Analyzing Arizona’s 40-man changes

The Arizona Diamondbacks made a number of changes to their 40-man roster last Friday. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert wrote about the moves in depth, with 10 of the 12 players affected having worn an Aces uniform at some point during the 2016 season.

PLAYERS CLAIMED OFF WAIVERS (4)

Three pitchers and one catcher were claimed off waivers by other organizations. Left-hander Edwin Escobar (Cleveland), right-handers Dominic Leone (Toronto) and Tyler Wagner (Texas), and catcher Tuffy Gosewisch (Atlanta) all found new homes on Friday. All four played for both the Aces and Diamondbacks in 2016.

The trio of pitchers found success with the Aces, but only Wagner translated those numbers to the big leagues. Wagner went 1–4 with a 3.04 ERA in five starts for Reno. In three Major League relief appearances for the D-backs, he posted a 1–0 record and miniscule 1.80 ERA over 10 innings. When healthy, Wagner can be very good, as shown by his career 2.96 ERA in the minors. Wagner will serve as rotational depth for the Rangers in 2017.

Escobar (6–3, 4.25 ERA, 16 starts) and Leone (5–2, 3.34 ERA, 33 games) pitched admirably for the Aces, but neither could retire Major League batters on a consistent basis. In 25 games (two starts) for Arizona, Escobar went 1–2 with a 7.23 ERA over 23 2/3 innings. Leone didn’t fare much better, going 0–1 with a 6.33 ERA in 27 frames, allowing a .391 (45-for-115) batting average against along the way.

Gosewisch, 33, opened his 2016 campaign in Reno where he batted .342 (68-for-199) with nine homers and 26 RBI in 58 games. He was selected to the PCL All-Star Team, but a promotion before the break kept him from participating with Kyle Jensen, Jack Reinheimer and Braden Shipley in Charlotte, N.C. Over 33 games with the D-backs, he posted a slash line of .156/.224/.289, giving Mike Hazen little reason to keep him on the 40-man roster, especially with Welington Castillo, a healthy Chris Herrmann and prospect Oscar Hernandez waiting in the wings.

PLAYERS DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT (2)

Jensen and Gabby Guerrero found themselves as the odd men out with the roster crunch. Jensen, 28, finished second in the PCL MVP race after his monstrous season (.289/30/120) in Reno. Jensen appears best suited for an American League squad looking for a possible platoon at first base, a corner outfield spot or designated hitter. After all, the right-handed power hitter mashed lefties in Triple-A (.394/8/45) and the Majors (.333/2/7), with both of his big league bombs coming off Madison Bumgarner (fourth in 2016 NL Cy Young) and Rich Hill (12–5, 2.12 ERA). Not too shabby.

Kyle Jensen’s first Major League hit and home run came on one swing.

Guerrero, a nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, struggled between Double-A Mobile (92 games) and Reno (34 games). He compiled mediocre numbers (.234/9/54) at both stops, but at a young 22 years of age, could still factor into Arizona’s plans down the road (so long as he isn’t claimed).

PLAYERS ADDED TO THE 40-MAN ROSTER (6)

Four players being claimed and two designated for assignment meant the D-backs had room for six prospects on the 40-man roster. They filled those slots with four ’16 Aces — LHP Anthony Banda, RHP Jimmie Sherfy and INFs Ildemaro Vargas and Reinheimer — and two more INFs, Domingo Leyba and Dawel Lugo.

Banda, 23, was named as Arizona’s Organization Pitcher of the Year after going 10–6 with a 2.88 ERA in 26 starts between Mobile and Reno. He struck out 152 batters in 150 innings, nearly identical to his 152 punchouts over 151 2/3 frames at Single-A Advanced Visalia in 2015. Banda will likely be the first pitcher called upon in 2017 if there is an immediate need in Arizona’s rotation.

Anthony Banda could be a key contributor for the D-backs in 2017.

Reinheimer, 24, earned his third midseason All-Star nomination in four professional seasons and first within the Arizona farm system after a successful 2016 campaign. He batted .288 (144-for-500) in 132 games for the Aces, earning the nod at shortstop in 127 of those contests. A return to Reno is likely, but a trade, injury or strong start next year could open the door for the East Carolina product.

Sherfy, 24, tied for second among all closers in the minors with 30 saves. He struggled down the stretch for Reno, recording an 11.57 ERA (15 ER/11.2 IP), with all three of his blown saves coming in August and September. Despite the late-season woes, Sherfy managed an overall ERA of 2.77 and a .168 batting average against across three levels, proving he will be a worthy candidate for the D-backs’ bullpen in 2017.

Vargas, 25, was named by MiLB.com as an Arizona Organization All-Star after an all-around stellar year, both offensively and defensively. The switch-hitting middle infielder hit .305 (160-for-525) across three levels, including a robust .354 (70-for-198) in 49 games for the Aces. His 70 knocks with Reno from July 17 thru the end of the minor league season (Sept. 5) led all of professional baseball. Calling him a “spark plug” would be a vast understatement. This kid can ball.

In a crucial game against first-place Tacoma, Ildemaro Vargas delivered a highlight-reel defensive play at second base.

Leyba, 21, became the youngest player on Arizona’s 40-man roster when he was added last Friday. In 2016, he hit .296 (147-for-496) with 44 extra-base hits between Visalia (86 games) and Mobile (44 games). A return to the Southern League seems likely for 2017. Reno is a possible destination after the All-Star break, dependent on the status of Reinheimer and Vargas.

Lugo, 21, is the second-youngest farmhand on the D-backs’ 40-man, coming in 254 days older than the aforementioned Leyba. This past summer, he batted .311 (152-for-488) with 17 homers and 62 RBI between Visalia and Mobile, adding 23 doubles and seven triples in the process. An extremely low walk rate (3.7% — 19 BB/510 PA) was accompanied by a very low strikeout rate (11.0% — 56 K/510 PA) last year. Those numbers aren’t far from his career walk (3.4%) and strikeout rates (14.3%), meaning he’s been a high contact hitter since day one. Without a refined approach, players who ascend toward the Major Leagues will see their walk totals decline while strikeouts do the opposite. With that being said, Lugo will likely head to Double-A Jackson to start next season, focusing on his overall approach rather than trying to hit the long ball in Reno.