Projecting the First Wave of September Call-Ups

We’ve made it to September, which means September call-ups are upon us. Like every year, most of the players called up during roster expansions aren’t all that interesting. They’re mostly spare parts, like third catchers and replacement-level bullpen arms. But a few of the guys who were called up yesterday stand a good chance of making an impact in the big leagues over the next few years. Here’s a quick look at three of the more intriguing young pitchers who will get their first taste of the big leagues this month: Zach Davies, Frankie Montas and Miguel Almonte. I anticipate more top prospects will get the call over the next week or so once the minor league seasons come to a close. I’ll hit on them as they’re called up. (Note: WAR figures, unless otherwise specified, indicate total WAR through age-28 season.)

Zach Davies, Milwaukee Brewers, 5.2 WAR

Zach Davies fell all the way to the 26th round in the 2011 draft, but rose through the prospect ranks by performing at every minor-league stop. He spent the 2015 season in Triple-A, where he’s pitched to an impressive 3.30 ERA and 3.36 FIP over 23-starts. Although he rarely tops 90 mph with his fastball, Davies has still managed to post average-ish strikeout and walk numbers as a 22-year-old in Triple-A. Furthermore, he’s managed to induce plenty of ground balls (55% ground-ball rate according to MLBfarm), which helps explain how he’s allowed just six homers in 128 innings on the year.

Davies started the season with the Orioles — the team that drafted him, but was dealt to the Brewers at the deadline in exchange for Gerardo Parra. In the tiny sample of innings following the trade, Davies’ performance has dropped off quite a bit. That might mean something — or also might not, due to the tiny sample sizes at play. But it’s at least worth noting that his numbers over the last four starts look like those of a non-prospect: 6.00 ERA, 4.92 FIP and 14% strikeout rate.

KATOH pegs Davies for 5.2 WAR through age 28, which would have made him the 56th-ranked prospect on KATOH’s in-season update. His 2014 numbers generated a similar forecast of 4.4 WAR. Let’s pull up some comps. Using league-adjusted, regressed stats, along with age, I calculated the Mahalanobis Distance between Davies’ 2015 stats and every season at Triple-A since 1991 in which a pitcher faced at least 350 batters. Below, you’ll find a list of historical players whose performances were nearest and dearest to Davies’, ranked from most similar to least similar.

Zach Davies Statistical Comps
Rank Mah Dist Pitcher IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.17 Wade Miller 859 13.0
2 0.25 Ivan Nova* 605 6.6
3 0.50 Bill Pulsipher 323 1.3
4 0.55 Mark Kiefer 79 0.0
5 0.56 Scott Baker 823 13.5
6 0.58 Mike Williams 398 1.3
7 0.59 Gavin Floyd 959 13.2
8 0.66 Rafael Montero* 54 0.3
9 0.67 Jason Marquis 1,102 4.8
10 0.69 Merrill Kelly* 0 0.0
11 0.70 Mickey Callaway 119 0.7
12 0.76 Rick Bauer 240 0.4
13 0.77 Sean Henn 81 0.0
14 0.77 Jeremy Powell 148 0.0
15 0.79 Brian Flynn* 25 0.0
16 0.83 Mitch Talbot 232 0.7
17 0.83 Adam Pettyjohn 65 0.3
18 0.83 Andrew Lorraine 163 0.8
19 0.89 Bud Smith 132 1.4
20 0.91 Greg Gohr 182 0.5
*Pitchers who have not yeat played age-28 season

*****

Frankie Montas, Chicago White Sox, 3.3 WAR

This isn’t Frankie Montas’ first time on the big-league roster. The White Sox called him up to be their 26th man for a double-header back on July 17th, but optioned him back to the minors before he was able to make an appearance.

Montas was originally signed out of the Dominican by the Red Sox in 2009, and was one of the arms Boston sent to the White Sox in exchange for Jake Peavy back in 2013. At that time, he was nothing more than a flame-throwing 20-year-old with an ERA north of five in Low-A. But he’s since refined his game a bit to become one of the more promising arms in the upper levels of the minors.

