This morning, Brewers beat reporter Tom Haudricourt sent out this tweet:
Today is the deadline for major league teams to add minor league players eligible to the 40-man roster and protect them from the rule five draft. For a rundown of the 40-man roster, the rule five draft, and why/which players need to be protected, TheJay had a wonderful post way back in 2009 about all that.
The Brewers had six spots left on their 40-man roster this morning and, according to Disciples of Uecker, 41 players who were eligible for the rule five draft were they not protected.
The five players the Brewers chose to offer protection are players the Brewers saw as most likely to be drafted in the rule five draft and the players that offered the most future potential.
Nick Bucci has been with the Brewers since 2008, when they selected him in the 18th round of that years amateur draft as a 17-year-old out of high school. Bucci has started 71 out of 83 games he has played with the organization since that time, with a career 3.76 ERA. Bucci has a lot of talent, but a fairly high walk rate considering he isn't a huge strikeout pitcher. Bucci has played just three games above High-A ball. Now that he has just three option years before he has to pass through waivers to be sent to the minors, Bucci will have to ramp up his development pace. I could see the Brewers converting him to a reliever in the near future, partly to get him to the majors faster. It is also a position of need and could be a role Bucci would find a lot of success in.
At this time last season, Hiram Burgos likely wouldn't have been considered for a 40-man spot. He was coming off a year where he posted a 4.89 ERA in High-A ball with a 1.479 WHIP. Burgos broke out in a big way in 2012, though, playing in three levels of the minor leagues and posting a 1.95 ERA over 28 games (27 starts). That includes a 2.91 ERA in Triple-A where he made eight starts. Impressively, Burgos gave up just 6.7 hits per nine innings over all of 2012 while maintaining a 3.12 K/BB ratio. He should start off 2012 in Triple-A Nashville, but could find his way to Milwaukee as an emergency spot starter. Burgos was talented enough that Milwaukee drafted him in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. He doesn't throw exceptionally hard, but has a good curveball and plenty of other secondary pitches in his arsenal.
If any eligible player was going to be protected, it was going to be Khris Davis. Davis broke out in a big way in 2012, posting a 1.055 OPS between three levels (which includes a brief rehab stint in rookie ball). Davis played a little over half the year at Double-A Huntsville and hit .383/.484/.641 with eight home runs. After such a great performance, the Brewers bumped him up to Triple-A for the first time in his career to see if he could handle it. He did, hitting .310 with a .936 OPS in 32 games. Davis had always showed an aptitude for hitting, but nothing like he did last season. He will be 25 years old in December, though, and is getting to be old for a prospect. John Sickels didn't think enough of him to rank him as a top-20 prospect in the system prior to last year, though I suspect that will change in the list for 2013. The biggest issue with Davis is that he would be a man without a position for the Brewers. He has, for all intents and purposes, played only left field defensively in the minor leagues. Ryan Braun clearly has that position locked up for a long while at the major league level. Can Davis play right field competently? It may be his only option unless the Brewers decide to try and convert him to a first baseman. Otherwise Davis will be nothing but trade fodder for Milwaukee.
The addition of Scooter Gennett to the 40-man roster over Eric Farris likely indicates that Gennett is the current preferred replacement at second base if Rickie Weeks leaves when his contract expires after 2014. Farris has already been called up a few times by the Brewers, though he has not received significant playing time at the major league level. Gennett is a good hitter for average, but will likely not hit for a lot of power. He played in Double-A for the Brewers last season and hit .293/.330/.385. His OPS has gone down each time he moves up a level. He had an .817 OPS in Level-A in 2010, .740 in High-A in 2011, and .714 in Double-A last season. His bat should settle in fine, though. Gennett's defense isn't solid, but with work it should improve. Gennett profiles to be a similar player to Jose Altuve, though a couple inches taller.
Josh Prince may be the most questionable addition to the 40-man roster. He hit extremely well in the Arizona Fall League the last couple of months, but has a career minor league .668 OPS. Prince has shown improvement with the bat the last two seasons, but it seems unlikely that an organization would keep him on their major league roster for the full season that would be required were he selected in the rule five draft. If a team failed to do that, the Brewers would either get the Prince back or work out a trade to receive a player or money in return. Prince does have talent that could tempt a team, though. He's not spectacular defensively, but is being groomed as a utility man by the Brewers. He has the ability to play just about anywhere on the diamond except catcher after starting out as a shortstop. He also possesses excellent speed. Still, his bat is still questionable and he played in Double-A for the first time last season. The Brewers must have had suspicions that other teams thought highly of him, and thus chose to protect him.
The Brewers chose to leave several interesting names unprotected.
2009 first round draft pick Eric Arnett was not protected. Brewers fans probably wouldn't lose much sleep if he were selected in the rule five draft, though that seems unlikely. Arnett made it to High-A ball for the first time in 2012, when he was converted from a starting pitcher to a bullpen role. The change seems to have worked for Arnett, as he had a career best 3.56 ERA in 33 games last season.
Despite his great name, Maverick Lasker also went unprotected. Unlike Arnett, he had a career worst season with a 7.42 ERA in the lower minors last year. Carlos George and his 124 errors in 273 career games was also left unprotected.
Those three probably are very unlikely to be selected in the rule five draft. Other interesting names stand a slightly better chance.
Cody Scarpetta has a career 3.61 ERA in the minors, along with a 9.5 K/9. He has had walk issues and has not yet reached Triple-A, but he could stick with a team in the bullpen. However, he has started just about every game he's played with Milwaukee. Kyle Heckathorn is in a similar position, though he began pitching out of the bullpen in 2012. He hasn't put up as good of numbers as Scarpetta but was drafted as a supplemental first rounder and surely has talent.
Reliever Dan Meadows had a 2.68 ERA in High-A during the 2010 season and a 2.68 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. He suffered a down year in 2012 with a 4.24 ERA, but his peripherals have always been good. Donovan Hand is in a similar boat. He has performed well as a reliever, with a career 3.60 ERA and never having more than a 3.93 ERA in a single season. He doesn't strike out many hitters, however, and has had a relatively high WHIP.
Other players are more likely to be on other teams' radars.
The aforementioned Eric Farris is one of those names. Second base can be one of the more difficult positions to find talent at, and Farris already has some experience at the major league level. He hasn't been a spectacular hitter through the minors, but could be good enough to stick as a bench bat. He has improved his batting line each of the last three seasons in Triple-A.
A major league team could also be interested in the power potential of Brock Kjeldgaard. The big Canadian has been with the Brewers since 2005 and has been eligible for the rule five draft before, however. He has also had better seasons than his .724 OPS in 2012. Still, he has hit 24 home runs in a shorter minor league season before and if a team decides they would like to add some pop to their bench, he could provide a cheap source of power. Kjeldgaard has never been a high-average hitter, but has been very good at drawing walks, working his way to a .326 OBP despite a .211 batting average in 2012.
It's likely that the Brewers won't lose any talent to the rule five draft. If they do, it's likely to be a pitcher. It is much more likely for a team to select someone they can stash in their bullpen versus a player who takes up a bench role with a possibly useless bat. Were the Brewers to select a player at the major league level of the rule five draft, it's likely to be a pitcher. Though that's more due to the fact that the Brewers' bullpen is in a state of flux while their bench is comparatively set.
The Rule Five draft is scheduled to take place December 6, at the end of the winter meetings.