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Rule 5 draft eligible players in 2021

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Biggest question will be: who are likely to be picked and/or should be added to the 40-man roster?

Frisco RoughRiders v Amarillo Sod Poodles Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

In December 2021 this year’s Rule 5 draft is scheduled to happen. Although you might not be familiar with it, you probably know that in the Rule 5 draft teams pick players from other teams. What you might not know is that there is a MLB Rule 5 draft and a MiLB Rule 5 draft.

In this article we will only discuss the MLB Rule 5 draft, although it is worth of note that in last year’s MiLB Rule 5 draft the D-Backs took Tyler Gilbert from the LA Dodgers. Gilbert would pitch to a 3.44 ERA in Reno and once called up he pitched a no-hitter in his debut for the Diamondbacks. In other words, we should not underestimate these Rule 5 draft picks, although the success stories are hard to find.

Let’s get back to the MLB Rule 5 draft. What are the basic rules? I always forget about them, so let me write them down for everyone to remember:

In the Rule 5 draft teams are allowed to pick players from another team’s organization. These eligible players are players who are not on the 40-man roster and:

  • Signed with their current club at age 18 or younger and have five years of experience.
  • Signed with their current club at age 19 or older and have four years of experience.

Picking a player in the Rule 5 draft is not without a cost. A team that picks a player needs to send $100,000 to the organisation where it drafted the player from. Then they will have to put the player on their 40-man roster for the entire MLB season. If they decide to put the player on waivers he can be claimed by another team (like the Diamondbacks did with Texas’ Rule 5 draft pick Brett de Geus). If unclaimed he will have to be offered back to the original organisation that can decide to take the player back for $50,000.

Obviously, the Rule 5 draft has two faces: players that can be picked from your organisation and players that can be picked by you from other organisations.

Tyler Gilbert is by far the best Rule 5 draft pick ever taken by the Diamondbacks. And he was not even a MLB Rule 5 draft pick. Last year Steve Gilbert shared a list of all MLB Rule 5 draft picks made by the Diamondbacks, so, if you are interested in those we took, take a look at who they were and what became of them.

While the players the Diamondbacks took haven’t been a factor of success, those that were taken out of the desert have made significant contributions for other teams, which is something one might want to prevent.

Most recently, in 2017, Víctor Reyes and Brad Keller were plucked from the D-Backs. Reyes had a rough 2018 season but has been rather average since then for the Detroit Tigers. Keller has grossed 8.2 WAR in total for the Kansas City Royals ever since joining them. There are more examples, although not one is as uggly as the 2005 pick by the Florida Marlins: Dan Uggla, who had not even reached AAA, was taken from the Diamondbacks and would make the All Star game in 2006.

While it is always hard to prevent those cases from happening, be aware of who might follow in their footsteps. The decision is not easy at all. We took a look at all rosters from AAA to A (Reno Aces, Amarillo Sod Poodles, Hillsboro Hops and Visalia Rawhide) and calculated that around 40% of the players in the D-Backs minors system are Rule 5 eligible. That is a lot of players to evaluate.

But we did so anyhow. In this article we present every eligible player. Some have performed at different minor league levels and in that case we list the player at the highest level they played at. On AAA level we separate the pitchers from the hitters. On all levels we make a distinction between notable players (players with either good performance and/or a better prospect reputation) and the rest of the bunch. And to provide a bit more depth information we discuss the most interesting cases.

At the moment of publishing this article the 40-man roster stands at 38 and two more players are on the IL-60. That basically leaves just two spots open for players to be added although some new spots will be created by non-tendering and buy-outs. Part of those decisions will be motivated by the roster space the Diamondbacks wish to create for adding prospects we will discuss here.


Executive summary

DBacksEurope: So, tell those that do not wish to read more detail and just want to read the executive summary: who will the Diamondbacks add to their 40-man roster?

