Alford, Hernandez among Blue Jays' potential Sept. 1 call-ups
Chris Rowley, Nick Tepesch, converted OF Carlos Ramirez could boost pitching staff
Once the Toronto Blue Jays' lost season fell off the rails with a 4-9 stretch in late July following a typically poor start in April, talk shifted briefly to a couple of potential stars in the making.
Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and shortstop/second baseman Bo Bichette were fresh off appearances in baseball's Futures Game and have since maintained an all-star level of play with the Jays' Class-A Advanced affiliate in Dunedin, Fla.
But despite their respective .333 and .348 batting averages, fans hoping to see the highly touted teenagers take the field at Rogers Centre in Toronto for the final month of the season will probably have to wait at least another year as management wouldn't want to risk stunting their development by rushing them to the major leagues.
Here are three hitters and four pitchers who could get a glimpse — and in some cases, another taste — of big-league life once teams are allowed to expand their current 25-man rosters to 40, starting Friday.
Anthony Alford: The right-handed hitting Alford is expected to rejoin the Blue Jays after being knocked out of their lineup in late May after eight at-bats when he broke the hamate bone in his left wrist on a swing. Alford, 23, has been playing for double-A New Hampshire since mid-July and boosted his average to .318 on Tuesday to go with a .406 on-base percentage and 18 stolen bases.
Teoscar Hernandez: At 24, the outfielder with power and speed was the key return in the July 31 Francisco Liriano trade. On Tuesday, the former Houston Astros prospect hit his fourth home run over a seven-game stretch and is batting .213 in 24 games with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons after posting a .279/.369/.485 slash line over 79 contests with Fresno in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Hernandez clubbed his first major league homer in Toronto last August against Liriano.
Michael Saunders: He could be back in the majors after a disappointing first half to the season led to the Victoria native's release from Philadelphia on June 25. Three days later, the Blue Jays signed Saunders to a minor league deal. After a slow start with Buffalo, the 29-year-old has rounded into form with a .277 average. He hit .205 for the Phillies with 51 strikeouts in 61 games after posting 24 homers in 140 outings in 2016 with Toronto. Remember his three-homer day versus Baltimore?
Leonel Campos: Optioned to Buffalo on Tuesday, it could be a short stay at triple-A for the 30-year-old Venezuelan, who has pitched to a 3.09 earned-run average in 10 games across four stints this season with the Blue Jays while striking out 12 in 11 2/3 innings. For the Bisons, he has a 1.76 ERA in 24 games (21 innings) and has fanned 35 in 30 2/3 innings.
Carlos Ramirez: A converted outfielder, Ramirez has allowed a combined two unearned runs in 37 2/3 innings for double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo, while earning three victories in 25 games in the process. The Blue Jays might want to see if the 26-year-old, whom Toronto signed as an undrafted free agent in March 2009, could make an impact with the club in 2018.
Chris Rowley: Rowley was optioned to the minors a week ago when Tom Koehler was summoned from Buffalo to make his Blue Jays debut. Rowley, 27, earned the win for Toronto in his major league debut on Aug. 12 against Pittsburgh after splitting the season at double- and triple-A. The Atlanta native made two more starts for the Jays, posting a 4.61 ERA.
Nick Tepesch: The former Texas Rangers right-hander could return to the Jays after tossing six shutout innings for Buffalo on Tuesday, the 28-year-old Tepesch's first appearance since Toronto placed him on paternity leave on Aug. 22 as his wife gave birth to their second child. Tepesch has made 44 starts in the majors, including four with the Blue Jays (5.17 ERA).