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State of the 40 Man — End of Year Edition

Take a look at the state of the Rangers 40 man roster at the end of the 2021 season

Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers
Steele Walker, who the Rangers have to make a decision about this offseason
Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Early in the season we did a post on the various minor leaguers in the Texas Rangers’ farm system that will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason. We did another post at the All Star Break looking at the 40 man roster situation and the Rule 5 eligible guys who would be under consideration to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason.

The season is now over, and there have been various changes to the 40 man and to who is in the organization. With the year having wrapped up,

Here are the players who are Rule 5 eligible who I think would get at least some consideration to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason.

Ezequiel Duran

Ricky Vanasco

Bubba Thompson

Cole Ragans

Jake Latz

Ryan Dorow

Steele Walker

Ronny Henriquez*

I have Ronny Henriquez with an asterisk because, while he was signed in July, 2017, I think he may have been signed to a 2018 contract, which would mean he wouldn’t be R5 eligible until next offseason. I still don’t have a definitive answer on this, but if Henriquez is R5 eligible, he will be protected.

Second baseman Ezequiel Duran came over to Texas in the Joey Gallo trade. He was generally considered to be one of the best two prospects the Rangers got in the deal (I think the consensus has Duran ahead of Josh Smith, the shortstop who was the other headline player, but opinions vary), and I don’t think there’s any chance the Rangers expose him.

As for the other six, there’s not anyone I can sit here right now and say is a slam dunk to be added. Ricky Vanasco is someone who I’m pretty sure will be added, particularly given he’s throwing again after Tommy John surgery and has apparently touched 99 mph. He will be in the Instructional League, and if he looks fine, I’m thinking he will be protected, rather than being left exposed in the hope his time missed due to TJS will result in teams passing on him.

Bubba Thompson, the 23 year old center fielder who was the team’s first round pick in 2017, slashed .275/.325/.483 with 25 steals in 33 attempts in the Texas League in 2021. There’s still major concerns about his contact issues and whether he’ll hit righthanded pitchers, but he’s the type of guy who could hang around as a defensive replacement/pinch runner in the Carlos Tocci mold as a Rule 5 pick, and so I think he’s likely protected.

Jake Latz and Cole Ragans are a pair of lefthanded pitchers who have injury issues and haven’t torn it up at the upper levels, but who I think the team would be worried about losing if they are unprotected. Ragans, the 2016 first rounder who has returned from two Tommy John surgeries, was a great story this year, appearing in the Futures Game on the strength of a 3.25 ERA over 44.1 IP at high-A Hickory. He found the going rougher at AA, with a 5.70 ERA in 36.1 IP, and he also appeared like he may have run out of gas at the end og the year — which is understandable, given he hadn’t pitched in real game action since 2017. He’s one of those guys who you can justify exposing, even though it would be a gut punch if you lost him and he performed well for someone else.

Latz, 25, has a history of arm issues, but had a breakout 2019 campaign that saw him put up a 1.62 ERA between low-A and high-A. He was at the Alternate Training Site in 2020 and was Rule 5 eligible last offseason, but wasn’t selected. Latz split the year between AA and AAA, while also making his major league debut when the Rangers’ COVID-19 outbreak necessitated several callups. Since Latz was being brought up due to a COVID-19 outbreak, his 40 man roster status wasn’t impacted. Like Ragans, he’s kind of a bubble guy, and is someone I think the team would like to protect, but may end up exposing due to the 40 man crunch.

Steele Walker and Ryan Dorow are high-floor, low-ceiling types who I suspect will be exposed, but who could be protected. Walker, a second round pick who came over from the Chicago White Sox in the Nomar Mazara trade, is a lefthanded hitting bat-first corner outfielder who slashed .241/.308/.400 between AA and AAA this year — not enough to warrant protecting him, I don’t think, but its possible. Dorow is a versatile infielder who also split the year between AA and AAA, didn’t hit, and I don’t think is getting protected, but there’s a slight possibility.

There’s also a few relief arms we could see added — Daniel Robert, Cole Uvila and Hever Bueno come to mind — but I think we are primarily looking at guys from the above group.

My guess is that the Rangers protect four guys — Duran, Vanasco, either Thompson or Walker (likely Thompson), and either Latz or Ragans. If Henriquez is in fact R5 eligible he’d be protected as well, and if he’s not, maybe they protect either Latz or Ragans or one of the relief arms. So let’s just say five 40 man roster spots will be needed to protect Rule 5 eligible players.

The Rangers will also add players to the 40 man roster through signing free agents or trading for players who are already on the major league roster. I would guess five spots would be needed for those players, though if a player or two on the 40 man roster gets shipped out in a deal for a player on the 40 man roster, that would obviously alleviate that situation.

Currently there are 48 players on the 40 man roster or on the 60 day injured list. The Rangers will need to get down to 40 players (or less) on the 40 man roster after the World Series, and then there will need to be another eight to ten spots opened up over the course of the offseason.

So, how do the Rangers do that?

Free Agents

Here’s the easiest category — players on the 40 man roster whose contracts are up and who are eligible for free agency after the 2021 season.

Jordan Lyles

Spencer Patton*

Charlie Culberson

Brock Holt

Patton has an asterisk, as I believe that, like most players signing with an MLB team after playing professionally overseas, his contract provides that he will become a free agent at the end of the year rather than being subject to team control. Assuming that’s the case, that takes care of four of the eight spots that will need to be opened up after the World Series.

Injured Arbitration Eligible Players

Matt Bush was activated and pitched in the season finale so he’s technically not injured, but he and Hunter Wood are guys who missed most of the year with elbow injuries, and who the Rangers will waive, release, and potentially look to re-sign.

