Baseball’s annual Rule 5 Draft is scheduled to take place this morning during the first-ever virtual Winter Meetings. This is the fourth winter under the new Rule 5 Draft rules in the most recent CBA; remember, the Double-A phase of the minor league portion of the draft has been eliminated and the cost for a pick in the MLB phase of the draft is now $100,000. Here is a refresher on how a player becomes eligible to be selected in the MLB portion of the draft:
- Players who signed at age 18 or younger (as of June 5th of the year they signed) 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.
- In order for a team to retain a drafted player’s rights, that player must stick on the 26-man roster or the MLB disabled list for the entire season, spending a minimum of 90 days as an active player.
The Milwaukee Brewers haven’t selected a player in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft since 2016, when they picked Caleb Smith and immediately traded his rights to the Cubs. As things stand right now, the Brewers have four spots available on the 40-man roster with which to make a selection. Their pick in the draft is all the way down at #15, however, so they’d likely have to work out a trade with a team ahead of them in the draft order if there is a particular player that they want to select.
The Brewers have a preponderance of unaddressed needs remaining around the roster, and with reports of another payroll slash coming in 2021, the Rule 5 Draft could provide an opportunity to add one or more candidates to at least compete for a spot in Spring Training at a low acquisition price. The new 26-man rosters (which is limited to 13 pitchers) could make it easier for the team to carry a Rule 5 player for the entire season, too. There hasn’t really been any chatter in regards to whether or not Slingin’ David Stearns and company will make a selection, but if the Brewers do decide to pick a player, here are a few of the more compelling options:
RHP Brett de Geus || Los Angeles Dodgers
In order for a Rule 5 pitcher to stick on a big league roster, he needs to look competitive in his outings. The easiest way to look competitive is to consistently throw strikes, which is something that de Geus did with ease during his most recent season within the vaunted Dodgers’ player development system. A former 33rd-round pick, de Geus posted a 1.75 ERA in 61.2 innings between A-ball and Class A-Advanced in 2019, striking out 72 batters against just 13 walks. He followed that up by reeling off 9.1 scoreless innings in the Arizona Fall League. He’s generated grounders at over a 50% rate in his career and gave up zero (0) home runs in 2019.
de Geus spent 2020 at the Dodgers’ alternate training site, and prior to 2020 Fangraphs rated him as LA’s #35 prospect with a fastball, slider, curveball, and command that all projects to end up as average or better. He’s topped out at 98 MPH previously but was more 92-94 during his work in 2020, according to Baseball America. They write that “[i]n other systems, de Geus would likely have been a protection candidate. In the Dodgers’ system, there aren’t enough spots to protect everyone. De Geus impressed in the Arizona Fall League in 2019 and pitched at the alternate training site, so teams got a decent glimpse of what he has been up to in 2020.”
INF Jose Rojas || Los Angeles Angels
Rojas was available and went unpicked in last year’s draft, but he remains a compelling prospect for all the same reasons. He is a career .292/.350/.502 hitter in nearly 1,800 minor league plate appearances covering 411 games, with 64 home runs and 27 stolen bases. He may have played with the juiced ball in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2019, but his .293/.362/.577 slash line in 126 games was impressive nonetheless. That added up to a 120 wRC+, and he also launched 31 home runs.
Rojas has drawn a good amount of walks in the last two years (10%+ both seasons) and he doesn’t strike out excessively — a 22.7% K-rate in 2019. He has played mostly third base with experience at first, second, and in left field, though he doesn’t rate particularly well at any of those positions. But he’s a pure hitter, and the Brewers need offensive depth, especially at the corner positions. Rojas turns 28 before the start of 2021 and he’s got the type of offensive profile where he could let his bat do the talking.
INF Curtis Terry || Texas Rangers
A 13th-round pick out of high school in 2015, Terry has done nothing but rake as a professional but has yet to advance to the upper levels of the minors. He’s a career .291/.359/.516 hitter across 1,389 professional plate appearances, and in his most recent season in 2019, he hit .293/.362/.537 with 25 home runs in 129 games between A-ball and Class A-Advanced. Terry’s ball-strike recognition improved in 2019, and BA writes that “[h]e sees spin well and can catch up to fastballs.”
3B Cristian Santana || Los Angeles Dodgers
Santana has displayed a strong arm while playing primarily at the hot corner during his minor league career. He has shown a knack for finding holes — he’s batted over .300 in each of his last three seasons and hit .301/.320/.436 in Double-A in 2019. He obviously doesn’t walk very much — just a 3.9% BB rate as a pro — and his aggressive approach takes him out of the strike zone at times (career 22% K rate). He does have some power, though, launching 10 home runs in 54 games in 2017, followed by 24 in high-A ball in 2018, then 10 dingers and 22 doubles in 413 plate appearances in 2019. Santana is also capable of playing over at first base.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference