A 40 man roster space is a very valuable thing. Teams are careful who they add, trying to get away with adding anyone worthwhile while leaving off anyone they can get away with. Teams allow players to leave who they feel aren’t worth a 40 man roster spot (Nick Plummer), let players leave who they’d rather keep because they’re out of options (Justin Williams), or add players several years before they are expected to make an MLB impact because they might be drafted in the Rule 5 draft (Ivan Herrera). It’s a game really, the choice who to pick for a 40 man roster spot and who not to.
Over the past offseason, the Cardinals made a calculated move that Luken Baker would not be drafted in the Rule 5 draft. They thought Jake Walsh, Freddy Pachecho, and Brendan Donovan might be drafted so they added them. Ljay Newsome, currently injured, was outrighted off the 40 man roster because he could be. Today, I’ll be covering the players who, at the end of the 2022 season, will find themselves needing to be added to the 40 man roster, or risk getting drafted in the Rule 5 draft, or they’ll just straight up become free agents.
Add or Lose
This group of players is the Nick Plummer section. These players literally need to be added to the 40 man roster or they’ll become a free agent. There is always the possibility that they’ll sign a minor league extension, but usually players try elsewhere if they haven’t made a 40 man in seven years in a system.
Julio Rodriguez (C) - Rodriguez was sort of a prospect as recently as two years ago. He came into the 2020 season having hit at every level, but fell flat on his face in 14 games in AA. No worries there. Then he missed 2020, and spent most of 2021 injured. When he was healthy, he was terrible, with a 47 wRC+ in AA. He will be 25 in 2022. He is definitely a longshot.
Carlos Soto (C) - Soto spent three years in the rookie level leagues and started 2019 in short season A ball, a league that no longer exists. He got a sampling of Low A ball then - and wasn’t good. He repeated Low A in 2021 and had a 109 wRC+. He is so far away from the majors and will be just 23 this year, he might actually sign a minor league extension.
Bradey Whalen (1B) - The 24-year-old has a make or break season coming in 2022. He has been a first baseman without power until this most recent season. And you wouldn’t exactly describe a .177 ISO as “with power.” He’ll be in Springfield this upcoming year and he’ll have no excuse not to have power.
Franklin Soto (2B) - Signed at 16-years-old, Soto spent a reasonable three years in the rookie leagues, seeing just 2 games at High A above rookie level in his career. He was promoted to Low A this year at 21-years-old and was...not great, with a 60 wRC+.
Delvin Perez (SS) - Well most of us know his story. He skipped High A to begin 2022 in AA and his bat seemed to improve at first, but at the end of the year, he had an 80 wRC+ and .075 ISO. In Springfield. If he’s even close to average with the bat in Memphis, he might be kept.
Ben DeLuzio (OF) - Drafted in the Rule 5 minor league section, DeLuzio has just one more year until free agency. But he feels like depth more than an actual player the Cards expect to add.
Connor Jones (RHP) - All of the names mentioned so far have been acquired very, very young. Jones was drafted out of college and is thus 27-years-old. He was once a prospect, but has the problem of not having good stats since 2017. Yes, 2017. He’ll be in the bullpen in Memphis.
Wilfredo Pereira (RHP) - Even more so than Perez, I think Pereira has the best shot of actually being added to the 40 man. He had a fairly decent season in High A last year at the age of 22, throwing 97.1 IP, splitting his time between the bullpen and rotation. He’ll be in Springfield next year.
Enmanuel Solano (RHP) - Originally a starting pitcher, he had only advanced to short season A ball by the time 2019 ended. With two years to decide whether or not to add him to a 40 man roster, the Cardinals moved him to the High A bullpen. He wasn’t very good.
Eligible for first time
This category is self-explanatory. These players have not yet been exposed to a Rule 5 draft, but will if they aren’t added before December of 2022.
Aaron Antonini (C) - He could be added, but it depends on what they do with Andrew Knizner and Ali Sanchez. Antonini was moved around so much last year, it’s difficult to know what he is. Unless he explodes with the bat, I suspect they can keep him off next year.
Pedro Pages (C) - Pages is pretty much the same way. These guys are kind of prospects, but not the kind of prospects teams are going to stash on a roster all year. Pages had a 102 wRC+ in High A and all indications are, at best, he’ll be ready for AAA in 2023.
Zade Richardson (C) - He was at the same level as Pages and had a 94 wRC+ in 2021. Pages had a 102 wRC+. They are not currently meaningfully different.
Chandler Redmond (IF) - I feel like he’s going to need to cut down on his K rate to be at serious threat of being drafted. He had a 33.5 K% in High A and 37.6% in AA. No MLB team is going to think they can stash him on the roster all year, especially since he’s not really a prospect.
Todd Lott (1B) - A first baseman with a 99 wRC+ in High A? He’s really going to need to completely surprise with a great AA or he’ll be left off without a concern.
Nolan Gorman (2B) - Well this one isn’t even a discussion. Because he’s in this category, he will more likely than not make his MLB debut this year. So there won’t even be a debate, he’ll already be on the 40 man when it comes time to make these decisions.
