As the AFL wraps up Saturday and we head into the Winter Meetings and Rule 5 Draft, teams are getting ready to designate prospects to their 40-Man Rosters to protect them from being selected by other teams. Which leads to the inevitable question of which players will be protected, who will be let go of, and who will be exposed. With the acquisition today of Aaron Heilman, the team now has 35 spaces already filled, and a little juggling of the 40-man roster still may ensue.
OF Cole Gillespie (2006 Draft - 3rd round pick by Milwaukee out of Oregon State University - Ended 2009 with Reno)
OF Cyle Hankerd (2006 Draft - 3rd round pick by Arizona out of Southern California - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
RHP Hector Ambriz (2006 Draft - 5th round pick by Arizona out of UCLA - Ended 2009 with Reno)
RHP Daniel Stange (2006 Draft - 7th round pick by Arizona out of University of California - Riverside - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
RHP Chase Christianson (2006 Draft - 8th round pick by Arizona out of University of South Alabama - Ended 2009 with Visalia)
RHP Tony Barnette (2006 Draft - 10th round pick by Arizona out of ASU - Ended 2009 with Reno)
3B Andrew Fie (2006 Draft - 12th round pick by Arizona out of Trinity Christian Academy - Ended 2009 with Visalia)
RHP Reid Mahon (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2006 by Arizona - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
2B Yunesky Sanchez (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2006 by Arizona - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
RHP Matt Torra (2005 Draft - 1st round pick by Arizona out of UMass - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
OF Chris Rahl (2005 Draft - 5th round pick by Arizona out of William & Mary - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
RHP Cody Evans (2005 Draft - 10th round pick by Arizona out of Long Beach State - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
1B Bryan Byrne (2005 Draft - 12th round pick by Arizona out of St. Mary's - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
RHP Jason Urquidez (2005 Draft - 17th round pick by Arizona out of ASU - Ended 2009 with Reno)
RHP Abe Woody (2005 Draft - 31st round pick by Cincinnati out of Baylor - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
RHP Jorge Perez (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2005 by Arizona - Ended 2009 with Visalia)
C/UTIL James Skelton* (2004 Draft - 14th round pick by Detroit out of West Covina HS - Ended 2009 with Visalia)
RHP Roque Mercedes (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2004 by Milwaukee - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
LHP Jordan Norberto (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2004 by Arizona - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
RHP Matt Elliott (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2004 by Arizona - Ended 2009 with Visalia)
3B Ricardo Sosa (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2004 by Arizona - Ended 2009 with Mobile)
2B Manuel Ferrer (Undrafted Free Agent - Signed in 2002 by Arizona - Ended 2009 with Visalia)
* Ironically enough, Skelton was taken by the Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 Draft last season from Detroit. The teams eventually worked out a trade so that Skelton did not have to remain on the Diamondbacks' 40-Man Roster.
Next, to take a quick player-by-player look at the chances of each of these eligible players being selected by another team and subsequently kept on a major-league roster for a full season. Keep in mind that the chances of any player being taken in the Rule 5 Draft is very slim. Jamie D'Antona couldn't get taken in '07, and that says a lot. So a "moderate" rating on this scale may perhaps be a very slim chance. If you require a loose (enough emphasis cannot be placed on that word) scale, consider "Low" to be <1%, "Moderate" to be <5%, and "High" to be anywhere from 5-100%. Really, the Diamondbacks only have one player that they really need to be scared of losing:
Cole Gillespie: Absolutely exploded at the end of the season in Reno, and, to top things off with a mountain of whipped cream and a cherry the size of a grapefruit, he's put up even better numbers in the Arizona Fall League. Put up a .932 OPS (.418/.514 OBP/SLG) in Reno and a .933 OPS (.461/.472 OBP/SLG) in the AFL, a 31:27 K/BB ratio in Reno and a 6:17 (not a typo) K/BB ratio in the AFL, and in a combined 62 games (42 in Reno, 20 in the AFL). An absolute on-base machine with pop in his bat and speed on the basepaths (8:0 SB:CS in Reno, although just 2:3 SB:CS in the AFL), and is a guy who is just 25 and has some room for growth (unlike certain front-flipping deadweights currently slated for a backup outfield slot on the roster). If the Diamondbacks don't protect this kid, someone will want him, as he is major-league ready to be a solid backup outfielder. Risk to be claimed: Highest in system (>50%).
