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Prospects the Blue Jays may need to protect from Rule 5 Draft

Not a prospect, will not be protected.
Not a prospect, will not be protected.
Marc Serota/Getty Images

In three weeks, from December 8-11, front office personnel from the 30 major league teams will converge on San Diego for the 2014 Winter Meetings for the annual flurry of activity. On the last day of the Winter Meetings will be the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. In advance of that, however, clubs must set their 40-man rosters by this Thursday, November 20--thus tomorrow will be the last day to protect players from being subject to selection in the Rule 5 Draft.

With the signing of Russell Martin, the Blue Jays' 40-man roster is now full, meaning that that if they would like to protect players not currently on the roster, they would need to open up a spot today or tomorrow in order to add them. If they wish to pick someone in the draft from another team, they would need to open up a spot before December 11. Last season, the Blue Jays released Thad Weber (allowing him to sign in Korea) the day before the draft, during which they selected Brian Moran (who was immediately traded to the Angels for international cap space).

Fortunately, by virtue of the in-season promotions of Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey, both 2010 draftees out of high school, the Blue Jays have already protected the two prospects in their first-time eligible Rule 5 class who absolutely required protection. As will be discussed below, there are others who could, and perhaps should, be protected, but none are not shoo-ins like the duo above.

Primer on Major League Rule 5

But we should first go through a quick primer on Major League Rule 5. Its basic goal is to prevent teams from unduly stockpiling talent in the minors without giving the players a shot at the majors.

The timelines for Rule 5 eligibility are quite complex, but as a basic guideline, high school draftees and international free agents are first eligible four years after signing, with college players being eligible three years after signing (the actual division is based on age at signing, see this entry from 2012 for more details). For 2014, this means HS draftees and IFAs from 2010 and college players signed in 2011. In addition, all players who were previously Rule 5 eligible remain eligible, unless they are likewise added. This includes minor league free agents signed prior to the Rule 5 draft and former major leaguers who have been outrighted off the 40-man roster.

The draft itself consists of three phases: the major league phase, the triple-A phase, and the double-A phase. In the major league phase, major league teams can select eligible players from other organizations who are not on a 40-man roster for $50,000. That chosen player would have to remain on the 25-man (active) roster for the entire subsequent season, with a minimum of 90 active days, or be offered back to the original team. If the player fails to reach 90 active days, he will have to remain on the 25-man roster in subsequent seasons until he reaches an aggregate of 90 active days. The minor league phases of the draft is much less important and generally is just used to fill out rosters.

Rule 5-Eligible Players

Below are tables showing the Jays' 2014 first time eligible players not currently on the 40-man and their previously eligible players, as well as some pertinent info (minor league levels are only those within the Jays system):

2014 First-Time Eligible Players
Name Pos. DOB Age Acquired Bonus 2014 2013 2012
Jon Berti SS 1/22/1990 24 2011 Draft (18) AA A+ A/A+
Andy Burns SS 8/7/1990 24 2011 Draft (11) $250,000 AA AA/A+ A
Adonys Cardona RHP 1/16/1994 20 2010 IFA $2,800,000 A Rk Rk
Gabriel Cenas 3B 10/16/1993 21 2010 IFA $750,000 Rk Rk Rk
Taylor Cole RHP 8/20/1989 25 2011 Draft (29) $50,000 A+/AA A/A+ A-
Seth Conner C 1/29/1992 22 2010 Draft (41) $100,000 A-/A A/A- Rk
Angel Gomez RF 1/12/1992 22 2010 Draft (23) Rk Injured Injured
Francisco Gracesqui LHP 11/26/1991 22 2011 NDFA $40,000 A/A- Rk Rk
Blake McFarland RHP 2/2/1988 26 2011 NDFA AA/A+ A+ A
Shane Opitz SS 1/10/1992 22 2010 Draft (11) $225,000 A+/Rk A+/A A
Arik Sikula RHP 12/21/1988 25 2011 Draft (36) A+/AA A A-
John Stilson RHP 7/28/1990 24 2011 Draft (3) $500,000 AAA AAA/AA A+/AA
Dickie Thon SS 11/16/1991 22 2010 Draft (5) $1,500,000 A A- Rk
Ben White RHP 5/10/1989 25 2011 NDFA A+/AA A A-

