Late last week, teams faced a deadline to add minor leaguers—or, at least, those who meet minimum professional experience requirements—to the 40-man roster or risk losing them in the Rule 5 draft in San Diego next month. The deadline forces teams to make decisions on which players are most likely to be taken, and which would hurt the most to lose. Some of the most significant additions:
The big-framed righty had a poor season at Triple-A Norfolk, posting a 4.61 ERA with 159 hits allowed in 143 innings pitched. However, Wright improved during the latter half of the season and could see time in the Baltimore bullpen next year. The Orioles have used the “Norfolk Shuffle” quite often since Showalter and Duquette took the reigns, and Wright could provide the O's with another versatile arm to flip between Norfolk and Baltimore as needed.
Other Roster Additions: Tyler Wilson
Coyle saw expanded time in the AFL after putting together a solid year with Double-A Portland. Coyle's small stature has led to his being overlooked at times, but there is no mistaking the second baseman has surprising power thanks to some strength and leverage. It’s an average glove at second base due to limited range, placing more importance on the bat producing. Coyle is currently blocked at the major-league level by Dustin Pedroia, but the Sox obviously like the grinder mentality and hustle from the 22-year-old and wanted to be sure he wasn’t scooped up.
The Sox added the Venezuelan lefty Rodriguez at the trade deadline and almost immediately saw an uptick in his velocity and tightening of his command. He had a strong finish to his Eastern League campaign, placing him a stone’s throw from his big-league debut and making this an easy addition to the 40-man. He is likely to contribute at some point next season and a solid spring could find him stepping into the rotation sooner than later.
After Williams' disastrous year at Double-A Trenton, the former top prospect's shine has worn off, making this addition a bit of a shocker. While Williams has obvious value in the field, the bat has stalled in the upper minors and it’s tough to envision him as anything more than an occasional late-inning defensive substitution at the major-league level in 2015.
Austin might lack impact tools at present, but could see time with the Yankees at some point next season just the same. His short and compact stroke and solid pop could provide value to the big club off the bench or perhaps in a limited starting capacity, assuming continued growth and a solid first half. Additional reps at Triple-A should help gear him up for a potential second-half call-up.
Mikie Mahtook would have been a solid option here, but with a deep outfield in Tampa, Andriese might have more opportunity to provide value heading into the 2015 season. The righty pitched the entire 2014 season for Triple-A Durham, showing a four-pitch arsenal headlined by his 88-to-92 mph sinker. He has a chance to provide innings out of the rotation or serve as a sinkerballer out of the pen, depending on team need, and could likely do so immediately.
Tepera made 51 appearances for Triple-A Buffalo in 2014, showing an increase in velocity and movement on his fastball since he moved to the bullpen full-time. It’s likely a stretch to say he will have an impact, as the command is inconsistent and he lacks an effective weapon against lefty bats. But the lively fastball alone could be enough to handle same-side matchups, and, while Tepera is imprecise in the zone, he has enough control to limit free passes and force hitters to put the ball in play.
Other Roster Additions: None
Although it’s uncommon for players to jump directly from High-A to the bigs, there’s an argument that Merrit merits the 40-man spot after tossing 160 innings with a 2.52 ERA for High-A Carolina. He has seen a sharp step forward in the effectiveness of his change up. A starter right now, he lacks the consistency and pitch quality to perform in that role at the major-league level, but his fastball/changeup might be enough to get him through occasional relief appearances in The Show, and he has the durability to eat mop-up innings as the opportunity arises, making him a potential Rule 5 target that a team could hide.
The Cleveland infield is filling up quickly, but Urshela has the glove and arm to fill in at third base and provide defensive value in a reserve capacity. The bat has shown growth over the past few seasons, with Urshela showing better selectivity at the plate, leading to more regular hard contact and an improved on-base profile. Urshela was eligible and not protected last year, but would have been a likely Rule 5 target this winter, with a major-league-ready glove and a bat that's refined enough to give him a chance to stick in a big-league uniform all season.