Cyle Hankerd: Put up a decent season in a repeat at Mobile, but didn't light the world on fire, putting up a .737 OPS. Has decent pop in his bat, and can draw some walks, but doesn't make contact enough to make either of those other assets extremely valueable. Certainly not major-league ready, and also has slipped from his former status as a top-prospect within the organization. But the buzz has been there before. Risk to be claimed: Low.
Hector Ambriz: Started off well in a few AA starts, but upon being promoted to Reno, did not fare as well. Granted, the PCL is difficult to pitch in, but 5.57 is too high of an ERA for someone in AAA to warrant a promotion, regardless of league. Risk to be claimed: Low.
Daniel Stange: Put up a fairly mediocre season in AA, with a high ERA of 4.88 and a high BAA of .318. Decent at limiting walks, but didn't get enough strikeouts. Risk to be claimed: None.
Chase Christianson: 6.44 ERA at Hi-A at 24-years-old. Any further questions? Risk to be claimed: Less than none.
Tony Barnette: Now, I've bashed Barnette before, but allow me to step back and look at him a bit closer. Yeah, he allowed WAY too many runs this year (107 to be exact, for a 5.79 ERA), but you have to do something right to lead the PCL in wins. And Barnette did plenty of things right, such as go deep into games and pitch the second-highest number of innings in the PCL. Consider Barnette the Livan Hernandez of the PCL. If he can improve upon this season's ERA while still maintaining the ability to devour innings next season, then he might be a candidate to get called up or nabbed in the Rule 5. However, as it stands now, the risk is only very slim. Risk to be claimed: Moderate.
Andrew Fie: Had a poor season at Visalia (.546 OPS). Risk to be claimed: None.
Reid Mahon: Put up decent numbers in Mobile, including a 3.41 ERA, but then fell apart upon being promoted to Reno. It's not completely out-of-question for a guy to get picked up based on AA numbers, but Mahon's just aren't good enough. Risk to be claimed: Low.
Yunesky Sanchez: Had the devil's OPS (.666) at Mobile. Risk to be claimed: None.
Matt Torra: Based on his 2008 numbers, Torra was a huge risk to be taken in last year's Rule 5 (which he was eligible for), when he put up a 2.85 ERA in 13 AA starts and a 4.71 ERA in 13 AAA starts (and 1 AAA relief appearance) and we decided to protect guys like Leyson Septimo and Kyler Newby instead. But while nobody felt he was quite ready for the majors, he was definitely ready to take Reno by storm, right? Oops. I've gone through this rant before, but having Torra repeat Mobile was pointless, and he put up another good season there, with a 3.75 ERA. While discussing our prospect series, Zephon made a legitimate inquiry - why didn't we call up Torra when we needed pitching this year? Augenstein had the numbers in AA, but Torra was perhaps more major-league-ready than Augenstein. After another season of development on that 2008 season, perhaps another team could think Torra's a guy worth taking a look at for a bullpen spot and spot-starter role. He is a former first-round pick and has the stuff to make it in the majors, to go with good command. If we don't protect this guy (again), we could very well lose him. Risk to be claimed: High.
Chris Rahl: Had a decent season at Mobile, posting a .740 OPS, but those numbers aren't good enough for consideration for a major-league roster spot. Risk to be claimed: Low.
Cody Evans: Can't strike out batters (54 in 136.2 IP) and had a poor ERA of 5.40 in Mobile this season. Risk to be claimed: None.
