Texas Rangers 40 man roster issues: The Rule 5 draft, which takes place at the end of the winter meetings each offseason, gives teams a chance to pluck minor leaguers who meet certain service time criteria, and who aren't on the 40 man roster, away from their current clubs. One of the nice problems to have when you have a solid, and deep, farm system is that there are sometimes tough decisions to make in regards to determining who you have room for on the 40 man roster, and who you have to risk exposing to the Rule 5 draft.
We still have a couple of months of the minor league season to go, but I thought it would be useful to take a look at the minor leaguers who are candidates to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason, as these are guys to keep an eye on the rest of the way, as well as possible late-season call-ups (since, if you're going to add a player to the 40 man roster anyway in the offseason, you may as well add him in August or September and give him a taste of major league ball).
I'm using Scott Lucas's Rule 5 table in identifying players who are Rule 5 eligible, and I'd encourage you to check it out to see everyone who could potentially be exposed.
Players Who Will Definitely Be Added to the 40 Man Roster
Jorge Alfaro, Luke Jackson, Ryan Rua
These three players are the easy ones -- barring some sort of catastrophe, they will be added to the 40 man roster this offseason, and I expect to see Jackson and Rua in a Ranger uniform before the season is out, whether it is in August or in September. I wouldn't be surprised if Alfaro got a call-up in September as well -- not because he's ready, but so that he can spend time in a major league club, be around Robinson Chirinos and Chris Gimenez, and learn more about what he needs to do to hone his craft.
Jackson and Rua are guys who are viewed as potential major league contributors in 2015, and someone would almost certainly snatch them up if they were exposed -- the major leaguer who represents Rua's best-case comp, in fact, is Dan Uggla, who was a Rule 5 pick of the Marlins. Alfaro isn't major league ready, but he's the type of talent who, if he were exposed, a team would grab and stash as their backup catcher.
The Righthanded Pitchers
Jerad Eickhoff, Phil Klein, Jason Knapp, Connor Sadzeck
Four very different situations here, but these are all righthanded pitchers who, right now, aren't locks to be added, but who you'd think the team would have to think about adding.
Jerad Eickhoff was a Juco guy grabbed in 2011 in the 15th round, who has slowly and steadily climbed up the farm system ranks. His numbers in Frisco this year aren't great, but they are respectable, and he's put up solid K and walk rates. He turns 24 in two days, so he's not real young, and he's not a high-ceiling guy, more of a "back-end starter if he pans out" type. Still, he's someone a team could grab to take a look at in camp, and possibly keep around in a bullpen role.
Phil Klein is a huge (6'7", 260 lb.) righthander who doesn't throw exceptionally hard (he's generally in the low 90s), but whose size and delivery gives him a lot of deception. He was a 30th round pick out of Youngstown State in 2011, and has put up terrific numbers at every level since 2012 -- 1.90 ERA in low-A, 1.50 ERA in high-A, and 1.86 ERA in AA. He's struggled with command issues -- he's walked 4.9 batters per 9 IP in his career -- but he recently earned a promotion to AAA, and he's the type of potential immediate-impact relief arm teams will often target in the Rule 5 draft. Of the four pitchers listed in this group, he seems like the most likely to be protected.
Jason Knapp is an unusual situation, a former 2nd round pick of the Phillies and Baseball America top 100 prospect who didn't pitch from 2011-13 because of injury issues. The Rangers signed him to a minor league deal and have been cautious with him, limiting him to 28.1 innings at Myrtle Beach. I put him on this list only because he will be a minor league free agent after the season, and if the Rangers see enough progress from him the rest of the way, they may want to put him on the 40 man to keep another team from signing him in the offseason.
Connor Sadzeck is likely out until the middle of next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this spring. However, he is a nice pitching prospect who could end up being a major league starter of the LAIE variety, and a team could grab him, stash him on the 60 day d.l., and call him up when rosters expand in September. He'd still have to stay on a team's roster in 2016 for a month or so to meet the Rule 5 requirements, but it would be a way for a team to snag him and get a close look at him while he rehabs.
The Lefthanded Pitchers
Chad Bell, Alex Claudio, Will Lamb, Jimmy Reyes
This is a collection of pitchers who likely profile as bullpen arms, and we all know how much teams love those lefty relievers.
Chad Bell probably would already be on the 40 man roster if he hadn't undergone Tommy John surgery early in 2013. Another Juco guy, drafted in the 14th round of the 2009 draft, Bell has been working his way back this year from T-J surgery, throwing 41 innings in 10 games. His numbers this year aren't great, but again, it is a rehab year, and he's someone a team could snag to take a look at in the spring and see if he would be a fit as a relief arm.
Alex Claudio is theoretically a lefthanded reliever, although the Rangers have had him start three games this season, including a few days ago in his season debut at Frisco. Claudio has a devastating changeup that is considered one of the best in the system, and while the Rangers seem unsure about what to do with him -- he pitched in Hickory and Frisco in 2013, then got sent back down to high-A Myrtle Beach to start the 2014 season, putting up a 1.09 ERA in 49.1 innings before returning to Frisco this past week -- he seems the most likely pitcher on this list to end up being protected, given that he looks like someone who has the ability to come in and immediately contribute in a major league bullpen in 2015.
Will Lamb was the Rangers' 2nd round pick in 2011 out of Clemson, a guy who both pitched and played the outfield, but who converted just to pitching as a professional. His progress has been slow, but he's seemed to make strides this year, being recently promoted to Frisco from Myrtle Beach. He throws in the low- to mid-90s, and like Claudio, fits the profile of "potentially useful lefthanded relief arm," though he's probably not as advanced as Claudio. He's the type of arm teams target in the Rule 5 draft, though whether he's done enough to warrant serious consideration by another team, I don't know...
Jimmy Reyes is a 25 year old lefty who has worked exclusively in relief since being draft in the 7th round of the 2010 draft. Reyes has had a rough season in 2014, putting up a 5.72 ERA while walking over 4 batters per 9 IP, but he had a 2.69 ERA in Frisco the year before. I don't expect the Rangers would protect him, but it wouldn't shock me if someone took a flyer on him in the Rule 5 draft.
Kellin Deglan, Tomas Telis
Deglan was one of the Rangers' two true first round draft picks in the 2010 draft. He split time between Hickory and Myrtle Beach last season, and is back at Hickory now, waiting for Jorge Alfaro to be promoted while posting a .250/.315/.472 line. I think the chances of him being protected, or selected in the Rule 5 draft, are remote, but he has a reputation for being a quality defensive catcher, so I guess its possible someone could take a flyer on him and potentially stash him as a rarely-used backup for 2015.
Telis is a 23 year old who has had a breakout year of sorts at AA Frisco, putting up a .303/.336/.412 line in 244 plate appearances this season. Like Knapp, Telis is someone who would be a candidate to be added to the 40 man primarily because he's a minor league free agent after the season, and the Rangers might want to add him to the 40 man roster as catching depth rather than risk losing him.
The Enigmatic Infielders
Hanser Alberto, Odubel Herrera, Drew Robinson
I would think that none of these guys are likely to be selected, and are even less likely to be protected. Alberto is having a nice, but not great, season in high-A, Herrera has been solid splitting the year between high-A and AA, and Robinson is having an awful season in AA.
But teams like to look for versatile players who can contribute off the bench as potential Rule 5 picks, and these are guys who could play several positions while giving depth off the bench. I think they're unlikely to be picked, but it wouldn't be shocking if someone grabbed one of them with the idea of taking a look at them in camp and seeing if they might be able to keep them around as a 25th man.