Royals’ Roster Decisions: Rule 5 Draft-Eligible Players
The deadline for teams to add minor league players to their 40 man rosters is Wednesday night, so the Royals will have some decisions to make. There are some prospects who must be added to the roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft in December. Any minor leaguer who signed their first professional contract at 19 years of age or older is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after 4 seasons. Players who signed at 18 or younger become eligible after their 5th professional season.
As Bob Dutton points out in his article here, there aren’t any major prospects the Royals need to be concerned with adding, but there are a few guys the organization would prefer not to lose in a draft. Of course, players are really only at risk of being drafted if they would have a chance of staying in the major leagues for all of 2014. The Royals’ roster currently is at 38, meaning there are 2 open spots to add players, although as I’ve been writing about lately, there are other players on the roster who could be waived to make room for others if needed.
Dutton mentions 6 names the Royals are probably discussing: Michael Mariot, Christian Colon, Cheslor Cuthbert, Brett Eibner, Lane Adams, and Brian Fletcher. I’ll review each player below, along with Buddy Baumann, who is also draft-eligible, and say whether or not I think the team should protect him.
Mariot spent all of his 2013 season in Omaha, where he was very impressive, striking out 66 batters in 60.2 innings pitched. He did walk 3.7 batters per 9 innings, but a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.64 is nothing to be ashamed of. Drafted out of the University of Nebraska in 2010, Mariot has a career ERA of 3.43 in 338.2 innings and has struck out 20.7% of the batters he’s faced. He does have a fairly large platoon split, allowing left-handed hitters to put up an .866 OPS in 2013 and .762 in 2012, while he held righties to OPS of .608 and .682, respectively. As a reliever who can miss bats, teams would have no problem storing Mariot on the roster for a season, so the Royals definitely must add him to the 40 man roster before Wednesday.
Credit to: Minda Haas
Colon, as we all know far too well, was drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft, shortly before names like Chris Sale and Matt Harvey were called. Since then, Colon has put up a respectable, yet uninspiring line of .274/.339/.374. He doesn’t walk all that often (BB% of 7.7), nor does he strikeout frequently (K% of 9.5), so Colon’s success at the plate will likely come down to him making solid contact consistently. Colon’s speed is much like the rest of his game: not great, but not terrible either. On defense, Colon seems destined to be more of a second baseman, although he can still play shortstop when necessary. He doesn’t have tremendous range, but Colon does have fairly quick hands and a strong arm. Depending on other second base acquisitions this winter, the Royals may see Colon as a player they could count on in the future – although the fact that they are looking for other second basemen does speak volumes. While I have my doubts about Colon being an above average major leaguer, I think the Royals do need to add him to the roster to give him a chance.
Cuthbert debuted in 2010 as a 17 year-old after signing as an international free agent out of Nicaragua. Despite not putting up stellar numbers (.685 OPS), Cuthbert has been ranked among the Royals’ top 15 prospects for the last few years. As a 20 year old in Wilmington (an extremely tough ballpark for hitters), Cuthbert put up a .772 OPS, which earned him a promotion to AA in June. After that point, however, the young third baseman struggled mightily, posting an OPS of .637 in 264 plate appearances with the Naturals. Cuthbert does have somewhat impressive plate discipline, at least for a player of his age, with a career walk percentage of 8.5%, so there is some potential there, although he still has a lot of work to do. There have also been questions about Cuthbert’s defense at the hot corner, and with his lack of speed and versatility, I don’t think a team would risk picking him up in December. The Royals can leave him off the roster for now and keep trying to develop his talent.
Eibner, like Colon, was drafted by the Royals in 2010. There were some questions about whether Eibner would be a pitcher or an outfielder, but the front office decided his future was as a hitter. And as a hitter in the Royals’ system, Eibner has done three things quite frequently. He’s walked a lot (BB% of 12), he’s struck out a lot (K% of 30.7), and he’s hit for a lot of power (ISO of .199). Obviously you don’t like to see prospects racking up that many strikeouts in the minor leagues, but Eibner has still been productive at the plate by getting on base and showing off his power. Eibner’s biggest problem in his career has been his health. Due to a broken hand, torn thumb ligament, and a jammed shoulder, Eibner hasn’t been able to get as many plate appearances as the Royals would have liked. Defensively, the former Arkansas Razorback has a terrific arm – as one would expect with a former college pitcher – and the athleticism to play in the outfield at an average or above average level. The shine of Eibner’s prospect star has dimmed, but he does still have some potential. At this time, though, it seems like Eibner needs more seasoning in the minors, so he should be safe if left off of the Royals’ roster.
Adams was drafted in the 13th round in 2009 out of Red Oak HS in Oklahoma. Since then, he’s posted an OPS of .736 in 1819 career
Credit to: Minda Haas
plate appearances. Adams has respectable plate discipline, walking in 9.4% of his plate appearances, although his 21.2% strikeout rate leaves something to be desired. From what I can tell, Adams’ biggest asset is his speed. He’s stolen 95 bases in 111 attempts, which is good for a success rate of 85.6%. For reference, Jarrod Dyson has a career stolen base success percentage of 86.6. On defense, Adams can play all 3 outfield positions fairly well. I don’t think it’s terribly likely, but I could see a team taking a chance on Adams in the Rule 5 Draft, hoping to use him as a pinch runner/defensive specialist. But because Adams’ ceiling probably isn’t all that high, I would risk leaving him off the roster at this time.
Fletcher has a line of .294/.349/.488 in 4 minor league seasons. He most recently split 2013 between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha, where he posted OPS of .894 and .722, respectively. The 25 year old outfielder doesn’t have much patience at the plate, with a walk rate of just 6% in his career, although he does provide a bit of power, holding an ISO of .194 in 1281 plate appearances. Fletcher mostly plays in left field, and from what I’ve read and seen, I would say he’s probably a below average or average defender at best. He doesn’t offer a ton of speed, and the only positional flexibility he has at this time is as a corner outfielder. I can’t see a team taking a chance with Fletcher in the Rule 5 Draft, so I don’t think the Royals need to add him to the roster.
Credit to: Minda Haas
Baumann is probably my favorite player on this list, which is why I was surprised Dutton didn’t mention him. He’s 5’10”, weighs 180 pounds (if he’s holding a large dog) and makes batters look absolutely silly. In his minor league career, Baumann has struck out 26% of the batters he’s faced, spanning 293.1 innings. His walk rate isn’t overly impressive (9.8%) but a player racking up strikeouts like Baumann can stand to issue a few more walks. The diminutive lefty has been even more dominant against left-handed hitters, holding them to an OPS of .540 in 2013, .654 in 2012, and .570 in 2011. Baumann is the exact type of player teams look for in the Rule 5 Draft. He can be used as a LOOGY all year without risking him being exposed against tough right-handed hitters. The Royals definitely should add Baumann before the Wednesday deadline.
So there you have it. I think the Royals need to add Mariot, Colon, and Baumann to their 40 man roster, if they can make it work. There are 2 available spots right now, and if the team were to waive Chris Getz, for example, that would create enough roster space for all 3 players. Dayton Moore may not add any players in order to leave space for free agent signings, but I do believe it would be best to make room for the above players who could have a future in Kansas City.