Highlighting Notable Unprotected Rule 5 Eligible Players

1280px-MiLB_logo.svgWritten by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

In the wake of last week’s 40-man roster deadline, a large number of minor leaguers are left in limbo between making it to the major leagues with another organization through the Rule 5 Draft on December 14, or returning to the organizations that left them unprotected. The key with the Rule 5 Draft is that players must remain with their new big league club for the 2018 season or be returned to their former team. This means that players who have made it to the higher minors (AAA or AA) are more likely to be drafted than low minors players, though there are always exceptions. We highlight notable unprotected minor league players below.

 Kohl Stewart, SP, Minnesota Twins

Highest Level in 2017: AAA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 23

Kohl StewartThe fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Stewart was a frequently seen name on many top 100 prospect lists in 2014 and 2015. As Stewart has ascended through the minors, he probably has not missed enough bats and walked a few too many for Minnesota’s liking. Stewart is still just 23, has a cumulative minors ERA of 3.10 in 462 IP, and has done a good job of keeping the ball in the yard. He can help a team right away in 2018 by providing some innings through starts, spot starts, and long relief. Sounds like a profile that can be useful, of course, for quite a few teams. Given the pedigree and track record, expect Stewart to go early in the Rule 5 draft. I’m sure a team like the Marlins, who are looking for young arms in their impending fire sale, will be hoping Stewart falls to them.

 Mike Ford, 1B, New York Yankees

Highest Level in 2017: AAA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 25

Mike FordFord is an interesting name for teams in need of a LH bat in the 1B/DH mold who can get on base and provide some pop. Ford has more BB than K at every minor league stop outside of his A ball debut back in 2013. Last season was especially notable for Ford, where he put up 94 BB/72 K and a .404 OBP in 124 games between AA and AAA. Ford also chipped in with 20 HR and 24 doubles, and could be a strong-side platoon option in either league, or pinch hitter in the National League. Ford has also played a little bit of 3B in the minor leagues (57 innings), and could shift there in a pinch. Seems like a good fit for a team like the Rays, who will surely lose Logan Morrison this offseason.

 Jonathan Davis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Highest Level in 2017: AA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 25

Jonathon DavisOn the one hand, Jonathan Davis was a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t protected by Toronto. He was the leadoff hitter on the Peoria Javelinas AFL championship team this past weekend, a proven OBP guy, has stolen bases at over 70% success rate in his professional career, provide a touch of pop, and can play all three OF positions. On the other hand, given that the Blue Jays are pretty set in the OF with Kevin Pillar, Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford, and Ezequiel Carrera for depth, Davis might have just been a name that is squeezed out in Toronto. Maybe it even tips the Blue Jays hand in their attempts to try and acquire a big name outfielder like JD Martinez this offseason. I like Davis to latch on to a wild card hopeful team as an often-seen fourth outfielder type, or to take over in CF for Lorenzo Cain if he moves on from Kansas City via free agency.

 Ryan O’Hearn, 1B/OF, Kansas City

Highest Level in 2017: AAA

Age on Opening Day 2018: 24

 Ryan O_HearnSpeaking of Kansas City, many of the things that are written about Mike Ford apply to Ryan O’Hearn. O’Hearn has more power and also more swing-and-miss than Ford, a touch less OBP prowess, and the added benefit of both corner outfield positions on defense. O’Hearn throws left handed, so he won’t be the next Don Mattingly to contribute at 3B like Ford can (Mattingly, as a bit of trivia, is the last LH to start an MLB game at 3B, and did so in three-game August games against Seattle in 1986). Ok, so they’re actually a bit different! I like a team for O’Hearn that has a bunch of RH hitters who need some injury-protection like the Los Angeles Angels, where O’Hearn can back up Albert Pujols (DH), CJ Cron (1B), and Justin Upton (LF). Given the left-handed power haven that is in Brew City, the Milwaukee Brewers could be a fit for O’Hearn’s talents, especially if they trade OF Ryan Braun at some point in the winter. It’s too bad that the Royals didn’t protect him since he would be a good fit with his home organization too with LH bats Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakus testing the waters of free agency.

 Wes Rogers, OF, Colorado Rockies

Highest Level in 2017: A+

Age on Opening Day 2018: 24

 Wes RogersAt the outset of the article, I explained that a majority of minor leaguers taken in the Rule 5 draft are those at either AAA or AA, but the speedy Rockies prospect has peaked at A+ in his pro career. This is a bit deceiving, though, since it is unusual for a player like Rogers to spend two straight full seasons and nearly 250 straight games playing at A+, meaning he could have easily gotten a cup of coffee at AA and it would be a different conversation. With Rogers, the calling card is the lightning speed, where he had 70 SB (85% success rate) last season and 43 SB (83% success rate) the year prior. The extra-base hitting this past season proved to garner Rogers some attention, as he swatted 37 doubles, 7 triples, and 9 homers in 123 G playing for the Lancaster JetHawks. Originally drafted by the Red Sox out of high school in 2012, I like Rogers to be selected by Boston for the Rule 5 draft. While Dave Dombrowski is saying that Bryce Brentz will be the team’s fourth OF, Brentz is solely a corner OF. There is much to shape out in the Boston OF this winter, but I like Rogers to return to the team that originally drafted him.

Other Notables (Alphabetical):

BJ Boyd, OF, Oakland

Trevor Clifton, SP, Chicago Cubs

Lewin Diaz, 1B, Minnesota Twins

Brad Keller, SP, Arizona

Jason Martin, OF, Houston

Travis Ott, SP, Tampa Bay

Andrew Pullin, OF, Philadelphia

Adam Ravenelle, RP, Detroit

Franmil Reyes, OF, San Diego

Jhoan Urena, CI, New York Mets

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also check out our EBAY store for Minor League team sets and autographed rookie cards. Thanks!

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Author:

Collector of Minor League Baseball cards and all around MiLB enthusiast. Check out my blog and my new social media marketing website at marknikolov.com!

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