2010 40-man Roster Candidates
(This was originally set to post this afternoon. I’m torn about this. Part of me wants to talk about minor leaguers so I can stop thinking about Niehaus’ passing, and part of me wants to post nothing but Niehaus clips for a week. We’ll miss you, Dave).
Or, if you prefer, Rule 5 draft candidates…
JY did a great job of running down the rules and the process in last year’s preview, so I’ll stick with the twitter version: ’06 high-school draftees and international signings and ’07 college draftees who are NOT on the 40-man can be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Players who signed one-year minor league deals or who’ve been in the system for at least SIX years without being added to the 40 man become minor league free agents; that list is here.
Last year, Dave and JY discussed the fact that the M’s had room to store more marginal candidates on the 40 man. This year, it’s the same basic thing, only turned up to eleven. If you’re eligible in the Rule 5 draft this year, you’re probably bad, injured, or bad and injured. Last week, the M’s released Casey Kotchman and outrighted Chris Seddon. That brought the M’s “40 Man” roster stands to a lean 29. As a result, we may go deeper down the list of potential 40-man candidates this year. While some may see the turnover on the roster as a sign that the team has no ‘plan,’ I think it’s a good thing. The 2010 Mariners may not have been good at baseball, but they’re a useful reminder that for many, many players, short contracts are better than long ones. If we’re going to have awful baseball players, I’d prefer they be signed for one year and not four (at $12 million per).
With that, let’s take a look at the players who must be added to the roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. We’ll rank them in tiers – the absolute locks, the maybes and the darkhorse/slim chances.
1) Michael Pineda. Yeah. The huge righty’s 2010 was great no matter how you look at it: he stayed healthy, he dominated in the high minors, he was able to have success while maintaining extremely low walk rates, etc. Pineda is now unquestionably one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues.
2) Johermyn Chavez. The M’s acquired RF Chavez from Toronto in the Brandon Morrow trade, and although he had some upside, his contact problems made him one of a number of frustrating OF prospects in the system (led by Greg Halman). While aided by his home park, Chavez took a step forward in 2010 with a park-adjusted wOBA of .388. He’s currently enjoying a very successful stint in the Venezuelan Winter League. While he may not be likely to stick on an active roster (he doesn’t have speed that would allow a team to stash him as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement), he’s a near lock to be added to the 40-man roster.
3) Alex Liddi. The Italian 3B prospect showed that his eye-popping 2009 batting line wasn’t just a High Desert mirage by posting a .376 wOBA at 21 in AA. There’s no ‘special’ skill that stands out – no 30 HRs, no 15% walk rate, no plus contact skills – but the M’s have a guy who was successful in the high minors at a position of weakness for the org. While Matt Mangini took a step forward last year, he’s no lock to stick at 3B. While Liddi’s defense gets mixed reviews, he’s got a better chance to be an averageish defender than Tui or Mangini. In a year with a full 40-man, this’d be an interesting decision – like Chavez, I don’t know that he could stick on the active roster of another team – but with 11 open slots, I’d protect him without a second thought.
4) Mauricio Robles. Acquired from the Tigers for Jarrod Washburn, the converted OF had an up and down 2010. He’s got problems with command and stamina, but he’s got a (declining) shot to stick as a starter and could be effective as a LOOGY or middle reliever right now. The M’s decided to protect Dan Cortes last year despite so-so results because he had a special arm. Robles, when he’s on, is really tough to hit. Whatever his role, the arm’s too good to leave unprotected. He would stick easily as a power lefty – think Franklin Morales.
5) Carlos Triunfel. Let’s be clear: the results simply haven’t been there for Triunfel. He’s been hurt, he’s been young relative to his league peers, he’s…did I mention his age relative to league? Scouts don’t seem to be as breathless about him as they once did, but there’s still enough talent here to avoid losing him to Rule 5. Again, it’s an easier decision when the 40-man has so many open spots. He’s definitely looking more like Joel Guzman 2.0 as opposed to Hanley Ramirez 2.0, but there’s no harm in seeing what he can do another year removed from injury.
1: Matt Lawson. Acquired in the Cliff Lee deal, the infielder made a nice first impression by hitting for a high .370s wOBA in West Tennessee, and has been playing some shortstop in the Arizona Fall League. His K rate’s a bit high for a guy without much power and who relies on walks and singles to add a lot of offensive value. Some see the upward trend as evidence that Lawson’s putting things together and could be a useful utility man soon. I’m worried that a guy who walks a decent amount without power and with some K’s may simply be taking advantage of AA pitchers’ poor command; Ezequiel Carrera did this in 2009 before crashing back to earth last season.
2: Josh Lueke. Oh boy, more Lueke discussion! On talent and on likelihood-to-stick in the Rule 5 draft, Lueke belongs in the ‘Lock’ grouping. No points for guessing why he’s slumming it with the Maybes.
3: Carlos Peguero. Started off the season amazingly strong – his April wOBA was over .500 – but ended up with a fairly routine Peguero season: nice ISO, poor contact, horrific K rates. On the plus side, his unintentional walk rate was around 10%, a career high. Without plus-plus defense, he’d be a tough guy to stash on an active roster, but I suppose the team could look at the power potential and give him a 40-man spot for the time being.
4: Mario Martinez. Signed for $600,000 from Venezuela, the M’s hoped to have an impact bat with good power and solid athleticism. What they appear to have is a good defender who’s overmatched in the midwest league. This is a marginal candidate even for the maybes, but some still like his tools, and as a decent defender, he could conceivably Ugueto his way onto some team, however unlikely that seems.
5: Yoervis Medina. After spending four (4) years in the Venezuelan Summer league, Medina finally moved north this year and had a brilliant season spread over three levels (including an Edward Paredes-style cup of coffee in Tacoma). He made BA’s list of the top 20 northwest league prospects, then excelled in a short stint in the pitcher-friendly midwest league. The K’s are nice, but he’s not young, he’s in the low minors and doesn’t have top-shelf stuff. Can’t imagine he’d be taken, but there’s always the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft to think about.
The ~1% chance guys:
1: Edlando Seco. After spending three years in the VSL, he made it to Everett where he missed bats but displayed poor command. He played in Everett this year. Everett.
2: Kyle Parker. The UW product pitched for AA West Tennessee in 2009, but saw his Ks drop precipitously and his walks rise. Then he got hurt and missed all of 2010. I include him here largely because he’s basically the only guy left from the big 2006 draft. Morrow, Tillman, Butler, Mickolio, Souza, Orta, Bibens-Dirkx, Tyson Gillies all play for new orgs, while Doug Fister and Adam Moore are in the majors.
3: Jarret Grube. Grube was signed out of an independent league midway through 2010, and he signed a rare multi-year minor league contract with the M’s. He pitched in Tacoma briefly and then brought his pitch-to-contact game to West Tennessee for the balance of the year and then joined the Lara Cardenales in Venezuela for winter ball. Grube’s new in the org, so doesn’t fit the traditional Rule 5 criteria. But JY points out that the M’s once used a Rule 5 pick on a guy who’d just signed a minor league deal with another team: RA Dickey. Of course, Dickey had a developing knuckleball, so that was something a bit different. Grube’s a control guy with moderate success in AA and the Venezuelan Winter League, and there are 500+ minor league free agents currently available that don’t require the player to remain on the active roster. I can’t fathom anyone picking him over, oh, Scott Patterson, but who knows.