MILWAUKEE — The Brewers added three of their top prospects to the 40-man roster on Tuesday along with a surprise in veteran slugger Jon Singleton, ensuring that all four players would remain in the organization in 2023 with a chance to break into the big leagues.
By adding Singleton along with infielder Brice Turang (ranked No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list of Milwaukee’s top prospects) and pitchers Abner Uribe (No. 26) and Cam Robinson (No. 27), the Brewers shielded those players from other clubs in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Singleton stands out, and not just because he is listed at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds from a past life with the Astros in 2014-15, when he was one of baseball’s top overall prospects but battled demons off the field.
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Singleton also stands out from the prospects because he turned 31 in September while he put the finishing touches on a successful return to affiliated baseball at Triple-A Nashville. Singleton led Milwaukee’s Minor League system with 24 home runs, led Minor League Baseball with 117 walks and earned an invitation to next year’s big league camp by re-signing with Milwaukee last month on a Minor League pact. But that signing left Singleton exposed to the Rule 5 Draft alongside much younger prospects, so the Brewers opted to protect him on Tuesday.
RHP Cam Robinson and 1B Jon Singleton have been selected to the 40-man roster.
The 40-man roster stands at 39. pic.twitter.com/2Tk6kPJYpf
It marked the first time Singleton has been on a 40-man roster since Nov. 22, 2016.
“As you work through these things, you always have to assess the chances that these guys get taken versus what they mean to your Major League team,” Brewers GM Matt Arnold said. “Ultimately our group felt this was a guy who could contribute to our Major League team. … It means a lot that he wanted to come back here. And just an incredible story, really. The fact he's overcome so many odds in his life is just a really, really good story. I'm proud of him for everything he's been able to accomplish to get to this point."
There is a lot of offseason remaining, including the next deadline on Friday for teams to tender contracts to their unsigned players — including those who are arbitration-eligible. One of those players is Rowdy Tellez, who led the Brewers with 35 home runs last season. Like Singleton, Tellez is a left-handed-hitting first baseman.
“The nice part of it is [that] we do have the DH now, right?” Arnold said. “So having both of those guys is not an issue. I think they complement each other in a lot of ways, too. It allows you to get Rowdy off his feet some days, too. Having multiple bats like that, we view it as a really positive thing.”
With Tuesday’s moves, the Brewers had 39 players on their 40-man roster.
The Brewers did leave five other Top 30 prospects unprotected: Infielders Felix Valerio (No. 14) and Eduardo Garcia (No. 21), outfielder Carlos Rodríguez (No. 28) and pitcher Victor Castaneda (No. 30).
Teams must assess the likelihood a player is plucked away by another team, which pays $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft and then is required to keep him on the active Major League roster all season. If that player doesn't stay on the 26-man roster, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000. Last year, for example, much was made of the Brewers leaving versatile prospect Korry Howell unprotected, and he went unclaimed.
In the case of Turang, Uribe and Robinson (and the veteran Singleton) the Brewers determined there was a high likelihood another team would take a shot that they’re ready to contribute in the big leagues. That was a given for Turang, who won’t turn 23 until the day before Thanksgiving but already has 779 plate appearances over parts of two seasons at the Triple-A level with a .277/.365/.391 slash line. He’s played second base, third base and center field in addition to his natural shortstop.
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“Look, he’s obviously put himself squarely in play here with how well he did at Triple-A,” Arnold said. “I think it depends on a lot of other factors. We’re still early in November, but to his credit he’s done a great job just putting himself in play here at this point.”
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Uribe, armed with a fastball that reaches triple digits, might have cracked the Brewers’ 40-man roster last season — manager Craig Counsell wondered about that during Spring Training — had he not suffered a knee injury in April and missed the rest of the Minor League season. Uribe picked up innings in the Arizona Fall League and struck out 14 batters in 10 innings. He worked two scoreless innings in last week’s play-in that sent Glendale into the AFL championship game.
Robinson is a former 23rd-round pick who sputtered for his first couple of years in the Brewers system but managed an uptick in velocity in 2021 and took more big steps in '22 with a 2.49 ERA and 25 saves between Wisconsin, Biloxi and Nashville.
“Bulldog on the mound,” Single-A Wisconsin manager Joe Ayrault said. “His fastball has some cut on it — mid-90s, touching 96 mph. He has a good slider, good curveball. He fills the zone and attacks it. He has guts out there. He’s a guy late in the game who wants the ball.”
After being cancelled last year during the lockout, the Rule 5 Draft is back on Dec. 7 during the Winter Meetings in San Diego.