Michael McDermott: These are the players I assume will be added to the 40 man roster at the start of the season

  • RHP Levi Kelly: At worst I see him as a guy who will either start or close games. Had a really bad year with his throwing shoulder, but in 2020 was hitting 96-97 with a wipeout slider that plays in the back-end of the pen.
  • RHP Matt Tabor: Tabor has made steady progress in the system, although he’s got the upside of a #4/5 starter in an average rotation. Low 90s with a good change-up and a mediocre slider that he’s meticulously worked at for years.
  • C/UTIL Cooper Hummel: Hummel is an OBP machine that can play 5 different positions. Due to his ability to switch hit, could be a 26th player on the roster if the team needs depth.
  • RHP Keegan Curtis: Picked up in the Locastro trade, Curtis has solid stuff and could contribute to the bullpen as early as Opening Day depending on how his Fall League run goes.
  • C Jose Herrera: Herrera’s bat has been slow to develop since the team signed him 7 years ago out of Venezuela but performed well in AA the first half of the year. Herrera doesn’t offer a lot with the stick but could provide some value as a backup long term.

Players that reached AAA

Notable Rule 5 eligible position players (name and age, position, plate appearances, AVG/OBP/SLG):
  • Jose Herrera (24 yrs), C, 212 PA, 0.244/0.358/0.394.
  • Cooper Hummel (27 yrs), OF, 198 PA, 0.353/0.429/0.575.
  • Ben DeLuzio (27 yrs), CF, 170 PA, 0.271/0.329/0.458.
  • Cam Duzenack (26 yrs), SS, 154 PA, 0.287/0.325/0.524.

Other eligible players who reached Reno: Jancarlos Cintron (27 yrs, 2B, 51 PA) and Renae Martinez (27 yrs, C, 45 PA)

DBacksEurope: If we look purely at the offence, then Jose Herrera and Cooper Hummel look like two serious candidates for the 40-man roster: Herrera had an excellent walk rate and kept the strikeouts limited. Cooper Hummel showed some pop beside posting some above average strikeout and walk rates. But taking into account the defensive aspects and the team’s needs, what do you think and is there a risk of losing them in the Rule 5 draft? And what future lies ahead of the other guys?

Michael McDermott: Herrera and Hummel are probably locks to be added regardless of where the team plays Daulton Varsho in 2021, as both give you a left-handed bat against right-handed pitchers. Ben DeLuzio has a similar offensive profile to Tim Locastro as a speed-first guy and is a more natural outfielder, but probably wouldn’t be in the mix if not for the fact the outfield is going to be very left-handed next year.

Cintron, Duzenack, and Martinez will be left unprotected in the Rule 5 and could go in the Minor League phase of the draft. Duzenack is another right-handed option for infield depth, but not someone I sweat over losing.

These last three players mentioned are guys who are cup of coffee type guys that may get a handful of ABs on a bad team. They’re not going to be taken in the Major League portion of the draft.

Makakilo: Although he may not be added to their roster, Cooper Hummel is at risk because:

  • In 2021, his .432 OBP ranked 7th in minors, and his .978 OPS ranked 10th in minors per this article. Also, he hit for the cycle in AAA.
  • His position versatility is valued by the Diamondbacks.
  • He ranked as the fifth best Diamondbacks prospect per my personal ranking. Opinions differ; for example FanGraphs ranked him 28th.

