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2016 Rule 5 Draft: Whom to protect?

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The annual Rule 5 Draft is an often overlooked part of the baseball calendar, occurring on the last day of theWinter Meetings, in a shadow of a frenzy of transactions. 2016 was a good reminder of the ability to find diamonds in other's rough, as Joe Biagini emerged from Rule 5 obscurity as one of the stalwarts of the bullpen and a significant asset going forward.

But before playing offence in the Rule 5 comes the defensive element, preventing your farm system from being the one raided. This year's Rule 5 Draft takes place on December 8th, but in advance of that, teams must set their 40-man rosters by this Friday, November 18, adding any eligible prospects they want to protect from being selected by other teams.

As with last year, they Jays currently have plenty of open slots on the 40 man roster. With the signing of Kendrys Morales, the 40-man roster stands at 35 and there's others who could and will likely be removed at some point this winter. However, in a departure from previous years when prospects were often traded or rushed promoted to the majors in advance of becoming eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, there are a significant number of players who warrant serious consideration to be protected.

Rule 5 Primer

The basic goal of the Rule 5 Draft 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 complex, but as a basic rule of thumb, high school draftees and international free agents (IFA) are first eligible four years after signing, with college players being eligible three years after signing.

For 2016, this generally means high school draftees and IFAs signed in 2012 and college players signed in 2013. 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.

In the major league phase, teams can select eligible players from other organizations who are not on a 40-man roster for $50,000. Drafted players have to remain on the 25-man (active) roster for the entire subsequent season, with a minimum of 90 active days, or be put on waivers and offered back to the original team if cleared. If the player fails to reach 90 active days, he has to remain on the 25-man roster in subsequent seasons until he reaches 90 active days. The minor league phases of the draft are much less important and generally used just to fill out rosters.

First Time Eligible Players

Below is a tabel of first time eligible players, along with some background information and the levels at which they've played in the organization the last three years.

Name Pos. DOB Age Acquired Bonus 2016 2015 2014
Anthony Alford CF 7/20/1994 22 2012 Draft (3) $750,000 A+ A+/A Rk/A
Josh Almonte RF 1/28/1994 22 2012 Draft (22) $100,000 A/A+ A Rk
Deiferson Barreto IF 5/19/1995 21 2011 IFA A- Rk Rk
Ryan Borucki LHP 3/31/1994 22 2012 Draft (15) $426,000 A/A+ A-/Rk Rk/A-
Miguel Burgos LHP 6/16/1995 21 2012 IFA Injured Rk Rk
Garrett Custons C 9/14/1990 26 2013 Draft (10) $1,000 Military Military Military
D.J. Davis OF 7/25/1994 22 2012 Draft (1) $1,750,000 A+ A A
Jonathan Davis OF 5/12/1992 24 2013 Draft (15) A+ A+/A A-/Rk
Shane Dawson LHP 9/9/1993 23 2012 Draft (17) $90,000 AA A/A+ A
Michael De La Cruz C 5/15/1993 23 2012 IFA A+ A A-
Jose Fernandez LHP 2/13/1993 23 2012 IFA A+ A A-
Roemon Fields OF 11/28/1990 25 2013 NDFA AA A+/AA A-
David Harris OF 8/10/1991 25 2013 Draft (36) A+ A/A+ A/A-
Javier Hernandez C 7/21/1996 20 2012 IFA A- Rk DSL/Rk
Juan Kelly 1B 7/16/1994 22 2012 IFA A A-/A Rk
Dan Lietz LHP 6/1/1994 22 2013 Draft (5) $200,000 A/A- Rk/A- A-/Rk
Tim Lopes IF 6/24/1994 22 2016 Trade $550,000
Tim Mayza LHP 1/15/1992 24 2013 Draft (12) $100,000 A+/AA A A-/Rk
Mitch Nay 3B 9/20/1993 23 2012 Draft (1s) $1,000,000 Rk A+ A/A+
Rodrigo Orozco CF 4/2/1995 21 2012 IFA A- Rk/A- DSL
Angel Perdomo LHP 5/7/1994 22 2011 IFA A Rk/A- Rk
Mike Reeves C 9/16/1990 26 2013 Draft (21) A+ A+/A A/A+
Richard Reina RHP 2/7/1995 21 2016 Trade Rk
Francisco Rios RHP 5/6/1995 21 2012 IFA A+/A A- Rk
Carlos D. Rodriguez LHP 1/29/1995 21 2012 IFA Injured Injured Injured
Chris Rowley RHP 8/14/1990 26 2013 NDFA A+ Military Military
Matt Smoral LHP 3/18/1994 22 2012 Draft (1s) $2,000,000 A- Rk/A+ Rk/A-
Andres Sotillo C 12/28/1993 22 2012 IFA A- Rk Rk
Richard Urena SS 2/26/1996 20 2012 IFA $725,000 A+/AA A/A+ Rk/A-

