The deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft was Tuesday, November 21st. This means that all Rule 5-eligible players who aren’t currently on a 40-man roster will be available in the draft on December 14th at the Winter Meetings in Orlando. Here’s what makes a player Rule 5-eligible, according to MLB.com:
Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.
For the coming version of the Rule 5 draft, that’s generally any player drafted out of college in 2014 or earlier, drafted out of high school in 2013 or earlier, or signed as an international free agent in August 2013 or earlier. But that’s just a rule of thumb, and since very few things in life are simple, there are exceptions and loopholes.
Most of the players listed below aren’t good prospects. If they were, their teams would have protected them — or traded them to a team interested in stashing them. The baseball industry has effectively deemed each of these players to be a fringe prospect at best. Who cares about these mostly bad baseball players? Probably a very tiny sliver of the world’s population, if I’m being honest. But if you you’re still reading, I’m willing to bet you’re part of that small minority. And besides, several Rule 5 picks from recent memory have enjoyed immediate big-league success, including Joe Biagini, Matt Bowman, and Odubel Herrera.
Below, you’ll find a list of KATOH’s favorite Rule 5-eligible prospects, grouped by position. Due to the aforementioned loopholes, along with the fact that I checked each player’s eligibility manually, it is possible I omitted a noteworthy player along the way. All players with at least 200 professional plate appearances or batters faced in 2016 or 2017 were considered. Since most of these players do not have any sort of prospect pedigree anyway, I utilized the stats-only version of KATOH.
I should note that KATOH is not necessarily the perfect tool for identifying valuable Rule 5 players. While teams are certainly interested in Rule 5 picks’ long-term potential, they also likely want players who can contribute this year (unless they’re the 2017 San Diego Padres). Still, I think KATOH is a very good proxy for “best Rule 5 players”. Most of the top projected guys are in their mid-20s and have reached Double-A or Triple-A. Players in the lower levels are less likely to be tenable big leaguers in 2018, but also have more upside.
|Teddy Stankiewicz||Red Sox||AA||2.5|
|Kevin McAvoy||Red Sox||AA||2.2|
- Brad Keller struck out a respectable 19% of batters faced as a 21-year-old starter in Double-A. His ERA was hurt by an inflated BABIP, but the 6-foot-5 righty pitched well otherwise.
- Kevin Gadea missed all of 2017 due to injury but pitched excellently in the low minors in 2016. Tampa plucked him from Seattle in last year’s draft.
- A .352 BABIP pushed Teddy Stankiewicz’s ERA up over 5.00, but he pitched well otherwise as a 23-year-old starter in Double-A.
- Jordan Guerrero pitched to a 4.18 ERA and 3.16 xFIP as a 23-year-old starter at Double-A. He struck out 22% of opposing batters.
- Nestor Cortes pitched brilliantly as a swingman in the upper levels, spinning a 2.06 ERA and a 25% strikeout rate. He was particularly dominant following a June promotion to Triple-A.
- Boston took Trey Ball seventh overall back in 2013, but his stuff has backed up significantly since then. Still, he did not embarrass himself as a 23-year-old starter in Double-A and KATOH loves his 6-foot-6 frame.
|Raffy Lopez||Blue Jays||MLB||1.9|
- Yohel Pozo struck out a mere 5% of the time between two levels of A-ball last year, resulting in a .323/.351/.478 slash line. He is essentially a younger Willians Astudillo (also listed above) with a better glove.
- Tyler Heineman is a switch-hitting catcher who hit a solid .281/.342/.407 at Triple-A last year.
- A minor-league Rule 5 pick last year, Anthony Bemboom slashed .278/.390/.459 with Colorado’s Triple-A affiliate in 2017. He also appears to be a solid defensive catcher, with both Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport rating him as above average last year.
- Jamie Ritchie lacks power, but walked more than he struck out in Double-A last year, resulting in a .256/.382/.335 batting line.
- Dom Nunez’s numbers have worsened substantially as he’s climbed through Colorado’s system. Still, he walked a ton and hit for a touch of power as a 22-year-old catcher Double-A last year.
- Mike Ford mashed .270/.404/.471 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017 after mashing .289/.411/.479 the season prior. Ford can clearly mash but may not fit on many rosters due to his lack of defensive flexibility.
- Ryan O’Hearn has hit for plenty of power in the minors, including as a 23-year-old at Triple-A.
- Frank Schwindel slashed a cool .329/.349/.521 between Double-A and Triple-A but posted a walk rate below 3%.
|Michael De Leon||Rangers||AA||3.1|
- The younger brother of Kolten Wong, Kean Wong hit .265/.328/.361 as a 22-year-old second baseman at Triple-A.
- Michael De Leon is a strong defensive shortstop who didn’t hit a lick in Double-A. However, he did make an impressive amount of contact and is still just 20 years old.
- The younger brother of Jurickson Profar, Juremi Profar held his own offensively as a 21-year-old third baseman at Double-A. Profar makes plenty of contact and has shown glimpses of power.
- Josh Fuentes mashed .307/.352/.517 at Double-A last year while playing third base. Fuentes signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2014 but has proven himself in the professional ranks.
|Roemon Fields||Blue Jays||AAA||1.7|
- Franmil Reyes belted 25 homers as a 21-year-old in Double-A despite playing half of his games in a power-suppressing park. Unlike many slugging corner outfielders, Reyes’s strikeout and walk numbers have been respectable. A broken hamate bone suffered in the AFL likely explains why he wasn’t protected.
- Jose Cardona (previously know as Jose Gonzalez) slashed .277/.316/.385 at Double-A while playing excellent center-field defense. Cardona’s contact and defense alone should make him a useful big leaguer.
- Jacob Hannemann, Johnny Field, Andrew Aplin and Kyle Wren (and others) are essentially carbon copies of the same player. Said player is in his mid-20s, can play center field, and hit reasonably well in Triple-A last year by controlling the strike zone. Any one of them could slot in as a fourth or fifth outfielder right now.