Who Should the Twins Protect from the Rule 5 Draft?
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins DailyAs Nick wrote earlier this week, this will be an offseason filled with uncertainty. How much will payroll be decreased? When will free agents sign? Will anything much happen before February?
Will there be Winter Meetings? Well, certainly there won’t be a big gathering in a hotel as there normally is. But there certainly will be a Rule 5 draft… right?
And with that, teams have until November 20th to add players to their 40 man roster. With teams less likely to spend big money in the offseason, could acquiring players in other ways, including the Rule 5 draft, be an option? On the other side, will teams wanting to cut back want to spend $100,000 to add a player that may or may not be offered back to their previous team for $50,000?
Since the completion of the World Series, the Twins have been able to remove their free agents from the 40-man roster. Sergio Romo also became a free agent when the Twins declined his option for 2021. The Twins have claimed pitchers Ian Gibaut and Brandon Waddell.
Nick Gordon will need to come off of the 60-Day Injured List, and when that happens the team will be at 34 players on their 40-man roster. Will he stay on the 40-man roster? If not, he would need to clear waivers, and even if he did, he would become a minor league free agent.
Also before then, teams will need to offer 2021 contracts to their current arbitration-eligible players. If they don’t, those players will become free agents as well. Certainly Eddie Rosario is the most likely to be non-tendered, but the team has several arbitration-eligible players.
With that as the backdrop, the Twins could potentially add as many as eight or even nine players from their system to their 40-man roster (pending others being removed from the 40-man).
So, here is a quick reminder of what players will be eligible for the 2020 Rule 5 draft if not protected on the 40-man roster. Here is this year’s criteria:
- Players who signed when they were 18 or younger in 2016 (during the minor league season).
- Players who signed when they were 19 or older in 2017.
- Players who were eligible in previous seasons are also eligible again.
- Players drafted or signed during the 2014 season became free agents after the World Series was complete.
When I first reviewed which players might need to be added to the 40-man roster (last January), I felt that there were four “Givens.” Three of them made their MLB debut in 2020.
Alex Kirilloff (#1) - The 2016 first-round pick was added to the Twins rosterfor the 2020 playoffs. He became the third player to make his MLB debut in the playoffs, the first ever to start a game in that scenario. (The other two were A’s Mark Kiger and Royals Adalberto Mondesi) Kirilloff is such a natural hitter, he was an easy choice to add. It’s done.
Brent Rooker (#3) - The Twins Competitive Balance pick after the first round in 2017 from Mississippi State has provided a lot of power with his bat since the team drafted him. A few weeks before Kirilloff, Rooker made his big-league debutand hit well. He knocked his first home run in a game in St. Louis. Unfortunately, he was hit by a pitch and needed season-ended surgery. But again, was an easy choice then, and it happened in-season.
Edwar Colina (#4) - Colina was the one maybe surprising name to some that he would have been included in the Given category. He was signed in late September of 2015 and has slowly but consistently worked his way up the organizational ladder. But when a pitcher hits triple digits with a fastball and is known to have “the best slider in the organization,” he’s a given. He was added to the 40-man roster and called up on the final weekend. His one game did not go well, but that shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion on his upside.
So, ,who was Given #2 when this was done in January?
- RHP Jordan Balazovic - The right-hander from Canada remains an easy choice to be added to the Twins 40-man roster. He’s 6-5 and lean, though he has also added strength and velocity to his frame over the past couple of seasons. People believe that he can be a starting pitcher, which is a key point.
This is where it gets more difficult. When so few players get selected in the Rule 5 draft, is it necessary to protect as many players? Or, are so few players selected because more (or the right) players get added to 40-man rosters.
Of course, making it even more difficult to determine who should be added is the fact that there was no minor league season. These players did not get a typical, normal opportunity to earn a spot on the 40-man roster or not. So, for me, I saw many of the players for a week in spring training. They had a few more days of spring training after I left there before they were sent home. They were quarantined and there was no minor league season. A few of these players were at the Twins alternate site in St. Paul. Approximately 60 players were invited to the instructional league. Those are the new points for the Twins to factor into their decisions. That’s not a lot.
While I have this group ranked by how I would consider adding them, I think the Twins should have a good conversation to consider each. (which they most certainly have)
- OF Akil Baddoo - The 74th overall pick in the 2016 draft out of high school in Georgia. Missed most of 2019 season with Tommy John surgery, but is a great athlete who has a good approach at the plate and great power-speed combination potential. Had there been a 2020 season, he likely would have began as a DH before gradually moving back to center field.
- C Ben Rortvedt - 2nd round pick in 2016 from Wisconsin. He has moved up the system pretty quickly and spent half of the 2019 season at Pensacola before a knee injury ended his season. Terrific defensively and very strong. Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are likely going to be the big-league catchers. Williams Astudillo may or may not remain on the 40-man roster and in the organization. Tomas Telis has been re-signed on a minor league contract. Rortvedt should be considered for a roster spot.
