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2019 Rule 5 Overview: breaking down the outfield mix

MLB: New York Yankees at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we took a look at the Rule 5 eligible players in the Blue Jays organization in advance of next Tuesday’s deadline to add players to the 40-man. With broader organizational context an important factor when it comes to closer Rule 5 calls, we’ll break down the configuration of the current 40-man by positional groupings. First up is the outfield, with the curious juxtaposition of being perhaps being least settled at the major league level but most settled for the purposes of Rule 5.

Established MLB regulars: Randal Grichuk

MLB level/ready: Derek Fisher, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Billy McKinney

Out of options: Anthony Alford

Complementary player profiles: Jonathan Davis

Notable Rule 5 eligibles: Josh Palacios, Forrest Wall

Starting at a high level, as I reviewed last year, in recent years it’s been typical to have six or seven outfielders on the 40-man roster after additions on the 11/20 deadline. By the time opening day rolls around, the number of outfielders has converged on seven. That is to say, offseason upgrades typical come at the expense of existing roster players, not in addition to them.

That’s significant considering the widespread desire and expectation for upgrading the major league production in 2020 (and beyond). Grichuk and Gurriel both figure to be starters, though the latter theoretically retains an option year. Then there’s three more who essentially who have nothing left to show at the minor league league, plus the toolsy but unproven, inconsistent and oft-injured Alford who must stick in 2020.

Fisher was just brought in at a not insignificant cost in treasure, so it’s hard to see him going anywhere. Teoscar can theoretically be optioned, but at 27 it’s imperative to find out if and where he fits at the long term picture, especially as they move to (what should be) serious contention footing in 2021 and beyond. Even with the 2020 option, McKinney may be crowded out in the pecking order such that his roster spot is at high risk if an addition is made. Given reports that the Jays have soured on on him, Alford would be too.

With Dalton Pompey and Dwight Smith Jr. removed from the picture over the course of the 2019 season, the back of the roster has been pretty well shook out. It’s typical to have an “up and down” guy like Jonathan Davis around, which isn’t to say that his spot is safe if they need a roster spot.

Turning back to Rule 5 considerations, in this context and with seven outfielders already on the 40-man roster, it really only makes sense to add strong or overwhelming prospects. Forrest Wall and Josh Palacios are not without their merits and may well have MLB futures. Indeed, in the recent past the Jays have added some similar types of outfield prospects (for example Kenny Wilson in 2013). But it would be very surprising this year.