Thursday, February 21, 2008

Projecting the Rosters

One of the fun things to do this time of year is to figure out where all of the players in the system will end up. While a fun activity, it is often inexact and dependent on injuries and other intentions that are not released to the general public. I'm going to spend a few weeks making roster projections for the Major League roster and the four full season rosters. As news breaks, I can go back and change those predictions very easily. As always, the engineer in me will start out with a couple of assumptions:

  • No players will be lost on waivers. While, this is not an entirely accurate assumption, roughly 90% of players placed on waivers in spring training clear. These players will qualify for the minor league rosters. If time goes on and somebody gets claimed on waivers, I will adjust the projections accordingly
  • No injuries will occur aside from the ones already reported. We know, for example, that Luke Potkonen had minor shoulder surgery and won't be pitching until mid-summer. Brent Dlugach's shoulder is still recovering from labrum surgery, and prized draft pick Casey Crosby would have to recover about a year ahead of schedule from Tommy John to even think about starting the season on an active roster. Joel Zumaya won't be back until summer, and Vance Wilson is still doubtful to be ready in time on opening day. There are a few other injuries out there, but I'm not going to assume, for example, that Fernando Rodney will start on the disabled list because he felt a little pain this morning. I'll adjust the rosters later on as injuries are reported.
  • No external moves will occur. Yes, it is very possible a team becomes desperate for a thirdbaseman and picks up Brandon Inge. It is also possible the Tigers claim a player off of waivers, make a trade, or pick up a minor league free agent. I will not incorporate those moves into these projections until made official.
I will start with pitching. The most logical place to start is with the Major League roster. The Tigers rotation is pretty much set in stone, barring injury. Four spots in the bullpen have been confirmed to be locked up.

Jeremy Bonderman
Nate Robertson
Kenny Rogers
Justin Verlander
Dontrelle Willis

Todd Jones
Fernando Rodney
Bobby Seay
Tim Byrdak

Jason Grilli, Zach Miner, Yorman Bazardo, Denny Bautista, and Francisco Cruceta will be fighting for the last three spots. It is very difficult to say who gets those spots. Zach Miner is the only one with options, but he is the one who Leyland has hyped this most this spring. Cruceta and Bautista are wildcards. Based on the fact that they are unknown and have the most downside, I am going to leave them as the odd men out for now, leaving Grilli, Miner, and Bazardo in the pen.

There are several candidates for Toledo's pitching staff this year. Here's how Toledo's opening day pitching staff has broken down the past few season:

  • Virgil Vasquez: Probably a lock for the Toledo rotation.
  • Jordan Tata: Also a virtual lock for the Toledo rotation.
  • Armando Galarraga: Just acquired from Texas, and will probably join Toledo's rotation.
  • Macay McBride: As reported earlier in the week, the Tigers plan on stretching McBride out and making him a starter. Whether this leaves him as part of a starting tandem, in the rotation on his own, or as a long man will remain to be seen. I'm going to include him as a Toledo starter.
  • Clay Rapada: The backup LOOGY with two options left, Rapada will be in Toledo's bullpen to start the season.
  • Denny Bautista: A one time starter, Bautista worked entirely out of relief last year. If he is in Toledo, it would likely be as a reliever and spot starter. I'll start him in Toledo's bullpen.
  • Francisco Cruceta: It's very likely Cruceta will be with the big club, but due to the roster crunch, I am going to start him in Toledo's bullpen as an arm in waiting.
Next, we have non-roster invitees:
  • Francis Beltran will probably be in Toledo's bullpen. Still under two years removed from Tommy John Surgery, he should put up a strong year this year.
  • Freddy Dolsi spent last season in Lakeland, and is doubtful to start the year above Erie.
  • Jeff Gerbe spent most of last season in West Michigan, and I would be surprised to see him start above Erie.
  • Chris Lambert will probably be the fifth member of Toledo's rotation.
  • Preston Larrison regained some velocity last season and will probably be in Toledo's bullpen this year.
  • Aquilino Lopez went back and forth between Toledo and Detroit last season, and will probably return as Toledo's closer this season.
  • Matt Mantei's comeback has gotten off to a fine start. While Troy Percival's comeback last season helps to maintain the hope that he will return, it is still a long shot. I don't know the specifics of his out clauses, but for the moment I will pencil Mantei in as a the Hens' twelfth reliever.
Here's how Toledo's staff looks:

Armando Galarraga
Chris Lambert
Macay McBride
Jordan Tata
Virgil Vasquez

Denny Bautista
Francis Beltran
Francisco Cruceta
Preston Larrison
Aquilino Lopez
Matt Mantei
Clay Rapada

Here's a quick list of players who spent a portion of last season in AA or AAA. While I don't have room for them on Toledo's roster, don't rule them out especially if a player is claimed off waivers or an injury occurs.

