The Rule 5 Draft isn't until the end of the Winter Meetings on Thursday December 11th. Unfortunately the Brewers have to decide now who they want to protect though because the deadline to do so is tomorrow.
I'm rather surprised as I thought the deadline was closer to the meetings. As it stands now, the Brewers have 36 players on the 40-man roster. That of course means they can only add (protect) 4 minor league players. However it's possible we'll hear in the next 24 hours about a player or two that's been outrighted off the 40-man roster to allow the Brewers to add more to it.
If you don't know, the Rule-5 draft exists to stop teams from stashing intriguing young players in the minors when there isn't room for them at the major league level. Players who were 19+ when drafted are eligible for the Rule 5 draft after four years in the minors. Players who were 18 when drafted are eligible after five years.
You can find a list of eligible Brewers minor leaguers here on BrewerFan.net. This list is too long to recreate here so you should just click the link and give some love to BrewerFan.net. Instead I'll just highlight some of the more interesting players.
There aren't a lot of sure bets on that list but I'm absolutely certain Taylor Jungmann and David Goforth will be added to the 40-man roster. Taylor Jungmann hasn't ascended through the minors as quickly as hoped, but he has taken significant strides forward over the last 2 years. He ended last season reasonably strong in AAA and will very likely enter the season 7th on the Brewers rotation depth chart right after Jimmy Nelson.
You might look at David Goforth and furl your brow. Indeed, his minor league statistics don't jump off the page and he even repeated AA. However, he throws his fastball between 94-98 and has solid secondary pitches. It's commonly believed he has high-leverage potential. He certainly has the highest potential among relievers in the Brewers minor league system right now and it's very likely he sees time in Milwaukee at some point in 2015.
Jed Bradley, Drew Gagnon, Nick Ramirez, Yadiel Rivera, Mike Strong, and Manny Barreda make interesting cases as well. Jed Bradley is similar to Taylor Jungmann (though Bradley is left handed). They 're both starting pitchers selected in the same draft and have fallen short of expectations. Bradley has fallen further than Jungmann though. He started out 2014 strong in A+ but saw mixed results in AA. Still, it was a step forward and he might yet have value as a potential 4/5 starter.
Most everything that makes Jed Bradley an interesting case for Rule-5 protection applies to Drew Gagnon (right-hander though) as well. He was also selected in the 2011 draft. However his ceiling is probably that of a 4/5 starter where you can kind of talk yourself into hoping for more with Bradley. They could both end up in the bullpen too, though.
Nick Ramirez is a left handed first baseman who spent last year in AA with modest results and sort of tanked in the AFL. His case was stronger when there wasn't a clear cut answer at 1B in the form of Adam Lind. Right now his future with the Brewers probably rests in how much they do or do not believe in Hunter Morris and Matt Clark. Morris has 2 minor league options left and Clark has his full 3. There seems little reason to have 3 left handed (platoon?) first baseman at the AAA level.
Yadiel Rivera is an excellent defender at shortstop which is the hardest position to field. His bat has always been below average but he stepped it up a bit in 2014. He split the season between A+ and AA. He is only 22 years old so there is plenty of time for him in that sense. However, the major league team already has Jean Segura, Hector Gomez, and Elian Herrera so Rivera may find himself on the outside looking in. On the other hand, if Herrera or Gomez don't make the team they'll have to be exposed to waivers and may go elsewhere. The Brewers might want to make sure they have a depth option in AAA.
Mike Strong is a left-handed reliever. The Brewers grabbed him in the 10th round of the 2011 draft. He's actually had pretty solid results. He strikes out a lot of batters and has had really good opponent batting averages. His one major issue was walks. Before this season he had walked well over 10% of batters faced. However, in 2014 between A+/AA he only walked 7.7% of batters faced. He also had a strong showing in the AFL this year (27.5 K%, 5.9 BB%) albeit in a short sample. It's very fortuitous because originally he wasn't supposed to go. He was only included after Ariel Pena had to drop out due to an elbow injury. A left handed pitcher with his kind of minor league track record and recent success in the AFL strikes me as a strong candidate to be taken in the Rule-5 draft. And as such he strikes me as a strong candidate to be protected from the Rule-5 draft.
Manny Barreda could also find himself a target in the Rule-5 draft. He's a right-handed reliever who until last year had spent his entire minor league career with the Yankees. He has always had strong strikeout rates and opponent batting averages. However he's also had ridiculously high walk rates. Unlike Strong, there has been no sign of that changing recently. The Brewers signed him to a minor league contract for next season so either they're not worried about someone taking him or they're considering adding him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule-5 draft.
Anyway, those are the names that jumped out to me. Take a look at the list yourself and let me know in the comments if you think someone else might be added to the 40-man roster.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs