Facing a midnight deadline to protect minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft, the Rockies had some roster decisions to make today. Some of those decisions were foregone conclusions, while others could have gone either way. In all, this is what the Rockies did:
Added to the 40-man roster: SS/2B Trevor Story, RPH Antonio Senzatela, OF Raimel Tapia, RHP Carlos Estevez
Designated for assignment: RHP John Axford, RHP Tommy Kahnle, LHP Rex Brothers, C/1B Wilin Rosario
Baseball America released its list of top 10 Rockies prospects; we covered it here. The Rockies protected their eighth, ninth, and tenth best prospects, according to that list. The Rockies protected 23-year-old shortstop/second baseman Trevor Story. Story had a quality Triple-A season and is in line to debut early in 2015. In fact, he has a decent shot at breaking camp with the team as the starting shortstop.
The Rockies also protected 20 year old right-handed starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela. Senzatela is coming off of an excellent year at High-A Modesto, where he put up a 2.51, struck out 8.4 batters per nine, and walked just 1.9 batters per nine innings. He's likely to begin 2016 in Double-A Hartford.
The Rockies protected lefty hitting outfielder Raimel Tapia, who is a highly regarded hitter who one batting expert said was "born to hit baseballs." Tapia should begin the 2016 season with Senzatela in Hartford.
While Story, Senzatela, and Tapia were sure to be protected, Estevez could have gone either way. Across High and Double-A in 2015, the 22-year-old Estevez struck out 11 batters per nine innings, and he only walked 2.3 per nine. The fact that the Rockies protected Estevez and parted ways with Axford suggests that the organization is committed to its young and talented farm system.
Of the players left unprotected, catcher/first baseman Ryan Casteel, catcher Will Swanner, and right-handed starter Matt Carasiti are the most interesting names. These players have a good chance to be selected by another team in the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 10.
Most of the other players left unprotected are either expendable or too far away from the majors to matter. If a player chosen is not on the team's active MLB roster throughout the entire 2016 season, he will be returned to the Rockies.
The Rockies now have a 10-day window in which they can trade Axford, Brothers, Rosario, and Kahnle. If the club can't work out a trade in that window and the player clears waivers, Axford, Brothers and Rosario can elect free agency since they all have at least three years of service time. However, Kahnle does not have three years of service time so he can be outrighted to the minors and remain in the organization if he clears waivers.