Dodgers have many interesting Rule 5 Draft protection decisions to make

Yadier Alvarez (Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

Unlike previous years, the Dodgers are heading toward a roster crunch, and that includes adding players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

The deadline to protect players by adding them to the 40-man roster is Nov. 20.

I took a brief look at this following the World Series.

“There could be as many as seven players listed above who might need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. The easy, no doubt protection is Ruiz. Alvarez and Rios seem pretty likely. After that, you could make an argument either way for Beaty, Jackson, Joe and/or Sborz.”

Before we get into too much detail, here are the Dodger minor-leaguers eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft.

OF Shakir Albert
RHP Yadier Alvarez
RHP Isaac Anderson
1B/3B Matt Beaty
LHP Leo Crawford
OF Kyle Garlick
C/1B Garrett Hope
SS/2B Drew Jackson
1B/3B Connor Joe
OF Logan Landon
RHP Nolan Long
IF Gersel Pitre
1B/3B Edwin Rios
C Keibert Ruiz
3B/1B Cristian Santana
RHP Josh Sborz
RHP Andrew Sopko
3B Jefrey Souffront
RHP Shea Spitzbarth
IF Jared Walker

Let’s start with the easiest add: Ruiz. He’s the Dodgers’ top catching prospect, and maybe top prospect in some eyes. He’s only 20 years old, but since he signed so young, he’s already Rule 5-eligible. The next easy add in my eyes is Rios. He’s one of the best power-hitters in the system and, despite being about 14th on the corner infielder/outfielder depth chart, he still has value. Finally, I’d say Alvarez is nearly a lock to be added. Yes, he hasn’t fully realized his potential yet, the Dodgers made a $16 million ($32 million after the tax) investment, has unmatched arm talent and I doubt they’d just give him away for nothing.

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After that, it’s anyone’s guess. A lot of these guys won’t be chosen, so we don’t have to worry about that. But let’s look at the guys who could be selected or should be protected.

Beaty, coming off a Texas League MVP in 2017, missed a lot of time in 2018. He made it back for 31 games with Oklahoma City in his age-25 season and hit a solid .277/.378/.406 with a home run and 10 doubles. He controls the strike zone well and has a little pop. Toss in the fact he experience in all four corners and has even dabbled at second base and he could be popped by a team looking for a versatile bat. The Dodgers have a lot of 1B/3B/LF types, so he might be left unprotected. Protect? No.

Joe came over from the Braves late last season and experienced a Max Muncy-like resurgence with Tulsa and OKC this season. The 26-year-old hit .299/.408/.527 in 436 plate appearances between Tulsa and OKC. He added 17 home runs and 26 doubles while sporting a 13.8 BB% and 20.2 K%. He has a bit of a better defensive profile than Beaty, so that might keep him around. Protect? Yes.

Jackson was acquired from the Mariners two springs ago for Chase De Jong, and he finally put it all together this past season. His numbers, on the surface, don’t blow you away, but he has a special blend of athleticism and tools that you can see the full breakout coming. He hit .251/.356/.447 with Tulsa as a 24-year-old and has some of the best combination of power and speed in the org. He’s a legitimate double-plus runner and thrower, and he has pop. There’s some swing-and-miss, but not a detrimental amount. He also can coax a walk. He plays a solid shortstop and second base. He even got a brief look in center field this past season. If left unprotected, I’d be surprised if he weren’t selected. Protect? No.

Sborz is a fungible reliever who had a solid 2018 season after finally shifting to the bullpen full-time. He had a 3.86 ERA, 31.5 K% and an 8.9 BB% between Tuls and OKC. He’s going into his age-25 season and, with some of the arbitration-eligible pitchers out of options, keeping Sborz around for depth seems like something that will happen. Protect? Yes.

Those are the additional four I could see being popped or protected. And just because these guys are added to the 40-man roster doesn’t mean they’ll be Dodgers in 2019. They could still be traded or designated for assignment later on — like any other player.

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There are some interesting names remaining (Long, Santana, Sopko, Walker to name a few), but they’re either too far away from the majors or too raw for a drafting team to keep on its 25-man roster all season.

If the Dodgers add five players (Alvarez, Joe, Rios, Ruiz, Sborz), they’ll have to make some room. The 40-man roster stands at 38, so some of the arb-eligible guys or others toward the end of the 40-man would likely first up on the chopping block. There will be other players moved this offseason to bring in free agents and/or trade acquisitions.

Here are the first three players I’d non-tender to make room for this quintet: Erik Goeddel, Tom Koehler and Pat Venditte. Goeddel and Venditte could latch on elsewhere, but they could also be brought back on minor-league deals, should both the Dodgers and the players be interested in that. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Koehler retained on a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. The front office thought he was a good gamble at $2 million last season, but a shoulder injury cost him the season. The intrigue might still be there, and an MiLB deal is about as low-risk as it gets.

They could also trade players on their roster — arb-eligible or otherwise. Maybe Joc Pederson or Chris Taylor gets moved. Maybe Alex Wood is sent elsewhere. I’m not sure any of them get moved so the Dodgers could protect others from the Rule 5 Draft, but they are prime trade candidates this offseason.

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The five guys added, should they survive the next roughly 10 months on the 40-man roster, could see time in LA in September, but there’s no guarantee of that.

This should be an interesting winter in regards to Rule 5 protections. There have been pretty easy decisions in the past, but the decisions this winter are significantly tougher.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.