Looking at who the Dodgers might protect from the 2021 Rule 5 Draft

With as much depth as the Dodgers have — even in a down year for it — they still have some Rule 5 Draft protection decisions to make. The list this year isn’t as plentiful as years past, but there are some candidates.

Before we get to the list, here’s the criteria for being Rule 5-eligible.

“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.”

Players who were previously Rule 5-eligible who went undrafted or added to the 40-man roster are also fair game. That includes guys like Omar Estevez, Marshall Kasowski, Jeren Kendall and so on.

Here’s a list of some of the newly eligible prospects.

Position players

There’s some question about whether Eddys Leonard and Jorbit Vivas are eligible, but as Future Dodgers pointed out to me, despite Leonard and Vivas signing in July 2017, they didn’t actually make their professional debut until 2018, meaning they aren’t eligible until next winter. If they come close to their 2021 performances in 2022, they’ll be easy additions to the 40-man.

With an already full 40-man roster before any free agent additions/trades, there aren’t a lot of roster spots available to protect guys. The Dodgers are uncharacteristically thin at the upper minors in catchers, so Feduccia could be a candidate. Ultimately, I don’t think LA protects him. Of all the position players listed above, the true protection candidates are Amaya, Noda and Outman.

Amaya was the Dodgers’ 11th-rounder in 2017 and as an over-slot guy, they obviously liked him. He took a significant step back in 2021 after a strong 2019 showing. He’s a legit shortstop and with that position not fully settled (at this time) beyond 2022, he could get a look.

Noda was acquired in the Ross Stripling deal and did his best Luke Raley/Zach Reks impression in his first season in the Dodgers’ organization. If they protect him, it’ll probably come at the expense of Raley or Reks’ 40-man roster spot.

Outman was the Dodgers’ 7th-rounder in 2018 and had a breakout 2021 season. He’s followed that up with a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League. He has the athleticism the front office likes and is a good power-speed-defense guy.

Of the three I’ve mentioned, I think the Dodgers protect Outman.

Pitchers

It’s a bit thin on the pitching side this year. Martinez had a much better 2019 than 2021, so he isn’t going to be protected (nor will he be selected). Rooney was the Dodgers’ 3rd-rounder in 2018 and while his strikeout rate improved dramatically this past season, his walk rate went the other direction. He only threw 28 2/3 innings, so I don’t think teams are going to risk a 40-man spot on him.

The two legitimate candidates are Grove and Varland. Grove was the Dodgers’ 2nd-rounder in 2018 and was the beneficiary of J.T. Ginn going back to school. The Dodgers brought him along slowly, as he was coming off Tommy John surgery at West Virginia. And if you look at his numbers this past season, they’re quite ugly. However, Josh took a deeper dive on him last week and shows there is reason for optimism.

I think they bet on the improvements and arm talent and protect Grove.

Varland was acquired in the Sheldon Neuse/Adam KolarekCody Thomas deal last offseason. He threw just 34 2/3 innings with Double-A Tulsa in his first season back from TJ surgery. He showed glimpses, but probably not enough to warrant a 40-man spot with the Dodgers or any other MLB at this time.

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The Dodgers lost Brett de Geus and Jordan Sheffield in last year’s Rule 5 Draft. With the 40-man roster at 40, which doesn’t count Garrett Cleavinger, Caleb Ferguson, Tommy Kahnle, Dustin May, Edwin Rios and Jimmie Sherfy — all of whom are on the 60-day injured list and must be removed later this week, meaning that 40 is going to increase. There’s going to be a lot of roster turnover this winter, so this isn’t as big a deal as it appears, but it’s going to be something to monitor when the offseason truly gets started.

If they protect Outman and Grove, I don’t suspect they’ll lose anyone in the MLB phase. Players must be added to the 40-man roster by Nov. 19 to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft, which is scheduled for Dec. 8. This is all under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, which expires Dec. 1. That means this entire offseason is at the mercy of a new agreement. Get ready for a fun offseason.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. 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.