Baseball season still goes on for two teams in Cleveland and Chicago, but every other team is already deep in offseason planning. Last week we looked at the first decision the Mets will have to make this offseason: what to do about the qualifying offer. This week we’ll look at the next big group of decisions, which includes potential adds to the 40-man roster in advance of December’s Rule 5 draft. (If you guessed next up in this quasi-offseason overview series is who might be coming off the 40-man to make room for these adds, well, you’re probably on the right track.)
Before we get started, we should probably do a brief summation of who needs to be added to the 40-man roster and why. Players are added to the 40-man to be protected from the major-league portion of Rule 5; generally speaking, 40-man eligible players are four or five seasons into their pro careers, depending on which side of 19 they signed their pro contract on. It’s terribly complicated and not that necessary to know the exact rules, because wonderful folks like Chris Walendin at tpgMets understand the rules very well and put together a comprehensive list of Met Rule 5 eligibles. Let’s go over the interesting names on there, in rough order of likelihood that they’ll end up on the Met 40-man by the third week in November.
He Will Be Added
Amed Rosario: Rosario is the best prospect in the system and will obviously be protected. He’ll only be an injury or underperformance somewhere in the infield away from his major-league debut in 2017.
They Should Be Added
Tomas Nido: Successful Rule 5 picks that stick generally fall into three categories—pitchers with big upside that can be hidden as mop-up men, polished downroster players like middle relievers and versatile utility players (the Mets kept one in this category themselves in 2015 in Sean Gilmartin), and backup catchers. Nearly every team has a roster spot open for an extra catcher, and a player like Nido who can already defend at a major-league level is really easy to carry for a season. Because of that, the Mets will likely need to add Nido. In 2016, he displayed a new ability–hitting for average–on top of his defense.
Marcos Molina: Molina has barely pitched since a dominant late-summer for Brooklyn at 2014 that established him as a top pitching prospect in the system. Chronic elbow problems in 2015 ultimately resulted in Tommy John surgery. Molina falls into the big upside pitcher that could easily be hidden throwing 60 innings of low-leverage relief, and given that he is still on the road back from TJS, he could probably have a phantom DL stint or two thrown in for good measure. The Mets sent Molina to the Arizona Fall League, tipping off that he’ll be protected because it’d be awful dumb to give other teams free looks at one of your top pitching prospects if he wasn’t already being kept. Right?
Wuilmer Becerra: The outfielder was one of the most puzzling non-protects last offseason, and the Mets probably got a little lucky that he went unpicked in Rule 5. His 2016 was weird—he hit for little power amidst shoulder problems that would ultimately end his season early, but he did hit .312 in the pitcher-friendly High-A Florida State League. It would be even more surprising if he wasn’t protected this year, assuming his medicals are fine, since his stock is up a touch and he’s had success at a higher level.
Pick Your Favorites
Chris Flexen: Flexen had a superficially unimpressive first full season back from Tommy John surgery, but as Mets fans have learned with Zack Wheeler and Bobby Parnell, unimpressive but healthy really isn’t a bad thing at all coming back from TJS. Flexen is on the lower side of the generic decent projectable righty pitcher group that the Mets have had huge success with, so they might be more inclined to protect him than another organization would be.
Paul Sewald: The Las Vegas 51s had exactly one good pitcher in 2016. It wasn’t Robert Gsellman, despite his shooting-star stock. It wasn’t Seth Lugo, the other guy who had 2016 major-league success. It wasn’t Sean Gilmartin or Logan Verrett, who had 2015 major-league success. It wasn’t really even Gabriel Ynoa. It was Paul Sewald, throwing up 11 K/9 and a 3.29 ERA in one of baseball’s toughest pitching environments. Sewald has major-league capable stuff and given his success all the way up the ladder might even be pretty decent, but he was snubbed for a September call-up that might’ve portended a 40-man add.
Kevin McGowan: McGowan went from a guy teetering on organizational pitcher to a genuine major-league relief prospect in 2016, which is a good thing. He’s probably capable of being a major-league middle reliever now, so the Mets stand a decent shot at losing him if they expose him in Rule 5. I suspect they might protect whichever one of Sewald and McGowan is viewed higher internally, but I cannot imagine both will be added to the 40-man.
Phillip Evans: He hit .335! In Double-A! He plays infield positions! Evans was once a prospect and had fallen off the radar. He hit his way back this year. He is probably more useful than the Eric Campbells of the world, but the Mets have tended to value major-league experience and clubhouse familiarity at the bottom of their roster over upside.
On The Radar
Champ Stuart: I feel like I’ve written about Champ Stuart about ten times in the last two months. He’s really fast. He’s a good defender capable of playing all the outfield spots. He can’t hit. If he was going to be added to the 40, he probably would’ve been called up like Gavin Cecchini was, because he would’ve helped an expanded roster. Ten or fifteen years ago, this type of player would have had a much better shot to go, because teams did stuff like carry fifth or sixth outfielders who can’t hit back then. Now teams carry thirteen or even fourteen pitchers, and this type of player is really hard to carry in the regular season.
Jeff McNeil: The golfer-turned-utility prospect missed essentially the entire season after undergoing hip surgery. There’s little chance he’s added, but I mention him here because there’s some chance he’s taken, since he falls into that polished utility infielder territory as a guy who can hit a little and play a lot of positions.
Nabil Crismatt: Now we’re into the land of low-level arms that would qualify as surprises; it’s worth remembering that the Mets added Seth Lugo and Jeff Walters in this kind of a spot last year. If you squint, you can make out the outline of Lugo with Crismatt: middling velocity, a big breaking curve, a good change, very good command. Of course, you could make that outline in a lot of pitchers, which was why Lugo was a weird add and an unexpected contributor.
Ty Bashlor: Bashlor got $550,000 in the 11th round in 2013 because he can throw really freaking hard. He’s only thrown 71.3 pro innings since—he’s another Tommy John survivor—and he’s now a reliever. But he also throws really hard and struck out a lot of dudes in A-ball. Probably not a great risk to go this year, but he could be a factor down the road.
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