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Khalil Lee among four players added to 40-man roster

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These players will be protected from the Rule 5 draft

Arizona Fall League - Mesa v Surprise Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Today was the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, and the Royals added outfielder Khalil Lee, catcher Sebastian Rivero, and left-handed pitchers Daniel Tillo and Angel Zerpa to the roster. To make room for them, the Royals designated pitchers Glenn Sparkman and Gabe Speier for assignment, and outrighted pitcher Chance Adams to Triple-A.

Lee is one of the top hitting prospects in the organization, hitting .264/.363/.372 with eight home runs in Double-A last year, and finishing second in all of the minors with 53 steals. The 22-year old has a good power/speed combo with a patient approach to the plate. The left-handed hitter was a third-round pick in 2016, and should be a candidate to be in the outfield mix this season.

Rivero is a solid defensive catcher who hit .212/.270/.278 in High-A Wilmington last year. Originally signed out of Venezuela in 2016, he gives the Royals four catchers on the 40-man roster, joining Salvador Perez, Cam Gallagher, and Meibrys Viloria.

Tillo had a 3.72 ERA in 130 2⁄3 innings last year, but found an increase in velocity once he pitched from the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, he had Tommy John surgery this year and will miss the entire 2021 season. That will make it easier to keep him, as the Royals can stash him on the 60-day Injured List and off the 40-man roster once spring training begins.

Zerpa is the biggest surprise, as he has yet to pitch above short-season rookie ball. Signed out of Venezuela in 2016, the 21-year old right-hander had a 3.40 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 14 walks in 55 23 innings in Burlington and Idaho Falls in 2019.

As for Sparkman, the Royals had some hopes he could find some more success in the bullpen, but he pitched just five innings, missing time with a forearm strain this year. he had a 5.99 ERA in 180 13 innings over parts of the last three seasons. Gabe Speier is a left-hander acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Jon Jay trade, who put up a 7.62 ERA in 13 innings over the last two seasons. The Royals acquired Chance Adams from the Yankees last year, but he gave up nine runs in 8 23 innings this year with the Royals, and MLB.com writer Jeffrey Flanagan reports he will need Tommy John surgery.

Among the players the Royals left unprotected include infielders Gabriel Cancel and Kevin Merrell, outfielders Seuly Matias and Brewer Hicklen, and pitchers JC Cloney, Jake Bretz, Grant Gavin, Yefri del Rosario, Evan Steele, and Stephen Woods, Jr.

Players are eligible to be selected in 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 or who were signed at 18 and have played for five years. The Rule 5 draft will be held December 10, and will have to be held remotely this year after the Winter Meetings were cancelled.