Malcolm Nunez (3B) - Unless he falls flat on his face, he will probably be added. He is a legitimate prospect at this point. Certainly a good enough one that some bad team might draft him. Plus, I suspect a breakout is coming, with him repeating AA.
Ramon Mendoza (3B) - Considering he spent most of 2021 in the complex league, I don’t think there’s any serious risk here.
Darlin Moquete (OF) - He had a 125 wRC+ in the complex league, but also had a .055 ISO. So no, he will be left off without a second thought.
Matthew Liberatore (LHP) - Exact same situation as Gorman. He is going to be added midseason at some point, and because of that, when it is actually time to make these decisions, he will already be on.
Zack Thompson (LHP) - Now this is a good question! He was quite bad last year. He’s still sort of close to being a prospect and if that remains true, he will probably be added.
Andre Pallante (RHP) - Pallante would be someone I strongly suspect will be added midseason at some point actually. He actually pitched one game in AAA last year and if the Cards need pitching help, he’s certainly on the list.
Connor Thomas (RHP) - It’s starting to make sense why the Cardinals are only carrying 36 players on their 40 man. Here is the fourth guy who has a halfway decent shot of being added midseason. They want the room to add pitchers if/when they need them.
Dalton Roach (RHP) - He went from 6 starts in Low A to 114.2 IP in AA last year. He wasn’t great, but it was a huge adjustment. i doubt he’ll be considered, especially since he’s going to be 26, but anything’s possible with pitchers in the high minors, especially if this guy gets moved to the bullpen.
Jack Ralston (RHP) - Ralston struck out 36.3% of hitters in High A while splitting his time between bullpen and starter. He feels like a guy they might move to bullpen full-time and his stats might really get ridiculous.
Logan Gragg (RHP) - He was drafted young out of college, so he will be only be 23 in this upcoming season, but his numbers certainly weren’t inspiring in High A. Probably not added.
Connor Lunn (RHP) - At 22-years-old in 2021, Lunn had... pretty damn good numbers. He had a 24.6 K% and 4.1 BB%. All while skipping Low A. A good enough season in AA and he might be someone you need to add.
Michael YaSenka (RHP) - He had a 6.11 ERA in High A last year, so I don’t think there’s a ton of risk.
Dionys Rodriguez (RHP) - He will only be 21-years-old and just had a good season in Low A. If he can repeat his numbers - 30.6 K% and 7.6 BB% - in High A, he might actually be protected.
Ludwin Jimenez (RHP) - He is so incredibly young, but it’s going to take a really big turnaround in 2022 in order to think he’ll need to be protected. He had a 6.17 ERA in Low A at 19-years-old.
Inohan Paniuaga (RHP) - He spent most of last year in the Low A bullpen and while his numbers were pretty decent, he was also in a Low A bullpen. The MLB is quite the leap, even with a good season in a High A bullpen.
Eligible, Little or No Risk
Edgardo Rodriguez (C) - He was a part of the Tommy Pham trade actually. He had a 100 wRC+ in the complex league and, in just 13 games, a 22 wRC+ in Low A. He has two years until he’s eligible for minor league free agency, so he’s really going to need to advance quickly.
Luis Rodriguez (1B) - Another player who has two years until he’s eligible for minor league free agency, but... I’m not liking his odds. He was a catcher, got moved to first base, had a 135 wRC+ in complex league, but with lots of Ks and no power.
Nick Dunn (2B) - Dunn hasn’t actually been a good hitter since 2018, so I can’t realistically see a scenario where he has a good enough 2022 to make him a real risk to get drafted.
Francisco Hernandez (2B) - The Cardinals made a lot of aggressive promotions due to the missed season. Hernandez is one of them, having spent last year in High A after not spending time above rookie league before (except for 5 games). He was.... well he had a 52 wRC+. Let’s hope things go better.
Irving Lopez (2B) - Lopez looked like a legitimate guy to make the majors back in 2019. I certainly thought so. But this past year, he had a 73 wRC+ in AA and a 66 wRC+ in AAA. He only played in 80 games though, so that could be at fault.
Evan Mendoza (SS) - It was fairly clear his bat wasn’t going to get him to the majors, so the Cardinals moved him from 3B to SS. His bat got worse. He had a 63 wRC+ in AAA.
Scott Hurst (OF) - Weird place to put him given he actually made the majors, but he was designated for assignment for a reason. He may make the majors in 2022, but the same thing will happen again if it does.
Jonah Davis (OF) - Drafted in the Rule 5 minor league section this past season, Davis has such severe strikeout problems that it’s easy to imagine him striking out 50% of the time in the MLB.
Chase Pinder (OF) - I suppose a player with his injury history should be in the following category - if he ever stays healthy, there’s always the possibility his bat flourishes. It’s just hard to imagine because he hasn’t been great when healthy for a while.
Adanson Cruz (OF) - Well he had 13 strikeouts in 29 plate appearances in his limited time in Low A, so I think this is very, very low risk.