Starting with the obvious additions, bookending the list are two top prospects in Anthony Alford and Richard Urena who have made various top-100 lists in the past year. Neither is major league ready, but project as potential regulars and are locks to be added later this week as any non-contender at the top of the draft would happily find a way to stash them for a year.

Next is a trio of intriguing but not elite pitching prospects who merit some consideration to be protected. Ryan Borucki has missed a lot of time with injuries, including Tommy John surgery, but has been quite good when on the field. He had an awful start to 2016 in Dunedin, but dominated the Midwest League en route to being the runner-up for the ERA title. MLB Pipeline ranks him 17th, with the ceiling of a backend starter, and he's at least a couple years off. That wouldn't usually make him a candidate to be selected (and this propected), but a team that really liked him could gamble on his advanced control and change-up sticking at the back of a bullpen next year. I'll guess he's neither protected nor selected, and see what 2017 brings.

Another lefty is Angel Perdomo, who was actually signed in 2011 but late enough to not be eliligible last year. He also spent 2016 in Lansing, leading the Midwest League in strikeouts and being selected to the Futures Game. He's got more exposive stuff, but the command is far less advanced and very inconsistent. For a team bullish on his potential, it's a classic Rule 5 profile in that he can be stashed at the back of a bullpen (where he probably profiles anyway) with enough stuff to contribute at times. For that reason, I think there's a good chance he'll added.

Finally, Francisco Rios was a breakout performer in 2016, quickly jumping past Lansing to Dunedin where he spent most of the year and pitching in the Futures Game. He doesn't have standout raw stuff (pitches that stand put as plus) or huge upside, but showed strong pitchability and might be able to hold his own in 2017 if a team was bullish on him (he could start in AA).

In terms of other potential names, the Jays just acquired Tim Lopes from the Mariners, who had a solid year in AA, and wouldn't be that far away, so he could well be added. Jonathan (J.D.) Davis had a strong year in Dunedin, and is frequently mentioned as an under the radar prospect, so if the Jays really liked him and worried another team did do, he could be added. Lefty Tim Mayza is an interesting bullpen arm, but only has a little AA experience so I don't think it's worth adding him now. Finally, my dark horse would be Chris Rowley, whose eligibility I don't think is affected by two years of military service. He pitched well in Dunedin despite medicore peripherals and not remarkable stuff, which sort of reminds me of what I thought of Joe Biagini last year when the Jays took him.

In terms of big bonus notable names, 2012 was the last draft year when it was possible to routinely acquire extra draft picks at the top. The Jays had five picks in before the end of the second round, of whom three remain in the organization. All three of D.J. Davis, Matt Smoral and Mitch Nay received bonuses of $1,000,000; none are seriously Rule 5 candidates in my view.

Previously Eligible Players

Name Pos. DOB Age Acquired Bonus 2016 2015 2014
Jon Berti IF 1/22/1990 26 2011 Draft (18) AA/AAA AA/AAA AA
Adonys Cardona RHP 1/16/1994 22 2010 IFA $2,800,000 A+ Injured A
Taylor Cole RHP 8/20/1989 27 2011 Draft (29) $50,000 AA/A+ AA A+/AA
Seth Conner C 1/29/1992 24 2010 Draft (41) $100,000 AA Injured A-/A
Shane Opitz IF 1/10/1992 24 2010 Draft (11) $225,000 AA/AAA AA A+/Rk
John Stilson RHP 7/28/1990 26 2011 Draft (3) $500,000 AA/AAA A+ AAA
Jake Anderson OF 11/22/1992 23 2011 Draft (1s) $990,000 A-/A Rk Rk
Justin Atkinson C 7/24/1993 23 2011 Draft (26) $100,000 A A-/A A
Alex Azor CF 11/21/1988 27 2012 Draft (10) $1,000 Military Military Military
Wil Browning RHP 9/8/1988 28 2012 NDFA AA/AAA A+/AA A+/AA
Derrick Chung C 2/23/1988 28 2012 Draft (31) Injured AA/A+ A+/AA
Matt Dean 3B 12/22/1992 23 2011 Draft (13) $737,500 A+/AA A+ A
Jorge Flores SS 11/25/1991 24 2012 Draft (19) AA/A+ AA AA/A+
Jeremy Gabryszwski RHP 3/16/1993 23 2011 Draft (2) $575,000 AA A+ A/A+
Alonzo Gonzalez LHP 1/15/1992 24 2012 Draft (18) $100,000 A+/AA A+/A A
Emilio Guerrero IF 8/21/1992 24 2011 IFA A+/AA AA/A+ A+
Osman Gutierrez RHP 12/15/1994 21 2011 IFA $210,000 Rk Rk DSL
Jason Leblebijian IF 5/13/1991 25 2012 Draft (25) AA/A+ A/A+ A
Christian Lopes IF 10/1/1992 24 2011 Draft (7) $800,000 AA/A+ A+/AA A+
Derrick Loveless OF 3/7/1993 23 2011 Draft (27) $125,000 A+/AA A+ A
Ian Parmley OF 12/19/1989 26 2012 Draft (7) $5,000 AA AA/A+ A/A+
Tom Robson RHP 6/27/1993 23 2011 Draft (4) $325,000 A/A+ A/A- A
Jorge Saez C 8/28/1990 26 2012 Draft (32) AA/A+ A+ A/A+
Dwight Smith Jr. OF 10/26/1992 24 2011 Draft (1s) $800,000 AA AA A+
Juan Tejada OF 2/13/1994 22 2011 IFA $150,000 A/A- Rk/A- Rk
Brad Allen RHP 3/26/1989 27 2016 FA A+ A+ A
Casey Lawrence RHP 10/28/1987 29 2016 FA AAA/AA AA/AAA AA
Blake McFarland RHP 2/2/1988 28 2016 FA AA/AAA AA/A+
Carlos Ramirez RHP 12/28/1991 24 2016 FA A+ A/A+ Rk
Luis Santos RHP 2/11/1991 25 2016 FA AA/A+ A+
Ty Sterner RHP 12/9/1992 23 2016 FA Rk
Kender Villegas RHP 6/8/1993 23 2016 FA

There's a lot less to say about this list. Few took the type of major step forward in 2016 that would merit Rule 5 consideration after being previously passed over. Adonys Cardona was finally healthy and can throw upper-90s, but walked more than he struck out. The exception might be Jason Leblebijian, who made it up to AA and continued to hit. He might profile as a utility guy; I'm doubtful it merits Rule 5 protection. Carlos Ramirez is interesting being quite new to pitching, but was eligible for free agency before re-signing; any team seriously interested would get more flexibility from that route than the Rule 5. Blake McFarland was protected last winter but is now coming back from shoulder surgery that wiped out his 2016 season.