Poll

Would you add Cooper Hummel to the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Yes.
    (71 votes)
  • 16%
    No.
    (14 votes)
85 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Would you add Jose Herrera to the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Yes.
    (35 votes)
  • 57%
    No.
    (47 votes)
82 votes total Vote Now
Notable Rule 5 eligible pitchers (name and age, position, innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, K/BB):
  • Mack Lemieux (25 yrs), RP, 6.1 IP, 2.84 ERA, 1.105 WHIP, 5/3 K/BB.
  • Kevin McCanna (27 yrs), RP, 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 0.957 WHIP, 12/2 K/BB.
  • Matt Tabor (23 yrs), SP, 32.1 IP, 11.13 ERA, 1.825 WHIP, 26/15 K/BB. #21 on MLB Pipeline, #13 on Fangraphs.
  • Keegan Curtis (26 yrs), RP, 7.2 IP, 7.04 ERA, 2.217 WHIP, 5/5 K/BB. #28 on MLB Pipeline.
  • Ryan Weiss (25 yrs), RP, 30.1 IP, 6.23 ERA, 1.747 WHIP, 33/17 K/BB. #30 on MLB Pipeline.
  • Josh Green (26 yrs), SP/RP, 99.1 IP, 7.34 ERA, 1.802 WHIP, 62/30 K/BB. #34 on Fangraphs.
  • Luis Castillo (26 yrs), RP, 19 IP, 6.63 ERA, 2.105 WHIP, 14/11 K/BB. #46 on Fangraphs.

Other eligible players who reached Reno: Jeff Bain (25 yrs, SP, 8 IP), Justin Donatella (27 yrs, SP, 15.1 IP), Junior García (26 yrs, RP, 32 IP), Kenny Hernandez (23 yrs, SP, 4 IP), Tyler Holton (25 yrs, SP/RP, 16 IP), Chester Pimentel (26 yrs, RP, 30.1 IP), Shumpei Yoshikawa (26 yrs, RP, 0.1 IP).

DBacksEurope: In all honesty, there isn’t much to write home about if we look at the Rule 5 eligible pitchers that have performed in Reno. Control has been a major issue for almost all of them and none of them seem MLB ready in Reno. Am I totally out of line with that statement?

Michael McDermott: Tabor and Curtis are no-brainers to be added from that list. Tyler Holton is interesting although he’s basically another Tyler Gilbert type pitcher. Soft-tossing lefty that relies on deception to get hitters out. Could be useful LHP depth when injuries strike later. Weiss will be an interesting decision, because he crushed AA before Reno did its thing to him. Kevin McCanna is another cheap arm that’s MLB ready on a pre-arb deal, but I would leave him exposed either way. Shumpei Yoshikawa is getting some reps in the Fall League, but he’s not likely to be added to the 40 man roster this offseason.

I don’t put a lot of stock on Tabor’s numbers overall. Given the fact he’s a consensus Top 30 prospect on a middle third farm system, I’ll be surprised if they let him go for no player return.

With the Reno arms, you can’t look at surface stats because of how hitter friendly that level is. You have to look more at their AA numbers and see how that compares. It’s also physically and mentally taxing to pitch in that elevation so it presents an issue for these players although less problematic than it is for the Rockies since there are multiple high elevation places in AAA.

Poll

Would you add Matt Tabor to the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 81%
    Yes.
    (66 votes)
  • 18%
    No.
    (15 votes)
81 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Would you add Keegan Curtis to the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Yes.
    (56 votes)
  • 24%
    No.
    (18 votes)
74 votes total Vote Now

Players that reached AA

Notable Rule 5 eligible players:
  • Eduardo Diaz (24 yrs), OF, 111 PA, 0.316/0.387/0.633.
  • Buddy Kennedy (23 yrs), 3B, 237 PA, 0.278/0.384/0.536. #38 on Fangraphs.
  • Levi Kelly, 22 yrs, RP, 25 IP, 5.40 ERA, 1.760 WHIP, 27/28 K/BB. #22 on MLB Pipeline, #14 on Fangraphs.

Other eligible players who reached Amarillo: Luis Alejandro Basabe (25 yrs, 2B, 314 PA), Jose Curpa (21 yrs, SS, 12 PA), Dominic Miroglio (26 yrs, C, 342 PA), Andy Yerzy (23 yrs, C, 86 PA), Matt Brill (27 yrs, RP, 27 IP), Tyler Jones (25 yrs, RP, 15 IP), Justin Lewis (26 yrs, RP, 34 IP), Wesley Rodriguez (24 yrs, RP, 5.1 IP), Blake Workman (24 yrs, RP, 31 IP)

DBacksEurope: There is no Dan Uggla remaining at this level. What is your opinion? And what has happened to Levi Kelly and should we be worried about either his development or losing him in the Rule 5 draft?

