Note: This is an update from an August article on the 40-man roster.
You will notice teams shuffling around players in minor trades in an attempt to get their 40-man rosters in order this week. To be protected from the Rule 5 draft in December, eligible players must be added to the 40-man roster by this Tuesday. Eligible players include college players drafted in 2015 or earlier and high school and international players signed in 2014 or earlier (although there are some clever loopholes that the Rays discovered).
The Royals currently have 37 players on their 40-man roster, which gives them the opportunity to add three players. Of course, they would probably like to leave one or two spots open for the Rule 5 draft to make a selection, as they found a gem like Brad Keller in last year’s draft. And this would be a good week to try and find gems in other organizations that can’t make the 40-man roster of a deeper club.
The most likely players to be dropped from the 40-man roster on the Royals include:
Jesse Hahn missed all of last year with a UCL sprain after the Royals acquired him from Oakland. He went through an experimental procedure that may cause him to miss the start of the season, although he has not undergone Tommy John surgery yet. Hahn has shown decent results in the past, but has made just 50 starts in five years due to injuries.
Andres Machado has shown good stuff in the past, but was destroyed in AAA and put up mediocre results in AA after being demoted. He’ll be 25 next April, and while there are some in the organization that like his stuff, he may be a casualty to the numbers game.
Bubba Starling missed most of last year with injury and has failed to develop the way the club has hoped. Some comments from former coach Jaime Quirk suggest Starling hadn’t applied himself as much as the team would have liked, and at age 26, the there isn’t much time for Starling to show upside.
Others that could get dropped include Scott Barlow, Brian Flynn, Rosell Herrera, and Ben Lively.
So who will the Royals need to add to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft?
Will almost certainly be added
Scott Blewett had an underwhelming season in AA with a 4.79 ERA and just 6.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. The 22-year old has never put up eye-popping numbers and his peripherals have declined each year, which could leave him off the roster. However he pitched very well in the Arizona Fall League, and with the team so thin on pitching, it seems likely they will protect him.
Foster Griffin had a similar season to Blewett with a 5.05 ERA, but is left-handed and the former first-round pick is probably still one of the club’s top pitching prospects, which should tell you something about the state of the farm system. He seems like a sure bet to be added to the 40-man roster, but the clock is ticking on the 23-year old.
Josh Staumont is the most obvious player to be added. The 24-year old still has his 100 mph fastball and has struck out 99 hitters in 73 innings so far, but he continues to have major control issues with 50 free passes issued this year. He was pretty inconsistent and was pretty much a reliever this year, but his 3.82 ERA in Omaha wasn’t terrible, and he’d be a very attractive Rule 5 pick if he was left unprotected.
The Royals have a decision to make
Bryan Brickhouse had Tommy John surgery and retired, only to discover yoga and stage a comeback. He now throws 100 mph and posted a 2.15 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 29 1⁄3 innings for Wilmington only to get pounded after being promoted to AA. The 26-year old might be an interesting reclamation project for someone, so the Royals may want to hang onto that big fastball and hope he can stay healthy.
D.J. Burt isn’t a top prospect and played in High A ball, which would make him a big stretch to get selected in the Rule 5 draft. However the 22-year old second baseman has some of the best plate discipline in the system, and can fly around the bases, which could make him an attractive bench piece for a team. Burt has little power and struggled offensively before hitting .295/.380/.383 this year in Wilmington.
Arnaldo Hernandez was way off the radar, but was promoted two levels up to Omaha this year, where he held his own. His peripherals are underwhelming, but his velocity has increased to the mid-90s, according to Clint Scoles at Baseball Prospectus Kansas City, which could account for the Royals promoting him despite lackluster numbers.
Frank Schwindel went unprotected last year, and was not selected in the Rule 5 draft despite a strong season in Omaha. The first baseman is a year older now, and while he put up good numbers in AAA, they were down from his 2017 stats. He improved his walk and strikeout numbers this year, but with Ryan O’Hearn playing well, it is not clear if the 26-year old Schwindel fits in the Royals’ future plans.
Probably won’t be added
Donnie Dewees held a lot of promise when he was acquired from the Cubs as a future leadoff hitter who could draw walks. After a decent season in AA Northwest Arkansas last year, he had trouble repeating his performance this year, and didn’t hit much better after being promoted to Omaha. Dewees will turn 25 in late September, and is looking more like a fourth outfielder, which wouldn’t require them to protect him in the Rule 5 draft.
Xavier Fernandez has shown a good bat for a catcher, batting .281/.325/.442 in 65 games, but the Royals already have Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria on the roster, and M.J. Melendez hitting well in the low-minors. Perhaps a trade can be worked out, as the Royals seem very deep in catching rightnow.
Jecksson Flores popped up on the radar this year with a strong season in Northwest Arkansas, batting .315/.362/.436. He has good speed and has been versatile enough to play all over the infield, even playing some outfield this year. He is 24-years old, so not young enough to have much upside, but another club may see him as a useful bench player.
Gerson Garabito is a groundball pitcher who had shoulder issues in 2017. He put up a 3.32 ERA in a full season this year, although in the pitcher-friendly stadium in Wilmington. The Royals will have to look at his high rate of 4.7 walks-per-nine innings and determine if the 22-year old right hander is worth shielding from other clubs.
Jake Kalish is a 27-year old lefty without a big fastball, but some teams may be interested in his outstanding control. In 116 2⁄3 innings across AA and AAA this year, he walked just 17 while striking out 112.
Yunior Marte went undrafted last year, but the 23-year old right-hander went out and had a strong season in AA, which could put him on some radars. Marte has some mid-90s velocity and has missed bats, it will be command that teams will question.
Rudy Martin could be the next Jarrod Dyson with his ability to draw walks and his blazing speed. However, he hit just .224/.341/.350 in Wilmington, a long way from the big leagues. A team would only take him expecting to use him as a pinch-runner, a luxury most teams can’t afford to make with their roster.
Others: Jonathan Dziedzic was a solid lefty starter for Omaha, but is 27 and went undrafted last year. Pedro Fernandez doesn’t have eye-popping stuff but the 24-year old right-hander seems to get results at every level, although with low upside. Sam Selman struck out 58 hitters in just 39 2⁄3 innings but had too many walks and is too inconsistent at age 27. Former promising players like Ricky Aracena, Marten Gasparini, and Chase Vallot haven’t done enough for teams to be interested in them.