The Rangers must declare their additions to the 40-man roster by 7pm CDT Tuesday. They have six open spots at present plus a few players who arguably could be removed if need be. On the other hand, they need (lots of) starting pitching and perhaps a backup infielder, so they must keep spots ready for players who’ll help immediately.
Who’s eligible for the Rule 5 draft if not on the 40? Everyone signed during the 2014 season or earlier, and anyone signed during the 2015 season who was 19 or older. Also, pretty much every minor league free agent signed between the end of the season and the draft is eligible (for example, catcher Jett Bandy, who joined Texas recently). In general, a team must keep a Rule 5 pick on its 25-man roster for a full season or place him on waivers. If he clears, he is then offered back to the original club.
Click the “Rule 5” tab here
for my list of eligible players, which are in the second column. This is my list, not the team’s, so I can’t claim it’s definitive, but I’m confident that everyone worthy of consideration is labeled properly.
This is a weird year. More than any in recent memory, I don’t even have a strong feel for how many players Texas will protect, much less than actual names. Back in 2016, I offered a very abbreviated list because it seemed clear that Ronald Guzman would be the only addition. Last year, the Rangers added six, but none was that difficult to project. In this year’s group, which is light on top-tier talent but deep in potential MLB contributors, I can see anywhere from two to five additions. Heck, maybe six. Even with a maximalist approach, somebody omitted is going to be of interest to an opponent, if not ultimately selected.
My thoughts: LHP Taylor Hearn
(#6 prospect per MLB.com and Fangraphs.com) – Book it. OF Pedro Gonzalez
(#17 MLB / #7 Fangraphs) – Doubtful, despite the high rankings. In March, I wrote
about several players entering watershed seasons including Gonzalez. My fear was that he’d be a tweener like Yohander Mendez in 2015: too green for MLB but showing enough potential to force his addition. Gonzalez didn’t show enough, and I’d guess even the most optimistic of opposing teams can’t envision him sticking on a 25-man roster throughout 2019. OF Scott Heineman
(#22 MLB) – A likely addition, if not assured. He turns 26 next month, handled AAA well and could help a team in an auxiliary role. So-so power limits his upside, and he can play center but will never feature there. RHP Edgar Arredondo
(#30 MLB) – Under consideration, but I think enough organizations already have an Arredondo-like player that he’ll slide through. His strikeout rate plummeted upon promotion to AA. RHP Mike Matuella
(#20 Fangraphs) – Whew… I can argue both sides. The stuff is first-rate, unquestionably MLB-caliber. In March he looked like the pitcher Texas dreamed about. Come April, his control and command disappeared for long stretches, and in a year in which the results mattered, he posted an 8.24 ERA. A mid-season switch to multi-inning relief produced only a slight upgrade in results, and he missed the season’s tail end. He’s not ready, but I think he’s the type who could become ready in short order. If he’s added, he’s the last guy added. RHP Wei-Chieh Huang
(#34 Fangraphs) – I assumed Huang was a lock when acquired, but I have mixed feelings now. Biased feelings, perhaps: aside from his dazzling Frisco debut, he never looked good when I happened to be watching. Losing him would leave 19-year-old lefty Joshua Javier, who hasn’t pitched above rookie level, as the sole return for Jake Diekman. That would sting a little. LHP Wes Benjamin
– Not a top-thirty prospect but has some appeal, and he’ll enter 2019 as an SP depth option. I don’t sense much danger of him being swiped right now, however, and I think Texas can wait. RHP Emerson Martinez
– Bubble. Martinez repeated high-A as a 23-year-old and didn’t earn a second-half promotion like the younger Arredondo, but he owns three respectable pitches plus a developing curve. As with other SP prospects lacking one superior pitch to drool over, he won’t stand out in the draft. RHP Reed Garrett
