regarded as the top Giants' reliever prospect, and considering he's already on the 40-man roster, I think he's a sure bet to be recalled.
Pause: Some may have a problem with this. "That's three left-handed relievers. Do the Giants need three more southpaws in the bullpen?" Absolutely. Javier Lopez hasn't exactly been good. At all, really. Lopez's 5.9 BB/9 average is his highest since 2009, and he's tallied more walks than strikeouts this year. His 5.87 FIP is the worst in the bullpen and his 1.59 WHIP is the second worst. The worst mark goes to the other left-hander — recently acquired Will Smith. Though, Smith should recover from his unimpressive start as a Giant.
Lopez is only on the roster to be a left-handed specialist, and he hasn't even been the best in the pen facing lefties. Left-handers are slashing .226/.333/.355 against Lopez in 73 plate appearances this year. Compare that to right-hander Derek Law (.167/.178/.278) in the exact same amount of plate appearances, or even George Kontos (.231/.333/.308).
Okay, now let's move on to bench additions.
Tomlinson, in 281 plate appearances as a Giant since he debuted in 2015, has totaled 1.6 WAR. Pretty good for a utility infielder. The Giants will gladly welcome back his defensive flexibility, reliable fielding skills (0.2 UZR), and .299 career average as a big leaguer. Using the UZR defensive metric, Tomlinson has improved his defense in 2016, moving from -0.8 in 2015 to a full 1.0 in 2016 before hitting the disabled list. In almost 200 plate appearances with Triple-A Sacramento, Tomlinson has a .374 on-base percentage with a 12.2 percent strikeout rate.
Williamson is eligible to come off the disabled list, but the Giants have been cautious with him. Instead of recalling the powerful right-hander when Gregor Blanco went down, San Francisco went with true centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who was second in all of the Giants minors with 132 hits at the time of his call-up. Williamson, who was not playing every day when he began his rehab assignment on August 14, has now played in four straight games and is 6-for-18 (.333) with a home run.
Parker has a .309 ISO in 222 minor league plate appearances this year. That's insane. He hits a home run an average of once every 3.3 games. And though he struck out 29 percent of the time when in the majors this year, he was still a .346 wOBA, 120 wRC+ guy thanks to his 14.5 percent walk rate and .787 OPS. He'll be back up for sure.
*Parker has been called up already, as well. He was the corresponding move for Derek Law going down with an elbow strain.
Other 40-man players the Giants may consider:
- Chris Stratton (another long-man, has MLB experience in 2016)
- Chris Heston (currently on 60-day DL, will require a move, rehabbing in San Jose)
- Ty Blach (0.913 WHIP in last 10 starts, org's best AAA starter in 2016)
- Clayton Blackburn (another long-man who can give hitters many looks)
Now here's where it gets complicated. If the Giants add someone not on the 40-man roster, they'll have to make a corresponding move. It will be difficult to designate a prospect for assignment and expose them to waivers, so likely if anyone forces the Giants' hand, it'll be a 15-day DL guy moving to the 60-day list. That could be Matt Cain or Gregor Blanco. Or possibly the services of Gorkys Hernandez or Matt Reynolds are no longer needed. I really only see two possibilities. One is nostalgic, and one is exciting.
The non-Buster Posey option at first base should Brandon Belt get hurt is Conor Gillaspie, and he should suffice. That'll make another Ishikawa reunion unlikely. But maybe a reliable left-handed power bat off the bench is a more desirable option for Bruce Bochy than outfielder Gorkys Hernandez considering Parker and Williamson are sure to be added to the roster on September 1, bringing the Giants' outfielder total to five even if you don't include Hernandez. Plus, if Blanco isn't placed on the 60-day disabled list, he would make six when he returns.
Naturally, this is my personal favorite option. Slater has hit six home runs in his last six games, and is arguably the hottest hitter in the minor leagues at this moment. He has 19 hits (nine for extra-bases) and three walks in his last 39 plate appearances, giving him a .564 on-base percentage and 1.111 slugging percentage during the stretch. He's been easily the River Cats' best hitter since he joined the club on June 2, and that even includes an 11-for-57 (.193) start to his Triple-A tenure. In 255 plate appearances as a member of the River Cats, Slater has posted incredible numbers such as a 12.2 BB%, 18.4 K%, .214 ISO, .394 wOBA, and 139 wRC+ — all of which are well above league average. If he can quickly adapt to major-league pitching, he could exactly what the Giants need down the stretch. Plus he can play center field, making him a possible upgrade over Gorkys Hernandez.
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