The Mets have added six players to their 40-man roster, including top prospect Zack Wheeler, in order to protect them from next months Rule 5 Draft. In addition to Wheeler, the Mets also chose to protect pitchers Hansel Robles, Gonzalez Germen, Greg Burke, and Darin Gorski, as well as middle infielder Wilfredo Tovar. Here’s a run down of who these guys are and why the Mets are protecting them:
Zack Wheeler – Wheeler was a no brainer to add. Since he was 19 when the Giants drafted him out of high school he only had four years before he had to be added, which in the long run isn’t a big deal. Wheeler will be making his big league debut in 2013 (if you’re a betting man I’m putting the over/under for his ML debut as the all-star break, although that could move up), and being on the 40-man roster means he’ll be in big-league camp this spring at least up until the first round of cuts, but potentially longer if he pitchers well; although the chances of him making the opening day roster are slim unless there are multiple injuries among the starting five during spring training.
Hansel Robles – I whiffed on recognizing Robles would be rule-5 eligible, but he signed in 2008, so he is eligible. Robles was the Sterling Award winner in Brooklyn this past season after going 6-1 with a 1.11 ERA in 12 starts. Robles allowed just 47 hits and 10 walks in 72.2 innings, striking out 66. Clearly, the numbers are outrageous, as they should be for a 22 year old in the New York Penn League. Robles has a fastball that sits in the low 90’s and at times can get into the mid 90’s, which is probably the biggest reason the Mets want to hold onto him. However, his secondary pitches are very much a work in progress and at 5’11’’ he likely projects as a reliever in the long run. For now he’ll start, and because he’s taking up a spot on the 40, I’d expect the Mets to be rather aggressive with him, likely starting him in St. Lucie, with an eye towards Binghamton later in the season if things go well.
Gonzalez Germen – Germen is a guy I like, but whom I’m a bit surprised to see protected. He had a nice year in 2011, spending the entire year in Savannah, and then made just 5 appearances for St. Lucie in 2012 before being promoted to Binghamton, and actually made one start in AAA before the season ended. Germen has never been towards the top of any prospect lists, but he throws in the low 90’s, which is good enough, and he has one of the better changeups among Mets minor leaguers. That changeup is probably the biggest reason the Mets are looking to keep Germen, as it gives him a chance to become a middle reliever that’s capable of getting both lefties and righties out (you know, the way Ramon Ramirez was supposed to this past year, but failed so miserably at, kind of like that). Unless he really impresses in the spring Germen should be on his way to Las Vegas to start 2013.
Greg Burke – The Mets signed Burke to a minor league deal a little over a week ago. The Mets originally drafted the Camden, NJ native back in 2000, but he chose to go to Duke instead of signing. Burke has plenty of minor league experience, since he’s 30 years old, but he did spend most of the 2009 season in the San Diego bullpen. Last season, Burke reinvented himself as a side-arm pitcher and put up a 1.53 ERA in 64 innings between AA and AAA in the Orioles farm system. He is having a nice winter in Mexico, with a 2.04 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning and just one walk in 17 innings of work. I’m guessing scouts have been impressed with his transition to being a side-arm pitcher and he may have been stolen away from someone in rule 5. As a result, the Mets have protected him and he could become a part of the major league bullpen at some point this season, even if he doesn’t make the opening day roster.
Darin Gorski – Gorski was a pretty each choice to be protected. He was the best pitcher in the Florida State League in 2011, although he was a little more mediocre last year in Binghamton. Gorski’s biggest problem was the long ball, giving up 20 homeruns to AA batters, as he is predominantly a fly-ball pitcher. Gorski’s success in 2011 came as a result of added velocity on his fastball, which is accompanied by one of the best changeups in the Mets system. He’ll need some time in AAA before he’s ready to make a big league appearance, but his debut with the Mets will certainly come at some point in 2013.
Wilfredo Tovar – Tovar was another no brainer to protect, as he’s one of the most gifted defensive shortstops around, and he could certainly be an everyday shortstop in the big leagues right now if all he had to do is play defense. If Tovar can hit enough, he’ll get to the big leagues. He’s shown a good propensity for making contact, which is good because his small 5’10’’ frame doesn’t hold a lot of power in it. Tovar hit .254/.308/.332 in the second half of 2012 at AA, which is a noticeable decrease from the .284/.377/.332 line he had the first half in St. Lucie. Tovar won’t turn 22 until August, so there’s no rush to get him to the big leagues and there’s no guarantee he’ll make his debut in 2013, but his defense is too good to lose and warrants rule 5 protection (I can almost guarantee you he would have been picked if available). If Tovar can hit a little, draw walks, and limit his strikeouts then his defense will carry him to the big league, where he will be a great asset defensively.
With regards to the players that were protected, Wheeler, Gorski, and Tovar are not surprising at all. I was a little surprised to see Germen get protected, but I’m glad that the Mets see potential in him as a major league contributor, because I do as well. Burke being on the list caught me off guard, but after seeing his numbers last year and this winter it makes sense. Robles was a surprise, simply because I looked at the list of players that were at risk for rule 5 from multiple sources and he wasn’t on any of them, but I’ve done the math and he is eligible. That being said, I’m surprised he was added and not Luis Cessa, who also spent last summer in Brooklyn.
As for guys who weren’t added, I’m very surprised that Aderlin Rodriguez was left out. Defensively, he’d be a huge liability for a major league team right now, but I wonder if an American League team might take him in rule 5. I also thought either Francisco Pena or Juan Centeno might be added as well, especially since the Mets are so starved for pitching. To check out how smart (or stupid) I am, feel free to look back at my preview here: http://realdirtymets.com/2012/10/01/sneak-peak-at-rule-5-draft/.
As for the Mets 40-man roster, it currently sits at 39, which means it’s almost full. The Mets will likely non-tender Mike Pelfrey and Andres Torres, which will free up a couple spots, but after that, guys like Zach Lutz and Reese Havens could be in danger of getting removed. The Rule-5 draft, as usual, will take place during the Winter Meetings next month.