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:
Generally, 23-year-olds who haven’t pitched above the Sally League aren’t the most enticing Rule 5 draft picks, and Gil’s arsenal of three fringy offerings doesn’t stand out as major-league ready. Still, the Venezuelan product has two attributes that are always in demand at the big-league level: left-handedness and the ability to produce groundballs. That might have been enough to push a club to roll the dice on Gil, so, while unexpected, his addition to the 40-man is certainly defensible.
It was not surprising to see Chris Johnson take a step back in 2014 after a career year the summer before. The dropoff was steeper than many expected, however, and as the third baseman enters his 30s the likelihood of a return to 2013 production seems unlikely. Waiting in the wings is Kubitza, who will begin the year in Triple-A with a chance to reach Atlanta should an opportunity arise. He doesn’t have prototypical third base power, but makes up for it with a professional approach and strong on-base skills. Honorable mention here goes to Jose Peraza, who saw his path to the majors open up some when Tommy La Stella was shipped to Chicago, but who has just 44 games of Double-A under his belt.
This summer was a struggle for Conley, including a bout of elbow tendonitis and loose stuff across the board. While some of the struggles can be tied to injury and a failure to regain his feel, the showings at Triple-A continue a trend that has seen the Washington State product become entirely too hittable in the high minors as a starter. He has a live lefty arm that scouts believe will transition well into a relief role, and a change that gives him an adequate secondary offering to disrupt timing. If the transition to the pen comes this year, he could provide quality lefty innings in short order..
The Mets’ top prospect is knocking on the door in Queens, and is all but guaranteed to log significant innings for the Amazins in 2015. He has all the makings of a true frontline starter, with his ultimate output dependent on whether he continues to refine his command across the board and improve his execution in sequencing. The big righty should get the call early.
It’s never been about talent for Morgan, but there have been health concerns, including a rotator cuff tear that cost him the entire 2014 season. He was hittable during his rehab in the Arizona Fall League, but as a lefty arm who was close to major-league ready prior to surgery, there was some risk that a team could pop him in the Rule 5 and take him for a test drive in the spring.
The Phillies are going to have plenty of innings available in their bullpen this season and the hard-throwing Ogando, who touched 98 in the AFL last month, should get a crack at his share. After a highly inconsistent summer with Double-A Reading, he ended on a nice note with 16 strong innings for Scottsdale this fall. He should enter the spring with a chance to push his way up the depth chart, and line himself up for a promotion to Philly before too long.
Other Roster Additions: Jesse Biddle
Cole might not be among the Nationals' top five starters when the season begins, but when they inevitably need to reach into the farm system for starters six through eight, Cole should be among the candidates. He currently ranks as the second-best prospect in the system after a strong 2014 split between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse, and he projects well to the middle of a major-league rotation.
The move to add Edwards to the 40-man was to be expected, as the tall, slender righty's profile is often sought (though seldom available) at Rule 5 time. Edwards has a quick arm, which generates a hard mid-90s fastball and a plus curve, but his slight build doesn’t inspire much faith that he’ll be able to handle a starter’s workload. Edwards also dealt with shoulder issues this year and was unable to build on an impressive 2013 campaign, though he showed well during his limited innings in Double-A and in the AFL. Even with durability questions, the fastball and the curve are more than enough for a reliever’s role, and the quality of the stuff gives him a chance to thrive in high-leverage situations out of the bullpen should he get the opportunity.
Other Roster Additions: None
The Cardinals traded Sam Gaviglio to the Mariners in exchange for Kelly, who profiles as a superutility player with a compact swing and a good eye at the plate. He can play all over the diamond except shortstop, and he puts together high-quality at-bats on the regular, bolstering his grinder reputation.
Other Roster Additions: Cody Stanley
Jameson Taillon’s Tommy John surgery precludes his getting the nod here, with Kingham’s solid 2014 spent between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis leaving the Nevada high school product ready to step in and contribute for the Bucs in 2015. Kingham currently ranks as the fifth-best prospect in the Pirates’ system, and he profiles as a solid no. 4 starter long term. He should be ready to tackle major-league lineups as soon as Pittsburgh has a need.
