The Mets cleared spots on their 40-man roster earlier this offseason by outrighting five players. Four of those became free agents and one, Wuilmer Becerra, remains in the organization but eligible to be picked in the Rule 5 Draft. Of the four who became free agents, one – Phillip Evans – has already re-joined the system.
Chris Walendin, at his invaluable tpgMets site, has the list of all of the team’s minor league guys who need to be added to the 40-man in order to be protected from the aforementioned draft. To my thinking, there are two guys who need to be added or they would be lost and those are infielder Luis Guillorme and starter Corey Oswalt.
Guillorme is the defensive whiz who turned heads this past Spring Training by catching a flying bat with his bare hands without batting an eye. He also put up a .376 OBP as a 22 year old for Double-A Binghamton last season. Oswalt was selected as the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year after going 12-5 with a 2.28 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP last season.
That leaves the Mets with three open slots on the 40-man, which could be used to sign a free agent, make an unbalanced trade or make a selection themselves in the Rule 5 proceedings. Of course, the 40-man is a fluid thing. The Mets could fill up their roster and still sign a free agent. They would just need to remove someone from the roster to allow the move. Jamie Callahan, Kevin McGowan, Jacob Rhame and Josh Smoker are among the guys currently on the 40-man who don’t seem to have much chance to wind up in Cooperstown one day without a ticket.
Guys selected in Rule 5 need to stay on the major league roster all year or risk being lost to another organization. That’s why promising guys in the lower levels of the minors, like Matt Blackham and Hansel Moreno, don’t figure to be selected. While teams are not opposed to “stashing” a guy in the majors all season, they at least want the ability to use a guy without being embarrassed. And they want a guy who will contribute in the majors sooner rather than later. There’s too much risk with a lost year of development while not playing in the majors and then having to wait two or three more years after that to finish minor league seasoning.
It’s also why pitchers are more likely to be selected. Managers can typically find low leverage spots to use a Rule 5 reliever and have him contribute to the major league team. Bashlor and Roseboom may not seem obvious choices for the 40-man but Roseboom being a lefty with Triple-A experience and Bashlor having major league velocity may make them worthy of a flier.
Still it’s probably Jannis who is most likely to find his way onto the 40-man with his strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Jannis has allowed just 1 ER in 17 IP and only four walks playing against the top prospects in the minors. This follows up his closing kick in Binghamton, where in his final 29 IP, he allowed just 4 ER (1.24 ERA) and had a 6.0 K/BB rate.
You never know when – or if – things will click for a knuckleball pitcher. R.A. Dickey didn’t pitch a full season in the majors until 2011 at age 36. Some may be turned off by Jannis’ advanced age, as he’ll turn 30 in December. But of all of the organizations in MLB, perhaps none should be as open to the possibility of Jannis flourishing than the Mets, who received a Cy Young Award season from Dickey.
Some feel it’s too convenient to make the Dickey-Jannis comparison and they’re not necessarily wrong. But guys at the end of the 40-man are essentially lottery tickets. If everything breaks right for Rhame, he’s a late-inning reliever. If everything breaks right for Jannis, he’s a starter who can give you 175 innings. Rhame might have a touch more of a shot to reach his ceiling but that doesn’t make up for the fact that Jannis’ ceiling is much, much higher.
Assuming he stays with the Mets, the most likely destination for Jannis at the start of the 2018 season would be Triple-A Las Vegas, where he would be in the rotation with Chris Flexen, Marcos Molina and Oswalt. This past season the Mets ran into trouble because there were few starting pitching options available in the high minors in May when the wheels fell off with all of the injuries. It should be a lot different this time around, especially if Jannis isn’t lost in Rule 5.