Every so often (it'll be every Friday if I get enough questions), I answer prospect questions submitted by readers. You can submit your own questions here at any time and if they're good, I'll use it in the next Inbox segment.
If a prospect is not on the team's 40 man roster, is that a bad sign that he is going to make the team this year. I am specifically concerned about Tommy LaStella of the Atlanta Braves.
Yes and no. There are instances every year of players making a team out of spring training despite not being on the 40-man roster, so it definitely happens. In no way would that preclude a player like La Stella from making the Braves roster if the team decided that he was the guy they wanted to go with. It is a hurdle, however.
Most teams enter spring training with a 40-man roster that is pretty crowded. If it is completely full and the organization doesn't have anybody they can add to the 60-day disabled list (which frees up a 40-man roster spot), a player would have to be designated for assignment before another player can be added. Designating a player for assignment exposes him to every other team in the league. Often times that can be enough to force the team to go in a different direction. If the Braves decision came down to La Stella and another player that was already on the 40-man roster, it's likely that his roster status would be enough to break the tie.
Of course, in the case of the Braves and La Stella specifically, it's Dan Uggla's contract that really stands in the way. La Stella won't be making the Braves roster this spring because Uggla is the second baseman, no matter how well La Stella plays.
Last year the Marlins rushed Jose Fernandez to the bigs and it worked out great for them - what are the chances they do the same with [Andrew] Heaney this year?
Chris, Western Australia
With the Marlins, anything is possible.
There's new leadership at the helm this season, so it's difficult to tell what their plan is going to be, but we found out after the season that owner Jeffrey Loria had more of a hand in personnel decisions than we thought. If that continues to be the case, there's a chance nothing changes.
Andrew Heaney would be the most likely candidate to be rushed, as he's their best pitching prospect. He should be in the majors at some point in 2014, but having him break camp with the big league club the way Fernandez did would be aggressive, even for the Marlins.
There are three points I want to make here, however.
- Fernandez is a special talent. Every organization has a top pitching prospect, but few are the caliber of Fernandez. Heaney is a very good pitching prospect and should be a very good major leaguer, but Fernandez is in a league of his own. He can not be used as a template for how to handle a prospect.
- Rushing Fernandez to the majors may have worked out well, but it was a disaster for fellow rushed prospects Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna. It didn't work out too well for Derek Dietrich either. Christian Yelich held his own, but still should have been in the minors. Just because it worked for one guy doesn't make it a good idea.
- Just beause Fernandez won the Rookie of the Year and dominated from start to finish doesn't mean it was a good decision for the Marlins to have done what they did. Yes, Fernandez was clearly major league-ready, but by starting him in the majors on Opening Day, the Marlins cost themselves a year of controlling him. He will now hit free agency a year early. By not waiting until June, they gave him an additional arbitration year, one which is going to be incredibly expensive if they don't buy it out ahead of time. You could even make the argument that in a lost season like the Marlins had in 2013, there was no need to call Fernandez up at all and waste any service time. After all, he was only 20. That would have been a tough sell to fans as he tore his way through Double and Triple-A, but at the very least, they probably should have kept him in the minors until June simply for financial reasons.