A look back at 2021
Just like we did last year we took a look at all rosters from AAA to A (Reno Aces, Amarillo Sod Poodles, Hillsboro Hops and Visalia Rawhide) and calculate who are Rule 5 eligible this off-season. Before we get into that, in a second article, in this first article we take a look back at the decisions made last year and what we had expected or wanted and how everything turned out to be.
As we know, due to the CBA issues there was no Rule 5 draft in 2021, but the D-Backs had to make some movements leaving some players protected and others unprotected. Those unprotected could have been picked by other teams.
In case you don’t really remember when or how a player is Rule 5 eligible, just click on the link above to last year’s article to get some information.
Let’s see who we thought and/or wanted the Diamondbacks to add to the 40-man roster and what really happened.
C/UTIL Cooper Hummel
We said: Hummel is an OBP machine that can play 5 different positions. Due to his ability to switch hit, could be a 26th player on the roster if the team needs depth. We would have added him to the 40-man roster and we expected the D-Backs to do so as well.
You voted: 84% of people who voted agreed on adding Hummel to the roster.
Diamondbacks decided: Hummel was added to the 40-man roster.
What happened in 2022: Cooper Hummel was up and down between Arizona and Reno, but added flexibility to the roster and had 176 ABs, good for a 66 OPS+.
Evaluation: We all agreed on this one and it was a good decision.
C Jose Herrera
We said: Herrera’s bat has been slow to develop since the team signed him 7 years ago out of Venezuela but performed well in AA the first half of the year. Herrera doesn’t offer a lot with the stick but could provide some value as a backup long term. We would have added him to the 40-man roster and we expected the D-Backs to do so as well.
You voted: 43% of people who voted would have added Herrera to the roster.
Diamondbacks decided: Herrera was left unprotected.
What happened in 2022: Herrera started the season as a back-up catcher but eventually lost his spot due to an unsustainable .250 OBP and he ended the season in Reno where he is likely to stay.
Evaluation: It is quite probable that due to his numbers in Reno in 2021, Herrera would have been picked in the MLB Rule 5 draft of that year. It is also very likely that a team would have carried him all season as a back-up catcher. However, due to his underwhelming batting skills, the Diamondbacks would not have lost a big piece in him in the Rule 5 draft and now face a difficult decision in maintaining him on the 40-man roster or not. In this case the Diamondbacks’ decision of not protecting him was very understandable and probably correct.
RHP Keegan Curtis
We said: Curtis has solid stuff and could contribute to the bullpen as early as Opening Day depending on how his Fall League run goes. We would have added him to the 40-man roster and we expected the D-Backs to do so as well.
You voted: 76% of people who voted would have added Curtis to the roster.
Diamondbacks decided: Curtis was left unprotected.
What happened in 2022: Keegan Curtis started the season in AA in Amarillo, but after 14 very wild appearances leading to a 8.44 ERA and a 1.56 SO/BB, the pitcher was released by the Diamondbacks on June 6, 2022. Two days later he signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers where his numbers improved somewhat but were still rather poor.
Evaluation: we were all very wrong on Curtis and the Diamondbacks were right in not adding him to the 40-man roster.
RHP Matt Tabor
We said: Tabor has made steady progress in the system, although he’s got the upside of a #4/5 starter in an average rotation. Low 90s with a good change-up and a mediocre slider that he’s meticulously worked at for years. Given the fact he’s a consensus Top 30 prospect on a middle third farm system, I’ll be surprised if they let him go for no player return. We would have added him to the 40-man roster and we expected the D-Backs to do so as well.
You voted: 81% of people who voted would have added Tabor to the roster.
Diamondbacks decided: Matt Tabor was left unprotected.
What happened in 2022: Tabor started 1 game in Amarillo and lasted just 1.2 innings where he got knocked around very hard. He was placed on the IL where he stayed the rest of the season because of an undisclosed injury.
