Tigers mulling pros, cons of potential Sept. 1 call-ups of prospects Malloy and Keith

Detroit News

Detroit — It used to be so easy. When Sept. 1 hit, teams could call up as many players from their Triple-A team as they wanted, as long as they were on the 40-man roster.

It was annoying, sure, a logistical nightmare for managers, coaching staff and clubhouse attendants trying to make room and work schedules for all the extra bodies. But team presidents and general managers didn’t have to make many tough decisions.

They do now.

Rosters, under terms of Major League Baseball’s newest collective bargaining agreement, are limited to 28 total players after Sept. 1, with a maximum of 14 pitchers. That means the Tigers will be adding two players come Sept 1.

The collective sentiment among the fan base, of course, will be to call up prospects Colt Keith and Justyn-Henry Malloy.

Easy-peasy.

That would require adding them to the 40-man, which wouldn’t be a deal-killer if that’s how team president Scott Harris wants to go.

But, it’s far from an automatic call. Harris talked about both Keith and Malloy on Monday, the day the Tigers called up prospect Parker Meadows.

“There are several players in Toledo right now who are knocking on the door that we don’t think are quite ready yet,” he said. “Certainly, Colt and Malloy are two of the more famous names that get thrown around, but they aren’t the only ones. We think there are a lot of big-leaguers in Toledo right now.”

There are few of them who have been big-leaguers this season. Utility man Ryan Kreidler, who won a roster spot out of spring training, is healthy and performing well at Toledo. Doesn’t he deserve a chance to finish the season where he started?

The Tigers could also bring back infielders Nick Maton and Tyler Nevin, who had broken seasons, going back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A.

Pitchers Joey Wentz, Garrett Hill and Trey Wingenter have also been on the I-75 shuttle this season.

Certainly, though, Keith and Malloy are at the top of the debate.

“With those guys, specifically, in many ways, they are the opposite of Parker,” Harris said. “Both guys have had bats that were a little ahead of the other facets of the game. I think both guys are working really hard at their defense and they are working really hard on their base running.”

The left-handed-hitting Keith, 22, after dominating Double-A pitching, is slashing .257/.325/.460 with a .785 OPS in 38 games with Toledo. He’s played primarily second base and third base.

Malloy, 23, bats from the right side, and he’s been steady as a rock at the plate over 108 games — .281/.417/.469, .886 OPS with 18 homers and 69 RBI. Defensively, it’s been a grind. The Tigers haven’t given up completely on him playing third base, but it seems clear his best path is in left field and right field.

“Specifically, with Malloy, we think the bat already is pretty close to helping us for a long time in the future,” Harris said. “But, he’s only played 15 games in right, and left field is still a pretty new position for him. We think there is some work he can do at third base to round out his game.

“We also think he can be a better base runner.”

None of these players are finished products. Harris was quick to point out that Meadows wasn’t either. Nor were Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson or Kerry Carpenter when they debuted.

“That doesn’t in any way temper my enthusiasm for J-Hen or Colt or the other players down there,” Harris said. “It’s more of an observation. We have to make sure these guys are ready to help in all aspects. We don’t want to be the organization that rushes players straight to the big leagues if they can help in one facet but are behind in the other facets.

“We think they are going to get there. We have all the confidence in the world in them and in our staff to get them there.”

The Tigers currently have one open spot on their 40-man roster. Presumably, that is being held for injured pitcher Spencer Turnbull, who made his final rehab start in Toledo on Tuesday.

Creating two spots to facilitate non-roster players after Sept. 1 won’t be difficult. The challenge is deciding who to bring up, and part of that decision will be based on how much they would be able to play. Gone are the days when players were brought up just to get a taste of big-league life.

The players who have grinded through the first five months of the season, many of them young and still developing, aren’t likely to be pushed aside.

“We’re trying to pay attention to what’s going on organizationally,” Hinch said. “But the players in there (Tigers’ clubhouse) need to know that me, the coaches and the daily operation of trying to win today’s game is about them.

“There are a lot of good things going on in player development and we have a lot of people under (director of player development Ryan) Garko who doing a lot of great things. But our focus is here.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

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