The 10 most important callups of 2019 so far

June 20th, 2019

“We’re going to need you at some point.” Virtually every Major League player has heard those words a time or two in their careers. They’re being sent to the Minor Leagues because they’re caught in a roster crunch, or they have some things to work on, or the time just isn’t right.

But as is always the case, those fateful words ring true for many, and we have seen a lot of roster churn two-plus months into the year. Among the dozens of players who’ve been called up since Opening Day, some of them have made a huge impact on their teams. Here are 10 who stand out.

(Note: We are only talking about guys who were called up during the season, so you won’t see top prospects who were on Opening Day rosters -- such as Fernando Tatis, Jr., Eloy Jimenez and Pete Alonso -- on the list below.)

1) Gio Urshela, 3B, NYY: He has been one of the more improbable stories of an extremely improbable season. Acquired as Minor League depth, he got a chance when Miguel Andujar was injured and delivered solid offense and Gold Glove-caliber play at third. He’s cooled off as of late, but he helped hold down the fort in the absence of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

2) Austin Riley, LF, ATL: Sometimes, the kids are as good as advertised. The Braves were uncertain enough of Riley’s readiness that they signed Josh Donaldson to play third in 2019. When center fielder Ender Inciarte was injured in May, Riley was given a new position and an opportunity. He’s not the only reason that the Braves are now favored to win the National League East again, but he’s a big one, having homered 11 times in his first 29 games.

3) Ariel Jurado, RHP, TEX: The 23-year-old right-hander is coming off a stretch of four straight quality starts and has given the Rangers a bit more confidence to believe that they could be a serious playoff contender in 2019.

4) Michael Chavis, 2B, BOS: He has filled a big hole at second base despite spending most of his Minor League career at third. He’s second on the Red Sox in home runs and third in RBIs since his debut on April 20.

5) Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B, TOR: Plenty of very cynical scouts -- people who’ve seen thousands of prospects -- say this 20-year-old’s bat-to-ball skills are as good as they’ve ever seen. He’s going to be a huge star. And while he hasn’t dominated as much as some might have hoped, he already leads the Majors with four batted balls with an exit velocity over 115 mph, which tells you a little about his bat speed and power.

6) Bryan Reynolds, LF, PIT: His opportunity arrived when Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte were injured, and he began his career with an 11-game hitting streak. His .353 average is second only to Cody Bellinger (.355) among players with at least 175 plate appearances. Suddenly, a deep Pirates outfield is even deeper than they knew.

7) Nick Senzel, CF, CIN: He’d played all of three Major League games when manager David Bell moved him into the leadoff spot, and that’s where he seems likely to finish his career. He’s going to be a Cincinnati mainstay for years to come, already posting a more-than-respectable .261/.320/.461 slash line.

8) Adrian Houser, RHP, MIL: He’s finally getting an opportunity after a couple of seasons that were interrupted by Tommy John surgery (2016) and an emergency appendectomy (2018). He has the pure stuff to be a significant addition to a bullpen that’s already one of baseball’s best, and he’s put up a 2.35 ERA through 30 2/3 innings.

9) Yordan Alvarez, DH/OF, HOU: Small sample size, right? On the other hand, wow. He homered four times in his first five games and looks like the next in a long line of offensive stars that have debuted in Houston.

10) Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL: Yes, he debuted in 2018, but he began this season at Triple-A Gwinnett, and was promoted in mid-April when Sean Newcomb got sent down after a rough start to the year. Soroka allowed six earned runs in his first eight starts and helped fuel the Braves' drive into first place in the NL East.