Players report next week for an abbreviated “spring” training, and regular season play for the 60 game season starts in a month. There’s real baseball that appears to be right around the corner.
And given that we basically haven’t talked about real baseball the last few months, I figure it is worth getting back up to speed on where things stand as far as the roster goes, and the guys we expect to see in action.
The 40 man roster currently is full, and has the following players on it:
There will also be 20 additional non-roster players a team can have as its “taxi squad,” which will work out with the team and be available to be called up if they are needed. A “taxi squad” player who is added to the active roster would also have to be added to the 40 man roster — you can’t have a full 40 man roster and then add a taxi squad player without clearing a 40 man spot first.
However, there is also a special COVID-19 injured list that is in place for this season. That list has no minimum or maximum duration, and a player who tests positive or is showing symptoms can be placed on the COVID-19 list. Players on the COVID-19 injured list do not count against the 40 man roster, so if, for example, you have 5 players who test positive and go on the COVID-19 list, you can immediately add 5 players to the 40 man roster without any additional moves being necessary.
The Rangers have two players on the 40 man roster who are considered “high risk” and have the ability to opt out of playing this season and still get paid their full salary — pitchers Kyle Gibson (ulcerative colitis) and Brett Martin (Type 1 diabetes). I am not aware of either of them having made a firm decision on whether they will be playing this season or not, but if they did not, it is my understanding they would not count against the 40 man roster.
In addition, a player who is not considered high risk can opt out of playing, and not get paid. In that situation, again, my understanding is that they would not count against the 40 man roster. I am not aware of any Rangers player who has made that decision.
Brock Burke will go to the 60 day injured list (which this year is the 45 day injured list), which will open up a roster spot. Joely Rodriguez could be on the 45 day injured list, depending on the state of his recovery from his lat injury, or could be on the 10 day injured list.
The Rangers have several non-roster players who are in contention for the Opening Day 30 man roster, and would need to clear roster spots for any of them who end up getting added. The two players who seem most on the bubble right now would be Yohander Mendez and Adolis Garcia, though the way spring training works, you usually see a few injuries crop up, and the 45 day injured list combined with the shortened season means you’ll likely see a couple of roster spots open up that way.
The 30 man roster to start the season, combined with the likelihood of no minor league season, means that we will likely see a few guys on the Opening Day roster in bench or bullpen roles who would normally start the season in the minors. Given the lack of quality defensive outfield options, I would expect Leody Taveras to be on the roster to start the season as a defensive replacement in center field and as a pinch runner. Joe Palumbo, Taylor Hearn, Jonathan Hernandez, and Kyle Cody could all be in the bullpen to start the year, though Palumbo would be vying with Kolby Allard for a rotation spot, should the Rangers have an injury to one of their five veteran starters, or should Kyle Gibson opt out of playing.
There are also some non-roster minor leaguers who haven’t been on the radar up to this point as potential 2020 major leaguers who could end up on the big league roster at some point. A.J. Alexy and Alex Speas are both Rule 5 eligible after the season, and could end up in the big league bullpen — I’d go so far as to say I’d be surprised if we didn’t see Speas in the majors this year. Joe Barlow was Rule 5 eligible last offseason, wasn’t selected, and will be Rule 5 eligible again this offseason, which means he will also be a candidate to be up. Eli White was also Rule 5 eligible last offseason, was having a nice spring training, and can play both infield and outfield, making him a candidate for a bench role.
The Rangers’ top two catching prospects, Sam Huff and David Garcia, are also Rule 5 eligible this offseason. If there are catcher injuries in September, you could see one or both of those guys come up to finish off the season for the Rangers.
And of course, we have the veteran non-roster invitees who were candidates to make the team this spring before the COVID-19/coronavirus led to the suspension of activities. Cody Allen, Taylor Guerrieri and Edinson Volquez were all in the mix for bullpen roles, Matt Duffy was vying for a bench role, and Greg Bird was fighting for the starting job at first base.
A lot can change over the next month as players start preparing for the season, but this should provide a pretty good snapshot of where we are in regards to guys who we might expect to see on the field for Texas this year.