Four Things We Learned from 60-Man Player Pool Day

With players set to report to camp on July 1, yesterday was the day teams submitted their 60-man player pools to MLB. While there is certainly going to be considerably more maneuvering as teams set up their own camps (plus a satellite camp for those pool players not invited to major league camp), teams’ initial rosters can tell us a little about how clubs plan to operate over the next few weeks and potentially into the season. Here’s what we can say so far.

A 60-Man Player Pool is Not a 60-Man Player Pool

While we were perhaps expecting a 60-man player pool for every team, many clubs fell far short of that number. You can check every team’s initial selections on our Roster Resource Opening Day Tracker; those pages also project Opening Day rosters. Overall, teams put out rosters averaging 53 players. The Indians, Tigers, Royals, Astros, Angels, Yankees, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, Marlins, Phillies, Pirates, Padres, and Nationals were all at capacity or were a handful of players away from reaching the 60-player limit. The Diamondbacks, Twins, and Giants didn’t even release rosters yesterday, while the Orioles, White Sox, Brewers, and Cardinals were all at 45 players or fewer. We will have to wait for full roster information on about half the teams.

Placement in the Player Pool is Pretty Permanent

Later this week, Jay Jaffe is going to analyze the roster rules contained in the 2020 Operations Manual and how they will affect the season, but one wrinkle in particular caught the attention of twitter yesterday, including The Athletic’s Levi Weaver. That wrinkle concerns how players are moved in and out of the 60-man pool depending on their 40-man status. Per the Operations Manual:

In the event a Club is at the limit and wishes to add a player to its Active Roster or its Alternate Training Site, the Club must select a player to be removed from the Club Player Pool by means of a bona fide transaction, as follows:

  • 40-man roster players may be removed from the Club Player Pool by an approved trade, waiver claim, return of Rule 5 selection, release, outright assignment, designation for assignment, placement on the 60-day Injured List, placement on the COVID-19 Related Injured List, or placement on the Suspended List (by Club), Military, Voluntarily Retired, Restricted, Disqualified, or Ineligible Lists.
  • Non-40-man roster players may be removed from the Club Player Pool by an approved trade, release, placement on the COVID-19 Related Injured List, or placement on the Military, Voluntarily Retired, Restricted, Disqualified, or Ineligible Lists. Injured non-40-man roster players will continue to count against the Club Player Pool limit unless removed through one of the permitted transactions listed above.

Basically, once a player is in the pool, the only way they can be removed from it barring injury and few other roster oddities is to allow every other team to get a shot them, either through waivers or free agency. If you see someone named to the 60-man player pool, there’s a pretty good chance they will be the club for the duration of the season. It could explain why some teams have elected not to fill all of their roster spots at this time or have failed to release a roster at all. Teams are allowed some flexibility in the event of a significant number of COVID-19 related-illnesses. Again, per the manual:

In the event that a Club experiences a significant number of COVID-19 Related IL placements at the Alternate Training Site at any one time (i.e., three or more players), and the Club chooses to substitute those players from within the Club’s organization, MLB reserves the right to allow that Club to remove those substitute players from the Club Player Pool without requiring a release.

Keep an eye out for Jay’s piece to learn more; it’s all very complicated.

Teams Are Combining the Beginning and End of Spring Training

In a normal year, near the beginning of Spring Training, it’s not unusual for teams to have top prospects with little shot to make the team and a large number of catchers to help pitchers get their work in mixed in among those players with a meaningful chance of making the Opening Day roster. As teams get closer to start of the season, those prospects and catchers move off the big league roster and head to the minor league fields to get ready for their season. This year, those prospects and catchers are going to stick around. A team can’t afford to be without a catcher and bringing in a free agent isn’t a guarantee. As a result, teams have gone fairly heavy on catchers, with most teams going five or more deep. The Phillies are a notable exception here, carrying just three catchers, though they also have room yet to add.

As for those prospects, Eric Longenhagen will go into greater depth on the prospects added to their team’s player pools, but it does look like the early lists have mostly players who might contribute at some point this season. The Padres and Mariners have already named a handful of very good prospects who might not see major league playing time this season, and were likely added to make sure they get the player development time they’d otherwise miss given the all-but-certain cancellation of the minor league season; as teams add to their rosters, we might see more prospects further away from the majors. But we’re also seeing many teams use their player pool spots for prospects who might be needed this year. Wander Franco isn’t likely to stick in the bigs in 2020, and Xavier Edwards hasn’t made the cut so far, but relievers D.J. Snelton, Ryan Sherriff, John Curtis, Dylan Covey, Ryan Thompson are all in their late-20s and in the player pool.

Taxi Squads Will Be Pitching Heavy Without Much MLB Experience

Per RosterResource, after projecting the 30-player rosters, there are 657 players currently remaining in teams’ player pools who could see time on their teams’ taxi squads. Those numbers will get bigger, but so far there’s a pitcher-heavy lean.

Potential Taxi-Squad Makeup by Position
Position Number Percentage Average Age
Pitchers 359 54.1% 26
Position Players 304 45.9% 26

As for the age of those players, 26 years old is about three years younger than the average age of the players on the projected Opening Day rosters. If a lot more prospects are added, then the age of the potential taxi squad players is going to skew even younger. Given the average age so far, though, it’s clear that most of the players who might make up the taxi squad at some point have been playing professionally for a while and have gotten pretty close to the majors if they haven’t made it there already, though a majority of them haven’t seen time in the bigs.

Potential Taxi-Squad Makeup by Service Time
Service Time Players %
No Service Time 357 53.8%
Between 0 and 1 years 159 23.9%
At least 1, Under 6 years 127 19.2%
6+ years 20 3.0%

So far, we don’t have very many elder statesman swimming in teams’ player pools. More than three-quarters of the players have under one year of service time. We still don’t know quite how the taxi squads will be used, but it does seem like teams might end up using a lot of inexperienced pitchers in a short season. Those callups will come with unusual roster decisions, as only about 40% of the players projected to be potential taxi squad players are already on their team’s 40-man roster.

There will be a lot more time to unpack with these rosters as we know more about them and understand how teams plan to play within the new roster rules. There are still around 200 players who have yet to be named to teams’ player pools and those spots might not even be close to filling up until midway through July as teams determine their needs. This is a strange, unusual process MLB is embarking on, and we are still at the beginning.

We hoped you liked reading Four Things We Learned from 60-Man Player Pool Day by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Bartolo Cologne
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Bartolo Cologne

Thanks for the breakdown! As a heads up, the Padres’ tracker has Luis Campusano listed twice.

Shirtless Bartolo Colon
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Yo homes, smell you later.