- SS Wander Javier - Left off the 40-man roster last offseason, he went unclaimed. Still immensely talented and could break out at any time. The hope would have been that after a strong 2020 season, he would have been a Given. He didn’t play in 2020, another missed season. But, they have invested in him and he is still young and still immensely talented.
- RHP Luis Rijo - 21-year-old from Venezuela posted a 2.86 ERA in 107 innings in Cedar Rapids in 2019 but still went unclaimed in the Rule 5. Of all the players left off the Twins 40-man roster last year, Rijo was the one I was most worried about losing. Still young, he was throwing 95 at times in 2019 with three pitches. Now he’s a year older, hopefully more mature and strong.
- 3B Jose Miranda - The 73rd overall pick in 2016 draft from Puerto Rico, Miranda has hit some and displays a lot of power potential. Has played some second base but profiles much more as a third baseman. He’s got good size and strength and could develop into a power hitting option.
- RHP Griffin Jax - Jax was also left unprotected and went unclaimed this year. He’s already had success in AA and could be MLB ready sometime in 2020. He was invited to big-league spring training, but he was not in the Twins player pool. But he is another guy who profiles as a starter, which matters.
- 2B Yunior Severino - Enough of an international prospect that he received two nine-figure signing bonuses. He had a solid season in E-Town in 2018. Unfortunately fractured his thumb early in the 2019 season. Could break out in 2020 if he stays in the lineup. He got into several games in spring training and did a nice job.
- OF Gabriel Maciel - Signed with the Diamondbacks in June 2016 from Brazil. Came to the Twins in the Eduardo Escobar trade in July 2018. Not a big guy, but he hits a lot of line drives, runs really well and plays good outfield defense. Twins bench coach Mike Bell is very familiar with Maciel and his potential.
- LHP Charlie Barnes - 4th round pick in 2017 from Clemson. He lefty pitched at three levels in 2019 (8 starts in Ft. Myers, 13 starts in Pensacola, 4 starts in Rochester). Barnes was invited to Twins spring training and had a nice showing. Originally, he was not added to the player pool, but he was added later in the summer and got a couple of weeks of work in that atmosphere.
- RHP Bailey Ober - Twins 12th round pick in 2017 out of the College of Charleston, he has put up video game numbers when he has been on the mound. If healthy, he’s got a chance. He did not work at the Twins alternate site or participate in instructional league.
- LHP Jovani Moran - The lefty dominated the lower levels of the minors, but injuries cost him time in 2019. But, he’s young, left-handed and has a couple of plus-pitches. Definitely could contribute in 2021, and because of that, he probably profiles well as the type of player that does get selected in the Rule 5 draft.
- RHP Tyler Wells - Wells may have been an easy add in 2019 if he hadn’t missed the season due to Tommy John surgery. He rehabbed most of that year and had all of 2020 to keep working his way back to full strength without rushing. Can he get back to his 2018 performance level? If so, he’s worth a roster spot.
- LHP Bryan Sammons - The Twins 8th round pick in 2017 from Western Carolina, he dominated at Ft. Myers in 2019 before spending the final four months of the season in Pensacola. Left-handed, he has four quality pitches.He has proven strong and durable as well.
- 1B/OF Trey Cabbage - 4th round pick in 2015 from high school in Tennessee. Broke out early in Cedar Rapids in 2019 and showed some of his immense power potential in 2019. 2020 was a big year for him as he was starting to really come into his own. Hopefully that can happen in 2021.
- 1B Zander Wiel - Twins 12th round pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt. Wiel wasn’t added or selected after his 2019 season in Rochester in which he hit 40 doubles and 24 home runs. He was invited to Twins spring training and performed well. He also spent the 2020 season at the Twins alternate site in 2020.
- Tyler Benninghoff, David Banuelos, Andrew Bechtold, Mark Contreras, Ernie De La Trinidad, Calvin Faucher, Jordan Gore, Derek Molina, Ricky Ramirez, Joe Record, Yeremi De La Cruz, Jesus Feliz, Osiris German, Jimmy Kerrigan, Michael Montero, Junior Navas, Daniel Ozoria, Ruben Santana, Jesus Toledo, Janigson Villalobos.
- Melvi Acosta, Adam Bray, Yeltsin Encarnacion, Zach Featherstone,Tom Hackimer, Caleb Hamilton, Hector Lujan, Ryan Mason, Alex Robinson, Carlos Suniaga, Tyler Watson, Lachlan Wells, Aaron Whitefield.
The Twins again have several interesting options for guys who could be added to the 40-man roster or potentially be lost in the Rule 5 draft. Like the rest of the offseason, it’s hard to feel confident about anything that’s going to happens and that includes what the Rule 5 draft might look like.
If forced to make an official prediction, I think that the Twins will only add Jordan Balazovic and Ben Rortvedt to the 40-man roster in two weeks. Balazovic is the given. I just think that having strong catchers is important, and Rortvedt fits that category with his defense, and there is still offensive potential too. I think they’ll be busy in free agency and will want those roster spots available to them. They may be busy with trades too, including some of these players mentioned on the Possibles list.
What do you think?
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