Last week, Major League teams faced the deadline for adding players to their 40-man roster. Prospects who are not on the 40-man roster and have been around for a while (five drafts if they signed at 18 or younger, or four if they signed at 19 or older) are eligible to be selected by another team. Remember, players who are selected in the Major League phase must be kept on the drafting team’s 25-man roster the entire subsequent season, or returned to their original team, for a small fee.
The Mets added RHP Zack Wheeler, RHP Hansel Robles, RHP Gonzalez Germen and RHP Greg Burke, LHP Darin Gorski and INF Wilfredo Tovar to the 40-man roster last week.
The only really notable omission: slugging 3B/1B Aderlin Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who turned 21 in October, has the most power of any Mets player below AAA, and it’s not really close. In 125 games between Savannah in the South Atlantic League and St. Lucie in advanced-A, he hit .263/.321/.476 with 26 doubles and an organization-leading 24 homers. Was leaving him unprotected him a mistake?
After a slow April in Savannah (.200/.266/.370 – 3 HR, 8 BB/24 K in 24 games), he became more patient and much more productive over the next two months (.307/.368/.555 – 13 HR, 21 BB/47 K in 59 games). His walk rate jumped from 5% in 2011 to 8.6% in the SAL in 2012. Promoted to the FSL, his walk rate again dipped below 5%. When he’s patient, he’s a big-time threat.
Rodriguez is a big guy, listed at 6’3″, 210 pounds. He’s very strong, but not in a cut, gym-toned way like Cory Vaughn, who was second in the Mets organization in homers (23) in 2012. Nope, it’s a more natural, big-man type strength. When he barrels up the ball, it goes. He played his home games in the SAL in Grayson Stadium, one of the toughest environments for power hitters in the minors. That’s the good. His swing can get a little long, but when challenged by a good fastball, he can shorten up and has the hands and hand-eye coordination to square up a good heater.
At the plate, he struggles when he chases. Too often, he has chased early count breaking balls. Lefties, even at the a-ball level, who fed him a steady diet of off-speed stuff, including curves and changeups, have gave him fits in the SAL (.130/.183/.260 – 77 AB). As long as we’re playing with small sample sizes, he hit .340/.367/.5.96 with three homers, a walk and seven whiffs in 47 AB against lefties in the FSL.
In the field, the Mets began exposing him to first base this year. His play at third is rough. His size will always limit his range. He has more than enough arm for third, and gets better carry and has a more accurate delivery than fellow Mets “3B” prospect Jefry Marte. The major issue for Rodriguez at third is his hands. Will they ever work well enough for the position? He made 44 errors in 2011 and 30 between Savannah and St. Lucie in 2012. Sometimes his hands look worse because he makes plays more difficult because he is late to spot, or too inflexible to bend, reach or contort in the way that a MLB 3B would be expected to. Most scouts I have talked to, think he will end up at first base.
So, did the Mets err by leaving Rodriguez unprotected this time around? He’s a nice prospect, and a player who I am higher on than the general internet consensus, I believe. Yup, I love the power. Still, he is far away, in years from helping a major league team. That’s the bet the Mets made here: however intriguing his power, Rodriguez is far enough away that no team will be willing to carry him on their 25-man roster. I think I would have rostered Rodriguez, and certainly done so in front of say, Gonzalez Germen, but the Mets are clearly betting not on upside, but on the practical roster decisions they, and every other MLB team faces.
Just for fun, I plugged Rodriguez’s stats into the minor league Equivalency Calculator. I plugged his full year stats in as though he had played the entire year in Savannah and the calculator returned a MLB line of .190/.225/.313 with 14 homers. If we pretend instead that Rodriguez played the full year in the FSL, and put up the same numbers as he did in the SAL (which of course didn’t happen) then his MLB equivalent is .207/.250/.349 with 16 homers. Those quick and dirty projections, plus shaky defense seems like it should be enough to scare off most MLB teams, even the Astros.
Friend of the site, Chris Walendin, has the complete list of Mets farmhands who are now rule 5 eligible here.
We’ll touch on a few other names.
3B Jefry Marte – While turning 21 last June, Marte hit .251/.322/.366 in 129 games for AA Binghamton with shaky defense at third. Like Aderlin Rodriguez but with less power and thus upside, he is unlikely to be drafted.
RHP Taylor Whitenton – Whitenton will turn 25 in February. After struggling with his control as a starter, the Mets moved him to the bullpen in 2012 for advanced-A St. Lucie where he struggled to throw strikes out of the bullpen (5.4 BB/9). He misses bats (68 K/56.1 IP) with a fastball in the low 90s that he can crank up higher in shorter outings. He’s the kind of bullpen arm that teams find intriguing in the rule five, and sometimes try to hide in an MLB ‘pen.