– I’d think hard about it. Garrett throws a steady upper 90s with an upper 80s slider. Ignore that catastrophic first month and you’ve got a 1.23 ERA, .207/.263/.293 opposing line and 28% strikeout rate. (Here's
Garrett recording the final out of Round Rock's last home game as a Texas affiliate, complete with a foul ball that missed my camera by two feet.) LHP Brady Feigl
– Lefty, big curve, not overpowering but roughly as successful as Garrett and without the opening-month misery. Given the choice (and under the availability constraints, keeping both is unlikely), I’d choose Garrett, but Feigl could very well aid a Major League team during 2019. LHP Adam Choplick
– He entered 2018 with a decent shot at being added to the 40, but the Texas League was tough on him, and he didn’t pitch after mid-July. Not this time. RHP John Fasola
– Ugh. A relief prospect on the rise in 2016, Fasola lost the next year to elbow surgery and tore his ACL backing up a throw to the plate last July. RHP Jake Lemoine
– Injured when drafted, Lemoine spent the first two of his four professional years on the shelf. He has a respectable repertoire and quietly tendered a nice season in Down East. I see too many pitchers in front of him. RHP Jairo Beras
– Still a Ranger! Beras didn’t earn service time during his year on suspension, so he can’t become a free agent until after 2019. His upper-90s velocity will draw some interest, but I doubt even the tankiest of tanking teams will be able to abide his wildness. C/IF Josh Morgan
– As with Isiah Kiner-Falefa, one night management shoved a bunch of cumbersome protective gear into Morgan’s locker with a note saying “it would be so hot if you wore this.” In his second year behind the plate, he reached AA but missed two months with injuries, didn’t hit all that well and struggled to throw out runners. Despite increased emphasis on positional flexibility, I think feel-good stories like IKF’s will be infrequent. Catching is tough enough on its own, even more daunting when combined with other duties. Give Morgan another year. C Melvin Novoa
– Novoa began 2018 in Hickory’s crowded backstop rotation. He hit well enough to earn a rapid promotion to Down East but struggled mightily (.184/.215/.265). Not yet. C Yohel Pozo
– Novoa revisited. Pozo hit better (albeit entirely in low-A) but isn’t ready. 2B/3B Andy Ibanez
– The Cuban took two big steps forward in 2018, hitting capably at a higher level while becoming proficient at third base. That said, what he does well is also done well by a decent number of minor league free agents who lack the onerous roster requirements. MIF Yonny Hernandez
– Hernandez plays the middle infield, has a keen batting eye and can run, but he’s far from ready to attack MLB pitching. IF Michael De Leon
– De Leon improved marginally at the plate in 2018, but not enough to suggest he’d stick in MLB. RHP Edinson Volquez
– Forgot about him? Texas bet on the come, signing Volquez to a two-year deal the previous winter in the midst of his TJ rehab. He’ll be over 18 months away from the knife next spring and should join the rotation barring a really poor performance or further complications. Do the Rangers need to add him now? That would be the low-risk move, and presumably (hopefully) they would be adding him in late March anyway. Elsewhere
AAA Nashville and RARE Design (known for its NBA work) announced a rebranding
. They’re still the Sounds, and they opted for a clean, traditional look in stark contrast to the increasingly flamboyant creations of Brandiose, which has unveiled the Amarillo Sod Poodles, Rocket City Trash Pandas, and Rocky Mountain Vibes in recent months.
Texas re-signed RHP Richelson Pena, who was eligible for minor league free agency. He’ll don those new Nashville unis in April. Also rejoining the Rangers are righty Walker Weickel a former San Diego 1st-rounder who reached AA last year, IF/OF Eliezer Alvarez, and IF Christian Lopes.
Rightly Demarcus Evans posted a 6.30 ERA in the Arizona Fall League and allowed a homer on a poorly located bender in the Fall Stars game, but on the whole he acquitted himself well for someone who'd never pitched above low-A. Evans whiffed 15 of 45 batters. Down East awaits.