The Royals have some decisions to make today, as they have to have their 40-man roster stacked by 11 PM tonight. Any players that aren’t on the roster and have four or five years of minor league experience are subject to the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place in Dallas at the Winter Meetings next month.
As we all know, the Rule 5 Draft can yield some quality players for teams looking to take a chance. The most famous Royals case is our beloved closer Joakim Soria, who was taken from the San Diego Padres in the 2006 Draft. Soria had a 2.48 ERA in 69 innings in his first season with Kansas City, even garnering some Rookie of the Year votes. More recently, the Royals selected pitcher Nathan Adcock from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2010 Draft. Adcock gave the Royals some good relief appearances this season and ended the year with a 4.62 ERA in 60.1 innings, including three starts.
So, the question for the Royals becomes “Who are we willing to leave dangling?” It’s hard to watch players get taken in the Rule 5 Draft only to become solid or great major leaguers for another team. With two spots open on the 40-man, there’ll definitely be a few decisions to make as the day goes on.
You can go here to see the 40-man roster as it currently stands. I just want to run down some likely additions to the roster based on the minor-league system, players’ experience, and who might be closest to making an impact.
Mike Montgomery: Monty is an obvious choice for potential addition to the roster. He had a rough season in 2011, finding himself with a 5.32 ERA over 150.2 innings. The most troubling part is his inability to avoid walking batters, leaving him with 4.1 walks per nine innings on the season. If Montgomery can find his command/control/whatever you want to call it and settle in during Spring Training or early in the season, he could find his way to Kansas City. He’s been in the system for only three years, though, so he doesn’t need protection just yet.
Brandon Sisk: Sisk found his way to Omaha in 2011 after a slight blip while with Northwest Arkansas. Upon reaching Omaha, however, Sisk found himself with a 1.41 ERA in 32 innings over 25 appearances. With Omaha, he only allowed a hit every two innings, on average, but also hands out 4.5 walks per nine innings. Sisk will strike out a bunch of guys, but has always had a fairly high walk rate. Still, he may find himself in the young bullpen with any injury issues or if he beats out other players during Spring Training. He also has only three years of experience, so protection isn’t necessary. Even so, as Dutton’s article mentions, he could be a likely candidate.
Blaine Hardy: Also with three years of experience, Hardy has had a up-and-down couple of seasons. He pitched reasonably well in short time with Omaha in 2010, posting a 3.49 ERA in 67 innings. In 2011, however, that shot up to 7.14 in the first 29 innings before he was sent back to Northwest Arkansas. Hardy put it back together there and should get another shot with Omaha in 2012, but whether he cracks that barrier remains to be seen. Likely a middle relief-type of pitcher, Hardy has a shot at the roster, but probably wouldn’t reach Kansas City until the middle or late parts of the season, if in 2012 at all.
Rey Navarro: Navarro was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Carlos Rosa trade in 2010. He had a rough start that year, but settled in during the 2011 season and posted a .280/.335/.422 line while spending time at second base, shortstop, and third base. He seems destined for a utility role, but Navarro launched himself into consideration with his performance. With four years of experience, the Royals may need to think carefully about Navarro’s role with the team in coming years. I think either Navarro or Irving Falu (discussed below) could grab a spot, but probably only one of the two.
Paulo Orlando: Orlando has already accrued six years of experience, so he’s draft-eligible now (I think). He had a great year with Northwest Arkansas in 2010, but stumbled during his time with Omaha in 2011, posting a .235/.281/.326 line over 205 plate appearances. I don’t know as much about his specific problems when facing pitchers, but if the Royals’ development staff can help him pass that bar, Orlando could become a fourth outfielder, in my mind. With plenty of outfielders around right now, it doesn’t seem immediately crucial. Still, he’s worth keeping an eye on and may garner consideration between his AA performance and his six years of experience.
Eduardo Paulino: Though he spent the last two seasons with Northwest Arkansas and found himself with ERAs of 4.04 and 5.46 in those years, Paulino could find himself on the roster purely because he has five years of experience and will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Like others, Paulino walks way too many (6.4 per nine innings in 2011) and was exclusively a reliever in 2011, but, as Dutton mentions, he may be in consideration for a roster spot.
Irving Falu: Falu is another one of those guys that is likely a utility player moving forward. He has eight years of experience and has played with Omaha for the last three seasons, watching his performance generally improve over each year. In 2011, he hit to the tune of .301/.358/.390 over 437 plate appearances and played at second, third, short, and even outfield. While teams likely won’t be scrambling to draft a 28-year old career minor leaguer, he could find himself with another team after his solid 2011. We’ll see if the Royals hold on to him, but he seems a likely candidate with their apparent displeasure with Chris Getz and the absence of any other solid utility players at Omaha.
And there are always those that may lose a roster spot. I’m not going to go into depth, but just from a cursory glance, I think Sean O’Sullivan, Vin Mazzaro, Aaron Laffey, Jeff Bianchi, Mitch Maier, and Derrick Robinson could all stand a chance of losing their roster spot today. It’s not too likely, but it could happen, especially with Bianchi and Robinson. So, the Royals could end up with three or four spots open rather than their current two.