The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster for protection from the Rule 5 draft came and went Wednesday night, and the Seattle Mariners added a quartet of prospects that they’re not willing to risk losing.
#Mariners RHP Logan Bawcom, 1B/DH Ji-Man Choi, OF James Jones, OF Stefen Romero added to 40-man roster. 40-man roster now at 38 players.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) November 21, 2013
As a refresher, players who signed after their 19th birthday and have been in pro ball for at least four years are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Additionally, players that signed after age 18 and have played for five years can be plucked, too. That player must then remain on the selecting club’s 25-man roster all season, else be offered back to his original club for $25,000.
These were all players who were thought likely to be protected heading into the winter meetings where the annual selection process takes place. What’s a little more interesting are two names who were missing: INF Ty Kelly and LHP Brian Moran.
While Kelly isn’t a sexy prospect, and the M’s already have a bevy of young infielders between the high minors and Seattle, he played pretty well during his time with Triple-A Tacoma. He posted a triple slash line of .320/.456/.406 in 54 games after coming over from Baltimore in a trade for Eric Thames. He’s got some versatility, too, able to play all over the infield.
Now, Kelly isn’t a lock to be selected. Hitting moderately well in the PCL doesn’t turn a 25-year-old mediocre prospect into a sought-after commodity. It’ll be interesting to see if a club might take a stab at him as a 25th player on their roster, using him in a utility role. That’s his upside anyhow, so at his age I suppose it could happen, though I’d bet he doesn’t stick with that club the entire year.
The more surprising player omitted from the list is LHP Brian Moran. The North Carolina teammate of Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager, “The Moranimal” was the last of the three Tar Heels to be selected in the 2009 draft, where the M’s made him their seventh round selection.
Moran appeared in 48 games for the Rainiers in 2013, repeating the level after 23 outings the season prior. Just as he did in 2012, Moran continued to raise some eyebrows with an increase in strikeouts over what he did in the lower levels of the minors. With his unimpressive velocity, he ran a 12.21 SO/9 while only walking 2.87 batters per nine frames. Couple that with an ERA of 3.45 and an even flashier FIP of 2.42, and you might be left wondering why Seattle would expose a cheap bullpen arm that could contribute in 2014.
He did show some holes, however. Prospect Insider is under the impression that the club doesn’t believe he’ll be dominate enough against left-handed batters in the big leagues to make up for not being a guy you want to face righties at all. Therefore, the club actually values guys like Bobby LaFromboise more.
Further, one NL chief scout tells us: “He’s got good angles and knows how to take advantage of them, but up there (the big leagues), the bats are too quick. His best fastball all year for me was 85. That doesn’t play.”
I don’t know that Moran is a lock to be selected, but bullpen arms a lot easier to hide and protect than starters and position players. So, my money is on some team taking a flier on him. If he doesn’t cut it, he could find his way back to the Mariners, cut and claimed by another team or just come down with some fake injury — a common practice in the Rule 5 game.
One thing I found interesting is that the M’s elected to leave two spots on their 40-man roster open. You typically leave spots open for this exact time of year — protecting prospects from poaching. So, this could mean something, or nothing at all. It doesn’t mean the Mariners are close to any sort of signing or trade, but if you want a reason to keep an eye on twitter for the next couple days, there you go.
Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016.
Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.
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