40-Man Deadline Analysis: AL West

© Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The 40-man roster deadline led to the usual squall of transaction activity, with teams turning over portions of their rosters in an effort to make room for the incoming crop of young rookies. Often, teams with an overflow of viable big leaguers will try to get back what they can for some of those players via trade, but because we’re talking about guys straddling the line between major league viability and Triple-A, those trades tend not to be big enough to warrant an entire post.

Here we’ve endeavored to cover and analyze the moves made by each team, division by division. Readers can view this as the start of list season, as the players covered in this miniseries tend to be prospects who will get big league time in the next year. We’ll spend more time discussing players who we think need scouting updates or who we haven’t written about in the past. If you want additional detail on some of the more famous names you find below, pop over to The Board for a more thorough report.

The Future Value grades littered throughout these posts may be different than those on the 2022 in-season prospect lists on The Board to reflect our updated opinions and may be subject to change during the offseason. New to our thinking on this subject and wondering what the FVs mean? Here’s a quick rundown. Note that because we’re talking about close-to-the-majors prospects across this entire exercise, the time and risk component is less present here and these FVs are what we think the players are right now.

Houston Astros
Current 40-man Count: 36
Added Prospects: SP J.P. France (40 FV)
External Additions: 1B José Abreu

The Astros had four open spots on their 40-man roster, due largely to several players becoming free agents. This year’s free agents included Michael Brantley, Jason Castro, Yuli Gurriel, Christian Vázquez, Aledmys Díaz, and Rafael Montero. Thus far, only Montero has re-signed with Houston, while José Abreu seems to have replaced Gurriel, or at least Trey Mancini. Brantley, Castro, and Gurriel all ended the season with injuries. Other spots on the 40-man were vacated by Justin Verlander opting out, and the org declining options for Will Smith and Mancini, as well as non-tendering Josh James.

Vázquez was acquired at the deadline to help make up for Martín Maldonado’s offensive struggles; he also had impressive postseason experience. While he slashed just .250/.278/.308 after the trade, he is among the best catching free agents on the market. With Castro and Vázquez seemingly departing, that leaves young bat-fist catcher Yainer Diaz and laser-armed Korey Lee to vie for backup duties behind Maldonado.

Houston’s lone internal addition was J.P. France, a 27-year old righty whose blink-and-you’ll-miss-it delivery messes with hitters’ timing. He throws two distinct fastballs with complementary movement profiles. All three of his additional offerings – a slider, a curveball, and a changeup – induced above-average whiff rates this season, as France issued 11 strikeouts per nine at Triple-A. He started the 2022 season as a starter, and his control over his extensive arsenal could allow for an eventual rotation spot, but he transitioned to the bullpen in the middle of the season, which may indicate he’s destined for a long relief role.

If you had asked us 12 months ago, we would have been surprised Jayden Murray wasn’t protected. He still has major league starter-quality command but his strikeout rates took a dip in 2022 despite there being no downtick in his arm strength or stuff as far as we can tell.

Los Angeles Angels
Current 40-man Count: 39
Added Prospects: SIRP Kolton Ingram (40 FV), MIRP José Soriano (35+ FV)
External Additions: SS Gio Urshela, SP Tyler Anderson

Prior to the deadline, the Angels’ 40-man saw a significant exodus of pitchers. Michael Lorenzen and Archie Bradley both became free agents, and the team outrighted reliever Chad Wallach, then non-tendered starter Jhonathan Diaz and relievers Rob Zastryzny, Touki Toussaint, and Nash Walters. To fill those pitching holes, the Angels signed Tyler Anderson, and protected José Soriano and Kolton Ingram from the Rule 5 Draft. Ingram was released by the Tigers in 2020 and was picked up by the Angels in ’21. Since then, he has yet to post a strikeout rate below 30% at any stage of his rapid ascent through the Angels system. He uses his short stature to create a deceptive, shallow approach angle, allowing his 92 mph fastball to play off his high-spin slider, resulting in above-average whiff and chase rates on both offerings. If he can add velocity to his fastball, he could evolve into a high-leverage reliever, but he’s currently on the fast track to a middle inning role.

This is Soriano’s second stint on a 40-man. He was the first pick in the 2020 Rule 5 draft, when the Angels left him unprotected after Tommy John surgery. Then seen as valuable enough to occupy a 40-man spot in Pittsburgh even while he rehabbed, he ended up blowing out again in 2021 and requiring another TJ; the Pirates returned him to Los Angeles. He made his long-awaited return to the mound towards the end of the 2022 season, pitching a handful of innings on the complex, then at Low-A, where he struck out nearly a third of the batters he faced. More notable, though, has been his ability to locate his three-pitch arsenal since re-returning; having previously posted walk rates in the mid-teens, he issued only four free passes in his short 2022 stint. If that improved command is for real, he could be on a path that leads to a rotation spot. But given his injury and strike-throwing history, he has a lot to prove in terms of his arm’s ability to withstand that workload, so a middle-inning relief role seems more appropriate. In terms of position players, the Angels received Gio Urshela in exchange for Alejandro Hidalgo, and lost Kurt Suzuki and Matt Duffy to free agency. Left unprotected were infielders Jeremiah Jackson and Kyren Paris, along with outfielder Jordyn Adams, all of whom were ranked amongst our Top 10 Angels prospects last offseason.