There are some command issues to smooth out for the diminutive 26-year-old righty, but he has a big fastball and an effective slider/cutter combo. The walks and spinning sliders are going to have to be reduced, but there’s a good chance he’s handling innings out of the Milwaukee pen in 2015. It might take some time before the Brew Crew is comfortable with him handling high-leverage situations, but the upside is there for a late-inning arm.
Other Roster Additions: None
Waldrop rode a career year to a 40-man roster spot, and it was probably a smart move considering a lefty bench bat with some pop is not a tough profile to hide on a big-league roster. While there was legitimate developmental progress made in 2014, he has some additional hurdles to clear in the minors. It’s purely a corner defensive profile, and most likely he lands either out in left or at first base—in either case leaving his bat as his carrying tool. He’s unlikely to be a significant contributor in 2015 but in light of his breakout year it’s definitely a name to keep an eye on.
Other Roster Additions: Amir Garrett
As noted above, lefties capable of producing groupballs are a decent find in the Rule 5 draft, so Locante’s protection isn’t wholly unexpected. Still, the idea of the 24-year-old making the jump straight to the bigs and sticking seems unlikely, even if he has shown solid growth over the past 12 months. While he fared well against right-handed batters, he was absolute death on lefties, and has done well to rein in his control.
Following a strong 2014 season, Drury made a solid impression at the plate during his AFL run, while working out at multiple infield positions. Drury is thick and muscular, standing 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, with soft hands and a strong arm from third base. His range there isn’t great, which doesn’t leave much hope for a long-term future at the keystone either. He makes his bones with the stick, showcasing a short swing that enables him to barrel the baseball and spray line drives all over the field in spite of average bat speed. There’s solid raw power in the barrel, but it’s still to be determined whether that raw will play at the highest level. If he proves incapable of sticking at second base the Diamondbacks will need to find a home for him, with Jake Lamb just settling in at third at the major-league level.
Built like a heavyweight at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Anderson has a fastball that packs featherweight punch, clocking in around 89-90. No single pitch pops from Anderson, but his impressive control and command allow each offering in a broad arsenal to play up. He can generate good plane thanks to his frame, and keeps hitters off balance with a changeup that ranks as the best of his secondaries. A cerebral pitcher, he could be a fourth starter at his peak, but the pairing of home environment and his specific profile is a tough one. He had no issues with Texas League competition, however, and will enter 2015 just a stone’s throw from Denver, and should don the purple and black at some point next summer..
Other Roster Additions: None
No longer the impact arm he was thought to be when he was drafted as a late first rounder and handed a $5.25 million bonus, Lee currently works with a four-pitch mix that features a low-90s fastball, a changeup, and a slider each grading out as average, along with a fringy curve that is primarily a change-of-pace offering. With a 150 innings in Triple-A under his belt, it’s likely that Lee could contribute as a spot starter in the coming season if the need arises, but it doesn’t appear the organization is ready to entrust him with a regular rotation spot just yet. It’s not a front-of-the-rotation profile in any event, but given the presence of Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu, it doesn’t have to be.
Lindsey’s carrying tool is his bat, and he has the potential to emerge as a plus hitter at the major-league level. He doesn’t do anything else particularly well, but he’s close to average in the other facets and does enough to let his bat play freely at second base. With Chase Headley no longer in the picture, Jedd Gyorko could slide over to third base, leaving Corey Spangenberg as the likely competition for depth chart supremacy. The realistic outcome here is a second-division second baseman who has the ability to square velocity and provide gap power. Not flashy, but a potentially useful piece.
All four of the Giants’ adds are reliever types, though Gregorio has an outside shot to stick as a starter despite mechanical inconsistencies. Law might be the best pure arm out of the collection but comes with the downside of being on the shelf until at least June thanks to Tommy John surgery. When healthy, he can pitch in the 94-98 mph range and complement with a hammer curveball. He generates solid downhill plane on the fastball and is capable of creating angles that are tough to square. The curveball has sharp downward break, and while he can get loose with his command, the quality of the pitch can still result in awkward swings. He’s got only the two offerings, but both are bat-missers. Provided he comes back fully healthy with stuff intact, it’s back-of-the-bullpen quality.