  • Eddie Bonine: Spent much of last season in Erie's rotation and probably deserves a spot in Toledo's rotation.
  • Juan Cedeno: One time top Red Sox prospect brought over in the Rule 5 draft. Probably could be a starter or reliever.
  • Danny Christensen: Acquired from Kansas City for Roman Colon, Christensen could be a starter or reliever at Erie or Toledo.
  • Jon Connolly: A great minor league innings eater, I'd expect him in Erie's rotation so long as there is space.
  • P.J. Finigan: Recovering from Tommy John surgery last summer.
  • Ben Fritz: Another Rule 5 pickup and a candidate for Toledo's rotation.
  • Jeremy Johnson: Split last season as a reliever between Erie and Toledo.
  • Andrew Kown: A starter in Erie last season.
  • Anastacio Martinez: A reliever in Toledo last season.
  • Orber Moreno: One time top relieving prospect, attempting a comeback from injuries.
  • Ian Ostlund: Lefty reliever who has spent time at Erie and Toledo the past couple of seasons.
  • Marcelo Perez: Minor league pickup from the Mets.
  • Matt Rusch: Put up fine numbers last season despite skipping a level.
  • Anthony Tomey: Got to know the Ohio turnpike pretty well last year going between Toledo and Erie.
  • Danny Zell: Another solid season put up by an Erie reliever. As with Rusch and Tomey, he move up to Toledo if there is room.
Those pitchers are all candidates right now for Erie in addition to the following potential Lakeland and West Michigan graduates.

  • Luke French: Lakeland's best pitcher last season will likely get a promotion to Erie.
  • Alfredo Figaro: Scouts love his stuff, and he bounced around the lower levels last season. I doubt he crack's Erie's staff.
  • Matt O'Brien has always been a bit old for his levels. Now pushing 26, he will need to put up a good spring to stay in the system.
  • Eleazar Aponte: A bit disappointing in his second season stateside last year, Aponte bounced around and was hit hard in Lakeland. I doubt he makes it to Erie.
  • Sendy Vasquez: Nobody took a bigger step backwards than Vasquez, who went from a great season in West Michigan to bombing in Lakeland amidst a steroid suspension.
  • Kyle Sleeth: Now almost three years removed from Tommy John surgery, it can no longer be used as an excuse. Sleeth will need to show something this spring to avoid being cut.
  • Guillermo Moscoso: Now 24, will have to rocket through the system this year to become an impact player. I'd expect him in Lakeland or West Michigan to start the season.
  • Gabriel Benitez: A great arm that struggled last year in Lakeland. I doubt he is promoted.
  • Brendan Wise: The Aussie had a great breakout season last year, and I expect him to crack Erie's bullpen. If there is veteran backlog, he could return to Lakeland to be promoted later in the season.
  • Derek Witt: Your typical run of the mill low level reliever. I don't think he crack's Erie's staff.
  • Angel Castro: Promoted mid-season from West Michigan to Lakeland last year. Drafted in 2006 and now 25, he will need to move fast. If he has a strong spring, there's not much standing in his way to make Erie's rotation.
  • Erik Averill: Had Tommy John surgery last season and probably won't be ready until this summer.
  • Duane Below: Made a strong case to skip Erie. It's mostly fodder in the rotation now, so he can push his way into Erie with a strong spring.
  • Charlie Furbush: Pitched very well last season, but I expect him to be in Lakeland or West Michigan's rotation.
  • Lauren Gagnier: A bit of a disappointment last season. Could be in Lakeland or West Michigan as a reliever or starter, or could be let go.
  • Luis Marte: The short Dominican reliever did well in the GCL last season, but didn't dominate A ball. I'd expect him back in West Michigan.
  • Jonah Nickerson: Really came on strong towards the end of last season. A strong possibility for Lakeland's rotation.
  • Brett Jensen and Casey Fien: Both had great season's last year. There doesn't appear to be room in Erie's bullpen, so I will have them anchoring Lakeland's pen to start this year.
I just listed a ton of pitchers, and there are even more up for consideration for full season spots. For now, here's how I see Erie's staff.

Eddie Bonine
Danny Christensen
Luke French
Ben Fritz
Andrew Kown
Juan Cedeno
Freddy Dolsi
Jeff Gerbe
Matt Rusch
Anthony Tomey
Brendan Wise
Danny Zell

That's a lot of information for one post. I'll come back tomorrow with a rundown of the rest of the candidates, a projection for Lakeland and West Michigan's staffs, and a summary of who is leftover perhaps revising the rosters. I will say this: Glenn Ezell and company have their work cut out for them this spring, as there don't appear to be clear cut spots for a lot of the pitchers.

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