It's hard to believe we're already here, but in only three days, it will be September 1. Teams in contention will be racing to set up their playoff rosters, those out of contention will be checking out some of the players who could help them in the future. I just wanted to look at a few of the guys who could make an impact either in the pennant races or playoffs.
Mike Trout, Angels: I've discussed Trout a couple times, and I maintain my belief that he's the #1 "prospect" in baseball. It's possible that Trout will exhaust his rookie status in September, making him ineligible for the 2012 ROY award. If he doesn't, he is the serious favorite. That's not the Angels concern right now, though. Sitting only three games behind the Rangers, Trout may give them the best shot to close that gap.
Trout got the start in only one of the three games in the important series against the Rangers this past weekend, getting the right field nod in Saturday's game. Just by chance, it's the only game in the series the Angels won. Trout also got two at bats after coming in as a pinch hitter in Friday nights game. For the series, he went 3 for 6, with a home run and a strikeout. His impact down the stretch will depend entirely on how much Scioscia plays him.
Jesus Montero, Yankees: Let's all say this together. Jesus. Montero. Is. Not. A. Catcher.
We have that out of the way. It's ok, Yankee fans. Carlos Delgado wasn't a catcher either, no matter how much the early '90's Blue Jays wanted him to be. Delgado hit so much that nobody cared. I don't know if Montero will become the hitter Delgado was, but he'll hit enough that it won't make a difference.
The Yankees overall production at DH this year hasn't been as bad as you probably think. They've hit .247/.331/.432, good for 8th in the AL in OBP and 5th in SLG. However, that number is inflated some by the time spent DH-ing by guys who play other positions. In 21 games, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have gone .256/.351/.512. The "regular" DH, Jorge Posada, has gone .232/.306/.390 at the position. Among the 14 regular DH's, that puts him tied for last in OBP, and 11th in SLG, a number that may be inflated by Yankee Stadium, since 7 of his 9 doubles, and 9 of his 12 home runs are there. Away from the Stadium's short porch, he's hit a paltry .187/.274/.302.
Meanwhile, much has been made of Montero's season. Is he a catcher, is he overrated because of the Yankees, is he better than Posada? Short answers - no, maybe, yes. Despite a drop in production from last year, Montero has hit .289/.348/.465 for Scranton. The lack of power from his first half has been forgotten - since the All-Star Break he's at .287/.353/.559. He's not the #3 prospect in baseball, where he was placed before the season, but he's ready for the majors. The Yankees' insistence on keeping him in the minors has cost them, but shouldn't for much longer. Expect to see him starting on Thursday at the latest.
Trevor Bauer, Diamondbacks: The #3 pick in the 2011 draft may well be the first to debut. Bauer signed early and has dominated since - in six starts and 24 innings across two levels, he has a 2.62 ERA, 30 strikeouts and only 9 walks. There has been some worry about his workload, but he may well get a chance to help the already-excellent Arizona bullpen. I doubt we'll see him start unless there is an obvious opening or the playoff race opens up.
One qualifier - I sincerely hope he doesn't pull a Jonathan Papelbon or Neftali Feliz and dominate so much out of the bullpen that he is made the "future closer." Bauer is worth more as a starter, both to his team and in consideration of his own checkbook.
Matt Moore, Rays: Are the Rays still in contention? Well, they have six games left with the Yankees, and they're 6.5 games behind. So, while it would take a pretty amazing comeback for them to get into the playoffs, it's not out of the realm of possibility. It's also very possible they'll end up with the 3rd best record in the American League and still miss the playoffs.
Moore was the darling of the future's game, and has been dominant since his promotion to Triple A Durham. In 46.2 innings, he has a 1.35 ERA, a 0.943 WHIP, 69 strikeouts, 15 walks and 3 home runs allowed, and he is a southpaw, which makes him a great matchup for the lefty-heavy opponents at the top of the division. If Trout loses rookie status, Moore becomes the front runner for the 2012 award. Unlike Bauer, I don't see Moore being used in the bullpen - he'll either get a couple starts, or be shut down. (Unless I'm wrong, of course. That's happened before.)