There was a flurry of baseball moves from every organization on Friday. The Diamondbacks are one of those organizations, so they made some moves, too. As is the case this time of year each and every season, the team had significant work to do to their 40-man roster, which we covered a short while back. There were players that needed to be protected before the Rule 5 draft next month. To do so, the team was going to have to punt a few players from the existing 40-man, and that work is now complete. So let’s take a gander at what transpired Friday.
Voted Off The Island
I don’t watch “Survivor” and I can’t even tell you if that show is still on TV. I know that people lived in the dirt, which is admirable, but often wore less clothing than is typically desired, which is subprime. And I know that if people didn’t like you, you got voted off the island. I’m not sure that’s the best way to describe the removal of several players from Arizona’s 40-man roster, but the outcome is similar, except they go to an entirely different island and not back home. So in hindsight, I should have picked a different title for this section but it’s too late and we’re stuck with it now. If you don’t like it, vote me off the island. It’s been warranted for some time now. Also, below are players that were claimed by other teams on Friday.
- Catcher Tuffy Gosewisch claimed off waivers by Atlanta Braves
- Pitcher Dominic Leone claimed off waivers by Toronto Blue Jays
- Pitcher Tyler Wagner claimed off waivers by Texas Rangers
- Pitcher Edwin Escobar claimed off waivers by Cleveland Indians
The D-backs lost these players to other organizations. When the D-backs removed them from their 40-man roster, they were exposed to waivers and teams pounced at the opportunity to pick up Arizona’s spare parts. The team may have hoped to pass these players through waivers and hold on to them, but that’s not how it shook out. Gosewisch is still a barely serviceable backup or backup to a backup. Leone had success in the majors at just 22, pitching 66.2 innings of 2.17 ERA ball while striking out more than a batter per nine with Seattle. He’s never found that form again and lost some velocity along the way. With Chris Herrmann healthy and Oscar Hernandez still learning how to hit, the team is precariously thin at catcher, but could call up Ronnie Freeman in a pinch if disaster really strikes. Both Gosewisch and Leone will hardly be missed, although we’re just now learning what a Tuffy Gosewisch really is.
Edwin Escobar and Tyler Wagner are slightly different stories. Let’s start with Escobar who was, frankly, pretty bad last year. Still, he won’t turn 25 until after Opening Day next year, so he’s youngish and maybe not a finished product. Escobar reached the majors back in 2014 at just 22-years old with the Red Sox, but logged just two relief innings. Back to the minors he went for all of 2015 and most of 2016 before getting 23.1 innings with the D-backs in 2016. His 5.94 FIP is surely better than his 7.23 ERA, but both numbers are quite poor. He walked too many and has a fly ball profile that resulted in four homers in limited action. Of note, Escobar does throw a four-seamer that sits at 93 and has good rise and some arm-side run. Unfortunately, his other offerings have proven pretty ineffective. He’s the perfect up/down guy, however, so there’s some value to be hoped for, especially if he can improve either his curveball (which lacks depth) or his changeup (which he almost never threw). He’s young enough that you can squint and see some hope for improvement.
Wagner showed promise last season in an injury-shortened role. Acquired as part of the trade that brought Jean Segura to the desert, he has heavy fastball that induces plenty of grounders. His cutter isn’t wildly effective, but his changeup has been a swing-and-miss offering and his slider is short on cutting action but has plenty of depth. There was a fifth starter’s profile there for the 25-year old, but he was perhaps most valuable in a swingman role, pitching multiple relief innings when needed or making spots starts in a pinch. That can be a valuable profile, but there’s also risk in betting on pitchers controlling batted balls. Wagner doesn’t strike many out and his success is built around the notion that he can keep the ball on the ground and/or generate weak fly balls on command. He missed a ton of time last year with a lat injury, and while he was expected to be healthy for Spring Training, he’ll now get his work in with the Rangers, another team with home run problems that’s willing to gamble on a ground ball pitcher. If there’s a loss that hurts, it’s likely to be Wagner.
The Diamondbacks removed two other players from the 40-man roster, both of which remain with the organization at this moment in time. First baseman/left fielder Kyle Jensen was designated for assignment, but hasn’t been claimed. The same can be said for right fielder Gabby Guerrero, who was added to the 40-man roster about this time last year, and after not progressing much in the minors, has now been removed. Both players could be claimed, but it hasn’t happened yet and that likely means it won’t. Jensen has big raw power but will turn 29 next May and has just 31 career MLB at-bats to his name, all coming last year in September with Arizona. Guerrero didn’t make this year’s Top Prospect List as he’s got a decent right field profile but hasn’t learned to make enough contact to tap into his raw power. He’s young, but it’s starting to look more and more like he just won’t hit enough to be an asset.
Join Us, Won’t You?
