The last time MLB held an expansion draft was in November of 1997 when the league expanded to 30 teams. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks joined the league the next year. Both teams were able to pick 35 guys from other organizations. The draft went three rounds:
- Round 1 - the 28 current MLB teams were able to protect 15 players from the entire organization (40-man or not). Each team could only lose one player in the round. (14 players drafted by each of the expansion teams)
- Round 2 - each team can protect three more players and then the same guidelines apply. (14 players drafted by each of the expansion teams.
- Round 3 - each team makes seven more selections.
So, let’s pretend for a moment that there was going to be MLB expansion and a draft held following the World Series this fall. Which 15 players would (or should) the Twins protect?
First, let’s look at the players who would not have to be protected without fear of losing them.
Players the Twins drafted this June. So, they wouldn’t have to worry about losing Alex Kirilloff or Ben Rortvedt or Tom Hackimer.
Players the Twins drafted last June (2015). So, they don’t have to protect the likes of Tyler Jay, They wouldn’t need to protect LaMonte Wade, Trey Cabbage or Travis Blankenhorn. Guys signed internationally in 2015 would also not need to be protected. In other words, the Twins don’t have to decide whether or not to protect 17-year-old Wander Javier, who they gave $4 million just one year ago.
Players who signed in 2014 under the age of 18. This includes international signings from that year like Huascar Ynoa, Lachlan Wells, Jean Carlos Arias, Brusdar Graterol and Jorge Munoz.
I lumped in guys who could be non-tendered following the season into the free agent exception. I’ll include Fernando Abad, Tommy Milone, Kevin Jepsen Trevor Plouffe, Juan Centeno and Kurt Suzuki in that group that won’t need to be included. You can also probably add the likes of Buddy Boshers and Darin Mastroianni to this group as well as they are likely be be free agents by the end of the season.
There are still a lot of players who will be eligible to be selected if not added. There are some givens to protect but after that, there are going to be some really tough decisions.
THE FIFTEEN I WOULD PROTECT
I’m just going to start by posting all fifteen that I would protect. Some are quite easy choices. Others take a little more thought. And, even with that, there are another few dozen I wish I could protect too.
Let’s start with The Givens. As we know, the phrase “Givens” means different things to different things to different people. However, in my mind, it would be inexplicable for the Twins to not protect the following 11 players. In other words, I saw that these guys would be eligible to be selected, I immediately put them on the list to protect (in alphabetical order).
- RH SP Jose Berrios
- RH RP Nick Burdi
- OF Byron Buxton
- RH RP JT Chargois
- 2B Brian Dozier
- OF Max Kepler
- 1B Joe Mauer
- RH RP Trevor May
- IF Jorge Polanco
- RH RP Ryan Pressly
- 3B/OF/DH Miguel Sano
Other than that, there are young players who the organization has deemed the building blocks. Whether or not they all pan out is not known, but they must be protected. That includes the likes of Buxton, Kepler, Sano, Berrios and Polanco.
I’d put Pressly and May in the same category, along with Chargois and Burdi. We have seen the value of a strong bullpen and those four could be a great start to that over the next couple of years. By having several of them, if you’re the GM you could still push for May to start.
The Other Four
So, I have to come up with four more names to protect, and this is where it gets difficult. How do you pick? Does salary come into it? What will the expansion team draft? Prospects or proven players? Maybe some combination, but it’s so hard to know.
So, here are the four players that I would (probably) add to the protected list before a (hypothetical) expansion draft.
12. Tyler Duffey
13. Taylor Rogers
14. Nick Gordon
15. Stephen GonsalvesSo as you can see, I’m choosing to protect pitching and prospects. I’ll briefly touch on each.
- Tyler Duffey - I don’t know if he’ll be a starter long-term, or if he’ll eventually (maybe likely) wind up in the bullpen. I do know that he’s done enough to show that I want him in the future plans of the organization.
- Taylor Rogers - I think he can be a long-term, left-handed reliever with the ability to really dominate left-handed hitters.
- Nick Gordon - There just aren’t a ton of shortstop prospects who people believe can stick at shortstop. Gordon can be a solid, every day shortstop who will play solid defense and hit too. He’s two years out, but you don’t want to lose a guy like this.
- Steven Gonsalves - There are several pitchers who fit into this range. Gonsalves has produced at each level he’s pitched at, and he just made the move to AA.
As a reminder, following the first round, in which the Twins would lose no more than one player, they will be able to protect three more players. At most, the Twins would lose three players. It wouldn’t be the end of the world. But, they would lose two or three players and the hope would be that you’ve protected the right people. But it’s very likely you’ll lose someone who will become a solid major leaguer.
The High-Priced Pitchers - I’ll lump Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and now probably Glen Perkins though he will miss time next season and isn’t making an excessive amount. I would be very surprised if an expansion team would take on these salaries. They would not get selected, and frankly, if they did, would we be disappointed?
The Prospects - There are a bunch of quality prospects that I believe are not protected and eligible to be selected in my fake expansion draft scenario. Here is a list of prospects that I would unfortunately leave unprotected.
Kohl Stewart, Fernando Romero, Randy Rosario, Yorman Landa, Mason Melotakis, Pat Dean, Alex Meyer, Adam Brett Walker and many more.There were many other tough decisions too. For instance, would you protect Kyle Gibson as he is coming off of injury and will go to arbitration for the first time in the offseason? How about Michael Tonkin? With all the power arms in the system, would he be one you’d protect? Eddie Rosario is still pre-arbitration and plays good defense, but will his lack of plate discipline mean he isn’t on your list?
What about the Eduardos, Nunez and/or Escobar? How about Byung Ho Park? Do you protect him one year after investing about $25 million on him? How about a catcher? Would you want to protect John Ryan Murphy? Maybe Mitch Garver or Stuart Turner?
This is not an easy exercise, but it can be a lot of fun. Thinking about 2016 and going forward. What are the priorities? Which players are automatic protect guys for you?
OK, now it is your turn. Considering everything you’ve read above, which 15 players would you protect? Let’s discuss.
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