I know that we are, sometimes rightly, critical of the owners of major league baseball teams. I’ve been guilty of this myself, to be certain. I have already been trying to take a more balanced view, but yesterday’s death of Peter Seidler should drive home the fact to all of us that owners are people too, people with families who love them and care about them. For today at least, we should probably go with the “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” approach to ownership.
Roster Moves and Rule 5 Implications
Yesterday, the Diamondbacks added Blake Walston to the 40-man roster. This protects him from selection in the Rule 5 draft, and this was not a surprise. The surprising moves were the moves not made. Kristian Robinson is chief among the players left unprotected, but other unprotected players rated by some as among the top prospects are J.J. D’Orazio, Christian Cerda, Tristin English, Wilderd Patiño, and Alvin Guzman. Despite being listed on RosterResource as eligible, neither Deyvison De Los Santos nor Junior Franco are eligible this year.
Most of these players are highly unlikely to be selected. It is possible that a team needing catching depth could take Cerda or D’Orazio and attempt to stash them on the roster for the season, as the Diamondbacks did with Oscar Hernandez in 2015. It is within the realm of possibility that a team might take a chance on Patiño, but highly unlikely. Guzman will not be selected.
That leaves Robinson and Tristin English as the position players most likely to be selected, and a whole crop of relievers. Austin Pope and Conor Grammes seem to headline that group, but it is foolish to try to predict whether or not a reliever will be selected. If a team particularly likes a reliever, it’s wise to make a selection. We’ll find out if teams like any of these Diamondbacks relievers on December 6th.
Failing to protect Robinson was quite surprising, as this same front office had protected him once before. However, that was under different circumstances. A team selecting him in that draft could have stashed him on the restricted list for the full season and assumed control of his contract. Now, a team selecting him would actually have to play him. The case against playing him comes down to his strikeout rate: he struck out 86 times in 272 plate appearances in 2023, across four levels with AA being the highest. That’s not good. But there’s still the fact that many teams across baseball need outfield help. Robinson can play all three outfield spots at a pinch, although his defense is certainly better in a corner, and he posted a .915 OPS in 2023 despite not having played in a competitive game since 2019. And it’s not like he was feasting on the lower levels, either; he posted an .815 OPS in the complex league, .946 in Visalia, .800 in Hillsboro, and .982 in Amarillo. He hit 14 home runs and stole 23 bases. He has the potential to be a very dangerous player.
There were certainly good reasons not to protect Robinson, but it is a bit surprising that the front office seems to value Kyle Lewis and Pavin Smith more than Robinson at this stage. While I think the odds are against Robinson sticking in the major leagues at this stage, I would be a little bit surprised if no one picked him in the Rule 5 draft. A lot of teams are looking for outfield help. So not protecting the only right handed batting outfield prospect anywhere close to the major leagues seems unusual.
Tristin English probably does not get selected. He does not fill a position of need for teams, and he seems like more of “just a guy” than does Robinson, who was a top-100 prospect prior to his legal difficulties.
It should not be surprising if, on December 6th, Robinson and one of the relievers are selected in the Rule 5 draft. Both will likely be offered back to the Diamondbacks eventually.
Should the Diamondbacks have protected Kristian Robinson?
This poll is closed
Four Players to Watch in Winter Baseball
This winter provides, among other things, the return of Bartolo Colon to professional baseball. Unfortunately, Baseball United employs the DH, so we will probably not get to see Bartolo bat. Also, I have yet to be able to find a schedule or broadcaster for Baseball United, so we might not be able to see it at all. On the other hand, the Australian Baseball League is freely available on the Baseball+ app, so if you are suffering from baseball withdrawals, that season will begin this week. The Dominican winter league, LIDOM, is already in full swing.
Why care about winter baseball? Look no further than Geraldo Perdomo. Perdomo was consistently ranked towards the back of the top-100 prospects in all of baseball, but then he found himself thrust into action too early and suffered. By the end of 2022, not only was he no longer a prospect, but there were few who would have considered him as more than a AAAA player. Then he went to Aguilas Cibaenas in Santiago, posted excellent numbers in limited action, and then rolled that over to an All Star season, culminating in a postseason where he was the most consistent bat in the lineup not named Ketel Marte. Seriously. He reached base in 14 of 17 postseason games and posted a .754 OPS.
