Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August, the 40-Man, and the Durham Bulls

Today is the first day of August and minor leaguers’ thoughts turn to … September call-ups. To that end here’s a bit of a primer on how that might work. As careful readers know I am far from expert on these matters, so if I make a mistake, please jump in and help fix it.

We’ll begin with the 40-man roster of the Rays ...

Wait a minute. Before that let’s make sure we all understand and agree on just what that all this roster stuff means. Before a player can step on the field in a major league game he has to be on the team's 25-man “active roster”. However, before a player can be on the 25-man roster, he has to be on the 40-man roster. Thus, the 40-man functions as sort of a gateway to playing in the big leagues.

Players who are on the 15-day disabled list have to stay on the 40-man; players on the 60-day disabled list do not.

Most of the ballplayers who are on the 40-man but not on the 25-man active roster play for the Durham Bulls. Only three ballplayers are on the Rays 40-man but not with the Bulls. They are all young pitchers. Two are down with the Charlotte Sand Crabs (A) (RHPs Wilking Rodriguez and Albert Suarez) and one with the Montgomery Biscuits (AA), RHP Alex Colome. I don’t know why that is. Maybe a reader can jump in an explain it for me and I’ll add it in. [Note 1]

With the Bulls we’ve got (as of today) five pitchers and six position players who are on the Rays 40-man.

The pitchers have been going back and forth all year (Josh Lueke went up yesterday):
  • Chris Archer
  • Dane De La Rosa
  • Brandon Gomes
  • Cesar Ramos
  • Alexander Torres
The position players, on the other hand, have stayed with the Bulls after arrival. The one exception to that is infielder Will Rhymes who started with the Bulls, went up, and came back. The rest started with the Rays and came to the Bulls after the season started. One, Brooks Conrad, is on his way.
  • Chris Gimenez
  • Stephen Vogt
  • Reid Brignac
  • Brooks Conrad
  • Will Rhymes
  • Rich Thompson
If you’ve been doing your addition (25+11+3) and wondering why it doesn’t work out, it’s because the Rays only have 39 players on their 40-man roster at the moment. At a guess that’s because they want to hold a spot for the day Evan Longoria comes off the 60-day DL. [Ooops! See Note 2]

Why should we Bulls fans care? Well, in September the Rays can “expand” the active roster to include all the guys on the 40-man. That is, they can call up everyone if they want to. In previous years we Bulls fans watched this closely because the Bulls were in contention and we didn’t want the Rays to rip off anyone needed for the playoffs. This year that’s not going to matter all that much. The last regular season game is September 3rd and the Bulls playoff prospects are nil.

All those guys listed above have a shot at spending September with the Rays (and making big league bucks, a month's worth of the $480k minimum is more than most would make in the rest of the year).

What about the rest of the team? They can only get a September call up if someone is taken off the Rays 40-man roster and that can only happen in one of two ways: a player goes on the 60-day DL or a player on the list is “designated for assignment” or released outright. If we’ve got a favorite player whom we think should spend some time with the Rays this September, and he’s not already on the 40-man, then somebody currently on the list has to go.

As it happens, I’ve got two players I think should spend some time with the Rays and who aren’t on the 40-man: Henry Wrigley and Leslie Anderson. I’ll try to make a case for them over the month, but first I wanted to make sure we all knew who was ahead of them in line. It’s not just the folks currently playing for the Rays, it’s all the folks on the 40-man.

They (and others such as Tim Beckham) will spend August making their case. Others will be playing for a Winter League job. Others will be working for an invitation to spring training next year (not necessarily with the Rays). Others will be serving out their last days as professional ballplayers.

Note 1: If you are not afraid of brain cramps, read this article on the Rule 5 draft. These players who were drafted at a very young age are being protected from that draft (at least for now). Thanks to Doug Milhoan of Rays Prospects for this info.

Note 2: Can't count. Luke Scott is on the 15-day DL. He stays on the 40-man. The Rays have 40 men on their 40-man.

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