The Rule 5 draft is upon us, meaning Boston's minor-league roster could look a little different soon
The Red Sox are picking seventh in Thursday's Rule 5 draft, which will occur at 10 am before the winter meetings officially close out. They might not be able to take advantage of that draft position, though, as the 40-man roster is currently full. They could always designate someone for assignment -- someone such as Pedro Beato, since there's so much right-handed relief depth in the organization. They can certainly do that, and likely would for the right player, but it's not a given.
They are very likely to lose players, however. Even though they protected six Rule 5-eligible players before the deadline, there was a lot of talent to protect that could be taken away, and they didn't get to all of it. Reliever Josh Fields, who was acquired in the Erik Bedard trade before the July 2011 trade deadline, was left unprotected, as was outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker. These are the two most-likely candidates to be plucked from the system, as they could both survive on a major-league roster in 2013, even if it might not necessarily be pretty in both cases.
Fields was a first-round draft pick of the Mariners back in 2008, and failed to show much command or control during his time there. A reliever, Fields was packaged along with Bedard in return for what was a swap of soon-to-be-Rule-5-eligible minor-league parts, and almost instantly found some semblance of control after switching organizations. In 2012, he was fantastic at both Double- and Triple-A, posting career-bests in K/BB, ERA, innings, strikeouts, and a career-low for walks in a full campaign. Boston has tons of relievers around, though, and even had to non-tender a few of them last Friday, so Fields was left unprotected in the hopes that no one else grabs him.
Hazelbaker is less likely to contribute to a major-league roster, given he didn't just strike out 12 batters per nine in the high minors. But, he's a solid defender who can run the bases, and he's shown patience in the past, and power as recently as this year. He's not a total package player, by any means, but there's a chance he has a future in the majors as a solid bench contributor. Someone with room on their 40-man, like say, the Houston Astros, wouldn't be making a mistake by giving Hazelbaker a shot and seeing if his best moments can begin to happen more often.
He's very likely to hit for a low batting average in the majors, which will harm his on-base percentage, but if he can maintain some level of power, he could stick. That's a big if, but it costs very little for a team going nowhere fast to give someone like Hazelbaker a shot. This is precisely the reason that players like Christian Vazquez were protected by Boston.
Those aren't the only two who might go. Ivan De Jesus wasn't protected, and while he didn't do much in the majors, he's been tearing up an off-season league, and can play multiple positions. Again, someone with the room might give him a shot: the worst thing that happens is he doesn't work out, and has to be returned to the original club. Jose De La Torre was re-signed by Boston, but since he's not on the 40-man, he's eligible to be taken away. He's not as impressive from a scouting perspective as Fields, but someone could easily bury De La Torre in their bullpen until they officially have possession of his future.
The more ambitious general managers out there might find room for two other Red Sox relievers in Miguel Celestino and Ryan Pressly. Neither is close to the majors at this point, but it's very easy to leave a reliever who isn't ready in a major-league bullpen -- well, if your team isn't competing, anyway. Neither of these two are legitimate prospects, but there are those who believe Celestino can grow into something. Then again, there are plenty who wouldn't understand why a team bothered to try that experiment, too.