The Diamondbacks do not generally send their top prospects to winter leagues, preferring to keep them close to home and work on things there. There are no Diamondbacks-affiliated players in Australia this year, for example, nor are there any in Baseball United. There are, however, quite a few players of interest in LIDOM this winter. Some are interesting because they are familiar names; Nelson Cruz is now finished, but he went on a farewell tour of LIDOM. Fernando Rodney is a regular. Diamondbacks fan-favorite Yasiel Puig plays for Estrellas del Oriente, as does Miguel Sanó. Former Diamondback Alfredo Marte plays for Toros del Este, and there are a number of former Diamondbacks or former Diamondback minor leaguers scattered across the league.
The only prospect that the Diamondbacks appear to have sent to LIDOM was Tristin English, and he already seems done with his stint there. He played for Tigres de Licey, based in Santo Domingo, and slashed .300/.344/.400, picking up three doubles in his 32 plate appearances and committing one error in five games at first base. English performed well in Amarillo and Reno this year, and seems to have rolled that performance into the winter. This is a good sign, as he is one of the in-house candidates for the DH/backup 1B job, and, although it is highly unlikely that he gets the job, the franchise is far better positioned if he is playing well. [Rule 5 notes go here]
But there are four other players of note in LIDOM. All of them are currently free agents, and could be worth the Diamondbacks offering a minor league contract with a spring training invitation. All of them have potential red flags. They are listed roughly in order of ascending expected value to the Diamondbacks if they were to be signed.
Miguel Sanó, DH/1B, Estrellas del Oriente
While it seems hard to believe, Sanó is just 30. He hasn’t appeared in the major leagues since 2022, and hasn’t appeared for any length of time since 2021. Injuries, especially knee injuries, ruined his once-promising career. But when he was healthy, he was exactly the kind of hitter the Diamondbacks could use in the DH spot. He posted an OPS+ of 116 and bashed 162 home runs. His career OPS against right handed pitching is .810, and as other writers have noted, despite the Diamondbacks being left-handed heavy, they’ve struggled to slug against right handed pitching.
On the bright side, it looks like Sanó’s eye is as good as ever. He’s drawn 10 walks against 14 strikeouts in 55 plate appearances. Unfortunately, it seems that injuries may have sapped his power, as he has yet to homer.
There’s also the concern of sexual assault allegations which were leveled against Sanó in 2017. No punishment seems to have been leveled, but it is possible that the allegations did not rise to a level that MLB felt they could punish. While there are plenty of legitimate criticisms that can be levied against the Kendrick/Hall regime, one area in which they have excelled is maintaining a healthy environment and generally steering away from players with issues of this nature in their pasts. That said, I do believe that there is a time and a place to give repentant offenders a second chance. (Notice the key word there; this excludes Trevor Bauer, so please do not call me out for using a double standard given my strong stance against any potential Bauer signing.)
Franmil Reyes, DH/OF, Leones del Escogido
Reyes probably has more in common with current free agent Jorge Soler than he does with Miguel Sanó, although his numbers through 2021 were similar to Sanó’s in some respects. He’s a right handed power hitter who strikes out a ton, but doesn’t walk very much. Reyes also appeared in the major leagues last year, for the Royals, and was released because he just wasn’t producing. (He later signed with the Nationals but never reached the majors.) This followed what had been an alarming downturn in 2022. But even in his disappointing 2022, he still hit the ball extremely hard; his exit velocity ranked in the 92nd percentile, his barrel percentage in the 80th percentile, and his hard-hit percentage in the 79th percentile. Yes, everything else rated poorly. But this was exactly the same type of hitter that he always had been. By comparison, Soler (who would require a contract with a lot of zeroes to sign) is able to draw walks, but that is the biggest difference between the two. Yes, you’d rather have Soler. But given the dearth of impact bats on the market, Soler is going to demand a big contract. Neither Soler nor Reyes provide much value defensively.
