40-man rosters always go through a shakeup once the offseason begins. For the Twins, this year should bring significant roster turnover, as the organization looks to rebound from a disappointing season.
A number of current Twins are either free agents at the end of the season, candidates for retirement, or likely to be DFA’d. Replacing them on the 40-man will be incoming free agents, and current minor leaguers who need to be added to the roster to protect them from selection in the Rule-5 draft.
There are several notable Twins minor leaguers who are Rule 5-eligible, meaning if they’re not placed on the 40-man prior to December’s draft, any team can select them. If a player is selected in the Rule 5 Draft, they need to stay on that team’s 25-man roster for the entirety of the season. Nick Burdi and Luke Bard were plucked from the Twins in last year’s draft. Burdi just made his MLB debut for the Pirates after returning from Tommy John surgery, while Bard pitched the first month of the season for the Angels before being returned to the Twins organization.
A number of variables factor into who teams do and do not protect. While top prospects like Nick Gordon are all but certain to be protected, for fringe candidates it’s a more complicated decision.
First, the team needs to have an available 40-man spot to add the player. Second, the team needs to weigh the likelihood that the player will be selected if left unprotected. Third, they need to determine whether the player will make a meaningful contribution in the big leagues at some point in the future.
The good news for this year’s crop of Rule-5 eligible prospects is there should be ample 40-man availability. The Twins 40-man is currently full, with four players (Logan Morrison, Jason Castro, Michael Pineda, Adalberto Mejia) on the 60-day DL, meaning they don’t occupy one of the 40 spots but would need to once they come off the DL. Among those four, Castro and Pineda are locks to be added, while Morrison will very likely walk in free agency. Mejia is borderline, but the guess here is he’ll remain in the organization, so we’ll assume that’s the case for now.
In this scenario, three 40-man spots will need to open up for Castro, Mejia, and Pineda. That shouldn’t be difficult. Here’s a quick glance at current 40-man players who are very likely to be subtracted from the roster in the offseason.
Matt Belisle (free agent)
Ervin Santana (free agent)
Gregorio Petit (DFA)
Johnny Field (DFA)
Chris Gimenez (free agent)
After that, there’s a slew of borderline cases. All of the following could survive the winter on the 40-man (and many certainly will), but could also get DFA’d or retire. I’m including Logan Forsythe on this list, even though he’s a free agent, because there’s a possibility the Twins could resign him.
Chase De Jong
Logan Forsythe (free agent)
Joe Mauer (retirement)
Everyone else on the 40-man is probably safe, barring a trade. Long story (not very) short, there will be plenty of roster spots available for whomever the Twins want to protect.
So, which eligible players are candidates to be protected from the Rule 5 draft? I’m glad you asked.
Gordon is the only player who’s an absolute lock to be added. Although he had a down year offensively (.248/.298/.355) and there are question marks about his defense, he’s still a top 100 prospect who reached Triple-A in his age-22 season. The Twins have a lot invested in the former first-round pick, and most project him to be a solid big leaguer. His struggles in Triple-A suggest he could spend most of next year there, but the guess here is he debuts sometime in 2019.
Wade had a good, but not great, 2018. Between Double-A and Triple-A, he hit .257/.360/.380. Like Gordon, Wade hit very well in Chattanooga, but struggled a bit once he got to Rochester. The on-base percentage is still high, though, as it has been throughout his career. Even in Triple-A, the OBP was nearly 100 points higher than his batting average, suggesting his plate discipline remained strong and he may have gotten some BABIP bad luck. Jake Cave’s strong season likely puts him ahead of Wade on the depth chart heading into next season. Wade is still a top 20 organizational prospect, though, with enough upside to suggest he could be Robbie Grossman with better defense. It’s not a certainty the Twins protect him, but he’s done enough that I think another team would likely take him, and this front office probably values his skillset too much to let him walk.
Arraez’s strong season in Fort Myers and Chattanooga (.310/.361/.397) makes it more likely the organization’s No. 15 prospect will secure a place on the 40-man. Arraez can play three infield positions, and has hit for a high average throughout his minor league career. Still just 21, there’s enough upside in the bat to project him as a future utility infielder in the big leagues. Arraez will likely never hit for much power, but the defensive flexibility, extremely low strikeout rates, and high average all provide value. It’s not a lock, but I think he’ll get added.
The Brainerd native had an outstanding year in Triple-A this season. Although the ERA (3.30) was just okay, the strikeout rate was huge (36.2%) and the walk rate was fairly low (7.8%). I was among the many surprised the Twins didn’t give him a September audition. The video game numbers he’s put up throughout his minor league career, and the enormous strikeout rate, earned him a look in the majors, in my view. The front office thought otherwise. I suppose it’s possible they could still add him, but not calling him up in September suggests it’s unlikely. Anderson said he was confident he’d get selected in the Rule 5 if it came to that. The strikeout rate might be too intriguing for a team not to give him a shot.
Reed had a good 2017 (2.05 ERA, 20.7% strikeout rate, 9.1% walk rate) in Triple-A, but wasn’t protected by the Twins despite being Rule 5 eligible. He wasn’t selected, and stayed with the organization. This season, the numbers were very similar (1.89 ERA, 25.9% strikeout rate, 10.9% walk rate). The Twins didn’t call him up in September, which makes it difficult to imagine he’ll be protected in the Rule 5 this season. Right or wrong, the front office doesn’t seem to believe he’s worth a 40-man spot.
Unfortunately, injuries have plagued most of Jay’s minor league career, and although he stayed healthy this season, the velocity was down and so were the numbers. In 59.2 IP, Jay had a 4.22 ERA and modest 18.4% strikeout rate. It’s too bad, because the former first round pick projected as a potential late-inning reliever coming out of college, with a plus fastball and slider. He likely won’t be protected, but it’s doubtful he’ll be selected either, meaning he should return to the organization in 2019.
Others: Brian Navarreto (C), Zander Wiel (1B/LF)