Luis Montano (OF) - Might be a name to pay attention to. Not for the Rule 5 draft, but he had a 117 wRC+ with a .217 ISO. High K rate, but not unreasonably so. Going to be 22 in Low A surely.
Griffin Roberts (RHP) - I guess the Cardinals are just hoping something clicks with him. He is just coasting on his draft status and has been since he was drafted.
Jose Moreno (RHP) - He was advanced to Low A last year, probably too soon, but he did manage to strike out 26.5% of hitters. But he also walked 14.5%, so his stats were bad. Entering age 21 season in 2022.
Evan Krucyznski (LHP) - He 5.12 FIP in AA and a 7.84 FIP in AAA last year. Really going to need to take a huge leap in 2022.
Kyle Leahy (LHP) - Anybody in the high minors should probably be in the possible section, but he struck out 14.9% of hitters with a 10.4% walk rate in AA. Hard to imagine.
Nefri Contreras (LHP) - Most recently drafted in Rule 5 minor league draft, Contreras feels more like depth than a guy expected to make the majors. For now at least. He is still only 23.
Possibly Could be Added
Luken Baker (1B) - Assuming there isn’t some sort of Rule 5 draft before this season starts - and it feels like there isn’t going to be enough time - Baker will probably spend all of next year in AAA. He might hit well enough to get promoted but he has a few people to leap to make that possible.
Kramer Robertson (2B) - It’s truly absurd this guy can be in the Cardinals system for two more years. He’s already 27. Anyway, I suspect the Cardinals release him after this season personally.
Connor Capel (OF) - I want to let the record show I do NOT think he will be added, but it’d be foolish to pretend he has no shot. He had a 110 wRC+ in AAA last year. He can also, at least in theory, fake playing in CF. He’s only 25 this year, so yeah actually he has a better shot than I’m giving him credit for to get promoted midseason actually.
Justin Toerner (OF) - This one is more of a longshot, but the Cardinals sure advanced him through the minors quickly. He made it to High A in his draft year, then saw AA the next year. He had an above average wRC+ at every level. This past season though, he had a 88 wRC+ in AA.
Jhon Torres (OF) - Currently the 9th ranked prospect on Fangraphs, he is already Rule 5 eligible. He would probably not be drafted though, because he is not even remotely close to being ready. He had an 85 wRC+ in High A. There’s a good chance he’ll spend time in AA though and if he remains a legit prospect, he’ll be protected.
Jacob Bosiokovic (RHP) - He feels rather likely to be added, if keeps up his momentum. Hell, he feels like to be added in the middle of the year. It was only 7 innings, but he had a 0.84 FIP in AAA. He got stronger as the year went on. Will be 28-years-old, but also a reliever, where that kind of thing matters less.
Ljay Newsome (RHP) - He has a very good chance of being added, depending on how his rehab goes. Still just 25-years-old, he’s expected to miss most of the season to injury.
Domingo Robles (LHP) - This is probably a generous placing, considering he repeated AA and had worse stats. But he’ll be 24 and if he manages to pitch well in AAA, it wouldn’t be a huge reach to think he could be on an MLB roster in the bullpen.
Edgar Gonzalez (RHP) - This is definitely a reach. Gonzalez had decent stats in High A way back in 2019, then spent pretty much all of 2022 injured. I could see a move to the bullpen and a healthy year, in theory, improve his numbers to the point where’s added. Long shot, but possible.
Austin Warner (LHP) - Warner strikes me as someone who will be added midseason or not at all. He had good stats in AAA last year, but also is 28 already. Not exactly a guy you “protect.”
Tommy Parsons (RHP) - Already 26-years-old, I’d probably say the same thing I said about Warner, although 26 - especially with a missing season - is still young enough that it’s more possible.
Edgar Escobar (RHP) - He will be 25 and spending at least some of his time in AAA. He had a 5.88 ERA and worse FIP, but also a 3.89 xFIP. He struck out 29.9% of hitters last year. Definitely a long shot but possible.
Carlos Guarate (RHP) - He’s here more because I feel like he could be a guy they’re forced to preemptively add. Bit of a longshot sure. But they got him via the Rule 5 minor league section. He’s only 21 and had great K/BB numbers in Low A. Previously a prospect, he can possibly regain that status and make it to AA. Again, longshot, but possible.
I ignored minor league free agents who I presume will become free agents again at the end of the year. I may have missed someone - and I probably did - but my source was Roster Resource on Fangraphs. As far the minor league free agent possibility, I just used whoever was signed in 2016, which would make them minor leaguers for parts of seven seasons, which is what’s needed to be eligible for minor league free agency.
Again, it makes sense why they only have 36 players when you see all the players who might be added midseason. Gorman, Liberatore, Thompson, Bosiokovic, Capel, Pallante, Thomas, and Baker. That’s a lot of potential candidates with two virtual guarantees (Gorman and Liberatore) and a host of pitching options that have a good chance of being needed with how pitching depth works.