Sept. 1 is one of my favorite days on the baseball calendar, as teams begin calling up new faces to help pad the major league roster. Historically teams may use the September callup season to give fans a taste of a top prospect ready to become an everyday player. Most of the time, though, it’s more conservative than this, as teams are usually hoping to add depth, or even protect a player from the dreaded Rule V draft.
The Phils are no different. While many of the Phils’ September callups have been for depth (especially between 2007 and ’11), a special few have been hotly anticipated. I went back 20 years to 1995 to determine the top-10 September callups of the last 20 years, focusing mostly on younger players getting their first taste (or close to it) in the majors.
So this isn’t a scientific ranking. More a combination of hype and production. Enjoy.
10. Cesar Hernandez – 2013
We were told Cesar Hernandez had outstanding infield defensive ability upon his first cup of coffee in midseason 2013. But it was in September that we saw his true range, as he started almost exclusively in centerfield. He did okay, displaying average-at-best ability in center while singling pitchers to death to a line of .289/.344/.331. He remains with the club today, starting at second base after the Chase Utley trade. His future remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
9. Vance Worley – 2010
Vance Worley made his major league debut in a July blowout against Colorado, but he had an extended stay in September, helping the Phillies give some rest to a pitching staff that cruised through a dominant 2010 campaign. Worley had a solid first start against the Marlins, then started once more, against Atlanta, twirling five shutout innings. Worley would become a great fifth starter in an awesome 2011 pitching staff, before being dealt to Minnesota for Ben Revere. He’s been a league-average pitcher, most recently throwing out of the Pittsburgh bullpen before being optioned to AAA.
8. Carlos Ruiz – 2006
While Carlos Ruiz had a cup of coffee in May (and July) of 2006 because of injury, he was brought up to the Phillies for good in September. Starting a few games, Chooch had his finest offensive run of the season, collecting eight hits, including two home runs. Ruiz would stay with the Phils in 2007 and beyond, turning into one of the franchise’s most revered catchers.
7. Gene Schall – 1996
Back in 1996 we had two major callups: Calvin Maduro and Gene Schall. Maduro, 21, pitched decently well, but his contribution was small. Schall – a 26-year-old Abington kid who went to La Salle High and Villanova – had a little more room to grow in 1996, getting 41 plate appearances in his September stay. He did well, too, hitting two homers, three doubles and a triple en route to a line of .306/.390/.611. I mean, that’s seriously good. Sadly, though, Schall was traded for Mike Robertson (yes, THE Mike Robertson) and never made it to the majors again. He had a solid AAA career, however, retiring in 2002 with 125 career homers at the top minor-league level.
6. Gavin Floyd – 2004
Rewind to 2004. Citizens Bank Park is glistening and new. Jim Thome is rocking homers into the seats. And the Phils have two surefire stars ready to reach Philly in Ryan Howard and Gavin Floyd. At just 21, Floyd was a big deal upon his arrival in Philadelphia in September 2004. He lived up to the hype, tossing a decent seven innings in a win over the Mets in his major league debut. He would move to the bullpen during his time in Philly, but return as a starter in 2005 and ‘06, all to pretty bad results. (Maybe Floyd was best known as the pitcher on the mound when Aaron Rowand slammed his face into the fence to catch a would-be Xavier Nady grand slam.) Floyd would find some success in Chicago, traded in the wonderful Freddy Garcia deal. Memories.
5. Darin Ruf – 2012
And it was on Sept. 14, 2012, that 26-year-old super prospect Darin Ruf got his first action in a Phillies uniform. After tearing up the minors with his power, Ruf started slow, but on Sept. 25 hit his first major league homer in a win against Washington. He’d hit two in one game a week later, ending his 2012 callup campaign with three bombs, 10 RBI, and a good line of .333/.351/.727. Ruf has been a mainstay on the Phils bench since then, playing respectably, but especially good against left-handed pitching (.291/.378/.518).
4. Marlon Anderson – 1998
Sept. 8, 1998. The Phillies are blasting the Mets, 12-3, in the seventh inning. Manager Terry Francona motions to 24-year-old Marlon Anderson. It’ll be his first career plate appearance, right there in front of a crowd of maybe 10,000 at Veterans Stadium. Against Mel Rojas, Anderson works a 2-2 count, then knocks it deep to right. It clears the fence. Marlon Anderson’s first career appearance is a home run. He’d finish 1998 with solid numbers, and would win the starting second base job for 1999. That year began with a sterling 3-for-4 day in Atlanta. That was pretty much his peak as a Phillie.
3. Ryan Howard – 2004
With the Phillies under .500 on Sept. 1, 2004, they opted to call up top prospect Ryan Howard, who was blocked as an everyday player by all-world slugger Jim Thome. Howard would mostly pinch hit through September, garnering just a few starts toward the end of the season. He homered twice, doubled five times and finished with a good line of .282/.333/.564. This, coupled with his solid 2005 season – during a Thome injury – allowed the Phils to deal Thome to Chicago and start Howard for good.
2. Bobby Estalella – 1997
Imagine a hyped catching prospect reaching the major leagues at age 21 as a September callup. Imagine him swatting two home runs late in the season, finishing with a 6-for-11 performance in three games at Shea Stadium. Then imagine, a year later, he’s called up and starts in Montreal. Second inning, against future Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez … home run. Then, down two, sixth inning, against Martinez … home run. Finally, in the ninth, he leads off … a third home run. That was Bobby Estalella, 1997.
What you can’t imagine is the excitement on a 12-year-old’s face when this veritable child socks three homers in a game. “He’s the future!” I thought. Estalella never again matched the magic he sparked that evening at Olympic Stadium.
Yes, Howard had a more impressive September statistically, but when you hit two homers off a future Hall of Famer, you earn the spot.
1. Jimmy Rollins – 2000
Highly rated shortstop prospect James Calvin Rollins joined the Phillies in mid-September 2000, immediately making his presence felt with a triple, stolen base and two runs. He would only notch one more extra-base hit that year, but he accrued 17 hits in 53 at bats, good for a .321 AVG.
The 21-year-old became an instant fan favorite, proving the hype, and would quickly be penciled in as starting shortstop. Thirteen years later, would break the franchise record for career hits.
Rollins is the best measure of a September callup. He was given a chance to play everyday, made the best of it, and set the table for an outstanding rookie season. For that, he’s the best Phillies callup of the last 20 years.