The 2019 Winter Meetings wrap up today with the annual Rule 5 Draft. Once a solid source of talent, changes in the 2006 Collective Agreement that allowed teams an extra year before their prospects were eligible have reduced the chance of finding high impact players. But once in a while, you get a surprise like Elvis Luciano, who a year later looks like a very shewed gamble. And other than arbitration numbers being exchanged in January, this is the last formal thing on the baseball calendar before Spring Training so enjoy something happening while it lasts.
With the gathering out west, the major league portion gets underway at 12:00 ET / 9:00 PT followed by the minor league portion, with everything streamed on MLB.com and likely to last under 30 minutes. Based on reverse standings, the Blue Jays are 5th in line, with all teams ahead of them having open 40-man spots and this eligible to draft.
The most recent collective agreement brought a few changes to the Rule 5 that remain in effect. The cost to select players is now $100,000 in the Major League portion (less $50,000 if the player is returned). There is now only one minor league phase, with the cost to select a player in this phase also doubled to $24,000.
To be perfectly frank and realistic, the Rule 5 fever usually ends up way more hype than substance, probably because of when it occurs on the calendar. It may be a little more interesting and lively this year however with the addition of a 26th roster spot in 2020 (probably, not yet official) that may facilitate carrying a prospect especially for rebuilding teams.
The addition of the roster spot also comes with a cap of 13 pitchers, and since a lot of teams have already moved to eight man pens, pitching staff formulation probably isn’t going to change too much. This might be less so in the NL, so some teams there could look to nab a bullpen addition. But an extra position player on the bench could really open up Rule 5 possibilities. Could someone try to stash a faraway player like Wander Javier?
- Last month I outlined the Rule 5 process and the protection decisions for the Blue Jays. Some more discussion on that below.
- For more background on the Rule 5 and more Blue Jays history, this post from 2014 is useful. Mark Shapiro’s Rule 5 history in Cleveland was detailed in 2016.
- Annual friendly-and-not-at-all-passive-aggressive reminder: Conducted literally in accordance with Major League Rule 5, it’s the Rule 5 Draft, not the Rule V Draft as many refer to it.
Please govern your comments accordingly.
- As usual, J.J. Cooper and co. at Baseball America ($) and Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline have lists of some of the higher profile players available. Pipeline also lists all available players from their midseason Top 30 teams lists. The Blue Jays are one of four teams with none, though that doesn’t at all mean they’ll be unscathed.
Blue Jays players at risk
After seven years without having a player taken from them, last year they lost two players before their turn even came up as Jordan Romano and Travis Bergen were among the top eight selections. Fortunately, both ended up returning, the former at the end of Spring Training and the latter quite surprising late in August having already passed the 90 day threshold.
The Jays don’t have much in the way of positions players who are plausible candidates, though occasionally Forrest Wall and Joshua Palacios get mentioned. They do however have a bunch of interesting relief arms, which is a typical Rule 5 target demographic.
The player who I’ve considered the most likely to lose has been Jackson McClelland, as I wrote last month:
huge arm with an upper-90s fastball, slider that’s swing-and-miss at its best, and a change-up that’s actually pretty good too for a reliever’s third pitch and will flash plus. Consistency is still an issue — so many outings are lights out, marred by total meltdowns once in a while. He got through last year, but having got to Buffalo and with a full year of AA rather than a month it’s a more compelling case now. I’m have doubts it would happen again: if I were rebuilding a team, this is the exact type of relief arm to target for potential impact down the road.
He’s certainly been mentioned plenty, but it seems there’s another Blue Jays prospect with late buzz:
The new number one R5 buzz guy wasn't on my writeups as of last night. Now I'm convinced he should definitely be taken. Watching video this morning I am all in.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 11, 2019
Sorry it took me so long to get this Blue Jays prospect on there. https://t.co/j9K69s1oU2
#BlueJays' Dany Jimenez, a 25-year-old RHP, who posted a 2.59 ERA with 14.2 K/9 in minors last year, also a candidate to be picked tomorrow in the view of one plugged-in industry person— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) December 12, 2019
Jimenez is not a total surprise, he was on my radar:
The dark horse candidate for me is Dany Jimenez. Stuck in low levels for multiple years, he’s really moved the last couple years reaching New Hampshire were he was pretty electric. Another whose fastball will touch the upper 90s, with a power curve that  he’ll manipulate the depth some and gets a lot of whiffs. The numbers are loud, ultimately there’s still some work to do and odds are probably against him being poached.
I’m a little surprised to see so much helium (though sometimes this ends up more smoke than anything), and I don’t think it’s a slam dunk he’d stick. But I can certainly see the case for taking a cheap roll of the dice and bringing him into Spring Training.
What about the Jays?
With the three non-tenderings last week, the Jays have 37 on their 40-man, and it’s probably a good bet that they’ll leverage having the 5th pick (if nothing else, then to flip it for something like international bonus space). Even though it’s not the biggest of potatoes, the Ross-bot was in first-rate corporate speak mode:
Per Atkins, the #BlueJays could be active in tomorrow’s Rule 5 draft: “We're still working through that and thinking about the opportunity versus the cost."— Kaitlyn McGrath (@kaitlyncmcgrath) December 12, 2019
The cost is prety straight forward, a pittance of $100,000, though to synthesize the two constructs there’s also the opportunity cost of the roster spots. But let’s not encourage the use of meaningless jargon.
There’s so many directions to go that it’s almost futile to speculate. The lists above cover the most interesting names. They could look in the same vein as Elvis Luciano last year with a development project like Wander Javier (if he’s still there)...but probably not. There’s plenty of interesting arms, and the Blue Jays do have open spots in the bullpen at least now. If they went that route, it will be interesting to compare who they took with any arms they lose who they could have protected instead.
One name that does stick out at me: Alec Hansen, a second rounder in 2016. His sophomore year was no dominant he was in the conversation for the 1st overall pick in 2016 a year beforehand. He had an incredible 2017, jumping into the middle of top-100 lists. A total project, but if anyone could ever (consistently) harness the potential there’s huge upside.