MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added their last two Minor League Players of the Year to the 40-man roster on Wednesday, a move to protect Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers from next month's Rule 5 Draft.
Besides Morris, a first baseman, and Rogers, a first baseman who has worked this fall in left field and at third base, the Brewers also added right-handers Brooks Hall and Kevin Shackelford to the roster on Wednesday afternoon, before the deadline to protect players eligible to be plucked away by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five years or they become eligible, and players who signed at 19 or older must be protected after four years.
The Brewers began Wednesday with four vacancies on the 40-man roster and filled all of them.
Among those left unprotected at the end of the day were outfielder Kentrail Davis, who ranked among MLB.com's top 20 Brewers prospects at the start of this year; super-utility man Josh Prince, who was added to the 40-man roster at this time last year and made his Major League debut in April, but was removed from the roster last month; and right-hander Tyler Cravy, who teamed with Rogers in this year's Arizona Fall League.
Any of those players could be had by another team at the Rule 5 Draft, to be held on Dec. 12 on the final day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla. Clubs pay $50,000 to select a player, and 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.
Morris, 25, headlined the list of Wednesday's roster additions. He won Southern League MVP honors at Double-A Huntsville in 2012 by batting .303 with 40 doubles, 28 home runs and 113 RBIs, and was auditioned during 2013 Spring Training after the Brewers lost starting first basemen Corey Hart and Mat Gamel to knee injuries. But Morris was 3-for-26 in the Cactus League before an assignment to Triple-A Nashville, where he hit .247 with 26 doubles, 24 homers and 73 RBIs. The Brewers were baseball's least productive team at first base, but they continued a patient approach with Morris, opting not to promote him to the Majors even in September, knowing he would be added to the 40-man roster after the season.
He is rated Milwaukee's No. 7 prospect by MLB.com.
Officially, Morris is one of the Brewers' 2014 options for first base, a position that is at the moment unfilled.
"It's going to depend what the need is at the time," said assistant general manager Gord Ash, who referred to Morris' Triple-A season as a learning experience.
"I think he understood there are adjustments to be made," Ash said. "I think he made good progress defensively. Obviously, he still hit with decent power, but he didn't have some of the peripherals that surrounded that like he did the year before. So it was a good learning experience for him, and I was hopeful that winter ball would allow him to take that next step."
But Morris suffered a twisted right knee after three games in the Venezuelan Winter League and was unable to play after Nov. 8. When the issue did not improve, the Brewers brought Morris home to the U.S. for an examination on Tuesday by head team physician William Raasch, who detected no structural damage.
Morris is expected to recover with two to three weeks of rest, Ash said.
Rogers, 25, played first base at Double-A Huntsville, left field in the Arizona Fall League, and is working at the Brewers' academy in the Dominican Republic at third base. He followed 2012 winner Morris as Milwaukee's 2013 Minor League Player of the Year by batting .270 with 22 home runs and 87 RBIs at Huntsville.
Hall, 23 and a fourth-round Draft pick in 2009, boosted his stock with a 2.78 ERA in 10 starts and one relief appearance in the first half at Brevard County. He earned a promotion to Huntsville and went 2-4 with a 4.01 ERA in 17 games (13 starts).
Shackelford, a hard-throwing 24-year-old who used to play catcher, pitched to a 3.08 ERA and eight saves between Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville, including a 0.92 ERA, six of his saves and a 1.023 WHIP at the higher level. In the AFL, he had a 3.09 ERA in 11 games, never allowing more than one earned run in any of them.
"Going back to college, he didn't pitch any until his last year, so he's still pretty fresh in relation to the amount of innings everyone else has thrown," said fellow pitching prospect David Goforth, who picked up Shackelford's signature sinker. "It's pretty impressive that he has that kind of stuff and that kind of command, pretty much right out of the chute. I've played with him the last three seasons, and he's developed a lot. He's learned a lot more about how to pitch. He absolutely dominated Double-A during the second half of the season. I'm excited for him and excited to see what his future is going to hold."
Shackelford's future is a bit more certain. Other Brewers farmhands will have an eye on next month's Rule 5 Draft.
"This was really the first [experience of] the business side," Cravy said earlier this week. "The first couple of years went by so fast. You're just playing, so it doesn't feel like a business, but other things are setting in now. I'm starting to see the other side of it."