Ronald Guzman missed most of the season with a torn knee ligament. He’s arbitration eligible, out of options, and didn’t really seem to have a path to playing time even before he got injured. I suspect he’ll be part of the group waived after the World Series.

Mike Foltynewicz

Mike Foltynewicz is arbitration-eligible for the final time this offseason. If the Rangers wanted to, they could keep him around for another year. However, Foltynewicz put up a 5.44 ERA and a 6.02 FIP, allowed 35 home runs (behind only teammate Jordan Lyles in the A.L.) in 139 innings, missed a chunk of time because of COVID-19, and made a lot of unhappy faces on the mound.

The Rangers need players to soak up innings next season. I don’t think Mike Foltynewicz will be one of them. He is, I’m guessing, hitting the waiver wire once the World Series is over.

Okay, so that gets us eight players off the 40 man, which means that we would be at 40. As discussed above, however, there’s probably another eight to ten spots that will need to be cleared out, several of them before the deadline for adding Rule 5 eligible players in late November, the rest when players from outside the organization are added to the 40 man roster.

So who else is a candidate to be dropped?

Fringy Position Players

Yohel Pozo

Yonny Hernandez

Anderson Tejeda

Jason Martin

DJ Peters

Eli White

Several different types of guys here. Pozo and Martin were minor league free agents last year, performed well in the minors, got a look in the majors over the course of the season, and then ended the season in the minors. Both have options remaining, neither looks like anything more than a depth guy going forward. The Rangers could look to run Pozo through waivers and outright him at some point this winter, though he may get claimed by a team that wants to try to do the same trick with him later in the winter. Martin, I suspect, will be waived — likely as part of the group put on the waiver wire after the World Series — and he will become a free agent. There’s probably interest in both being back next year, just not on a major league deal.

Yonny Hernandez is a versatile UIF type who can play quality defense at all the infield positions and who has a good eye at the plate. In the minors most of his offensive value came from drawing walks, as he didn’t hit for much average and he hit for zero power. Called up to the majors, due likely in part because he’s eligible for minor league free agency this offseason if he’s not on the 40 man roster, Yonny didn’t hit — he slashed .217/.315/.252 in 166 plate appearances. He’s someone I think the Rangers will keep around if there’s room for him, but who is potentially expendable.

Anderson Tejeda had a nightmare season, going from making his major league debut in 2020 to drowning in both AA and AAA in 2021. He’s going to be on his final option next year, and while he can pick it defensively at the infield positions, his contact issues are so bad that he may end up being a 40 man casualty, with the Rangers taking their chances he goes unclaimed and gets outrighted this winter, giving them a year to see him perform in the minors while not on option to see if he’s worth adding back to the 40 at the end of next year.

DJ Peters and Eli White are both in the “potential backup outfielder” category, and, like Yonny, are guys that I think the Rangers would like to hang onto if possible, but who could end up being 40 man casualties. Peters was acquired from the Dodgers this summer on a waiver claim, hit the ball a long ways, played some exciting defensive in the outfield, and didn’t get on base. Peters slashed .198/.218/.426 in 206 plate appearances for the Rangers, with 4 walks against 68 Ks. That’s awful. There’s stuff to like with Peters, but as with Tejeda, his contact issues may make him expendable.

White started the year as a co-starter in center field with Leody Taveras after his second strong spring training in a row. White didn’t hit, got sent to the minors, hit in AAA, came back up, hit for a little while, stopped hitting again, then missed the final couple of months due to a bad elbow that necessitated surgery. The Rangers like his versatility and seem to believe in the bat, and with options remaining, he’s the type of guy who could stick around both because they seem him as a possible future role player and because he can provide depth at a number of positions. I think the Rangers will hang onto him, but I’ve been wrong before.

Injured Young Pitchers

Brock Burke, Kyle Cody and Joe Palumbo were part of the wave of young pitchers hitting the majors a couple of years ago who have seen their careers get de-railed by injury. Cody and Palumbo missed virtually all of 2021, and Cody will be out until at least the middle of 2022. The two of them have barely pitched the last few years, and I think they are guys the Rangers could look at non-tendering in December with an eye towards re-signing them, if the team doesn’t just put them on waivers.

Burke is someone I expected all season to be a 40 man casualty, but who has probably salvaged his spot with a strong second half of the season. Coming off of shoulder surgery, Burke was awful in AAA in the early going, allowing 19 runs in 12.2 IP in his first five outings. He settled down somewhat after that but still wasn’t particularly good, and at the end of June he had a 9.21 ERA in 28.1 IP. Every time the Rangers needed a 40 man roster spot I wondered if a DFA was coming.

But Burke turned it around. He put up a 4.43 ERA in 22.1 IP in July, a 4.50 ERA in14 IP in August, and a 1.38 ERA in 13 IP in September. From July until the end of the year he struck out 60 batters in 49.1 IP against 15 walks, with a 3.65 ERA. At this point, I’ll be surprised if he isn’t still on the 40 man come spring training.

Miscellaneous Young Veterans

Drew Anderson, Jharel Cotton, Josh Sborz and Dennis Santana all have been around for a while, have been with other major league teams, and all ended up pitching in the majors this season for the Rangers. Anderson showed a little something this year, but he seems like a likely DFA due to the numbers game. Cotton was a former top prospect who had injuries impact him, but who signed with the Rangers as a minor league free agent and showed some promise, though he’s out of options, which limits the Rangers’ flexibility with him. Josh Sborz and Dennis Santana are righthanded relievers the Rangers picked up from the Dodgers who throw hard and seem like borderline major league relievers. I wouldn’t be surprised if all four guys in this group are dropped by February.