The Royals added catcher Meibrys Viloria, and pitcher Tim Hill and Eric Stout to the 40-man roster today, protecting them from next month’s Rule 5 draft. Today was the deadline to add players. Players are eligible for the Rule 5 draft if they are not on the 40-man roster and were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, or were signed at 18 and have played for five years.
Eric Stout seemed a likely option to be protected, as he was a valuable lefty reliever for AAA Omaha. The 24-year old Butler University product had a 2.99 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 69 1⁄3 innings and lefties hit just .193/.264/.301 against him. He also fared well in the 2016 Arizona Fall League, and it was a bit surprising he wasn’t included in September callups this year.
Viloria is a bit of a surprise, as he was a catcher in Low-A, typically not the profile of a player selected in the Rule 5 draft. He had a fantastic 2016 seasons, hitting .376/.436/.606 in 58 games for Rookie Ball Idaho Falls. However he slumped last year with Lexington, hitting .259/.313/.394 with 8 home runs in 101 games. The Colombian-born catcher is just 20 years old, and he is a lefty, so perhaps the Royals were worried some team would stash him away as a backup catcher and hope his bat comes around.
Tim Hill is the real head-scratcher here. He was a 27-year old lefty in AA ball last year. In his second season with the Naturals, he had a 4.17 ERA, although he did strikeout 75 hitters in 69 innings. Perhaps he has the velocity to still have some upside, but players his age aren’t the kind of players typically protected.
Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel, both slugging first basemen in the upper minors, were not protected. Although they both have great power potential, first basemen are not typically selected in the Rule 5 draft.
Pitchers Yender Caramo and Yunior Marte are a bit surprising as unprotected picks. Yunior Marte seems to profile as the typical Rule 5 pick. The 22-year old reached AA and can hit 97 on the gun with a decent changeup. Caramo impressed Royals staff in spring training with the big league club, although he had a disappointing season with a 5.04 ERA. He is already 26 and doesn’t strike out hitters, instead relying on a 46% ground ball rate.
Other notable players left unprotected that are eligible for the Rule 5 draft include infielder Corey Toups, outfielder Elier Hernandez, and pitchers Jonathan Dziedzic, Pedro Fernandez, Gerson Garabito, Sam Selman, and Jose Veras.
The moves leave the Royals with 38 players on the 40-man roster.