- CLUTCH SUMMARY: With the MLB rosters expanding to 40 players as of Sept. 1, all teams now have more players at their disposal heading into the final month of the season. These players all have great chances at getting a lot of playing time at the big-league level, and the different talent levels that they all bring to the table makes September a month to watch.
- For National League teams like the Dodgers and Cubs, their prospect additions are made to help them in their playoff hunt.
- For teams like the Giants, they are looking to get prospects that are on the cusp of the major leagues time at the top level to see if they are ready for the MLB or not.
With the roster expansion to 40 players occurring on Sept. 1, teams all across the MLB have 15 more players at their disposable for the final month-plus of the regular season. Some teams are now able to get much-needed reinforcements for their playoff-bound teams, while others are simply using the month of September to help get their younger players some experience at the major-league level.
For the National League, there are still a ton of teams in the hunt for the playoffs, showing how tight the standings have been for the entirety of the season. While the Los Angeles Dodgers continue to extend their lengthy lead in the NL West division, both the Central and the East are hotly-contested divisions that look to be coming down to the wire.
MLB minor league prospects are called up to help their teams finish out the remainder of their 2019 seasons, and they have a solid chance of getting a good amount of playing time, with some even being able to become big-time contributors down the stretch.
With that in mind, here are five interesting National League prospects who were called up that can either help their teams solidify their playoff chances, help fuel a late-season run to get into the postseason or are intriguing pieces for non-contending teams that could truly become big-time contributors in 2020 and beyond.
Gavin Lux – Los Angeles Dodgers
The ninth-best prospect in all of baseball, Gavin Lux has been brought up to the Dodgers’ major-league roster to help in an interesting way. Manager Dave Roberts, in the beginning, said that Lux would only be helping the team in an “apprenticeship” capacity, but with the type of talent that he oozes, being able to keep Lux off of the diamond makes it tough.
A middle infielder by trade, Lux’s real chance at earning solid playing time will come in lieu of Max Muncy, who is currently nursing a broken wrist, opening up starting duties at second base. For the top-rated prospect, Lux is just another showing of how many riches the Dodgers currently have at their disposal, something that the rest of the MLB can be jealous of.
Mauricio Dubon – San Francisco Giants
Staying in the same National League division, the San Francisco Giants acquired minor league infielder Mauricio Dubon from the Milwaukee Brewers at this year’s trade deadline, in return for relievers Ray Black and Drew Pomeranz. For Dubon, his chance to get real playing time at the major-league level was just waiting for him out in the bay, and he finally has that opportunity.
Having thought that he would eventually play in the Giants’ park since he was ten years old, Dubon now has the ability to take over as the starting second baseman for the Giants, after their release of both Joe Panik and Scooter Gennett. Dubon has the defensive skills to hold down this position for many seasons as a member of the Giants, a team that has absolutely loved him for a while.
Dubon is a solid offensive player too, and his skill set will transfer very nicely to suiting up for the Giants. While in Milwaukee, he received limited at-bats this season during his debut stretch, a testament to the type of infield that the Brewers currently have. If he would have remained with the Brewers, any sort of big-time impact that Dubon could have made would have had to have waited until 2020, so his opportunity with San Francisco is a huge one.
Adbert Alzolay – Chicago Cubs
For the Cubs’ best pitching prospect, his first trip into the majors resulted in real success, posting solid outings, except for his final one that resulted in his demotion back to the minor leagues. While down there, he experienced a biceps injury, putting him on the shelf for a decent amount of time.
Now healthy, Alzolay has the stuff to be a long-relief arm for the Cubbies, but he can also start, taking up the role that Tyler Chatwood currently is in; the difference here is that Alzolay has the stuff to be the swing guy.
For the Cubs, their lead in the National League Wild Card race is never safe, and while they have a solid hold on the second WC spot, they are still very much in striking distance of the St. Louis Cardinals for the division crown.
Alzolay has a two-pitch mix, using his 96.7 average MPH fastball with a sweeping curveball to sit hitters down in a fast, efficient fashion. For the Cubs, their bullpen has been their downfall in 2019, even with having brought closer Craig Kimbrel in, so any help that Alzolay can provide will be much needed.
Kyle Wright – Atlanta Braves
For the Atlanta Braves, their 35th-best prospect is a welcomed sight as the team looks to widen their NL East divisional lead. Having pitched in the big leagues in both 2018 and 2019 already, Kyle Wright is a trusted arm that has shown his potential, albeit not necessarily on a consistent schedule.
In looking to win their second consecutive National League East title, Wright has proved all that he can while pitching at the Triple-A level, so the Braves were smart to group him into their first round of additions to the club. With a number of the team’s top prospects remaining down in the minor leagues, Wright has the pitching arsenal to make an impression, most likely through a role as a shutdown reliever down the stretch.
With a starting pitcher’s four-pitch mix, Wright can operate out of the bullpen or the starting rotation if needed, which could help bump someone into a role better suited for how they are pitching. Someone, like current starter Mike Foltynewicz, could benefit from pitching in less stressful outings, and moving into the pen, for now, could help Folty work on some stuff before the playoffs begin.
Corbin Burnes – Milwaukee Brewers
As a team that is very much on the outside looking in, in terms of the current playoff picture, the Milwaukee Brewers need all the help that they can get, and by going back to 2018 starlet Corbin Burnes, they are hoping to rekindle the kind of shutdown stuff that he had last season.
Having come into the 2019 season with an inside track as a member of the team’s starting rotation, Burnes never materialized into that role, giving up way too many long balls. Having been down to the minors and back up to the squad on multiple occasions, Burnes has been called up again in hopes that he has regained his stuff after working at the team’s state-of-the-art pitching laboratory in Arizona.
Burnes, who actually was the fourth member of the shutdown crew that bookend the Brewers’ bullpen last season, has had trouble with pitch location, especially with utilizing his upper-90s fastball high in the strike zone.
For the youngster, his 2019 season has been anything but what he was looking for, but a solid month of September can help translate all of his work into positive results, hopefully leading into a much better 2020 season that sees him as a regular contributor to the Brewers’ pitching staff.