Every year teams in playoff contention will call upon some of their premier minor leaguers to fill a gap on their major league roster. More often than not, the moves are questioned by baseball analysts because the player might not be ready or might not be that good. Sometimes they're right and sometimes they're wrong. But when one of these reinforcements come up to the bigs and shine it's magical.
For example, last year, the Orioles called upon a newly 20 year old named Manny Machado on August 9th. Machado proved to be wizard at the hot corner and an upgrade over Wilson Betemit with the bat. He then went 1-3 with an RBI and more flashes of spectacular leather in the Wild Card game against the Texas Rangers. Young Manny fell short in the ALCS against the Yankees but did hit a home run in a 3-2 loss.
Going back two years, you have Matt Moore. Moore was summoned on September 14, just a couple weeks before the end of the regular season, but he made a huge difference. Moore pitched 3 spectacular games as the Rays snuck by the Red Sox by one game for the AL Wild Card (back when there was only one WC spot).
There's endless examples going back to K-Rod in 2002 and David Price in 2008. These young guns can electrify a team and make all the difference in a race that's decided by a couple games or a postseason series that's almost a coin flip. There are bound to be a couple of these stories in 2013 and our teams of interest have some interesting heroes waiting in the wings.
Boston Red Sox
Xander Bogaerts - Xander is widely considered one of the top prospects in baseball. More or less in the mold of for Boston prospect Hanley Ramirez, Bogaerts is a shortstop who can absolutely mash. He's hit .298/.389/.480 between AA and AAA this season and, oh yeah, he's 20. Boston's other options at third base are Will Middlebrooks (can't hit/walk) or Brock Holt (who?) so Xander is pretty clearly the best option available to manager John Farrell. Bogaerts is a shortstop by trade, but an iffy one who will fit better long term at third base, so the Sox shouldn't hesitate to use him there. In fact, he's been used at third for the first time in his career since his promotion to AAA, so Boston seems to be thinking the same thing.
Allen Webster - Webster seems like the classic fireballer out of the 'pen type of guy. He's a starting pitcher, so he could offer the Red Sox multiple innings of mid to high 90's fastballs when they need to shutdown an opponent. Think of him like Shelby Miller lite from 2012. Webster has already seen some game action but has had his opening in the rotation filled by Jake Peavy.
Andrew Lambo - Lambo was called up last weekend and will be available to make his major league debut tonight in St. Louis. Lambo has an opening in a right field platoon with righty Jose Tabata. Lambo is the minor league leader in home runs this season, so despite not being a highly lauded prospect like Bogaerts, he has every bit the chance to make a difference.
Jameson Taillon - The Pirates already called up top prospect Gerrit Cole to fill a void in their rotation, but it's possible another will open up with the shaky Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton holding down two of the slots. Taillon will likely be on an innings limit that will keep him to about 40 more from here on out. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw 20 of those come in AAA and then 20 more in the big leagues closer to September. That said, if any team doesn't need bullpen reinforcements, this is it. He might not be a great fit, but he's a great talent.
Sonny Gray - With Tommy Milone's mid-season implosion, Sonny got the call about a month ago. He throws mid to high 90's with a low 90's sinker and plenty of off-speed junk. Translation: he has the deep arsenal to work in the rotation and the power to succeed in the bullpen.
Dan Otero - Otero's an interesting case in that he was never much of a prospect, is 28 and doesn't run his fastball much past 92 mph. But since he's been in the majors (debuted for the A's: June 14th) he's been extremely effective. In fact, he went his first 20.2 innings without walking a single batter. He has the pedigree of a control artist as well, one walk in 27.1 minor league innings. Despite pumping the strike zone, he doesn't seem to give up many meatballs. Otero allowed 0.4 HR/9 in his minor league career and has yet to allow one in the majors. I'm not sure what his secret is, but he'll certainly be a key piece in the back of the A's bullpen.