We’re eight days away from knowing which players will be available in December’s Rule 5 Draft. The Dodgers don’t normally participate in it, but they do have some decisions to make on players.
Last year, they added five players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the draft — Yadier Alvarez, Matt Beaty, Edwin Rios, Keibert Ruiz and Josh Sborz. Beaty, Rios and Sborz all saw time with LA last season. Alvarez spent most of the season on the restricted list in what’s looking like a bust international signing and Ruiz will probably debut in LA at some point in 2020.
Players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft are as follows:
“Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years. All players on a Major League Baseball team’s 40-man roster, regardless of other eligibility factors, are ‘protected’ and ineligible for the Rule 5 Draft.”
This also includes players who haven’t been added to a 40-man roster who were previously eligible, went undrafted and/or were returned to their respective teams. I bring this up because the Dodgers have already added one player in the form of Victor Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, 23, was signed out of Mexico in the same scouting trip that netted the Dodgers Yasiel Puig and Julio Urias. Gonzalez had a breakout 2019 season and was hell on left-handed hitters. With Scott Alexander recovering from surgery, Caleb Ferguson regressing and Adam Kolarek only allowed to be used as a reliever once a game, it makes sense that the Dodgers would want to add Gonzalez in hopes of him being a weapon against lefty hitters.
These are the new Rule 5-eligible players this winter:
- C/3B Jair Camargo
- RHP Parker Curry
- OF Starling Heredia
- UTIL Zach McKinstry
- OF Brayan Morales
- 2B/1B Jake Peter
- OF DJ Peters
- OF Carlos Rincon
- 2B/SS Errol Robinson
- RHP Jordan Sheffield
- OF Cody Thomas
- IF Leonel Valera
- RHP Mitchell White
- OF/1B Nick Yarnall
Some recognizable names here — especially Heredia, who has all but fallen off a cliff the last two seasons.
And some previously eligible players who could be of interest:
I doubt any of these three get popped, but Long and Spitzbarth have shown an ability to miss bats and Santana has a legitimate glove at third base and the requisite power for the position.
Of the first-timers, let’s look at the five most likely draft candidates.
McKinstry, a 2016 33rd-rounder, had a breakout season between Double- and Triple-A. The 24-year-old hit left-handed hitter posted a .300/.366/.516 in 479 plate appearances and showed some previously unseen pop (19 home runs, 24 doubles). He’s a multi-position player, and we know the Dodgers covet that. Despite that, I don’t think he makes the cut. Protect? No.
Peters was the Dodgers’ 4th-rounder back in ’16 and didn’t take a big step forward, but a late-season promotion to Triple-A saw him make adjustments and show some potential. He hit .249/.358/.453 with 23 home runs in 543 plate appearances. He’s a power right-handed who can handle center field, but is more likely a right fielder in the majors. Protect? Yes.
Sheffield was the Dodgers’ third 1st-round pick of the 2016 draft. The first two (Gavin Lux, Will Smith) have already made an impact in the majors, and 2020 might be Sheffield’s chance. Sheffield, 24, moved to the bullpen full-time last season and while the numbers weren’t overwhelmingly great (3.27 ERA, 18.1[!] BB%), he did rack up the strikeouts (31.2 K%) and has great stuff. With some fine tuning, he could be a quality middle reliever. Protect? Yes.
Thomas, 25, was a bit of a surprise 13th-round pick in 2016 out of Oklahoma. He played some quarterback in college before finally settling on baseball. As such, he’s been a bit of a late-bloomer. His 2018 season was better than ’19, but he still hit a Texas League-best 23 home runs. He has some swing-and-miss, which could hamper him. It might also keep teams from draft him next month. Protect? No.
White was the Dodgers’ next pick after Sheffield in ’16. He has shown some flashes of brilliance, but also some of the hiccups that might ultimately stunt him as a pitcher. He once looked like a surefire top-of-the-rotation guy, now he might be better suited as a multi-inning reliever because of inconsistent stuff/velocity and results. Still, the 24-year-old has a lot of talent and the Dodgers probably won’t let him go just yet. Protect? Yes.
So, that’s three (four, if you count Gonzalez) protects. The two who aren’t (plus guys like Curry, Heredia, Rincon, Robinson, Valera, etc.) aren’t really in danger of being drafted. Maybe someone takes a chance on McKinstry’s breakout and versatility or Thomas’ athleticism, but as it stands now, the Dodgers don’t have a ton of room on the 40-man for them at this point.