MLBTR released its annual compilation of out-of-options players just Tuesday. Many of those listed have already sewn up active roster spots. But there are quite a few on the bubble. Here are eight of the most interesting out-of-options players to watch … particularly for teams that’ll be eyeing the waiver wire for hidden gems later this month:
We ran through this trio earlier in Spring Training, but there’s still no real clarity on who’s going to come away from this bunch with the Athletics’ starting job at second base — or even if it will be any of them. (Sheldon Neuse is also in the mix, although he has minor league options remaining.) Both Mateo and Barreto are former Top 100 prospects acquired by Oakland in high profile trades. Mateo came in the deal that sent Sonny Gray to the Yankees, while Barreto was acquired as a teenager in the ill-fated Josh Donlaldson swap with the Blue Jays. Mateo is an 80-grade runner and a natural shortstop who could shift to a utility role if he doesn’t win the second base gig. Barreto has had more success at the plate in the upper minors. Kemp, acquired from the Cubs in a small trade earlier in the winter, is the longest shot to win the job but could nab a bench spot, as he’s also capable of covering the outfield and the A’s are light on lefty bats.
Barreto entered Spring Training as the favorite, and he’s been the most impressive at the plate in a small sample of Cactus League games so far. The Royals and Tigers have reportedly shown some trade interest in Mateo.
Blue Jays: Anthony Alford (OF)
Toronto has room to carry Alford on the Opening Day roster, but the combination of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Randal Grichuk, Teoscar Hernandez and Derek Fisher could all have bigger roles rotating between the outfield and designated hitter slots.
Alford, a former two-sport star and top prospect, has only logged 59 MLB plate appearances despite reaching the Majors in each of the past three seasons. That he’s out of options puts the Jays in a tough spot, as he can’t be sent to Triple-A for regular work but also probably won’t find everyday at-bats in the 2020 outfield — barring injuries to the four names ahead of him.
Cardinals: Rangel Ravelo (1B/OF)
With Paul Goldschmidt entrenched at first base, Ravelo has no path to his primary position. The Cards gave Ravelo his first look at third base since 2012 while he was in Triple-A this past season and also gave him some work in the outfield corners. The 27-year-old (28 in April) is looking at a spot as a right-handed bench bat on a heavily right-handed team that doesn’t have an easy path to regular at-bats. Over the past three seasons, he’s batted .307/.386/.480 in Triple-A — good for a 123 wRC+. Ravelo could be the Cardinals’ next version of Jose Martinez — a lefty-mashing first baseman/outfielder off the bench — but between Tyler O’Neill, Lane Thomas and Austin Dean, they’re not exactly short on right-handed bats to fill that role.
Reds: Scott Schebler (OF)
Schebler was a 30-homer bat for the Reds two years ago but struggled to get on base that year, hitting .233/.307/.484 on the whole. His power dipped in ’18 as his OBP rose, but he flopped in the big leagues and in Triple-A last year while battling oblique injuries. With Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama, Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker and Aristides Aquino all likely ahead of Schebler on the depth chart now, his roster spot seems to be on shaky ground — though Aquino’s rough spring does leave room to claim a roster spot. Schebler will play the 2020 season at 29 years of age, and he’s controlled another four years via arbitration.
Rockies: Jeff Hoffman (RHP)
Hoffman was a top-10 draft pick, a top-50 MLB prospect and the centerpiece of the trade that sent Troy Tulowitzki from Denver to Toronto back in 2015. A half decade later, however, he’s toting a career 6.11 ERA and 5.67 FIP through more than 200 big league innings. Hoffman hasn’t even found success in the upper minors, but his pedigree, above-average fastball velocity (93.7 mph average in ’19), and excellent fastball spin (89th percentile) could all prompt another team to try its hand at coaxing some of that potential out of him. Hoffman certainly wouldn’t be the first pitcher to struggle at Coors Field only to find success following a change of scenery.
The Rockies aren’t exactly dealing with an arms surplus themselves and may be loath to let go of Hoffman for a minimal return. But owner Dick Monfort seems intent on making an attempt to contend in 2020, and Hoffman hasn’t performed well this spring. It’s feasible that he could be on the outside looking in.
White Sox: Carson Fulmer (RHP)
Once one of the most touted college arms in the country, Fulmer was the topic of great debate in the 2015 draft, when he went eighth overall to the White Sox. Fulmer led Vanderbilt’s rotation to the College World Series, but many scouting reports on him pegged him as a surefire reliever. The ChiSox were committed to him as a starter up until 2018, but he finally moved to the ’pen that season and pitched exclusively in short stints in 2019. Fulmer hasn’t had success in the Majors or in the upper minors, but he showed elite spin on his four-seamer and breaking ball in 2019 while posting career-bests in average velocity (93.7 mph) and swinging-strike rate (10.8%).
The White Sox have, at most, two spots available in their bullpen this spring. Fulmer has turned in a strong effort — two runs on seven hits and three walks with 11 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings — but manager Rick Renteria hasn’t labeled him any sort of favorite at this point (link via Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times).
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An asterisk (*) indicates a perfect game.