10 December 2009

Why was Steve Johnson not protected?

The Rule 5 draft was this morning and Steve Johnson was selected with the 15th pick by the San Francisco Giants. First, here are the results from the Major League portion:

1. Washington (traded to NYY) Jamie Hoffman OF from LAD
Fast, gap power, good eye. Cabrera or Gardner being traded?
2. Pittsburgh John Raynor OF from FLA
Speed, decent defense, weak arm, high K rate, was FLA's 9th ranked prospect last year.
3. Baltimore (traded to TEX) Ben Snyder LHP from SFG
Decent power arm, struggled as a starter, found himself as a reliever last year.
4. Kansas City Edgar Osuna LHP from ATL
The Atlanta to Kansas City *talent* highway is still chugging along.
5. Cleveland Hector Ambriz RHP from ARZ
Has struggled as a starter, maybe the Indians find some life as a reliever.
6. Arizona Zach Kroenke LHP from NYY
Rumored to go first, gets selected for the second year in a row.
7. New York Mets (traded to LAD) Carlos Monasterios RHP from PHI
Has a solid sinker and nothing else.
8. Houston (traded to FLA) Jorge Jimenez from BOS
Decent eye and contact skills. No defense. Finishes Lindstrom trade.
9. Oakland Bobby Cassevah RHP from LAAA
70% ground ball rate. Walks 5/9.
10. Toronto Zechry Zinicola RHP from WAS
Decent fastball . . . poor secondary pitches.
11. Milwaukee Chuck Lofgren LHP from CLE
Never has lived up to potential. Maybe a switch to the bullpen will help.
12. Chicago White Sox Michael Parisi RHP from StL
Squint hard and see Jamie Moyer . . . Moyer is never a good comp.
13. Tampa Bay Armando Zerpa LHP from BOS
Trying to jump from A-ball.
14. Seattle Kanekoa Texeira RHP from NYY
Was traded last year in the Swisher deal with the ChiSox
15. San Franscisco Steve Johnson RHP from BAL
Extreme flyball pitcher with average pitches. Has succeeded at every level.
16. St. Louis Ben Jukick LHP from CIN
27, good breaking ball, not much else.
17. Philadelphia Ken Herndon RHP from LAAA
Not sure how he would fit in the Phillies bullpen. Good sinker.

I will be ignoring the minor league portions as they are really about filling out MiL rosters and nothing else.

After the jump, I will discuss why I think leaving Johnson off the 40 man roster makes sense.

Here is my basic thought process on why it made sense to leave Johnson off the 40 man roster. First, Johnson is a fringe prospect. Do not get me wrong, he has some worth, but he has several things working against him. His main value is in his pitchability. He *knows* how to pitch, but the concern is that more polished hitters will tee off him. His pitches are not special and he has a horrific fly ball rate. These strongly suggest a pitcher who will be crushed at the Major League level. After spending less than half a season in AA, he just is not ready. A weak, but fair, comparison would be Garrett Olson. When you rely that much on pitching to the zone, you have to be flawless. Most guys just are not successful doing it.

Second, it frees up a roster slot. Johnson is probably the Orioles 8th to 13th best pitching prospect and 10th to 20th best prospect overall. As mentioned before, he really has no place on a team's 25 man roster, but he does pose a strong argument to being at the backend of a team's 40 man roster. This put the Orioles in a unique position where they could leave Johnson unprotected (off the 40 man), giving them in essence a 41 man roster. This is pretty useful as it adds flexibility in signing free agents and trading players. If Johnson was protected and at a later point in time, we hit a roster crunch after guys like Tatum, Bass, or Hughes were discarded . . . then Johnson could have been in a position to be waived. In such a case, another team could make a claim and put him on their 40 man roster instead of the 25 man roster as the rule 5 designation dictates. It is a high leverage move.

So third? Why protect guys like Rhyne Hughes and Brian Bass? Well, they both have potential value as filler on the MLB roster in April, but they are also useful in that they can be easily waived. A 40 man roster is often composed of useful, wanted players as well as guys who are on the fringe. Guys whose role is to take a few at bats or innings until someone else is ready. Guys who can be waived without much thought and not raise much ire when they are placed on someone else's 40 man roster. Guys who can be DFA'd and go back to Norfolk. This kind of player often exists on the backend of a 40 manroster. Steve Johnson is not this kind of player. Johnson has potential future worth.

Best Case Scenario for the Orioles: Steve Johnson washes out with the Giants, passed through waivers, and is offered back to us for 25k.

Worst Case Scenario for the Orioles: Johnson sticks with the Giants or some other team and we lose our 8th to 13th best pitching prospect.

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