So how is Reyes doing for Leones? He’s leading LIDOM in home runs as of the time of writing, with five. He also has six doubles and seven walks, in 81 plate appearances. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but his OPS for Leones this season is 242 points higher than his OPS was for Leones in the last LIDOM season. Reyes is 28, so there’s plenty of reason to think he can find it again.
The big downside to signing Reyes is that he would not provide any value defensively; he would be exclusively a DH. However, that would also be true with Justin Turner, and would largely be true with Jorge Soler.
Francisco Mejía, C, Tigres del Licey
Mejía is a former top prospect, by some measures top-ten. He’s a switch-hitting catcher. The Diamondbacks need catching depth in a big way. He’s small, but was a bat-first prospect. The bat never panned out. The glove struggled to develop. He had just one season of above-average offense and has posted a career OPS+ of 88. Notably, however, the Rays did not release him; he elected free agency. Still, the Rays were his third organization, having previously been with Cleveland and the Padres.
The Diamondbacks have arguably the best all-around catcher in baseball as their starter. Whoever is backing up Moreno will be a step back. The issue is that the Diamondbacks’ best back-up option at present is Seby Zevala. The gap between Moreno and Zevala is more of a chasm. The organization clearly thinks Zevala is better than Herrera. As far as the farm system is concerned, Adrian del Castillo is nowhere near ready, J.J. D’Orazio is the best option defensively but provides no value offensively, and Christian Cerda is still a ways away. There will be multiple catchers signed to minor league deals with spring training invites; Mejía is certainly an option there. Unfortunately, his performance in LIDOM has left a lot to be desired; he’s slashed .133/.300/.333 in limited action.
Starlin Castro, 3B, Aguilas Cibaenas
The red flag here is so substantial it has to be addressed before speaking to anything regarding on-field performance. Starlin Castro served a 30 game suspension in 2021 for violating the MLB domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse policy. To my knowledge, he has not publicly commented on the incident. Additionally, he was the target of sexual assault allegations all the way back in 2012, before baseball had started to take meaningful action on such things. While details of the incident that led to Castro’s suspension have not come to light, doubtless such details would be available to any team considering signing him. As I stated before, I do believe in the opportunity for second chances. Plenty of players have been given second chances. Whether Castro has conducted himself in the years since as a person who should be given a second chance or not is something we cannot know. But it is something that baseball teams should be able to figure out. At the least, Castro is not painting himself as a persecuted figure; he seems to have accepted the justice of his punishment. If the front office were to offer Castro an opportunity, hopefully that would mean that they have done their due diligence.
As far as on-field performance is concerned, Castro has been one of the best hitters in LIDOM this winter. He’s slashed .351/.441/.509. He’s now entirely a third baseman. He has a history of great health. That said, his career batting stats (97 OPS+) are not what you want for an everyday third baseman. They are substantially better than what the Diamondbacks got out of Emmanuel Rivera, Evan Longoria, and Josh Rojas in 2023.
While Castro would likely have the largest on-field impact of these four players, I do not believe that the negative publicity and the possible negative impact on the organization is worth the likely production. But, when speaking about players who are performing well in LIDOM and who play third base, he’s pretty close to the elephant in the room. I have to bring up the possibility to be doing due diligence on the topic.
Out of these four players, Reyes would be the one I would pursue the hardest, but I do not think that any of them is worth offering a major league deal at this point. There are enough teams needing bats that Reyes may well get a major league offer.
Which of these four players should the Diamondbacks attempt to sign?
This poll is closed
Thanks are due to Jim and the rest of the SnakePit for again including me. I hope to bring some entertaining and enlightening writing on the minor leagues over the winter, and pick up on the game coverage once the season begins. I will return next week with a non-traditional prospect ranking. In fact, it will almost certainly be the only prospect ranking of Diamondbacks players that does not feature either Jordan Lawlar or Druw Jones!