September means expanded rosters: Here's what you should know

August 29th, 2022

Expanded rosters are coming. Expanded rosters are coming.

OK, sure, this isn’t the tidal wave of player additions that came in past years, but Sept. 1 remains a large date on the baseball calendar as Major League rosters swell just in time for final playoff pushes.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of roster expansion on Thursday:

Roster limits
From Opening Day to May 1 this year, Major League clubs were allowed to carry 28 players before slimming back to normal 26-man levels from May 2 onwards. Until now. From Sept. 1 through the rest of the season, active rosters will expand again to cover 28 players, no more no less. Teams can carry 14 pitchers at most too to cut down on the endless parade of bullpen arms that often made September games a slog.

The hard cap at 28 is an important distinction from Septembers of old. Previously, clubs could call up any member of the 40-man roster for the month. That is no longer the case, though even a boost of two extra players should be helpful for the stretch run.

Minor League schedule
Typically, the Minor League Baseball season has ended around Labor Day. Now, Single-A and High-A regular seasons will end one week later on Sept. 11, Double-A on Sept. 18 and Triple-A all the way on Sept. 28. There won’t be as much a concern that any farmhands close to the Majors aren’t fresh or in game shape throughout the month ahead.

Rookie eligibility
In another change from previous years, any service time, at-bats or innings pitched accrued in September do count toward rookie eligibility. In other words, there will be prospect graduations coming in the weeks ahead.

That said, any prospect called up within the last few days -- such as Corbin Carroll or Cade Cavalli -- or moving forward is unlikely to hit the 45-day requirement to lose rookie status. (They could still reach 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched, but that is also improbable.) So even if we see an onslaught of prospect promotions shortly, then don’t expect the callups to take players out of the running for 2023 Rookie of the Year Awards. That brings us to the next point …

Effect of new CBA
The collective bargaining agreement signed by MLB and the MLBPA in the spring instituted a new policy for 2022 aimed at curbing service-time manipulation. A club that starts a top prospect on its Opening Day roster while he retains rookie status is eligible to receive an extra Draft pick if the player gets sufficient award consideration before he becomes arbitration-eligible. It’s likely part of why we saw big names like Julio Rodríguez, Bobby Witt Jr. and Spencer Torkelson make Major League rosters out of the gate back in the spring.

That’s all well and good for Opening Day 2023, but how does it affect September 2022?

Well if clubs are considering starting their top prospects out of the gate next year, they might be more likely to give them their debuts now, in order to experience the Majors for the first time and make whatever adjustments necessary in the offseason to hit the ground running in late March.

Buckle up. Carroll and Cavalli may have just been the start. We could see an onrush of more prospects over the next month.

Top 50 prospects who could get the call

Gunnar Henderson, INF, Orioles (No. 2): The Wild Card-chasing O’s have given Henderson time at first and second base recently, improving his versatility ahead of a potential promotion. A three-hit performance Sunday broke up a 1-for-16 stretch, and even at just 21 years old, the left-handed slugger owns an impressive .282/.386/.502 line in 64 games at Triple-A.

Grayson Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles (No. 4): MLB Pipeline’s top pitching prospect is returning to the Minor League mound Thursday at High-A Aberdeen after missing three months with a lat injury. Time is running out, but if his four-pitch mix returns to its sterling quality, Rodriguez could be of use in a big spot down the stretch in Baltimore.

Gabriel Moreno, C, Blue Jays (No. 7): Moreno played 18 uninspiring games for the Jays earlier in the season but has hit .320/.383/.416 in 57 contests with Triple-A Buffalo, a sign he’s conquered what he can at the level. His strong arm and fielding would make him a quality third catcher for Toronto too, allowing Alejandro Kirk to get more DH opportunities.

Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox (No. 26): Casas is hitting a robust .329/.461/.549 over 102 plate appearances in the month of August at Triple-A Worcester and remains the future of the first-base position in Boston. The presences of Bobby Dalbec and the currently injured Eric Hosmer shouldn’t get in the club’s way if Casas looks ready.

Ezequiel Tovar, SS, Rockies (No. 28): Tovar has been out since June 28 with a right groin injury, but he has the plus hit tool and plus plus glove to transition smoothly to the bigs when healthy. A rehab process without hiccups could be all that stands between him and Colorado.

Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers (No. 39): An infield consisting of Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Jung would pack a Texas-sized punch in Arlington, and we’re not far off from seeing it. Jung has slugged six homers in 15 games with Triple-A Round Rock since returning from preseason shoulder surgery.

Miguel Vargas, 3B/OF, Dodgers (No. 44); Michael Busch, 2B/OF, Dodgers (No. 45): With all of their depth, the Dodgers haven’t needed rookie hitters too often in 2022. Vargas only got eight plate appearances with LA earlier in August, and Busch has yet to see the bigs. Even the non-Top-100-but-red-hot James Outman couldn’t stick. All that said, the NL West leaders will have plenty of options should the injury bug bite in September.