By Friday, Texas must make its final additions the 40-man roster in anticipation of December's Rule 5 draft. Nearly everyone who signed in 2012 or earlier is draft-eligible if unprotected, as well as almost everyone signed in 2013 who was 19 or older. A player drafted under Rule 5 must remain on the active roster an entire season before he can be optioned. If the drafting team forgoes that goal, it must first offer him back to the original team, after which it can attempt to run him through waivers.
The Rangers have three open spots on their roster. I believe they'll only need one this week. Here's who's in play:
1B Ronald Guzman -- Texas's #4 prospect per MLB.com, and an obvious selection for the 40. The Rangers promoted Guzman to AA Frisco in 2016 despite an uninspiring 2015 high-A campaign and exposure to last December's Rule 5 draft. Guzman rewarded his employers by rekindling his prospect status, batting .288 with 15 homers in 102 games. On the downside, Guzman struggled upon promotion to AAA (.216/.266/.330), homering in his first trip to the plate but not once thereafter in 94 subsequent appearances. He's a fringe candidate at best for Texas's open 1B job come Spring Training, but a strong showing in Round Rock will earn consideration later in the season, especially if Texas implements a stopgap solution that doesn't pan out.
OF Jairo Beras (11th on MLB.com's list) -- Beras's year-long suspension after signing in 2012 didn't delay his Rule 5 eligibility. Deep into July, Beras carried an unfortunate .239/.282/.429 in High Desert, the most favorable hitting environment in the minors. Thereafter, he batted .317/.364/.708 with ten homers in 32 games and added a league-best 14 hits during High Desert's championship postseason run. While the late heroics probably confirmed an invitation to Frisco next April, he remains an unlikely 40 addition. Beras is very much a work in progress and would likely find Major League pitching too daunting a challenge as a Rule 5 pick.
RHP Pedro Payano (19th per MLB.com) -- Payano's first full season outside the Dominican Summer League ended in early July on a line drive that broke his pitching arm. In low-A Hickory, Payano posted a 2.08 ERA in 73.2 innings and whiffed 27% of his opponents in 73.2 innings, very impressive for a starter. That said, Payano lacks a standout pitch like the changeup of Yohander Mendez, whom Texas did protect last fall despite no experience above low-A.
The Rangers added utility man Drew Robinson a few weeks ago because of his impending free agency.
Here's a partial list of who'll be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if unprotected, and brief notes on a handful: Draft Picks (Year/Round) (* = was also eligible in 2015)
OF Preston Beck (2012/5) * -- reached AAA late in 2016.
OF Royce Bolinger (2012/6) * -- missed entire season with injury.
C Pat Cantwell (2012/3) *
RHP Nick Gardewine (2013/7)
OF Joe Jackson (2013/5)
RHP David Ledbetter (2013/3) -- deserves an award for spending two full years in High Desert.
RHP Ryan Ledbetter (2013/19)
C David Lyon (2012/34) *
IF Evan Van Hoosier (2013/8) -- hurt, might have a shot as a utility guy.
RHP Collin Wiles (2012/1s)
RHP Cole Wiper (2013/10)
RHP Sam Wolff (2013/6) -- on track for 40-man (and more) entering 2015, derailed by injuries. International Free Agents and Other Undrafted Players (Year Signed)
OF Jairo Beras (2012)
OF Jose Cardona (2011) *
RHP Felix Carvallo (2011)
IF Ronald Guzman (2011) *
LHP Frank Lopez (2010) *
IF Luis Marte (2010) * -- great glove, career .266 OBP.
RHP Pedro Payano (2011) *
RHP Richelson Pena (2011) *
OF Eduard Pinto (2011)
IF Juremi Profar (2012) -- Played more 2B down the stretch and in every postseason game.
LHP Ryne Slack (2012) *
IF Alberto Triunfel (2010) *
RHP Kelvin Vasquez (2011) *
RHP Jose Valdespina (2011) * -- good fastball velocity but doesn't miss many bats. Additions, Subtractions
Texas re-signed Doug Bernier. Despite turning 36 last June, he still handles the middle infield capably and thwacked a career-high ten homers in Round Rock.
Former overall top-100 prospect Will Middlebrooks has signed. Middlebrooks cratered after a strong rookie campaign with the Red Sox in 2012 and is joining his fourth organization in five years. If he, Joey Gallo and Guzman are Round Rock teammates, Middlebrooks might have to move around the diamond more than he's accustomed to. He's played almost exclusive at 3B during his nine-year career. With Guzman entrenched at 1B, Gallo should spend most of his days at third unless the Rangers have other ideas.
Another new Ranger is RHP Allen Webster, hoping to bounce back after a decline more precipitous than Middlebrooks. Webster began 2014 as an overall top-100 prospect with a mid-90s fastball, but by the end of 2015 he'd been purchased for nothing but cash and then released so he could pitch in Korea. Webster has a 6.13 ERA in 120 MLB innings and didn't fare well overseas, but he's a virtually free reclamation project. He'll slide into Round Rock's rotation, I imagine.
After running out his contract with Texas, LHP Victor Payano signed with the Marlins. Payano had as live an arm as anyone in the Texas system, and in short bursts he looked like a top-ten prospect. In early May, Payano produced the best outing of his career, fanning 13 San Antonio Missions and walking none in 6.2 scoreless innings. Despite that, on the whole he never developed even marginally acceptable control. Monikers
Texas's new high-A club in Kinston, North Carolina, will be known as the Down East Wood Ducks. The Ducks haven't revealed their branding yet but have released their 2017 schedule (pdf
). I've reviewed it carefully three times and can say with reasonable confidence that it has 69 home games versus 71 on the road. We'll see how that plays out. Down East has a very unbalanced schedule loaded with division rivals Myrtle Beach (Cubs), Winston-Salem (White Sox), Carolina (Brewers), and the to-be-named Houston affiliate.
In other mascot news, Round Rock's division mates in New Orleans have switched from the Zephyrs to the Baby Cakes. AA Jacksonville changed its mascot from the bland Stars to the Jumbo Shrimp, and the AA Binghamton Mets, once destined for relocation to Wilmington, DE, will stay put as the rechristened Rumble Ponies.
I swear I'm not having you on about these name changes.
Newberg Report (newbergreport.com)