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Salt Lake Bees’ title hopes could get in way of Andy Marte’s MLB return

Marte, Andy 41

Ahhh September call-ups.  An exciting time of the year for Atlantic League fans and front offices, as they wait in suspense to see if any of their alums from either earlier in the current season or seasons past will crack a big league roster.  Of course, it ‘s a double-edged sword; while many players will perform in a way deserving of a call-up, much of it hinges on where the Major League team and their Triple-A affiliate are in the standings.

We’ll use Andy Marte as the most recent example, but the same tenets can be applied to any Triple-A player doing well. We bemoaned the fact Marte was in York as long as we was (.301, 19 HR, 74 RBI in 96 games), and he’s done better in Triple-A, batting .343 with four homers and 12 driven in his first 20 games with Salt Lake.  He seems like a prime candidate for a Major League audition in Anaheim, to see if at 29 Marte can shake off the well documented struggles of his youth in the show with the Cleveland Indians.

However, the perfect storm of the Major League team with a losing record and out of the race, and the Triple-A affiliate contending for a championship should put the kibosh on Marte’s call-up, for now.  Emphasis on “should” and “for now.”  With the Angels out of contention it’s doubtful they would hurt Salt Lake’s chances of contending by bringing Marte to the big leagues.  They lead their division by three games with a 76-62 record as of August 28 – and that’s with the recent slide of losing eight of their last 10.  The rough stretch has hardly been Marte’s fault the way he’s swinging it, but it makes for even less of a reason for the Angels to take away one of Salt Lake’s best players.

The good news is with the Triple-A regular season winding down, the playoffs will only last until mid-September at the latest, still allowing a window for Marte to possibly return to the Majors this season.  If not, it certainly looks like his performance with Salt Lake – under the pressure of having to hit very well in what amounted to a three week job interview – is bound to catch the Angels attention and make Marte a good candidate for an invite to spring training in February as a non-roster player.  From there he could either return to Triple-A and await his chance, or perhaps make the big club out of camp, Scott Rice style.

Lefty reliever Justin Hampson (York ’10), is in essentially the same situation.  Las Vegas is in first place in their division as well with a 78-59 record as of August 28, 2.5 games up.  Hampson has been solid out their bullpen all year, (including an ERA of .087 in 10 games between August 6 and 26) but hasn’t been able to join Rice with the Mets yet, despite Hampson getting called to New York in June and September of last year, where he performed well enough to get into 13 games with a 1.80 big league ERA.  The Mets reluctance to bring him to the Majors has been head-scratching.  How many innings does Scott Atchison really need?  Like the Angels, the Mets aren’t winning anything this year in the Majors, and it’s doubtful they’ll bust up the Vegas bullpen by moving Hampson around until after the playoffs.  But considering he’s been there all year and with the organization since 2011, he’s probably more deserving of a September call-up than Marte, so stay tuned.

If the situations were flipped, and the players were in organizations where the Triple-A affiliate had a poor record and the big club was contending, their chances of reaching the Majors on September 1 or shortly thereafter would dramatically improve.  Usually teams in contention are eager to add more depth when the rosters expand, either to rest certain players if they’re comfortably in the playoff picture, or add Triple-A talent that is capable of contributing in the big leagues that they just didn’t have room for when rosters were limited to 25, if they’re in a pennant race.

-Paul Braverman

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