The Pirates added five players to the 40-man roster today, protecting them from the Rule V Draft. As expected, Neil Walker and Jose Tabata were among those additions. Reliever Jeff Sues also was added. This was not surprising after his impressive return from an injury in 2007. Over 64.1 innings with Lynchburg and Altoona last season, Sues struck out 72 and walked 26.
The unexpected additions were catcher Steve Lerud and reliever Ronald Uviedo. I expected those two spots would go to Kyle Bloom and Jamie Romak. Bloom struggled with control this year, but picked things up in the second half of the season. He was also impressive in winter ball in Hawaii, striking out 32 and walking 11 in 30 innings. Romak hit .279/.360/.552 with a .398 wOBA in 331 plate appearances with Lynchburg. He struggled after being promoted to Altoona, and was lousy during a stint in the Arizona Fall League.
The Pirates clearly focused on adding players that might be lost in the Rule V Draft. I don’t know a whole lot about Uviedo, but he struck out a batter per inning with Hickory and Lynchburg in 2008. He also limited his walks to 20 in 87.2 innings. Here’s what Neal Huntington had to say about Uviedo:
“He throws strikes,” Huntington said. “As we evaluated the types of players that get selected, those guys who throw strikes are the type of guys that catch a scout’s eye or get the interest of someone in the front office. We didn’t want to risk losing that.”
Lerud is one of the few catchers in the organization, so management played it safe with him. He’s not a great prospect, but when the cupboard is bare, one must protect the crumbs. The Pirates are assuming another team will not take a chance on Romak, a young hitter with strikeout issues, or Bloom, a starter with control issues. Those types of players are much harder to hide on a Major League roster all season than a reliever with good control.
The 40-man roster is currently full. I would expect a few spots to open up before the Rule V Draft. Raul Chavez is a good candidate to be removed.