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  • Who Should the Twins Protect from the Rule 5 Draft?


    Seth Stohs

    In just over two weeks (November 20th), the Twins and the rest of the league will have to submit their additions to their 40-man rosters. 2020 was a lost season for many minor leaguers, so who do the Twins need to add… or risk losing to the Rule 5 draft?

    Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily

    As 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.

    So, let’s take a look at the eligible players, starting with The Givens:

     

     

    THE GIVENS

     

    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 roster for 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 debut and 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?

    1. 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.

    OTHER POSSIBLES

     

    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)

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.

    Others in their first year of eligibility:

    • 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.

    Others returning to Rule 5 eligibility after 2020.

    • 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.

    SUMMARY

     

    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.

     

    PREDICTION

    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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    Jordy Blaze is indeed a given, and Rortvedt was the name that jumped out at me as likely to be interesting to another team.

     

    Although... keeping a 3rd string catcher all season long is hard to do, and a 2nd string catcher has bigger responsibility than most understudies on a squad so you have to be pretty sure he's ready, to make such a draft pick. I took a look at the 2017-19 rule-5 drafts and I didn't see any catchers taken in the major league portion. AAA portion, yes, but I presume Rortvedt would be added to the protected list at that point.

     

    Teams take pitchers. Pitchers, pitchers, the occasional shortstop, and pitchers.

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    I think Rortvedt should be a given too if you don't want to lose him. Given his strong defense it's very easy to imagine some rebuilding team taking him and keeping him on the roster as a backup catcher for the entire season.

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    I think Rortvedt should be a given too if you don't want to lose him. Given his strong defense it's very easy to imagine some rebuilding team taking him and keeping him on the roster as a backup catcher for the entire season.

     

    There are a lot of guys on that list that I wouldn't want to lose. I don't think he's a Given, but as you said, with his defensive abilities, there might be a team willing to take the risk. 

     

    With the Twins, you've got Garver, Jeffers and Telis behind the plate. Rortvedt would be a nice developmental piece that because of his defense you don't mind him as the #3 or #4 catching option. 

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    With all the craziness left over in regard to arbitration, FA, non-tendered players, etc, as part of the hangover from 2020 civic, crazy to realize rule 5 is also affected.

     

    With payroll questions and cuts, will anyone really want to spend money on a rule 5 pick? Or will teams be looking to spend a relatively small financial investment even if it means stashing a player for an entire year?

     

    Of course Balazovic is a given. I'm really not sure anyone would be willing to keep a AA catcher on their roster, but I'd be very tempted to protect Rortvedt just to make sure.

     

    I don't want to lose any of the guys listed. The system is deep and all of the guys listed have the potential over the next season or two to knock on the ML door. But are they really at risk of being selected and kept for a whole season? And while I believe there are some guys here who have a real chance over the next couple of years...as I previously stated...is there anyone listed who couldn't be replaced by others in the system?

     

    I think the givens are just that, with Rotvedt as the one question. Otherwise, we will need roster spots for whatever moves will be made over the next few months.

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    Gotta be one of the hardest parts of being GM, keeping the right balance of depth and development. Plus, there is/will be a lot of minor league talent floating around this winter. You have to protect the talent you feel can impact your ML roster. I like Baddoo, Rortvedt, Rijo, Jax, Ober and Tyler Wells. The Twins spent good money for Severino.

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    We have a lot of holes from FA exiting. In the beginning we can add a few but as we fill those holes, we`ll have   to decide who   to drop or trade  from 40 man if  there is some one of value we`d lose 

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    I have two must adds, Balazovic and Rortvedt. But then I have been high on the kid from Verona since the day he was drafted. With Garver falling back to earth hard last year, there is a chance that Rortvedt ends up the best of the three catchers we all like, Garver, Jeffers and Rortvedt. Unfortunately, with a year off, Ben won't be ready to break in until at least 2022 at the earliest.

     

    Don't know how the Twins and other teams will deal with players who passed thru the Rule 5 draft last year, players like Javier, Rijo, Jax, Wiel? Will be surprised if any are protected. Expect there will be at least two more protected in addition to the above duo. Your guess is as good as mine, although I expect I will be very surprised with at least one. The pitcher I really don't want to lose is Ober, but don't see anyone taking him with his not even being on the Alternate Squad this summer.

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    What we cannot predict is how the teams are going to approach FA, how many are going to be DFA'd to cut payroll.  I look at Rule 5 and think that many teams might look at this as a low dollar commitment - especially for non-contenders.  I do not know these players enough to say who needs to be saved.  I like the ones this article chooses, but then the question is which players seem most attractive to other teams because the write ups make them all seem good. 

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    Those are definitely two guys that I would/will worry about being selected. They were the two that I was most worried about last year as well. 

    The issue with Javier is the same as it was last year: what team will draft an interesting but totally unproven player and keep him on the MLB roster? 2020 was "another lost season" for him, and he's barely seen any minor league pitching yet. 

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    IMO, Rijo should be protected. Too much talent to lose. Rortvedt would be the other keeper for me. I think both will be selected if they're left off the roster.

     

    If I was the one who got to decide this, I absolutely would add him. He was the player I most worried about the Twins losing a year ago...

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    I have two must adds, Balazovic and Rortvedt. But then I have been high on the kid from Verona since the day he was drafted. With Garver falling back to earth hard last year, there is a chance that Rortvedt ends up the best of the three catchers we all like, Garver, Jeffers and Rortvedt. Unfortunately, with a year off, Ben won't be ready to break in until at least 2022 at the earliest.

     

    Don't know how the Twins and other teams will deal with players who passed thru the Rule 5 draft last year, players like Javier, Rijo, Jax, Wiel? Will be surprised if any are protected. Expect there will be at least two more protected in addition to the above duo. Your guess is as good as mine, although I expect I will be very surprised with at least one. The pitcher I really don't want to lose is Ober, but don't see anyone taking him with his not even being on the Alternate Squad this summer.

    I'm with you on Rortvedt. I would be STUNNED if someone selected him and kept him. He's just not ready. He needs at least another year, especially after missing 2020. But really good and interestingly catcher prospects are valuable. Someone could find a reason to stash him on the roster or the IL. I'd like to be safe and protect him. I like Garver and absolutely don't think the 2020 version of him is the real player. But I think Jeffers and Rortvedt are the future.

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    If I was the one who got to decide this, I absolutely would add him. He was the player I most worried about the Twins losing a year ago...

    I admit to being a bit worried last year about him. But with no milb season last year and not being on the taxi squad at St Paul, would someone really bank on stashing him for a year? I know scouts and various FO are always working and projecting. But do you really think he's at risk this time?

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    Javier put up some of his best stats last year.

     

    I have been rooting for Javier for some time. All the potential in the world! He showed some real potential his first 2 years. And then he missed 2018 due to injury. And he might be the #1 guy in the system who got screwed by no milb season to get back to normal.

     

    But I think you are thinking of someone else or looking at the wrong season. His quad splits in 2019 were awefull.

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    I also am a big fan of Javier.  At least his potential, since he hasn't played much for a couple of years.  I protect him, Rijo and Jax.  I also think you gotta protect Colina.  Guys that throw 100 mph with wipeout sliders are what every team is looking to pick up.  Sure, his one appearance was not so good.  But I was impressed with his "stuff.'  He just looked REALLY jacked up for his first ever appearance.  

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    Balazovic is the obvious call.

     

    Rortvedt is a guy I think who could get claimed. His catching is advanced enough that a team could carry him as a catcher even if he might not hit much. I'd add him. Miranda is probably the next one to me? If a team has cleared a bunch of guys, might be in tanking mode...maybe they take a flyer there.

     

    It kinda feels like the Rule 5 draft is gonna be a mess this year. How the hell do you project all these guys who didn't play?

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    I admit to being a bit worried last year about him. But with no milb season last year and not being on the taxi squad at St Paul, would someone really bank on stashing him for a year? I know scouts and various FO are always working and projecting. But do you really think he's at risk this time?

     

    I don't think so. I was worried last year and we have no more information on him going into this year's Rule 5 draft. We might assume that if guys (Rijo, Jaiver, etc) and didn't get selected then, that it isn't likely they would be added this year. I think that's fair. 

    I have Rijo further down the list this year than I did last year with several first-timers ahead of him, so yeah, I won't be as worried this year. I also won't be surprised if he is taken. 

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    I also am a big fan of Javier.  At least his potential, since he hasn't played much for a couple of years.  I protect him, Rijo and Jax.  I also think you gotta protect Colina.  Guys that throw 100 mph with wipeout sliders are what every team is looking to pick up.  Sure, his one appearance was not so good.  But I was impressed with his "stuff.'  He just looked REALLY jacked up for his first ever appearance.  

     

    Colina was already protected when he was put on the 40-man roster in-season. 

     

    Rijo, Javier and Jax all passed through this year and none of them were even brought to the player pool, so I 'think' their odds of being selected are lower than I thought last year, but again, it just takes one team taking a shot. 

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    Balazovic is the obvious call.

     

    Rortvedt is a guy I think who could get claimed. His catching is advanced enough that a team could carry him as a catcher even if he might not hit much. I'd add him. Miranda is probably the next one to me? If a team has cleared a bunch of guys, might be in tanking mode...maybe they take a flyer there.

     

    It kinda feels like the Rule 5 draft is gonna be a mess this year. How the hell do you project all these guys who didn't play?

     

    That is the challenge. Normally we would have a sample of 400+ at bats or 50-130 innings to consider, and scouts would have had lots more opportunities to see something. I just don't know what's going to happen. 

     

    As for Rortvedt, the catcher position is so demanding. Rortvedt can catch in the big leagues right now. Don't see a lot of catchers taken in the Rule 5 draft... But sometimes I wonder if that's because the prospects and mid-level prospect catchers get protected?

     

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    The Reds drafted catcher Stuart Turner from the Twins in the Rule 5 in 2016 to the surprise of most Twins fans I think. Turner might be a comp for Ben Rortvedt. Stuart batted all of .134 and was back in the minor leagues. I think it was a reach by the Reds that didn't work out. I'm thinking there might be less room for Rule 5's on major league rosters this year, so a lot of guys are probably safe. But then again, each organization has certain players they covet and if they are available, they might scoop them up. The team that plays their evals and rosters right should have a nice advantage come next season.

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    The Reds drafted catcher Stuart Turner from the Twins in the Rule 5 in 2016 to the surprise of most Twins fans I think. Turner might be a comp for Ben Rortvedt. Stuart batted all of .134 and was back in the minor leagues. I think it was a reach by the Reds that didn't work out. I'm thinking there might be less room for Rule 5's on major league rosters this year, so a lot of guys are probably safe. But then again, each organization has certain players they covet and if they are available, they might scoop them up. The team that plays their evals and rosters right should have a nice advantage come next season.

    I thought the same thing, but I don't really see much of a loss in losing a defense-only catcher prospect... unless he proves he can hit at a decent level, you can find that kind of guy for very cheap in the free agent market.

     

    Aside from the givens, I would add Rortvedt and Rijo.... Griffin Jax would get some consideration as well. If needed, I think Astudillo and Nick Gordon could be waived or traded

    Jax wasn't added and didn't get claimed last year, don't think he will this year. He's about to turn 26 and isn't regarded as much of a prospect, so we shouldn't lose him.

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    I have been rooting for Javier for some time. All the potential in the world! He showed some real potential his first 2 years. And then he missed 2018 due to injury. And he might be the #1 guy in the system who got screwed by no milb season to get back to normal. But I think you are thinking of someone else or looking at the wrong season. His quad splits in 2019 were awefull.

    That was my joke. I can't imagine a team taking a player with so little experience and such poor performance in his most recent sample. Last year he was a long shot. This year I don't think it's worth considering.

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    Rortvedt is an excellent catcher, with a great arm and his hitting in the minors is not terrible at all, especially for a kid who was drafted right out of high school. It's not like he's going to hit below the mendoza line or anything, plus he's a lefty. At least a future platoon catcher. He was moved up to AA faster than Jeffers and was hitting very well until the knee injury. He then played a month with the injury and his production at plate suffered. Rortvedt is less of a defensive 1st catcher than Jeffers is a stick 1st catcher. For sure Garver and Jeffers in 2021 and then maybe Jeffers and Rortvedt in 2022? Some team will grab him for sure if he's not protected. I think the comparisons to previous Rule 5 catchers are not that accurate. Can't have enough quality catchers in the system.

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