The deadline for protecting players from MLB’s annual Rule 5 Draft is coming up on November 20th. The draft is designed as a way to prevent teams from piling up minor league players who may have otherwise gotten to the big leagues with another organization. Here is how a player becomes eligible:
- Players who signed when 18 or younger are eligible for the draft after five years.
- Players who signed when 19 or older are eligible after four years.
- Player is not on the 40 man roster.
(According to the rules, it’s how old a player was on the June 5th immediately preceding his signing.)
The Milwaukee Brewers did not make any selections in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 in 2018 or 2017, nor did those lose and players during those two winter drafts. According to the list compiled annually by our friends at Brewerfan.net, this year the Brewers have in excess of 50 players who meet the eligibility requirements for this year’s Rule 5 Draft and could be plucked away by another organization if they are not added to the 40-man roster before the deadline on the afternoon of November 20th. The Brewers currently have seven spots available on their 40-man roster and could clear some more space by additional DFAs of fringe players if necessary.
Let’s take a look at the candidates to fill the current openings and their ages heading into 2020:
Top Prospects (rankings courtesy of MLB Pipeline):
#3 RHP Zack Brown (age-25)
The organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2018 struggled during his first assignment to Triple-A, compiling a 5.79 ERA in 116.2 innings for the San Antonio Missions this season. He did have to deal with an offense-friendly Pacific Coast League and a juiced baseball, but that doesn’t necessarily explain why his walk rate nearly doubled from the previous year in Double-A (2.6 BB/9 to 4.9 BB/9). Brown projected as a possible #4 starter with three average-or-better pitches before his command backed up this season, but his fastball/curveball combination could play up in the bullpen.
#4 OF Corey Ray (age-25)
Like Brown, Corey Ray failed this year to build upon what looked like a breakout 2018. He missed time with injury and spent the bulk of his year at Triple-A when healthy, where he hit .188/.261/.329 with a strikeout rate near 39% in 53 games. Ray’s left-handed bat, pull power, and his defensive prowess — including the ability to handle center field well — should give him at least a bench outfielder floor. But it looks like he’ll have to make a major adjustment to increase his contact at the plate if he ever hopes to land an everyday role.
#14 3B Lucas Erceg (age-25)
Once upon a time Erceg looked like a steal as a second-round pick, but his bat has become a disappointment against higher level competition. After a below-average 94 wRC+ in Double-A in 2018, Erceg’s production cratered to a .218/.305/.398 slash (69 wRC+) in 116 games in Triple-A this past season. He finished with his highest strikeout rate ever (25.1%). Perhaps the Fangraphs’ comment regarding his possible switch back to the mound (he closed in college) in last year’s top prospect list merits greater consideration.
#18 RHP Braden Webb (age-25)
Webb began the 2019 season in Double-A, but was sent down after he issued 15 walks and allowed 15 earned runs in his first 15.0 innings of the year. Webb spent the greatest portion of a truncated season with Carolina, where he continued to struggle with walks (6.14 BB/9 in 36.2 innings). Webb possesses a dynamic arsenal with a fastball, curve, and change that all rate as above-average, but his delivery and command likely have him ticketed for the bullpen long-term.
Could Make a Case:
RHP Johan Belisario (age 26)
Belisario signed a minor league free agent last spring and though he struggled in a pair of Triple-A starts, he used his funky delivery to post a 3.95 ERA in 84.1 innings with Double-A Biloxi.
RHP J.P. Feyereisen (age 27)
The Brewers picked up Wisconsin-native Feyereisen in a minor trade at the beginning of September, just after he wrapped up a season during which he posted a 2.49 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 61.1 innings in Triple-A for the Yankees. He looks to be an MLB-ready relief arm who seems like a good bet to get added to the roster based on how he was acquired.
RHP Miguel Sanchez (age 26)
Signed after a stint in the Dominican Air Force, Sanchez has thrived as a multi-inning reliever while climbing the ladder all the way to Triple-A. This past season he punched out 62 batters while posting a 4.35 ERA in 60.0 innings.
RHP Thomas Jankins (age-25)
A pitch-to-contact innings eater, Jankins piled up 135.1 innings this season, with all but 12.0 of them coming at the highest level of the minors. He finished with a 4.38 ERA in 123.1 innings for San Antonio while issuing only 2.34 BB/9 and generating grounders at a 55% clip.
OF Cooper Hummel (age-25)
Among the org’s qualified minor league batters this season, Hummel finished second behind only Trent Grisham in terms of wRC+. His .249/.384/.450 slash translated to a 147 wRC+ in the Southern League, and he has increased his home run output for 4 in 2017 to 8 in 2018 to 17 this past year.
LHP Daniel Brown (age-25)
Brown prevented runs well last season in Biloxi (3.19 ERA in 48.0 innings) even though he struggled with walks (5.81 BB/9). He missed a decent amount of bats, but perhaps more importantly with the new three-batter minimum rumored to be coming to the big leagues in 2020, he is a southpaw who can reliably retire both right-handed hitters (.686 OPS) and fellow lefties (.605 OPS).
UTIL Weston Wilson (age-25)
Wilson possesses raw power (19 homers in 510 PA in 2019), decent speed (12 steals), and he made starts at every position except center field and catcher this season for Biloxi. He could end up as a valuable bench player at maturity.
RHP Phil Bickford (age-24)
Bickford finally showed some signs of life as a prospect this year, punching out 53 batters in 32.2 innings while posting a 2.48 ERA for the Carolina Mudcats. It was his third go-round at the Class A-Advanced level, though.
Other Draft-Eligible Players:
RHP Bubba Derby
LHP Quintin Torres-Costa
RHP Aaron Wilkerson
1B/OF Ryan Aguilar
C Alexander Alvarez
C Skyler Ewing
RHP Preston Gainey
3B/1B Jake Gatewood
RHP Nate Griep
INF C.J. Hinojosa
C Max McDowell
RHP Jon Olczak
LHP Cameron Roegner
OF Joantgel Segovia
RHP Chris Dula
INF Julio Garcia
LHP Nathan Kirby
RHP Nelson Hernandez
RHP Alec Kenilvort
INF Trever Morrison
RHP Michael Petersen
C Nathan Rodriguez
RHP Wuilder Rodriguez
RHP Matt Smith
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference