Ten Added to the 40-Man

Jay Yencich · November 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

To think that we were saying last year was an opportunity to add some fringe guys because there was space. Back then, we added six, and this time, ten players were added, those being OF Johermyn Chavez, RHP Maikel Cleto, LHP Cesar Jimenez, 3B Alex Liddi, RHP Josh Lueke, RHP Yoervis Medina, OF Carlos Peguero, RHP Michael Pineda, LHP Mauricio Robles, and RHP Tom Wilhelmsen. If you’re expecting nearly 2000 words of analysis to follow, well then by golly, you’re right.

Chavez was originally a throw-in for the League-Morrow trade. No one figured he was worth a Rule 5 selection last year, but after thirty-one home runs this season in the California League, one might suspect people would be more interested. The slash line of .315/.387/.577 was surely nothing to make light of, even in context of the home park, which is roughly equivalent to the moon. He took advantage of this fact, and twenty-three of his dingers came in Mavericks Stadium. Yet, over the winter he’s been playing like a different animal, batting .312/.418/.481, going from a 131/52 K/BB during the season to a 15/14 after. It’s often difficult for younger players to reconcile plate discipline and power hitting, and Chavez has come close to doing just that, while facing competition that is hardly bad. This makes me a lot more optimistic about him going into the high minors than I might have been ten weeks ago.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have Maikel Cleto. Cleto was a guy we were having a hard time figuring out eligibility for, but it seems that he was under consideration and in context, it’s not surprising that he should be added. Latin American players with live fastballs are among the first selected in the Rule 5 draft, regardless of whatever else they have. Unfortunately for Cleto, right now his fastball is about all he’s got, and it’s piping hot all right, but emphasis on piping there, leaving it less dazzling than one might expect. Remember Ian Snell’s heater? Yeah. After a middling season for the Mavericks, Cleto has run a 14/13 K/BB in 19.1 innings for the Javelinas, and allowed thirty-one hits in that span. Even with pitching being down and hitting up in the league, that’s awful. I mean, he didn’t even have to face Ackley. Cleto spent most of the fall season either so far away from the plate as to induce walks, or so near as to get hit. He’s probably the biggest project of anyone on the 40-man currently, and needs better mechanics and improved secondary offerings in order to be anything of interest.

Jimenez is an old school pick, a throw-back to previous generations of Mariners prospects. In the past two seasons combined, he’s pitched fewer than 30 innings total owing to labrum surgery in September of last year. This type of surgery is often the end of the line for such prospects, since he was only throwing 88-90 before that, but he appears to have bounced back well enough to garner attention. Through 14.1 innings for Lara, he’s run a 15/5 K/BB and avoided getting hit, keeping batters to around a .150 average. None of this should be awe-inspiring, as Jimenez is a veteran of the LVBP by now, but we can still number them among the positives he has going for him at present. The future remains to be determined. Jimenez is known as a change-up artist, as most southpaws are wont to be. While he’ll also throw a curveball to keep left-handers at bay, his main strength is probably in his ability to get RH hitters out. Left-on-left might not be an ideal role for him.

Liddi was one of a few players Marc and I offered as near-locks in the process. He’s the kind of player that scouts have a lot of difficulty getting on board with because his overall package of skills is lacking. While his arm is fine, steps backward in his footwork and position left some more convinced than ever that he would have to move over to first in time, and there his bat profiles not nearly as well. At the same time, we’re looking at a prospect who was competent in the Southern League at the age of twenty-one, who lost only a few extra-base hits and added about twenty strikeouts in one of the most difficult transitions in minor league baseball, a guy whose wOBA was second-best on the team behind Johan Limonta, who has now logged nearly as much time in double-A as Marshall Hubbard did when he was with us. Liddi is a player who is going to have to continue to prove himself as he moves up, though I wouldn’t put it past him considering how far he’s come as a baseball player from a non-baseball country.

Lueke put his abilities on display throughout the Arizona Fall League, being one of the few pitchers to actually flourish there this season. He leaves with a 12/3 K/BB in 11.1 innings and only seven hits allowed, which is hard to imagine if you’ve been following the league at all. What’s equally striking is that, in the more normal context of the regular season, he had a 94/15 K/BB in 63.0 innings. Possessing a fastball that’s clocks in the mid-90s complemented by a change-up and a curve he can throw for strikes, Lueke’s abilities are pretty much unquestioned, and he might be the top reliever in the organization at present for his blend of talent and skill. On top of that, by all accounts he’s been a boy scout since entering the organization and a great teammate, and most who have encountered him describe him as a humble, personable kid eager to make amends. We could talk on and on about his past as we have previously, but for now, he’s in the organization and has been given a vote of confidence by the front office. I don’t think that we’ll uncover anything new in talking about his circumstances, so let’s just shelve that for now.

For those of us who get into the exploration of these proceedings, Medina’s selection comes as a little bit of a surprise. The right-hander from Venezuela is already twenty-two, but has only pitched a single season in the states, after four years kicking around the VSL. Medina isn’t lacking for a repertoire, as he has a low-90s fastball that touches higher, a plus curveball, and an assortment of other pitches that he can throw for strikes. In both the Northwest and the Midwest, he ran K-rates around ten and a half per nine and walks around three. I’m a little concerned that his ERA in Clinton might have been a deceptively low, but right now Medina does look like a guy who would get considered for the Rule 5, profiling as a back-end starter with enough patience and corresponding developments in his abilities. The M’s will figure to challenge him next season, as he runs the risk of burning through option years too soon otherwise.

Peguero is one player whom I’ll expect to generate a bit of discussion here. A small but vocal group will come forward saying that a left-handed power hitter is exactly what this team needs and that this alone would have made him enticing. My own perspective is that Peguero lacks value on defense or the basepaths, making him hard to stash, and outside of his incredible start to the season, he was pretty awful and didn’t show any improvements in his ability to hit southpaws. If you’re digging for positive news on him, I could point out, as Marc did, that he went from a 7.7% walk rate in his plate appearances to one of 10.1%, which helps his case to a certain degree. I still find hard to imagine that he’ll be much more than a platoon outfielder, but he’ll get three years to work with in the high minors if he doesn’t hit his way off before then.

What more can I say about Pineda at this point? I doubt much of anything. Those fearing his elbow problems from last season would be a precursor to the usual Mariners pitching woes ended up seeing him throw almost 140 innings this year. During which time he racked up 154 strikeouts, walked just thirty-four, and maintained a .227 average against. From a physical standpoint, he’s also got a lot going for him with the mid-to-high-90s fastball, command, and the kind of build that would suggest durability. The slider and change-up are still developing, but Pineda manages to combine athletic ability with a strong work ethic and it’s not unreasonable to expect him to make the needed adjustments in time. He has the potential to be a really special pitcher, and a true number two to follow Felix.

Where Pineda is close to a sure thing, Robles at present is not so much. An outfielder before turning pro, he’s only been pitching for five seasons, and it’s a credit to his abilities that he’s been able to make it all the way up to triple-A in that span. However, as one might anticipate from the history, his mechanics reflect how raw he is. On rare occasions, he’ll get it up there to 97 mph, sitting 92-5, and his curve and change-up have both shown signs of recent improvement, but his delivery is not without effort, he’s not a big guy, and the lack of command leaves him throwing a lot of pitches for each batter he faces. The lower end projections for him would put him as setup man who hands out some absolutely aggravating free passes, and he manages to stick around largely on which hand he’s throwing with and how hard he’s doing it. Optimists prefer to look at him as a mid-rotation guy with the potential for more, depending on his figuring out how to pitch. Your mileage will vary.

We round out the list with another recent Peoria Javelina, and a guy well-acquainted with the Arizona locales in Wilhelmsen. If you go to Google to figure out what he’s all about, you won’t likely be disappointed by what you find. Wilhelmsen is a comeback story, a live arm drafted by the Brewers way back when who smoked up his bonus money and dropped out of baseball for a while, only to come back to the game after years of bartending and wandering the world, setting fire to whatever league he’s landed in. Ignore the ERA for him in the AFL. Look instead at the fifteen strikeouts in twelve innings, the competent pitching from a guy who has never seen any competition higher than the Midwest League up until now. The Mariners will push him as hard as they’re able to in the coming year to see what he’s capable of. In relief, he offers a fastball in the mid-90s and a hard curveball, and could see the high minors next season on ability. In the rotation, the offerings are similar, but the timetable likely drawn out more. I look forward to the day when he has the chance to help the Mariners, but it’s hard to say right now when that might be or in what capacity.

Glancing over the list, you probably notice a few names we’ve mentioned that weren’t added. Some are reporting that Triunfel is not yet eligible, and if that’s from Jack directly, I’m happy to take them at their word. As he’s not a slick fielder by any stretch, it’s hard to imagine him being taken anyway. Other omissions include Lt. Nick Hill, who struggled with injuries this season and only pitched 42.2 innings in his second tour of double-A, and infielder Matt Lawson, who hit .286/.375/.349 with Peoria. Given Lawson’s strikeout tendencies (and the internal presence of Kazmar and Josh Wilson) and Hill’s somewhat minor injuries, I’m not all that surprised that they were excluded, but other inclusions are perhaps more surprising. In time, the Mariners will have to do even more maneuvering with the roster than they’ve already done to free up space, perhaps moving around some relievers on the trade market to keep developing the core group they’re after.


25 Responses to “Ten Added to the 40-Man”

  1. Carson on November 19th, 2010 10:58 pm

    Wow, great info there. I can’t believe I read the whole thing.

    Weren’t we at 29? So, are we now at 39? Been fun to try and keep track of.

  2. Jay Yencich on November 19th, 2010 11:32 pm

    Indeed. We’re in a Highlander scenario as far as roster construction goes now. I can only hope that things don’t get too messy.

  3. maqman on November 20th, 2010 2:09 am

    About what you would expect them to do in general. They kept the guys I like, Hill and Lawson are probably not going to be claimed anyway.

  4. wsm on November 20th, 2010 7:43 am

    Triunfel’s situation is intriguing. I’m sure Zdurnciek know’s his stuff, but Triunfel has the exact same career record as Halman did when Halman was added to the 40 man (1 year of Arizona instructs and 4 years of stateside service time). I think there may be an obscure provision somewhere that may allow the team not to count Triunfel’s lost 2009 season. I know htere’s one for gaining a 4th option year due to a season lost to injury.

    I expect Hill to get drafted. Carrying a lefty reliever is the easiest thing to do coming out of the Rule 5 draft. He was close to getting a call up in 2009 and could be intriguing to some team.

  5. braveplum on November 20th, 2010 7:49 am

    So the total count to date is 39? That allows one spot open for the Rule 5 Draft. What is the drafting order, is it the same as the June Draft?

  6. Duncan Idaho on November 20th, 2010 9:39 am

    I really have to disagree with the Peguero move. I put the chances of him being more than a platoon COF at about 5% and to me that is a guy who you shouldn’t worry about being taken, much less to stick with the aquiring team. And if it was done at the expense of Triunfel or Lawson I’ll be disappointed to the extreme.

  7. awestby51 on November 20th, 2010 10:10 am

    In my opinion, Lueke is a good season and an emotional press conference away from being an accepted and solid player for the M’s. Someone we look back on and think “Z almost got fired for getting that guy?”

  8. Westside guy on November 20th, 2010 11:09 am

    I’m about to display my ignorance here.

    What would happen if someone under contract – say Jack Wilson or Milton Bradley – wasn’t on the 40-man and got claimed? I assume the other team would then be obligated to pay his salary, right?

    I guess I’m wondering why teams don’t leave problem contracts off the 40-man roster for a good chunk of time during the off-season – it’d seem like a way to protect (at least for a short period of time) more prospects. I realize these guys have to be on the roster once the season starts.

    Or is there a limit to how many times a guy be cycled on and off of the 40-man roster?

  9. greentunic on November 20th, 2010 11:17 am

    In my opinion, Lueke is a good season and an emotional press conference away from being an accepted and solid player for the M’s. Someone we look back on and think “Z almost got fired for getting that guy?”

    I’m sorry, but that was just awesome to read. Haha, make it happen Leuke and JZ!

  10. Westside guy on November 20th, 2010 11:23 am

    Okay, nevermind, I see that if you have a contract with a team you are on the 40-man roster, period – no ifs, ands, or buts. The only ways to get a guy off the roster still obligate the originating team the cost of the contract.


  11. Big Leagues on November 20th, 2010 11:39 am

    I am biased but it is a shame LT Nick Hill did not get put on this year and may not continue with the Mariners if he is picked up in the Rule 5. His performance over the last two years was very deserving. He is a class guy and is the kind of competitor teams should be looking at and will be in the rule 5.

    2009 he had 100Ks in 95 innings against 24 BB 3.10 ERA and 3CG, opponents hit .232 off him, those numbers are sick over 9Ks per 9innings and 2BB per 9inn. He got a call up for the AAA playoffs and invite to spring training. After a knee injury last season he was moved to the bullpen and had a 2.43 ERA in the pen with 8K/9 3BB/9; lefties hit .239 against with a lefty ERA of 1.62 and he throws lots of GB. He pitched very well with team USA this fall. If anyone can handle moving up to big moments in the big leagues it’s Nick, not sure if that is true of some of these other young guys who throw hard but I guess the Mariners are going to find out.

  12. Gibbo on November 20th, 2010 12:25 pm

    Regarding Hill, if he is claimed and the claiming team does not keep him on the 25 mqan roster can another team take him or does he get offered back to the M’s first and can we then just send him to the minors? I thought he would come straight back to us, but then I remembered Kanekoa Texeira we claimed in the rule V last year but instead of going back to the Yankees he went to the Royals.

  13. GoldenGutz on November 20th, 2010 1:14 pm

    Peguero is the one I dont like. He had a huge April but was below average for most of the season. I guess if he does well in Tacoma he could audition to be the DH for 2012.

  14. rjjunior on November 20th, 2010 1:52 pm

    Will there be any posts regarding possible picks for the Rule 5 draft? i.e. Who’s unprotected that you’d consider keeping on the M’s 25-man roster all year?

  15. Duncan Idaho on November 20th, 2010 2:35 pm

    Reading some of Big Leagues’ take on Hill I am even more dissapointed by the Peguero selection. Hill seems like a guy who could actually stick in some teams bullpen whereas I have my doubts that Peguero would have remained in an organization that picked him in the AAA portion of the draft. I certainly see Peguero being overmatched in Tacoma this summer if the Mariners even send him there.

  16. tmac9311 on November 20th, 2010 2:56 pm

    Can we get a little clarification on the 40 man roster and prospects on it? We seem to need more than one man to fill out the roster next year, and I don’t think the intention is to fill it with these guys. I know you typically have to go through waivers to go from the 25 to the minors, does it work the same way with the 40 man? How many of these guys should we expect to make the 25 man roster?

    Thanks for the writeup though Jay, just awesome, it’s the stuff like this that makes me love USSM

  17. ThundaPC on November 20th, 2010 2:59 pm

    Good stuff!

    Speaking of AFL, I saw Josh Lueke strike out Bryce Harper in the championship game.


  18. Jay Yencich on November 20th, 2010 3:09 pm

    Players that are removed from the 40-man roster have to go through waivers just like everyone else. The new additions, if it’s their first time on (not Jimenez), have to stay on a full year or be released to take them off, I believe.

    I wouldn’t expect too many of these guys to come out on the 25-man. Lueke has the strongest chance of any of them. Jimenez could also make it as a bullpenner, depending on what happens. Pineda will probably be held back initially to keep the innings and service time down, but we’ll see how they choose to handle that.

    Also, as a point of clarification, I believe that Medina would get a fourth option year as things stand. And yeah, I’d probably take Hill over Peguero.

  19. John D. on November 20th, 2010 3:41 pm

    Alan Schwarz’s fifteen-year old explanation of the RULE 5 Draft (with some periodic “dusting-off”):

  20. Jay Yencich on November 20th, 2010 3:44 pm

    Sifting through the queue…

    So the total count to date is 39? That allows one spot open for the Rule 5 Draft. What is the drafting order, is it the same as the June Draft?

    Yes, that’s one spot open, but there’s no guarantee that it will be filled by a Rule 5 pick. Or that the roster will still be at 39 by the time the winter meetings go down. It’s the same order, so Pirates are first, then us.

    Will there be any posts regarding possible picks for the Rule 5 draft? i.e. Who’s unprotected that you’d consider keeping on the M’s 25-man roster all year?

    As we get closer to that deadline, probably. As I said, there’s no telling if the Mariners are going to want to try it this year, and I haven’t yet had time to go over the list of who’s available.

  21. smb on November 20th, 2010 5:18 pm

    If we manage to finagle Upton into an M’s uniform, I sure hope it doesn’t involve both Robles and Pineda…actually hopefully neither, if that’s even possible. I’m also looking forward to seeing Lueke throw in the majors, character flaws notwithstanding.

  22. Westside guy on November 20th, 2010 9:30 pm

    Thank you very much, Jay; and a big thank you to John D. for the link to the Rule 5 draft explanations. Simply knowing how it originally came to be makes understanding some of the “why”s a lot easier.

  23. AckAttack on November 21st, 2010 7:11 pm

    I saw Pegeuro in spring training and although he has many flaws (defense,hitting leftys) he has raw power to RF, and CF. That should be enough to get him on the forty-man and to keep him there. Watching him take BP he constantly hit balls 10 feet past the wall. On his baserunning i didn’t see enough to make a realistic judgement but hes not slow so i guess he just doesn’t make good decisions. I’m glad we wont lose him in the Rule 5 draft this year.

  24. B13a on November 21st, 2010 8:40 pm

    At this point, I couldn’t care less about Triunfel. He hasn’t done anything in the minors other than be younger than everyone else. His bat just sucks right now, and overall he’s a far cry from what he was expected to be a few years ago. Don’t know what the big deal is with him after what he’s shown, or rather, what he has failed to do.

    On a more positive note, I’m glad Lueke was added onto the 40-man. It’s not a sign that he’ll definitely play in the Majors for the Mariners, but this shows to me that the organization aren’t just going to “get rid” of him.

  25. Carson on November 22nd, 2010 11:46 am

    Rosenthal tweets that it’s the Mariners, not the Indians, on Upton’s no-trade list. Bummer.

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