After Rickie Weeks, Jr. and Daniel Hudson elected free agency, the D-backs had two open slots on the 40-man roster. A third opened when Vicente Campos was claimed by the Angels. They claimed Jeremy Hazelbaker while activating David Peralta and Nick Ahmed from the 60-day DL, leaving the roster at 40. Six players were removed from the roster, as noted above, and there were six additions:
- Left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda
- Middle infielder Domingo Leyba
- Right-handed pitcher Jimmie Sherfy
- Third baseman Dawel Lugo
- Shortstop Jack Reinheimer
- Utility infielder Ildemaro Vargas
Banda is the biggest addition, as he’s blossomed nicely for the D-backs since coming over to the organization with Mitch Haniger for Gerardo Parra in a trade with the Brewers in 2014. He’s become the best prospect in the system and should see the majors at some point in 2017. Leyba and Lugo put together strong minor league campaigns in 2016, both reaching AA and hitting well against more advanced competition. Leyba is a bat-first player who should spray plenty of line drives but won’t hit for much power while playing second base. Lugo has a strong arm at third but is still learning the position. He will swing and miss some, but has plus power potential. These three are consensus top-10 prospects for Arizona, so it’s no wonder they were protected from the Rule 5 draft.
Sherfy has been up and down in his time in the minors. He cleaned up his delivery some to find more consistency and it paid off until he hit AAA Reno and everything went to hell. He’s close to MLB ready for a middle relief role and will get his share of strikeouts while trying to limit the walks, something he’s struggled with at times. Acquired from the Mariners with Welington Castillo and Guerrero for Mark Trumbo, Reinheimer is an unspectacular but solid defensive shortstop with a line drive swing who’ll get on base and looks primed for a career as a utility infielder in the Cliff Pennington mold. Vargas is notable for being the D-backs’ latest independent ball find. He’s also notable for having one of the lowest strikeout rates in all of the minors over the last few seasons, often walking more than he strikes out. It’s a line drive profile with limited power but a monstrous amount of contact. He’s without a permanent position, but can play all over the infield and will turn 26 next July.
A Fresh Wave of Reinforcements
If there’s a trend here, it lies in the ages of players added and subtracted. The organization subtracted older role players for younger players with some form of upside. That’s partly a function of protecting players from the Rule 5 draft and hardly some kind of “roster revolution.” This is par for the course, to a large degree. The average age of players removed from the roster is 26.7-years old. The average age of players added to the roster is just 23.5-years old. The roster just got a whole lot younger, and while that’s not necessarily a harbinger of the team’s direction, it is a notable outcome. I don’t think anyone will complain if Dawel Lugo gets Kyle Jensen’s at-bats in September, and it’s more useful to give them to a younger player anyways. While losing Tyler Wagner is a bit of a personal peeve, it’s hard to complain about the larger trend.
Rule 5 Still To Come
The D-backs aren’t necessarily out of the woods just yet, however. The Rule 5 draft takes place in early December and there are players that were left unprotected that could warrant a selection. As we discussed last week, players picked in the Rule 5 draft have to be kept on a team’s 25-man roster all season long or offered back to the original club. News broke recently that MLB is considering changing the 25-man roster to a 26-man roster in the next CBA as a way to appease the player union. That addition would provide more space for a rarely-used player to sit on the roster without costing his team much flexibility, incentivizing the Rule 5 draft for teams. If there’s some kind of agreement reached before the Rule 5 draft, expect teams to aggressively draft players. If a deal’s not reached by then, teams on the outside looking in for 2017 will still roll the dice and pick a few players.
Over at Baseball American, JJ Cooper previewed some players who may be easy targets in the Rule 5 draft and a few unprotected Diamondbacks made the list. Drew Muren is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever who’s touched triple digits since being signed out of independent ball and converted to a pitcher (he was previously a position player). A team could take a gamble on his velocity and give him a season in the major league bullpen, hoping to bring him along as a fireballer. Joel Payamps also made the list, and while he pitched last season as a starter, he could converted to the bullpen where he’d likely sit in the mid-to-upper 90’s with some functional secondaries. Daniel Gibson wasn’t listed but fits here, as well. A lefty who’s nearly big league ready, he’s been murderous at times in the minors, but struggled mightily with right-handed hitters in a stint at AAA Reno. With low to mid-90’s heat and a good slider, Gibson could fit into a bullpen as a reliever who primarily faces lefty hitters.
The Diamondbacks’ roster is currently full, but they could pluck a player, too, if they so choose. They’d have to clear space, but that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. I’d consider it a toss-up as to whether or not they make selection. On one hand, they’re a team that can use as much talent as they can get, and if there’s a guy out there who makes sense for them, such as a power bullpen arm, they may pounce at the opportunity (especially if rosters are officially expanded to 26 players). On the other hand, if they really want to try to make a run at the 2017 season, it’ll be harder to do so by clogging the roster with a player that they don’t expect to use frequently. That kind of tactic makes sense if you’re the Cincinnati Reds or Milwaukee Brewers, but if Arizona is serious about giving 2017 a chance, they may not wish to hamstring themselves with a player who’ll be used sparingly at best.
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