DETROIT -- While the Tigers try to turn their focus on their farm system and build around youth, they added Class A West Michigan right-hander Sandy Baez to their 40-man roster Friday to protect him from next month's Rule 5 Draft.
It was one of the few decisions the Tigers had to make with adding prospects to their roster. None of Detroit's top 10 prospects according to MLBPipeline.com's rankings have enough time in the Minor Leagues to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, including future closer Joe Jimenez (No. 5). The highest-ranked eligible prospect is left-hander Kevin Ziomek (No. 11), who pitched in one game for Class A Advanced Lakeland before undergoing season-ending surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in his shoulder.
The next highest was Baez, who ranked 16th mainly on the basis of his potential. The 22-year-old posted a 7-9 record and a 3.81 ERA in 21 starts for West Michigan, averaging just under six innings a start. He has developed slowly since signing in 2011, but he has shown signs of progression as a power pitcher.
"Late bloomer," one Midwest League scout said while describing Baez. "Coming into his own."
The move puts the Tigers' 40-man roster at 39 players with one open spot, allowing Detroit to add a player or select a prospect in the Rule 5 Draft.
Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons, or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $25,000.
For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2012 -- assuming he was 18 or younger as of June 5 of that year -- has to be protected. A college player taken in the 2013 Draft is in the same position.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.