In September, Major League Baseball rosters expand from 25 to 40, meaning that anyone on the team’s 40-man roster can play in September games. Historically, it’s been used a time for teams – particularly those out of the race – to call-up prospects and let the get their first taste of the big leagues.
The Cubs have a number of young players whom they could bring up in September, but it sounds like the one you probably want to see the most – outfielder, and top prospect, Brett Jackson – might not come up.
Mike Quade was recently asked about September call-ups, and the only two players he mentioned that he expects to see are pitcher Casey Coleman and 28-year-old first baseman Bryan LaHair.
“September is coming. If [Coleman]‘s making progress and doing a good job, I expect to see him and expect to see him pitch some,” Quade said.
“I look at a guy like Bryan LaHair – what a year he’s having,” Quade continued. “He’s hit 30 home runs in Triple-A, and I’d expect to see him up here and take a look at him. He’s been doing a great job at Triple-A for years.”
Yes, LaHair is beating up on AAA pitching (as he has for years), but even if he comes up in September, does anyone truly believe Quade will give him regular starts over Carlos Pena if Pena is still around? Pfft. Quade, please (said like Ochocinco’s “child, please”).
But, I’m getting sidetracked. The real question is whether Brett Jackson will get a call-up. Quade was less than enthusiastic, in his garbled sort of Quade way.
“You can talk about the Jacksons and some of the other people we’re excited about, some of the younger players, but I’d like to see guys here who are ready to be here and ready to be taking a serious look at.” Yes. That makes plenty of sense when discussing a 23-year-old who’s destroying AAA.
While I would like to see Brett Jackson playing in Chicago, I could see reasons for waiting to let him make his debut in 2012 (aside from the ridiculous one espoused by Quade):
- Competition in September is not the same, so it may not prepare Jackson all that well for what it will really be like next year (see, e.g., Casey Coleman);
- Jackson would probably sit the bench anyway;
- Not calling him up lets Jackson rest a bit if he’s going to play in the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League; and
- Not calling him up prevents Jackson’s arbitration clock from starting and saves an option year.
But, the biggest reason not to call Jackson up in September? Not calling up Jackson this season means he doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster before the Winter.
Why is that important?
The Cubs have a whole mess of kids they need to add to the 40-man roster this year to protect them from the Rule Five Draft (without going into the details (that’s for another day), the gist is: when guys have been in your system for several years, but haven’t been added to the 40-man roster yet, you risk losing them in the offseason).
Jackson – wh0 is not going to be eligible for the Rule Five Draft – is someone who is going to stay on the 40-man once added. So, if the Cubs add him in September, they won’t be able to shuffle him off in the offseason to open up another 40-man spot. And, while one spot may not sound like much, every spot represents a prospect the Cubs can ensure that they keep. It matters.
So, in total, as much as I might want to see Jackson now, it’s probably best in the long-run if the Cubs are patient.