Rox protect 4 from Rule 5, add to 40-man roster
DENVER -- Josh Fuentes jokes that most interviews he conducts begin centered around his cousin: Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. That trend could continue after Fuentes was one of four added to Colorado's 40-man roster on Tuesday, though the Minor League corner infielder is propelling through the pipeline on his own.
Fuentes, outfielder Sam Hilliard and right-handed pitchers Ryan Castellani and Justin Lawrence were added to the Rockies' 40-man ahead of the 6 p.m. MT deadline to protect them from Rule 5 Draft consideration. First baseman and outfielder Jordan Patterson was designated for assignment in a corresponding move.
"I talked to [Arenado] earlier today after I got the call," Fuentes said. "He was obviously stoked. I think he was more happy that maybe we can work together, more closely, because we really push each other. We're always in competition, whether it's baseball or 'horse' basketball."
Tuesday's transactions, which gave the club a full 40-man roster, are of note because they outline which players the Rockies want to protect from being selected by other clubs in the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 13 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, where teams can pay $100,000 to select players who are not on their club's 40-man roster from within a certain criterion.
Castellani, the club's No. 10 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, was a lock to be added, while Hilliard (No. 9) and Lawrence (No. 17) and Fuentes were favored, but the three increased their stocks with strong performances in the Arizona Fall League.
Fuentes was developed as a third baseman, but he's transitioned to first base to create more versatility when he becomes Major League ready. The 25-year-old spent all of 2018 with Triple-A Albuquerque and was named the Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player after hitting .327/.354/.517 with 14 homers and 95 RBIs. In the AFL, he slashed .301/.356/.482 with three homers in 21 games.
Castellani is one of the club's headliners in its pitching-heavy pipeline, but his inability to maintain command has marred his young Minor League career. Castellani's 5.49 ERA and 70 walks over 26 starts with Double-A Hartford last year were both the Eastern League's highest. The upside: Castellani is just 22 years old, giving him time to grow.
Hilliard caught scouts' eyes during the AFL with a.328/.389/.516 slash line over 72 plate appearances in 16 games this year, which piggybacked a strong season with Hartford that saw him play the entire season and hit .262/.327/.389. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Hilliard was a 15th-round Draft pick by the Rockies in 2015, and he's exhibited raw power and speed that the club had touted in his four seasons since.
Lawrence, a 12th-round pick in 2015, spent all of '18 with Class A Advanced Lancaster, where he compiled a 2.65 ERA, 11 saves and 62 strikeouts over 54 1/3 innings in 55 outings, thanks in part to being fully healthy from a lat injury that ended his '17 season. He is coming off two subpar outings in the AFL -- he was credited blown saves in the Fall Stars Game and AFL championship game against Peoria last Saturday -- but the Rockies have been encouraged by the right-hander's ability to command his ever-increasing velocity with sink.
Patterson was the club's No. 16 prospect and the club's fourth-round pick in 2013. He reached the Majors as a September callup in '16 and hit 26 homers in each of the last two seasons with Albuquerque but became a casualty to a roster logjam.
Outfielder Mike Tauchman remained on the 40-man despite a massively disappointing 2018, during which he hit .094/.194/.125 in 21 games after breaking camp as one of the standouts from Spring Training.