As many young, hard-throwers do, Montas had a bit of a command problem when he was in the low minors, resulting in far too many walks. From 2010 to 2013, he recorded a 11% walk rate, which played a big role in inflating his ERA to 5.49 over that period. He’s since improved in this area, however, and has kept his walk rate almost exclusively in the single digits since the start of the 2014 season.

With his walks finally in check, Montas took off in 2014. In 10 High-A starts, he posted a jaw-dropping 1.60 ERA. Some of this success was surely due to his fluky .256 BABIP, but his 2.90 FIP confirms that he was one of the top performers in the league. Unfortunately, his breakout season was abbreviated by knee problems, which limited him to just 11 starts. Montas carried his success over to the Double-A level this year. In 23 starts, he turned in a 2.97 ERA and 3.02 FIP on the strength of his 23% strikeout rate.

KATOH projects Montas for 3.3 WAR through age 28, which would put him in the 150 range on KATOH’s list. His 2014 numbers generated a similar forecast of 2.9 WAR. The Mahalanobis comps:

Frankie Montas Statistical Comps
Rank Mah Dist Pitcher IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.21 Renyel Pinto 231 0.0
2 0.38 Clint Nageotte 41 0.0
3 0.40 Tom Gorzelanny 663 6.5
4 0.54 Phil Norton 92 0.0
5 0.55 Rett Johnson 0 0.0
6 0.59 Lance Lynn* 763 13.4
7 0.60 Luis Martinez 16 0.0
8 0.60 Travis Phelps 105 0.0
9 0.63 Steve Soderstrom 13 0.1
10 0.68 Zack Wheeler* 285 3.5
11 0.74 Felipe Paulino 385 4.5
12 0.75 Chris Seelbach 9 0.0
13 0.76 Jarrod Parker* 384 5.0
14 0.78 Mark Hutton 189 0.0
15 0.87 Jose Cisnero* 48 0.0
16 0.93 Hector Santiago* 504 3.1
17 0.97 Ethan Martin* 44 0.0
18 0.97 Brandon Claussen 316 3.4
19 1.01 Francisco Cruceta 26 0.0
20 1.02 Kevin Correia 596 5.0
*Pitchers who have not yeat played age-28 season

*****

Miguel Almonte, Kansas City Royals, 2.3 WAR

Miguel Almonte split 2015 between Double-A and Triple-A, where he recorded a 4.51 ERA and 3.95 FIP across 104 innings, while working primarily as a starter. Both his 21% strikeout rate and 9% walk rate were a tick higher than average. Statistically speaking, Almonte is the least compelling of the three pitchers considered in this article. Although he has three potentially above-average pitches, Almonte is a classic case of a pitcher whose performance still lags behind his stuff.

KATOH foresees 2.3 WAR through age 28 for Almonte, which falls in line with the 2.1 WAR forecast yielded by his 2014 stats.  His comps:

Miguel Almonte Statistical Comps
Rank Mah Dist Pitcher IP thru 28 WAR thru 28
1 0.10 Larry Luebbers 77 0.5
2 0.17 Andy Pratt 3 0.0
3 0.19 Wade Davis 666 8.7
4 0.21 T.J. McFarland 158 0.9
5 0.28 Jason Jacome 261 1.2
6 0.29 Stolmy Pimentel* 53 0.1
7 0.34 Joel Moore 0 0.0
8 0.35 Mike Halperin 0 0.0
9 0.35 Mikey O’Brien* 0 0.0
10 0.37 John Grabow 240 1.3
11 0.38 Josh Karp 0 0.0
12 0.40 Chris Enochs 0 0.0
13 0.41 Tanyon Sturtze 51 0.0
14 0.43 Josh Hall 24 0.0
15 0.44 Aaron Thompson* 47 0.1
16 0.47 Felix Doubront* 485 4.2
17 0.47 Shawn Nottingham 0 0.0
18 0.48 Tim Hudson 1,240 27.6
19 0.51 Vance Worley* 506 6.3
20 0.52 Carlos Rosa 34 0.2
*Pitchers who have not yeat played age-28 season





Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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