Tigers add Nesbitt, Machado to 40-man
The Tigers filled their 40-man roster on Thursday, purchasing the contracts of relief prospect Angel Nesbitt and infielder Dixon Machado to protect them from next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
Both Nesbitt and Machado were eligible last year and slipped through. Their breakout seasons this summer made it nearly impossible to expect the same luck this time around.
In a year when several Tigers pitching prospects hit growing pains on their way up the system, Nesbitt took advantage, turning closing opportunities at Class A Lakeland and Double-A Erie into a springboard into the Tigers prospect ranks. He ranking 17th on MLB.com’s end-of-season list.
Nesbitt saved 20 games between the two levels, but the raw numbers were more impressive: 43 hits allowed over 66 2/3 innings with 23 walks and 72 strikeouts. With a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and hits 98 mph on occasion, plus improving secondary pitches, the soon-to-be 24-year-old has a potential Major League arsenal if he can learn how to best utilize it.
Machado was on Detroit’s 40-man roster at this point last year, but was designated for assignment to open a spot for Joe Nathan. He was coming off an injury-plagued 2013 season in which he hit just .215 in 37 games at Lakeland while producing limited power. He rebounded mightily this year, producing a .779 OPS and 31 doubles between Lakeland and Erie while showing better defense.
It was the offensive outburst the Tigers had long been waiting to see from Machado, who actually hit better after his midseason promotion to the Eastern League. While Detroit has a glut of middle infield prospects, including Eugenio Suarez and Hernan Perez at the upper levels and Domingo Leyba and Javier Betancourt further down, Machado is just 22 in a system that still needs all the depth it can get, if for nothing more than potential trade pieces.
Nesbitt and Machado took the two open spots on the roster, which tightened last week after the Tigers re-signed Victor Martinez and traded for Anthony Gose. Detroit could have opened a spot by removing a player, such as outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, whose role this past season as a speedy left-handed hitting center fielder now seems redundant with Gose on board going into 2015.
Among the Tigers prospects eligible for the Rule 5 is 6-foot-8 right-hander Edgar De La Rosa, who blossomed into a power pitcher at Class A Advanced Lakeland. His 7-9 record there belied his 3.30 ERA and 116 hits allowed over 139 innings, though he suffered from 53 walks.
Endrys Briceno is the highest-ranked prospect now eligible, sitting at 18th on MLB.com’s list at season’s end, but he spent most of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The most intriguing Rule 5 eligible Tiger, however, might be a Major League veteran. The Tigers signed Joel Hanrahan to a minor-league contract last week, but doing so technically left him exposed to the draft. The former Pirates and Red Sox closer hasn’t pitched since 2013 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but is expected to be healthy and ready for Spring Training.
Hanrahan reportedly turned down at least one Major League contract offer to sign with the Tigers, so the interest is there. However, any team that drafts him would also take on the roster bonuses in his contract, starting with the $1 million bonus he gets for making the active roster. He can make another $2.5 million in bonuses down the line.
For that reason and others, De La Rosa is more likely to get drafted than Hanrahan, according to two Major League talent evaluators.