Oakland Athletics
Current 40-man Count: 37
Added Prospects: OF Lawrence Butler (40+ FV), SP Hogan Harris (40 FV)
External Additions: OF Brent Rooker, INF Yonny Hernandez

With Stephen Vogt and Chad Pinder becoming free agents (Vogt retired after the season), the A’s made additional room by non-tendering pitchers Deolis Guerra and Jared Koenig, and infielder David MacKinnon. They also outrighted long-time (and oft-injured) pitching prospect Daulton Jefferies, along with fellow hurlers Sam Selman, Collin Wiles, Austin Pruitt, and Norge Ruiz, as well as infielder Nate Mondou. They claimed infielder Yonny Hernandez (a gritty, contact-oriented gamer and favorite of ours), and outfielder Brent Rooker (a Quad-A power-over-hit sort) off waivers from the Diamondbacks and Royals, respectively.

They also added pitching prospect Hogan Harris, likely in the hopes that he’ll be big-league ready sometime next season, while providing Rule 5 protection to outfielder Lawrence Butler. Harris is a tall lefty who throws from a three-quarters arm slot. He ascended quickly through the A’s system in 2022 thanks to a fastball that missed bats at the top of the zone and a good amount of movement on the rest of his arsenal. When he reached Triple-A, he started facing batters more adept at punishing him for letting his fastball dip too far into the zone; while he hadn’t given up a single home run in his 45.1 combined innings at High- and Double-A, he allowed six in just 28.1 innings at Triple-A (Vegas, baby). Still, given the A’s need for big-league everything, he looks primed for a rotation spot sometime in 2023. Butler is further from the big leagues (especially his outfield defense), but it’s no surprise he’s being protected from Rule 5 selection. He’s long looked the part of a big leaguer in the uniform and has big power potential, as well as above-average speed. 2022 was another strikeout heavy season for the outfielder, but the power and athleticism are unquestionable, and he walked as often as he struck out in his time at the Arizona Fall League this year. The Ks are scary but Butler has a puncher’s chance to be a regular, or at least a valuable strong side platoon outfielder.

The velocity uptick Colin Peluse enjoyed coming off the COVID shutdown has totally evaporated, and he has trended down into the 91-93 mph range. We imagine he was an easy omission, and he’s due for a heavy re-evaluation this offseason.

Seattle Mariners
Current 40-man Count: 38
Added Prospects: CF Jonatan Clase (40 FV), SIRP Isaiah Campbell (35+ FV), SP Prelander Berroa (35+ FV), LF Cade Marlowe (35+ FV)
External Additions: C/LF Cooper Hummel, RF Teoscar Hernández, SIRP Gabe Speier, SP Easton McGee, RP Trevor Gott

There was lots of turnover here, especially at catcher, as St. Joe’s slum Brian O’Keefe, Curt Casali, and Luis Torrens are all off the roster. Tom Murphy, kept off the field by several shoulder injuries, is currently penciled in as the backup while trade acquisition Cooper Hummel becomes the third catcher.

Several core offensive contributors departed, including Mitch Haniger, Adam Frazier, and Carlos Santana. The Haniger and Kyle Lewis departures, offset (and then some) by the addition of Teoscar Hernández, leave the Mariners 40-man deep with lefty-hitting outfielders. In addition to under-performing Taylor Trammell, Jarred Kelenic, and Jesse Winker, the Mariners have Alberto Rodriguez (who spent 2022 on the 40-man in a dev role), newly-added Cade Marlowe and young Jonatan Clase (likely destined for a dev year in 2023) now in the mix. Rodriguez and Marlowe are both well-rounded prospects with fourth outfield/platoon potential and it’s feasible both could get an opportunity if those ahead of them continue to struggle. Marlowe’s success at Triple-A probably puts him first in line for big league reps, but recall that Kelenic has crushed Triple-A as well. PCL surface performance isn’t a great indicator of big league success.

The pitchers added include Isaiah Campbell, who moved to the bullpen during the season and saw a velo spike throughout. He sat 93 across the entire season but, according to Synergy Sports, averaged 96 after a promotion to Double-A. His slider quality and injury history have us projecting him more in up/down relief than a consistent middle-inning role. Prelander Berroa (mid-90s, plus slider) is evaluated similarly because of his 30-grade command. I’d have guessed at the start of the season that Joseph Hernandez would be added, and it’s possible a team will love the lateral sweep on his slider and pop him in a bullpen capacity, but he lost about a tick off his fastball compared to 2021 (now sitting 91-92) and struggled with walks at Low-A.

Texas Rangers
Current 40-man Count: 39
Added Prospects: SP Owen White (50 FV), OF/1B Dustin Harris (45+ FV), INF/OF Jonathan Ornelas (45 FV), INF Luisangel Acuña (45 FV), SP Cole Winn (40+ FV), SP Zak Kent (40 FV)
External Additions: Jake Odorizzi

Full disclosure, Eric came home from Thanksgiving with the flu and with only this team left to write up, so any FV re-evaluation here has been a little less thorough and is more subject to change when we actually do the Rangers list. There was lots of turnover in Texas as, hopefully, the kids arrive to change the fortunes of the franchise. The depth of Texas’ farm system forced the org to leave a handful of prospects vulnerable to the Rule 5. Mason Englert and Cody Bradford are low-variance strike-throwing backend starters, while Avery Weems and Antoine Kelly are reliever-y but have big stuff.

Of the players Texas did protect, Owen White is a major league-ready mid-rotation starter who is a lock for the top 100. After our initial Fall League viewings, we were ready to stuff Luisangel Acuña in the top 100 but as the fall drew on it became clear he has some breaking ball recognition issues. There’s impressive power for such a small athlete but both Ornelas and Acuña look more like super utility types than everyday players.

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1 year ago

Great writeup, but Kyren Paris did not need to be protected.