M’s Set 40-Man Roster

The Mariners added four minor leaguers to their 40-man Major League roster, protecting them from other teams in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. All four players were Tacoma Rainiers on the final weekend of the season.

Outfielders Stefen Romero and James Jones, first baseman Ji-Man Choi, and reliever Logan Bawcom are now on the 40-man roster. It’s a big step in all of their careers, and it makes getting called up to the big leagues a much more likely event for the foursome. Congrats to all!

The Mariners now have 38 players protected on their 40-man roster. Teams that expect to be active with trades and free agent signings in the winter time (like the Mariners this year) like to leave an open spot or two, for flexibility.

There is a select group of Mariners minor leaguers who are now exposed to the other teams in the Rule 5 Draft, which occurs annually at the Winter Meetings. If a player is selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he must be retained in the major leagues by the drafting team for an entire season or be returned to his original team.

To be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft players signed out of college must have three full seasons in the minors and not be on the 40-man roster. Players signed out of high school must have four full seasons in the minors, and international signees… well, it gets tricky with kids signed out of the Dominican or Venezuela when they were 16 years old, but generally if they’ve been playing in the US for 3-4 years they are probably eligible.

The Mariners left two Rainiers players off the 40-man roster who have a decent chance of being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, in lefty Brian Moran and infielder Ty Kelly. Both players are intriguing to statistically aware organizations.

Moran profiles as a left-vs-left bullpen specialist. In the PCL in 2013, left-handed batters struck out 48 times in 115 at-bats against Moran. Overall, Moran had 85 strikeouts and 15 unintentional walks in 62.2 innings, giving up only four homers. These are all impressive stats – but Moran was left off the roster, probably because he gets his success from a deceptive delivery and not velocity. Adding to the mix: Moran suffered a foot injury at the end of the season and is currently recovering from surgery.

Kelly is coming off the best season of his career. The switch-hitting second baseman was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on June 30 in exchange for Eric Thames, and things really took off for him: he was playing in Double-A in the Orioles system, but the Mariners promoted him to Tacoma upon acquiring him. Kelly hit .320 for the Rainiers, and a 51-to-41 walk-to-strikeout ratio helped him post a ridiculously high .456 on-base percentage. The knock on Kelly is defense – he’s pretty much limited to second base and left field. Also, scouts often wonder if players who draw a ton of walks in the minors will be able to do that in the majors where pitchers throw more strikes.

Moran and Kelly have something in common: both were eligible for the Rule 5 Draft last winter, and neither was selected. The Mariners are hoping that happens again.

The Rule 5 Draft will be interesting to follow this year, with these two high-quality Rainiers players possible draft picks. It puts us in a bit of a quandary: for Moran’s and Kelly’s sake, it is best for them to get picked. For us as Rainiers fans, we want these guys on the team next year!

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