Evaluation: if there was a lingering injury, Matt Tabor would have probably been placed on the IL sooner or later on any team, where he could have spent the entire season. The injury is yet another setback for Tabor, after a lost 2020 season and a bad 2021 season, which will probably drop his stock. The decision the Diamondbacks took on Tabor was very understandable and in hindsight couldn’t hurt.
RHP Levi Kelly
We said: At worst I see him as a guy who will either start or close games. Had a really bad year with his throwing shoulder, but in 2020 was hitting 96-97 with a wipeout slider that plays in the back-end of the pen. We would have added him to the 40-man roster and we expected the D-Backs to do so as well.
You voted: 88% of people who voted would have added Kelly to the roster.
Diamondbacks decided: Levi Kelly was left unprotected.
Evaluation: Just like Matt Tabor, Levi Kelly landed on the IL after just 1 start in Amarillo. He didn’t return until a month ago, wiping out yet another season in his development after the lost 2020 season and health and performance issues in 2021. The evaluation of the D-Backs decision to leave him unprotected in 2021 is probably similar to what we just wrote about Tabor.
3B Buddy Kennedy
We said: We would have added him to the 40-man roster but we didn’t expect the D-Backs to do so.
You voted: 65% of people who voted would have added Kennedy to the roster.
Diamondbacks decided: Buddy Kennedy was left unprotected.
Evaluation: With a 0.278/0.384/0.536 it is very likely that a team would have taken a shot at Buddy Kennedy and while his 75 OPS+ is far from optimal, there are teams that have carried lesser production on their roster all season (for example, Oakland A’s). My guess is we would have lost Kennedy in the Rule 5 draft and since he was used this season as a depth option and might have that same role in 2022, the Diamondbacks got away with this decision, although, we have to be fair, it doesn’t look like Buddy Kennedy will be a game changer any time soon.
3B Ryan Weiss
We said: Weiss will be an interesting decision, because he crushed AA before Reno did its thing to him. But we didn’t add him to the 40-man roster and didn’t expect the Diamondbacks to do so either.
You voted: there was no vote possible on this decision.
Diamondbacks decided: Ryan Weiss was added to the 40-man roster: “We just think the stuff took a major step forward this year,” Hazen said. “Pitching at both ends of our upper levels in extreme [hitter-friendly] environments while doing a good job. We just felt like the way he performed and the stuff he has, that we want to give him a chance coming in to Spring Training and didn’t want to expose him [to the Rule 5 Draft].”
Evaluation: Weiss didn’t pitch in Spring Training and was knocked around pretty hard in Reno and even spent some time on the Development List. He was demoted to Amarillo, but on June 26 the Diamondbacks designated him for assignment. He was picked up on waivers by the Kansas City Royals and outrighted again by the end of October to make room on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft. In this case the Diamondbacks wasted a 40-man roster spot they could have given to, for example, Buddy Kennedy.
OF Kristian Robinson
We said: Robinson’s situation is definitely interesting and he may be able to sneak through the Rule 5 Draft without any way for a team to play him any time soon. But we didn’t add him to the 40-man roster nor did we expect the team to do so.
You voted: 63% of people who voted would have added Robinson to the roster.
Diamondbacks decided: The D-Backs added Kristian Robinson to the 40-man roster.
Evaluation: Following his addition to the 40-man roster, Robinson was placed on the restricted list. He spent the entire season and didn’t face any live competition for the 3rd consecutive season. The decision to do so paid out as Robinson didn’t occupy a spot on the 40-man roster nor was it possible to lose him to another club. The Diamondbacks took a wise decision here as many other clubs would have probably picked him and done the same.
The Diamondbacks took better decisions than us. We would have wasted three 40-man roster spots to pitchers that would be injured or underperforming (Tabor, Kelly and Curtis). On the other hand, the Diamondbacks also wasted a 40-man roster spot to a pitcher that would heavily underperfom (Weiss). That decision could have cost them either Buddy Kennedy or Jose Herrera. However, they protected Robinson without wasting a roster spot to him and had Hummel as a depth option all season.