Bryan Byrne: An on-base machine at Mobile, but couldn't hit to save his life in a short stint at Reno, despite the PCL being a place where hitters go to be overrated, and eventually was re-demoted to the Southern League. Also is going to be 26 years old next season. Risk to be claimed: Low.
Jason Urquidez: Had a decent season at Reno, and is a guy who hypothetically could be called up at some point next season to provide emergency relief, but since Urquidez is not already on the 40-Man Roster and Jose Marte is, Marte would likely have the leg-up on a promotion despite Urquidez having a nearly identical season in 2009. However, Urquidez isn't an extraordinary prospect that warrants a team going out and spending the fee to select him. Risk to be claimed: Moderate.
Abe Woody: Aside from his porn star-ish name (sorry, I had to), Woody has no real appeal to major league teams. He was at an advanced level, but put up a 7.67 ERA in Reno. Risk to be claimed: None.
Jorge Perez: Had a decent season... at Hi-A. Not going to be taken. Risk to be claimed: None.
James Skelton: Well, he definitely had a season that was worth him being picked up in 2008, but arrived in the D-Backs' system and immediately regressed. Despite tearing through AA for his Detroit-affiliate in the Florida State League, the Southern League proved so tough for Skelton that he was demoted to Visalia, where he posted a mediocre .708 OPS. He has the on-base skills and pop, but, like with Cyle Hankerd, not the contact. also, his position is a bit of a dilemma, as he doesn't really have one. Risk to be claimed: None.
Roque Mercedes: Perhaps the oddest thing about the Felipe Lopez trade was that both of the players we got back from the Brewers, while solid prospects, are Rule 5 eligible this season. Mercedes put up a decent stint in his 15 games at Mobile, but that's probably too limited of experience outside of A-ball for a team to consider him for a major-league bullpen spot. Could be picked next summer if he had a decent season at Mobile and/or Reno next season and isn't protected. Risk to be claimed: Moderate.
Jordan Norberto: Was light-out for Visalia, but the light went out when he was promoted to Mobile. ERA spiked from 1.61 to 7.99 with the jump in level. Is having a decent stint in the Dominican League, but that's more of a confidence-boost for next season's start at Mobile than any reason for a team to take him in the Rule 5. Risk to be claimed: None.
Matt Elliott: Old and just had an average season, but at Visalia at age 25. Risk to be claimed: None.
Ricardo Sosa: Has legitimate power, but doesn't make enough contact and doesn't get on-base enough. Will be headed for Mobile or Reno, not the majors. Risk to be claimed: Low.
Manuel Ferrer: The position player answer to Chase Christianson. Had an OPS of .368. At Visalia. At 24-years-old. That's strike three. Risk to be claimed: Less than none.
So, by my count, this means that two players, Gillespie and Torra, really need to (and in Torra's case, deserve to based on last year's sham of an assignment) be added to the 40-Man Roster to prevent them from being taken, with Mercedes and Barnette being the next-most-likely prospects to be selected from the team. Thankfully, the team has plenty of room on the roster for these guys, as their only major hole left after the Heilman trade is now a fourth starter from free-agency. Urquidez likely would not be put on the roster for a few reasons. First, he's not a special commodity, as he isn't a high-upside arm (like Mercedes), but rather a AAAA-ceiling reliever (think Jailen Peguero). Also, if the team isn't going to release any of the players currently on the roster between now and the Rule 5 Draft (is Kyler Newby really staying for another year?), adding all of the four previously mentioned players (which isn't necessary) and Urquidez would completely fill up the roster and prevent the D-Backs from having the flexibility to add unprotected players from other teams' systems, which is always nice flexibility to have, especially when the risk attached is so small. Obviously, there is still room for deals to be made that will likely shake up the roster, but I have a feeling that many of them will either happen after the Rule 5 Draft, or perhaps involve the trading of major-league players, i.e. Chris Snyder, for a player at a position of need, which would have no affect on the number of roster spaces available.