General manager Al Avila talks about the Tigers’ plans in protecting Rule 5 eligible players. Chris McCosky, Detroit News
A left-handed starter from the Rockies farm system joined some high-profile Tigers prospects Monday when Detroit finalized its 40-man roster ahead of next month’s winter meetings and the Rule 5 draft.
The newcomer is Ryan Carpenter, 27, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound pitcher who originally was a seventh-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2011. He was a minor-league free agent who signed a big-league Tigers contract, which secures for Carpenter more money and an invitation to big-league spring camp.
The Tigers purchased the contracts of Mike Gerber, a left-handed hitting outfielder; left-handed starter Gregory Soto; infielder Sergio Alcantara; catcher Grayson Greiner; relievers Gerson Moreno and Eduardo Jimenez; and right-handed starting prospect Spencer Turnbull.
Carpenter is regarded as a workhorse who in 2017 threw 156 innings in 27 games, 25 of which were starts. He had a 4.15 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He struck out 161 batters and walked 39.
Among those not included in the 40-man group: relief pitchers Adam Ravenelle and Paul Voelker; and outfield prospect Jose Azocar.
Ravenelle, Voelker and Azocar could be gobbled up during next month’s Rule 5 draft. Players with minimum time in the minors who have not yet cracked the 40-man roster can be plucked by another team as part of the Rule 5 process.
While there were no shocking exclusions Monday as the Tigers formalized their 40-man cast, they were forced to bail on an uncommon number of prospects who had reasonable promise.
Ravenelle and Voelker are hard-throwing, right-handed bullpen projects who couldn’t crack the roster, even when the Tigers are dealing with their annual anxiety over relief pitching.
Ravenelle was a fourth-round pick in 2014 after he helped Vanderbilt win the College World Series. He throws a high-90s fastball. But control issues have hurt him, and with young relievers now the strength of a shallow Tigers farm system, Ravenelle was squeezed.
So, too, was Voelker, a 10th-round grab in 2014 out of Dallas Baptist. Voelker is 5-10, 185 pounds, and has 217 strikeouts in 172 innings during his four seasons in the bushes. But the Tigers decided he lacks the size and long-term power they see in a pitcher who beat him out, Turnbull, a starter who is 6-3, 215, and could yet find his way into the bullpen. Turnbull was a second-round pick in 2014 from the University of Alabama.
Eaves is a left-handed hitting infielder who had a nice season at Double A Erie and won a ticket to the Arizona Fall League, where he made the AFL All-Star team. But the Tigers have moved heavier prospects into their infield plans and Eaves, who came to Detroit in a 2016 trade for Jefry Marte, was bypassed Monday.
Another casualty was Azocar, 21, a right-handed hitter who is 5-11, 160. The Tigers watched in past summers as Azocar repeatedly swung at pitches galore in Single A and decided Monday they were out of room.
Those who won 40-man slots were more prized prospects considered to be in little danger.
Gerber, 25, is a left-handed hitter who can play all three outfield spots and who will join the Tigers big-league team at spring camp in February.
Soto, 22, had a brilliant 2016 season and could be in the Tigers rotation by 2019. He has a power fastball and next season could win an eventual upgrade to Triple A Toledo.
Alcantara, 21, came to the Tigers in July’s trade that sent J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks. He is a speedy defensive infielder who figures to be, at the very least, a big-league back-up.
Greiner, 25, and a third-round pick in 2014 from the University of South Carolina, is part of a deep Tigers catching group. He is likely to be in Detroit, as a back-up or more, by 2019.
Moreno and Jimenez are heavy-throttle relievers who likewise were guarded by a Tigers team that needs a surplus of arms in its reconstruction bid.
Players who were on the 40-man bubble and missed Monday’s call can win a lovely consolation prize: a Rule 5 invitation, however unlikely it would be for a more marginal player such as Azocar. It was the Rule 5 draft that last season brought to the Tigers left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf.
Rule 5 players must stick with the claiming team’s 25-man active roster, or be returned to the player’s previous club for one-half the $100,000 acquisition price.
The Tigers are keeping one roster spot open as they prepare to add offseason pitching and, perhaps, a player in the Rule 5 draft.
TIGERS 40-MAN ROSTER
Here is the Tigers' current 40-man roster. There is one open spot.