2014 Previously Eligible Players
Name Pos. DOB Age Acquired Bonus 2014 2013 2012
Ricky Romero LHP 11/6/1984 29 2005 Draft (1) $2,400,000 AAA AAA/MLB MLB
Brad Glenn OF 4/2/1987 27 2009 Draft (23) AAA/MLB AA/AAA AA
Jack Murphy C 4/6/1988 26 2009 Draft (31) AA/AAA AA/AAA A+/AA
Kevin Nolan SS 12/13/1987 26 2009 Draft (20) AA/AAA AA A+
Sean Ochinko C 10/21/1987 27 2009 Draft (11) AA/AAA AAA/AA AA/A+
Ryan Schimpf 2B 4/11/1988 26 2009 Draft (5) $155,700 AAA/AA AA A+/AA
Ryan Tepera RHP 11/3/1987 27 2009 Draft (19) AAA AA AA/A+
Tyler Ybarra LHP 12/11/1989 24 2008 Draft (43) $100,000 AA A+ A
Danny Barnes RHP 10/21/1989 25 2010 Draft (35) A+ A+/Rk A+/AA
Andy Fermin 2B 7/27/1989 25 2010 Draft (32) AA/A+ A- A
K.C. Hobson 1B 8/22/1990 24 2009 Draft (6) $500,000 A+/AA A+ A
Marcus Knecht LF 6/21/1990 24 2010 Draft (3s) $250,000 A+ A+ A+
Casey Lawrence RHP 10/28/1987 27 2010 NDFA AA A+/AA A+/AA
Griffin Murphy LHP 1/16/1991 23 2010 Draft (2) $800,000 A/A+ A Rk/A-
Matt Newman LF 9/20/1988 26 2010 NDFA AA/A+ A+ A-
Carlos Ramirez RHP 4/24/1991 23 2009 IFA Rk
Pierce Rankin LF 4/26/1989 25 2010 Draft (38) A+/AA A+/AA A+/A
Chris Schaeffer C 11/19/1987 26 2010 NDFA A A+/AA A/Rk
Brad Allen RHP 3/26/1989 25 2015 FA A
John Anderson LHP 11/9/1988 25 2015 FA AA A+ Rk
Dustin Antolin RHP 8/9/1989 25 2015 FA AA AA/A+ A+
Austin Bibens-Dirkx RHP 4/29/1985 29 2015 FA AA/AAA A+/AA
Scott Copeland RHP 12/15/1987 26 2015 FA AA/AAA A+ A+
Jonathan Diaz SS 4/10/1985 29 2015 FA AAA AAA/AA
Jeff Francis LHP 1/8/1981 33 2015 FA
Greg Infante RHP 7/10/1987 27 2015 FA AA/AAA
Bobby Korecky RHP 9/16/1979 35 2015 FA AAA/MLB AAA AAA/MLB
Michael Lee RHP 11/18/1986 27 2015 FA AA

Key Protection Decisions

There are definitely candidates to be removed from the 40-man to make room to protect several prospects, including but not limited to Cory Burns, Colt Hynes, Bo Schultz, Matt Hague, Kyle Drabek (who is out of options) and various non-tender candidates.

First-Time Eligible Players

In term of first-time eligible players currently unprotected, Andy Burns seems the most worthy of being protected, as well as the most likely to be selected by another team if not. At this point the consensus seems to be that he projects more as a second-division regular or bench player after a year-and-a-half of decent if unspectacular play in double-A following his breakout 2013 season in advance-A. However, that still has value, and the Blue Jays are thin on the infield.

The other really significant name is John Stilson, who is currently recovering from a torn labrum and won't be back until sometime in the spring. He's profiles as a reliever only, and with the injury and injury history it could be tough to justify tying up a spot despite the potential. At the same time, players will be allowed to be placed on the 60-day disabled list in early February, so Stilson's spot on the 40-man spot would be opened up, meaning it only needs to tied up for 9-10 weeks. Likewise, this could deter other teams from selecting him, though it would be really easy for a team in rebuild-mode who really like him to find a spot, shove him on the disabled list, and activate him in the second half to get in the 90 required days.

Two others worth mentioning are Jon Berti and Taylor Cole, although I don't think either of them will be added or selected. Berti is interesting as a primary second baseman with speed on the bases and decent on base skills, a grinder utility profile. Cole had a strong year in Dunedin after a lacklustre 2013, but putting him in the majors would be a big leap.

Additionally, Blake McFarland and Arik Sikula both had very impressive 2014 campaigns, reaching and succeeding in double-A and then performed very well in the recently completed Arizona Fall League. Despite that, I can't see either being protected or selected (a small chance of latter perhaps if a team got a really good look and really liked what they saw).

Finally, there's three players noteworthy for receiving very large signing bonuses: Adonys Cardona, Gabriel Cenas, Dickie Thon. None should or will be protected, and it's inconceivable any of them will be taken.

Previously Eligible Players

In terms of previously eligible players, there's really little to say. Gregory Infante had a great 2014, running his fastball into the mid-90s. Presumably, if another team wanted him badly they've have signed him as a free agent, but the Rule 5 could present an opportunity to bring into camp and see how he does. Ricky Romero is Ricky Romero, if some team wanted to eat his contract and take a chance, it would have happened already. Ryan Schimpf has been a strong performer with good power at double-A the last couple years but is not expected to be able to translate that into major league production. Danny Barnes was interesting until running into injuries, and the only non-free agent who had big league time is Brad Glenn. And Brad Glenn is, you know, Brad Glenn.

My gut prediction: Andy Burns will be added to the roster and protected at the expense of one of the DFA candidates mentioned above.