Alex Anthopoulos has thrownhis first curveball.
The Atlanta Braves left-handed pitchers Ricardo Sanchez, Adam McCreery and Grant Dayton to their 40-man roster before Mondays 8 p.m. deadline, leaving one roster spot open withnotable prospects Travis Demeritte, Dustin Peterson and Tyler Pike, among others, leftunprotected in next months Rule 5 Draft at MLBs Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
Dayton, who logged major-league relief innings for the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers for the past two seasons, is the surprise addition of the group after being selected off waivers. The 29-year-old underwent Tommy John surgery back in August. Notably, Anthopoulos served as the Dodgers' vice president of baseball operations prior to accepting the general manager role in Atlanta.
Sanchez was one of the first long-term bets the previous front office made on its farm system, trading for the 5-foot-11 southpaw when he was just 17 years old. In three seasons as a Braves minor-leaguer, the Venezuelan has annually improved his fielding-independent pitching from 4.95 to 4.68 to 4.06 as he has steadily moved up the lower levels.
Last season for the Florida Fire Frogs, Sanchez hit the 100-strikeout plateau for the second straight season.
Protecting a player entering his age-21 campaign before he throws a single pitch above High-A ball could be considered unnecessary teams must keep any Rule 5selection ontheir25-man roster but Sanchez, who attended the teams exclusive pitching camp in Atlanta earlier a couple weeks ago, is clearly a well-regarded prospect within the organization.
Demeritte, Peterson and Sanchez each rank among the franchise's top 30 prospects per MLB Pipeline.
McCreery is another surprise addition despite posting excellent numbers in A-balllast season. The 6-foot-9 return from Atlanta's Jhoulys Chacin trade in 2016, McCreery posted a2.74 ERA with 90 strikeouts across two levels in 2017.
Leaving the likes of Demeritte and Peterson off the 40-man roster could mean the organization's new-look front officeis not as high on the two position prospects as the previous regimeand/or that it does not believe opposing franchises will commit 25-man roster spots to either next season.
Peterson, the franchises 2016 Minor League Player of the Year, entered spring training last year as a potential big-league option before breaking the hamate bone in his left hand, sidelining him for two months. His numbers fell off dramatically at the plate after returning to the field, slashing .248/.318/.318 in 346 plate appearances at Triple-A Gwinnett. Still, the last remaining minor-league piece of the Justin Upton trade has shown enough potential and hes close enough to the majors that he's a Rule 5 risk.
Demeritte is an interesting case after hitting 5 percent above league average as a 23-year-old in the Southern League.
After hitting 28 home runs in 2016, he continued to flash his power potential with 15 homers for Double-A Mississippi while cutting down his strikeout rate to a career-best 26.2 percent. The former Rangers first-round pick showsplenty of swing-and-miss risk and his .306 on-base percentage was dragged down by a much lower walk rate and misfortune in the BABIP department.
Still, with the teams logjam of replacement-level (or sub-replacement) infielders like Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson and Danny Santana still holding40-man slots, souring on Demeritte now is strange.
Other notable prospect left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft include pitchers Pike and Michael Mader and utility option Ray Patrick-Didder.