The Detroit Tigers added right-handed pitcher Franklin Perez to their 40-man roster on Monday. Perez, who would have otherwise been eligible to be selected in the 2018 Rule 5 draft, appears to be the team’s lone addition to the 40-man roster ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to protect prospects from being poached by opposing teams in December.
Perhaps more interesting, however, is who was not added to the roster. The Tigers have left outfielder Derek Hill and right-handed pitcher Anthony Castro, among others, unprotected from the Rule 5 draft. Hill, the team’s first round pick in 2014, has only played 357 games across four seasons due to a number of injuries, including Tommy John surgery. He spent all of 2018 at High-A Lakeland, where he hit a meager .239/.307/.318. Castro also had his development delayed by Tommy John surgery, but he enjoyed more success at Lakeland last year, with a 2.93 ERA and 2.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 116 2⁄3 innings for the Flying Tigers.
Perez, 20, is the No. 6 prospect on Baseball Prospectus’ recent organizational rankings. He was our top Tigers prospect heading into the 2018 season, but missed most of the year due to injury. In all, Perez only threw 19 1⁄3 innings, split between the Gulf Coast League and High-A Lakeland as he rehabbed from lat and shoulder issues. Assuming he is healthy, he will likely begin the 2019 season at Double-A Erie, where he finished the 2017 season — although he did not throw any innings for the SeaWolves after arriving from Houston’s farm system.
Hill’s numbers do not warrant a selection in December’s Rule 5 draft, but his natural talent does. He is a borderline elite runner and defender at a premium position in center field. Scouts have long praised his defensive abilities, even comparing him to Torii Hunter — yeah, the spry Twins version we all hated for years — on draft day. Hill’s hitting abilities have not come around, though.
Castro could also be an enticing pick-up for a team with an open roster spot. He is a bit old for his level, and will be entering his age-24 season in 2019, but he has the raw stuff to get big league hitters out. His fastball and breaking ball could also be useful out of a big league bullpen, especially if a team hopes to keep him on their major league roster for a year before moving him back to the minors. Our friends at TigsTown have always been high on Castro, even ranking him in their top 10 prior to the 2017 season.
Blessed with easy arm strength from a loose delivery, Castro sits in the low-90s and bumps higher with his heavy fastball that shows tremendous life. When complimented with a potential plus breaking ball, Castro has the makings of a powerful two-pitch combination that can dominate hitters.
Other prospects left unprotected include lefthander Tyler Alexander, righthander Grayson Long, and outfielder Cam Gibson. Alexander was a surprise second round pick in 2015 who has put up good numbers, but may not have the raw stuff to seduce another club into selecting him. Gibson has also enjoyed moderate success in the minors, but struggled at times against Double-A pitching in 2018. Long looked like a lock to be protected at this time last year, but underwent surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in 2018.
The Tigers currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster. Assuming no one else is added to the roster prior to Tuesday’s deadline — our friend Emily Waldon profiled a few possibilities at The Athletic — the Tigers will be able to select a player from another club. Detroit selected Victor Reyes with the first pick in the 2017 Rule 5 draft, and were able to keep him on their 25-man roster for the entire 2018 season. They will have the fifth pick in this year’s Rule 5 draft.