As Patrick O'Kennedy already explained in this article, the Tigers have until Wednesday to add players that fall subject to the Rule 5 draft to their 40 man roster. Thanks to Eddie Bajek's amazing resource, it's easy to see what Tigers are eligible for the 2013 Rule 5 draft. The roster is in a bit of flux at this point, so there are plenty of spots available. Here are some players that may be considered:
The 22 year old shortstop is a virtual lock to be added. He had a very nice season between A+ and AA, posting a .744 OPS and almost a 10% walk rate. While Suarez' future may be a second division shortstop ceiling, a struggling team would surely have no problem keeping him on their 25 man roster. Suarez should start this season at Double-A Erie, and may move to Triple-A Toledo by midseason. I wouldn't rule out a cup of coffee in September, depending on his progress next season. While position changes aren't something to worry about until they're completely necessary, Suarez may have to transition to second base or a utility role in order to make an impact on the MLB squad. Jose Iglesias has the shortstop position tied up for the near future.
A Rule 5 selection last year, it's almost a guarantee that he'll be added to the 40 man. Lobstein had a nice season between Double-A and Triple-A this year for Detroit, posting a 3.27 ERA over 167 2/3 innings pitched. While he may lack overpowering stuff, Lobstein relies on command, control, and guile in order to fool hitters. I believe he will struggle against right-handed batters at the major league level. It's possible to envision a back end starter or swing man future for Lobstein. If nothing else, he'll serve as solid depth for the Tigers in 2014. Lobstein will start in Toledo, and could be called up for a spot start or two at some time during the season, depending on how Jose Alvarez performs.
The left-handed hitting outfielder had a break out season this year for Double-A Erie. He posted a .284/.356/.435 triple slash, and stole 24 bases. Fields has the ability to play all three outfield positions, but he profiles best in center and left for the Tigers going forward. He'll come to camp with the opportunity to win an extra outfield spot, but I'd venture to guess that he'll start next year at Triple-A Toledo, and they'll go from there. Fields is a no doubt 40 man addition.
While it's obvious that Moya would not be able to handle a full season in the major leagues at this point, the Tigers will most likely add him to the 40 man roster, simply because he's an extremely high-upside prospect, who they don't want to deal with retrieving from another organization. Even though it accelerates his time table, Moya is going to be 22 next season, and will need to show some signs of reaching that extraordinary potential. He hit .255/.296/.433 this past year in Lakeland, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him start down in Florida again at the beginning of the season. He'll most likely make his way to Erie by the halfway point, and is a candidate to go to the Arizona Fall League next offseason.
Valdez is one of the better relief prospects in the Tigers system. He is 23 years old (will be 24 by the start of the season), so I'd venture to guess that a team would gladly take a chance on the right handed fireballer. Valdez sits in the mid 90s, and touches 98 or 99 on occasion, with a short slider. He'll most likely start the season with Double-A Erie. With his advanced age and stuff, he may see Detroit at some point next season. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be protected.
As some of you know, I've been driving the Kenny Faulk LOOGY train. Look, I get it. He's not sexy. He's not flashy. He doesn't throw hard. That's fine. In fact, here's his Pitch F/X. Faulk has started to throw a sweeping breaking ball more frequently to go along with his plus change up that he'll throw to lefties and righties at any time in any count. When he threw this spring, I didn't see any semblence of a breaking ball, but the Arizona Fall League is a time to work on pitches. Faulk knows that to compete at the big league level, especially in a LOOGY role, he's going to need throw a breaking ball. The Tigers need a second lefty out of the bullpen who can get left-handed batters out. They simply don't have anyone on the major league roster that can do that consistently. Phil Coke included.
I'm not sold that Coke will be back with the organizaton. He's a non-tender candidate, and if they do decide to bring him back, it may be on a minor league deal, or a cheaper MLB contract. They're going to continue to search the free agent market, and look internally for answers. Darin Downs is no longer with the organization, so the three guys who fit the best are Kenny Faulk, Matt Hoffman, and Casey Crosby. Crosby is not a reliever just yet, but I have a sneaky suspicion he will be next season. Regardless, Faulk held lefties to a .063/.270/.125 line last season. Yes, you read that right. He walked a bunch, but lefties have trouble squaring him up, and that was apparent all year at Toledo. Sixty-four lefties came to the plate against Faulk this year. Three got hits. One was for extra bases. I'd like to see him compete for the job in spring training and see what happens. It's not like the Tigers are flush with options.
I don't know what to make of this situation. Lennerton was left exposed to the draft last offseason, but had a successful year in AAA hitting 278/382/430 with 43 extra base hits and 84 walks. I believe that Lennerton could possibly be claimed by a team like Houston if he were left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft. I'm not sold that the organization likes him very much, and it's not like there is much of a spot for him with the big league club. First base and DH are going to be blocked for the long term future, so Lennerton may be better off with another organization. Even though he had an excellent year at Toledo this season, and the Tigers would love to have him there again next year I'm sure, I doubt they use a 40 man spot on him.
Hoffman, like Faulk, had a nice year at Toledo this season. I believe that one of the two will be subjected to the Rule 5 draft, and the other kept by the organization. Hoffman held lefties to a .224/.318/.397 triple slash in Toledo this past campaign. He throws a bit harder than Faulk, usually sitting in the 90-92 range, and throws a curveball as his second pitch, rather than Faulk's change up. Like I said, it's likely between he and Faulk at this juncture, and I am not sure which way they'll go. I'd lean toward Hoffman because his stuff is a bit better, but it's up in the air at this point.
One of my favorite projects, Briceno is subjected to the Rule 5 draft this year because he was signed in March of 2009. If you're not familiar with this profile, check out what I wrote about him as number 12 on my midseason top prospects list. This is an interesting case as well. Briceno is clearly not ready to be on a 25 man roster all season, but an organization would love to acquire him and figure out some way to keep him. He's still a massive project, even more than Steven Moya, so I think the Tigers will try to keep their flexibility, and sneak him through. I can envision a scenario in which they add him to the 40 man roster, but would put the odds at 10-15%.
Edgar de la Rosa
DLR is a very large human. He's every bit of 6'6" 250 lbs., and has a low-to-mid 90s fastball to go along with it. However, he's another project who may not be long for the starting rotation. Even with the glut of starting pitching in the low minors right now, the Tigers will attempt to keep the giant righty as a starter for as long as they can. Yet, the idea of putting him in the bullpen must be intriguing, as he can get into the high 90s in short bursts. Another organization may feel the same way, but I'd tend to doubt that a guy who had a 1.5 WHIP in low-A ball would be a serious candidate for a 25 man roster.
I don't believe Brandon Douglas, Ben Guez, Blaine Hardy, Tyler Stohr, Alex Burgos, or Wilsen Palacios will be protected either. Hardy and Burgos probably have the best case, but are each long shots.
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