Michael McDermott: Kelly and Kennedy are no-brainer adds to me. Workman could be a dark horse to sneak in on the roster due to big strikeout to walk rates overall. The long ball was an issue in AA, so the issue is location here.

Levi Kelly simply wasn’t healthy last year. Shoulder injury delayed his start to the year and simply never recovered. The injury probably relegates him to the bullpen long term unless he can stretch to over 100 innings in 2022. The focus right now is to make sure he’s healthy.

Poll

Would you add Levi Kelly to the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Yes.
    (72 votes)
  • 12%
    No.
    (10 votes)
82 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Would you add Buddy Kennedy to the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Yes.
    (49 votes)
  • 34%
    No.
    (26 votes)
75 votes total Vote Now

Lower level players (A+ and A)

Notable Rule 5 eligible players:
  • Neyfy Castillo, 20 yrs, SS, 455 PA, 0.230/0.347/0.453 for Visalia. #33 on Fangraphs.
  • Jhosmer Alvarez, 20 yrs, RP, 2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2/2 K/BB for Visalia. #18 on Fangraphs.
  • Junior Mieses, 22 yrs, SP, 80.2 IP, 7.59 ERA, 89/72 K/BB for Visalia. #39 on Fangraphs.
Other eligible players (name and age, position, plate appearances/innings pitched):

Reached Hillsboro: Axel Andueza (23 yrs, C, 307 PA), Jorge Barrosa (20 yrs, OF, 272 PA), Nick Dalesandro (25 yrs, C, 260 PA), Luvin Valbuena (22 yrs, C, 20 PA), Mailon Arroyo (23 yrs, RP, 24.1 IP), Julio Frias (23 yrs, RP, 15.2 IP), Liu Fuenmayor (22 yrs, RP, 17.1 IP), Yaramil Hiraldo (25 yrs, RP, 24 IP), Kai-Wei Lin (25 yrs, RP, 43.1 IP), Gerald Ogando (21 yrs, RP, 12.1 IP), Jose Santamaria (23 yrs, RP, 2.2 IP), Kyler Stout (27 yrs, RP, 29.2 IP), Marcos Tineo (24 yrs, SP, 23.2 IP).

Reached Visalia: Mason Berne (25 yrs, 1B, 118 PA), Francis Beriguete (22 yrs, RP, 12.2 IP), Adrian Del Moral (22 yrs, SP, 58.2 IP), Michel Gelabert (24 yrs, RP, 5 IP), Eric Mendez (21 yrs, RP, 24.1 IP), Deyni Olivero (23 yrs, RP, 2 IP), David Sanchez (22 yrs, RP, 29.2 IP).

DBacksEurope: Is there anything noteworthy about these kids?

Michael McDermott: Not really, although Hiraldo is somewhat interesting on that list.I wouldn’t protect him from the Rule 5, but if he does well in AA next year could factor in as potential future depth.

DBacksEurope: And then there were at least two guys we missed this season and who are Rule 5 eligible: Kristian Robinson, who didn’t have a visa, and Matt Mercer, who was out all season with an injury. What is their status? Anyone left I might have missed?

Michael McDermott: Mercer won’t be added, but if he is able to clear the draft could be a reliever candidate if he has a good 2022. Robinson’s situation is definitely interesting and he may be able to sneak through the Rule 5 Draft without any way for a team to play him any time soon.

Poll

Would you add Kristian Robinson to the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Yes.
    (54 votes)
  • 37%
    No.
    (32 votes)
86 votes total Vote Now

So, there you go! This is our take on the Rule 5 draft eligible players. Count the number of “Yes” you voted in the polls to find out how many prospects you would add to the 40-man roster and share your thoughts in the comments!