In September, Major League rosters expand to include anyone on the 40-man roster, if a team wants to bring them up to the big league level. That is to say, teams are no longer constrained to a 25-man subset of the 40-man roster – instead, they could have 30 guys. Or 35. Or all 40, if they really wanted. Not only does the roster expansion provide teams an opportunity to give guys who’ve played a very long year a break, but it also provides an opportunity for teams to reward youngsters with a taste of the bigs – and to evaluate them at the highest level, since the minor league seasons end the first week of September.
Of course, that can create a self-defeating problem for some teams. If every team out of the race loads up their roster on fringe big league guys, and youngsters getting a cup, then how much can you really evaluate what they’re doing in September as “big league” success or failure? To that end, you always have to regard September results cautiously when evaluating prospects. Not only is it a very small sample, it’s also potentially coming against many of the same AAA and AA players that the prospect has been facing all year.
Fortunately for the Cubs, they’re facing almost exclusively playoff contenders the rest of the way, so they’re not really going to suffer from the latter problem of evaluation. The guys the Cubs bring up over the coming days will be facing quality, big league-caliber talent.
So, who’s getting the call for the Cubs? You can expect pretty much every reliever who has seen time in the bigs to be back – Blake Parker, Zac Rosscup, Brian Schlitter – as well as possibly Arodys Vizcaino. Chris Rusin could come up, too, and Dan Straily will be up. Dallas Beeler is a possibility, though obviously the innings are going to be tough to come by. There’s one more pitcher coming, but we’ll get to that in just a second.
On the positional side, we’ll see Junior Lake return, as well as Mike Olt, if he is over his recent hamstring issue. There’s a chance the Cubs could add someone not currently on the 40-man roster – catcher Rafael Lopez, for example, who is Rule 5 eligible – but we might not see a lot of new positional guys this September.
Back to the pitching side of things: former Cubs pitching prospect John Mincone – currently in the Mets’ organization – says that Eric Jokisch is getting the call up to the Cubs:
— John Mincone (@JMincone) September 1, 2014
There’s little reason to doubt that it’s true.
Jokisch, 25, has had a steadily solid career up the minor league ladder since coming to the Cubs in the 2010 draft out of Northwestern. Although he’s always labored under the “low ceiling” label, Jokisch continues to succeed with a combination of pitchability and command, and he may have been at his best this year in the pitcher-unfriendly PCL: 3.58 ERA/3.54 FIP over 158.1 innings, 22.0% K rate, 4.8% BB rate, and generally sustainable peripherals. Given the depth of the Cubs’ system – including back-end starter types in the upper levels of the minors – it was easy to sleep on Jokisch, but he was consistently described by pundits as having a legitimate chance at starting in the big leagues (albeit with that “low ceiling” thing).
Rule 5 eligible this year, the Cubs were going to be rostering Jokisch anyway this offseason, so they might as well bring him up and let him work with the big league team a bit to close out the year heading into 2015. He might not get many, or any, starts, but he could be in the mix for the back-end competition next Spring. And, even if he doesn’t ultimately win a spot, he looks like he could be a hell of a good 6th/7th/8th option to have in your back pock at AAA in 2015. The Cubs have had uniquely good pitching health at the big league level the past few years, but that may not always continue. Thus, having guys like Jokisch around is hugely important – because those guys tend to get a significant number of starts.