Smith committed to baseball later than most, and as one would expect that has pushed his timeline to the majors back a bit. However, the 26-year-old proved more than capable in the Southern League, with a .290/.376/.437 batting line this year and a more mature approach than he has shown in the past. The tools do not necessarily match the stat line, as the swing is more muscled than fluid, which does not always correlate to success against advanced competition capable of sequencing and spotting pitches. The defensive skill set is currently shy of “major-league ready,” though the catch-and-throw game has progressed. This is a player who might have been able to slip through the cracks, as Smith is in all likelihood not ready to step into a back-up roll right now and teams are generally loathe to fill three 25-man roster spots with backstops.
Saladino is not a flashy player, but he has ability to play up the middle and provide value as a superutility type across the dirt and grass. The in-game power has vacillated as he progressed through the minors, but he has enough juice to keep pitchers honest and enjoyed a productive 2014 with Triple-A Charlotte prior to tearing his UCL in July and undergoing Tommy John surgery. The White Sox hope he will be back on the field by early 2015, and his versatility could make him a useful piece on the South Side, perhaps more if his offensive breakout this season indicates a true developmental step forward.
The power righty had a fine season, splitting time between High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. His fastball can sit in the mid-90s, and he can flash a changeup and slider that both work well off the heat. As with many power pitchers, the command can become erratic, but the Tigers’ pen is not exactly filled with sure options, and Nesbitt’s bat-missing ability should earn him consideration for any openings that arise, be it in the spring or later in the season..
Other Roster Additions: Dixon Machado
The slick-fielding shortstop has a plus glove and could provide a club with value as a utility player, but it is hard to envision a team taking a flyer on a bat that has stalled at Double-A for two years now. The swing is aggressive and hard, which has caused issues in consistency and led to soft contact and strikeouts. Calixte has value, but more as an internal option who can be shuttled up and down as needed rather than a player anchored to the 25-man roster for all or most of the season.
Other Roster Additions: Jorge Bonifacio
This was an easy addition, as Meyer spent the entire season at Triple-A Rochester and was listed as the 12th-best prospect on the midseason BP Top 50 list. Meyer should see time in the Twins' rotation next season, and could ride his impressive 2014 season right into 2015 as an impact arm upon arrival. Should he stumble in the rotation, the profile could play to elite levels in the back of the pen.
It wasn’t a surprise that Feliz was protected. In fact, it was a no-brainer. It was the way it went down that was strange, with the Astros announcing their roster additions without Feliz on the list only to add him at the 11th hour. J.J. Cooper broke down the timeline best.
Impact is a relative term, but Torreyes should be ready for a taste of major-league action after spending all of 2014 in Triple-A and showing a solid feel for contact. There’s limited offensive upside and Torreyes is mostly a second baseman with a reigning Silver Slugger populating the depth chart ahead of him, but he would have made a good target for another organization looking to roll the dice on a cheap bridge with solid regular upside.
Other Roster Additions: Vincent Velasquez
Reynolds doesn’t jump out as impact talent, but he shows a quality fastball and has already put together solid showings in the upper minors, making him a bullpen candidate for the 2015 season. Most likely he starts the year in Triple-A where he will continue to work on refining his command as he waits for an opening with the big club.
Other Roster Additions: Jett Bandy
Biggest Surprise: None
Potential Impact: None
Roster Additions: Renato Nunez.
He doesn’t have many standout tools, but with the ability to play either up-the-middle infield position and a ticket likely punched for Triple-A, he's depth who could find himself with major-league time should a need arise.
Guys who can handle shortstop defensively are always attractive to major-league teams, so it stands to reason Alberto would be protected out of an abundance of caution. He offers little with the bat, however, and with just 50 games in the upper minors on his resume a team would have been stretching the limits of their bench to have him active on the 25-man through the year
Everything fell apart for Jackson in Triple-A this season but he still misses plenty of bats and could see time with the Rangers next year, either in the rotation or the pen, where his control issues would be less significant in shorter outings. There is plenty of opportunity in Texas, and if Jackson can right the ship after his second-half struggles in 2014 it won’t be long before he's donning a Rangers uniform.
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