Who should the Dodgers protect from the Rule 5 Draft?

Via @TulsaDrillers

The offseason is just underway and big decisions already loom on the horizon for the Dodgers. They’ll need to decide on who they’re protecting from the Rule 5 Draft by the November 14 deadline, and with multiple hot pursuits in free agency expected, they have to manage their 40-man roster spots wisely.

For a quick refresher, every player begins their Rule 5 clock when they sign their first professional contract. If they are 18 years old or younger on June 5 of the year they sign, they will not become Rule 5 eligible until after their fifth professional season. If they are 19 or older on June 5 of their signing year, they have four years before becoming Rule 5 eligible. Organizations can add Rule 5 eligible players to their 40-man rosters to prevent them from being taken by other teams.

As of now, the Dodgers have 35 players on their 40-man roster. That is before they re-sign anyone, such as Clayton Kershaw or J.D. Martinez, or make any free agent signings like Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Shota Imanaga. Factoring in those moves plus any trades the Dodgers could make, there are few 40-man spots to work with before the Rule 5 Draft.

That complicates things because the Dodgers have an interesting combination of newly eligible players, as well as players who were already eligible last year and went unselected. Here are some Dodgers minor leaguers who are Rule 5 eligible for the first time this offseason:

Position Players


There are a number of quality prospects who will be needing protection in that pool. Even so, some of the players with the highest likelihood to be taken in the draft were eligible last year as well. Here are some of the other notable Dodgers minor leaguers who are Rule 5 eligible this offseason:

Clearly, the Dodgers will not be able to protect everyone with 40-man roster spots. As evidenced by the long list of players with recurring eligibility, however, not everyone left unprotected will get taken by another organization. So, which players on these lists do the Dodgers need to prioritize?


First, both Nick Frasso and Landon Knack should be locks to get protected. Frasso — who is the best pitching prospect in the system by many accounts — is a guaranteed addition to the 40-man roster, and I think that Knack is likely as well. Both are lined up to make their MLB debuts in 2024 and would surely be taken if left without a roster spot heading into the Rule 5 Draft.

Frasso cemented his status as a top prospect with great performance this season. In 21 Double-A starts before he was promoted, Frasso posted a fantastic 22.2 K-BB%, showcasing his plus control alongside his strikeout stuff. Originally acquired at the 2022 trade deadline from Toronto in the Mitch White deal, Frasso has positioned himself as the next man up in a system that is stacked with young starting pitcher talent.

Although he wasn’t able to make his debut this season, Knack proved that he is Major League ready. He tallied just one loss in his 22 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 2.51 ERA in 100 1/3 innings. Knack would be taken near the top of the Rule 5 Draft if the Dodgers did not protect him, as high-floor starters of his quality are not easy to come by. He should expect to get a roster spot and be part of the Dodgers pitching depth mix in 2024.

Meanwhile, Edgardo Henriquez, Joel Ibarra and Kendall Williams are all unlikely to be added to the 40-man roster. Henriquez is a talented starter prospect but is coming off Tommy John surgery, having never pitched above Single-A. Joel Ibarra has good stuff out of the bullpen but struggled to control it in Single-A last year. Williams, who had a good season that has continued into the Arizona Fall League, is a little too far out for the Dodgers to give him a 40-man spot.

With Carson Taylor and Luis Rodriguez both unlikely to be selected, Yeiner Fernandez is the biggest question among newly eligible position players. Fernandez has had a quality month in the Arizona Fall League, posting a .939 OPS while adding the ability to play shortstop to his utility profile. His bat didn’t fare quite as well in High-A during the regular season, which along with his young age might be enough to scare other teams off from selecting him.

The most interesting names to look at here come from the pool of players that were already Rule 5-eligible last year but weren’t taken. Hunter Feduccia and Jose Ramos both improved their prospect stocks with quality 2023 seasons.

As the clear third catcher in the organization, Feduccia would be tough to see go if he isn’t protected. He would be taken and put into a Major League backup role next year if the Dodgers don’t put him on their 40-man roster. His .838 OPS and solid defense behind the plate in Triple-A last year certainly justify a spot to shore up the organizational catching depth.

Jose Ramos made it through the draft last year because of strikeout concerns and that he hadn’t played above High-A. Now, however, he has a full season of Double-A ball under his belt where his strikeout and walk rates both improved despite the jump in level. There may or may not be enough room for him on the 40-man roster now, but it seems at least possible that another team would take a chance on his ceiling.

Further down, Alec Gamboa and Ryan Ward may be less likely to be added to the roster, but both, especially Gamboa, could be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Gamboa has an analytically-great fastball from the left side and could slot into multiple bullpens around baseball in 2024. Ward is in a similar spot to where Ryan Noda was last year; despite that he has produced with the bat throughout the minors, there isn’t a clear future on the Dodgers for him due to his lack of defensive ability and versatility.

John Rooney and Braydon Fisher are each interesting Rule 5 prospects. Both are relievers, which lessens their likelihood to be protected by the Dodgers. Rooney had a great year as he transitioned to a full-time relief role, posting a 2.86 ERA and 3.14 K/BB rate between Double-A and Triple-A. He has one of the best pickoff moves in professional baseball, which increases his value along with his status as a lefty. Fisher is still just 23 and posted a 2.95 ERA with a 31% strikeout rate out of the bullpen in Double-A. Both these players are unlikely to be protected but could be taken in the Rule 5 Draft.

Jerming Rosario and Carlos Duran each have intriguing ceilings as young right-handers. Rosario had a breakout 2023 season in which he struck out 29% of the batters he faced. Duran is coming off Tommy John surgery but has one of the best sliders in the minor leagues, making him a bit dangerous to get taken by another team as a relief pitching flyer. However, there may not be room on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster for either of them.


If I were the Dodgers, I would add Nick Frasso, Landon Knack and Hunter Feduccia to the 40-man roster.

Jose Ramos is right on the fence, but his .586 OPS and nearly 35% strikeout rate in the second-half makes me hesitate on whether any team would take him, or if he’s even worth spending a 40-man spot on now. With only five open roster spots to work with, I only see Ramos getting added if the Dodgers non-tender someone else that is already on the roster. I think keeping an extra spot open is worth risking Ramos to the Rule 5 Draft for the second consecutive year. Alec Gamboa would be a shame to lose in the Rule 5 Draft. The same goes for Carlos Duran, John Rooney and Braydon Fisher. However, you can’t keep everyone, and the Dodgers are especially good at finding relief arms to replace lost talent from pretty much anywhere. Yeiner Fernandez and Jerming Rosario are both valuable but are far enough away from the majors where I think they would be safe.

The Dodgers will have to decide who to protect by November 15. Anyone not on the 40-man roster after that day will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft on December 6. Free agency has begun, and the Dodgers’ decisions with draft protections should help shed light on their plans for the rest of this impactful offseason.

About Bruce Kuntz

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I'm a Long Beach State journalism student and I've been writing about the Dodgers and their farm system since I was in high school.