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.)
This year, it is important to note that even though no affiliated minor league was played, all minor league players still earned a year of service time that counted towards free agency or Rule 5 eligibility.
The Milwaukee Brewers have not made any selections in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 since 2017, and they haven’t lost any eligible players since then either. According to the list compiled annually by our friends at Brewerfan.net, the Brewers have in excess of 40 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 four spots available on their 40-man roster and could clear some more space by additional DFAs of fringe players, if necessary. Out-of-options players include Dan Vogelbach, Jacob Nottinghman, Jace Peterson, Manny Pina, Adrian Houser, Corey Knebel, Alex Claudio, David Freitas, Billy McKinney, and Ray Black.
Let’s take a look at the candidates to fill the current openings and their ages heading into 2021:
Top Prospects (rankings courtesy of MLB Pipeline):
#4 C Mario Feliciano (Age 22)
Feliciano is young, has improved his receiving and pitch-framing abilities, and the last time minor league baseball was played, he was named the Carolina League MVP after hitting .273/.324/.477 with 19 home runs in 116 games for the Class A-Advanced Mudcats in 2019 before finishing out the year with a brief stop in Double-A Biloxi. Feliciano was a member of the 60-man player pool in Appleton over the summer and seems like an easy bet as someone who will be protected.
#14 RHP Zack Brown (Age 26)
Brown was the Southern League’s most outstanding pitcher after a 2.44 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts) in 2018, but hit a wall in Triple-A in 2019 as his walk rate ballooned. But he reportedly found some more consistency in filling up the strike zone during his time in Appleton over the summer, and his fastball, changeup, and curveball are all expected to be average-to-plus pitches. If the Brewers decide to cut ties with some of their out-of-options relievers, might Brown be ready to step up into at least a shuttle role? He was passed over in the Rule 5 Draft last year after being left unprotected.
#15 C Payton Henry (Age 24)
Henry split time with Feliciano behind the plate for the Mudcats in 2019, and he’s considered to be a strong defensive catcher who has the type of defensive ability to give him a high floor as he continues to rise to the game’s highest level. His offensive games has some questions, though; while he does possess enviable raw power, he has punched out in 29.4% of his professional plate appearances while hitting .241/.326/.394 and topping out in Class A-Advanced. He was also present in Summer Camp in Appleton over the summer.
#24 RHP Alec Bettinger (Age 25)
An unheralded 10th-round pick and low-dollar senior sign in 2017 out of Virginia, Bettinger’s performance and improved stuff have made him into a legitimate prospect with a possible MLB future. He’s added velocity into the mid-90s and his fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup mix plays up due to his above-average control. Bettinger last posted a 3.44 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 146.1 innings in Double-A in 2019 and was a member of the 60-man player pool this past season.
#25 RHP Dylan File (Age 25)
Like Bettinger, Dylan File is another unheralded late-round pick (21st, 2017) who has seen his stock shoot up along with his terrific performances and improved stuff. He’s added velocity since joining the professional ranks, has a fastball/slider/curveball/changeup mix, and has perhaps the best control of any pitcher in Milwaukee’s minor league system — he owns a career 1.7 BB/9, including a 1.3 BB/9 rate while posting a 3.24 ERA in 147.0 innings between Class A-Advanced and Double-A in 2019. He was another member of the alternate training site crew in Appleton.
#28 3B Lucas Erceg (Age 26)
Erceg has yet to fulfill the promising offensive potential that helped make him a 2nd-round pick in 2016, showing impressive power at times but struggling against upper level pitching. He puts the ball in play but doesn’t get on base very well, and his physical tools — including a 70 arm — have yet to translate into consistent defense at third base. Maybe he’s a late bloomer, but he was not invited to the alternate training site this year and hit just .180/.245/.202 in 98 plate appearances in the independent pop-up Constellation Energy League over the summer. He was passed over in last year’s Rule 5 Draft after being left unprotected.
#29 OF Pablo Abreu (Age 21)
Abreu has struggled to stay healthy since signing as an international free agent, including plenty of missed time in 2019 as well as a recent surgery on his elbow, though he is expected to be ready for Spring Training in 2021 (assuming it happens as planned). Abreu has tantalizing tools and could be a legitimate center fielder, but he’s only got 27 games of experience in full-season ball, hitting .186 with a .493 OPS for the Timber Rattlers in 2019.
Could Make a Case
RHP Luke Barker (Age 29)
Barker is obviously much older than a traditional prospect after beginning his career in the independent Frontier League, but he’s posted some of the best numbers of any pitcher in the system since signing prior to the 2017 season. Over the years Barker has compiled a 2.21 ERA across 175.0 innings and 120 games across all full-season levels; he was the Carolina League reliever of the year as the Mudcats’ closer in 2018 before finishing with a 1.34 ERA in 60.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019. Barker’s lack of inclusion on the 60-man roster over the summer was a bit of a head-scratcher; he doesn’t have much else to prove in the minors, and could be a high-floor relief candidate for some other team if he’s left unprotected.
RHP Miguel Sanchez (Age 27)
After taming the hitter-friendly environs of Triple-A to the tune of a 4.35 ERA in 60.0 innings in 2019, Sanchez did some excellent work in the Dominican Winter League.
RHP Thomas Jankins (Age 26)
A pitch-to-contact innings eater, Jankins piled up 135.1 innings in 2019, 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/C Cooper Hummel (Age 26)
Among the org’s qualified minor league batters in 2019, 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. Drafted as a catcher, he used his time off this summer to continue working on his skills behind the plate; we know how the Brewers love versatility.
UTIL Weston Wilson (Age 26)
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 last season for Biloxi. He could end up as a valuable bench player at maturity.
LHP Quintin Torres-Costa (Age 26)
Tommy John surgery cost QTC most of the 2019 season, though he did return healthy at the end of the year with four scoreless appearances in Triple-A before a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League. He profiles as a lefty-specialist, and Alex Claudio is on the bubble.
RHP Bowden Francis (Age 25)
Another unheralded arm that the Brewers are high on internally, Francis posted a 3.99 ERA and struck out 145 batters against 49 walks in 128.2 innings in Double-A in 2019.
1B/OF Chad Spanberger (Age 25)
As a power bat capable of handling the cold corner, Spanberger is depth at a position of organizational need and has experience in Double-A, where he hit .237/.308/.399 in 122 games in 2019. He was the return in the Chase Anderson trade last winter.
Other Draft-Eligible Players
RHP Bubba Derby
OF Jamie Westbrook
1B/OF Ryan Aguilar
RHP Jesus Castillo
1B Luis Castro
OF Alexander Palma
LHP Cody Beckman
RHP Matt Hardy
RHP Robbie Hitt
RHP Alec Kenilvort
LHP Nathan Kirby
RHP Wuilder Rodriguez
RHP Braden Webb
RHP Freisis Adames
INF Yeison Coca
RHP Jake Cousins
C Brent Diaz
3B Gabriel Garcia
OF Jesus Lujano
1B/OF Chad McClanahan
SS Antonio Pinero
RHP Daniel Acosta
RHP Harold Chirino
RHP Henry Medina
RHP Jose Parra
RHP Joel Pinto
C Jose Sibrian
RHP Nash Walters
OF/3B Edwin Sano