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A Rule 5 Draft Preview

The Red Sox might actually take someone.

2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Thursday is the final day of the Winter Meetings out in San Diego, and really the excitement is generally over. The final event here every year is the Rule 5 Draft, after which teams mostly file out and head back home. In case you’re not familiar, the Rule 5 Draft is how the league prevents teams from keeping top prospects in the minors for much longer than they should be. This draft includes any minor leaguer not on a team’s 40-man roster who has been a professional for at least four years if they were signed at 19 or older or at least five years if they signed at 18 or younger. If a player is selected, the team who drafted them must keep the player on the active roster or they are returned back to their original club. Today it is at noon ET.

Typically, the Red Sox aren’t very active participants and if they do pick players they often trade them immediately. (If a Rule 5 player is traded, the team who acquires them then must keep them on the active roster.) This season, that could change. Boston is in a position to try and take advantage of this draft in 2019. For one thing, they have a bunch of holes and could find a backup catcher, help on the right side of the infield or pitching help among the pool of available players. Any player in this draft will have some sort of flaw — if not, they would be on a 40-man roster — but the Red Sox also don’t want to spend too much money filling their holes. This is a way to find cheap options.

With the help of this guide from Baseball America, I ran through 14 players they could potentially look at this afternoon.

Catcher

Brett Cumberland, BAL

Cumberland wasn’t even a full-time player last year, getting only 213 plate appearances between High-A and Double-A. That he also hasn’t made it to Triple-A as a catcher is certainly concerning, too. I don’t think the Red Sox will try to get their backup catcher through this draft — it’s too important of a position — but if they do Cumberland had 169 wRC+ in High-A and a 144 wRC+ in Double-A and he can play solid defense.

Patrick Mazeika, NYM

Mazeika is another guy who hasn’t made it past Double-A, with 2019 being his second full season at that level. His numbers at the plate weren’t as intriguing as Cumberland’s, but he played much more and finished with a 116 wRC+. He’s also good enough behind the plate to stick there and has some pop from the left side.

Infielders

Jose Rojas, LAA

Rojas spent all of last year at Triple-A and hit .293/.362/.577. Yes, it was in the PCL with the juiced ball, but it still came out to a 120 wRC+ and the power is real. According to BA scouts are higher on him than front office types, but he can play all over the infield and specifically on the right side where Boston needs help. He also hits from the left side, which is a big plus given the Red Sox’ current construction.

Vimael Machin, CHC

Baseball America doesn’t seem to think he will be drafted, but there’s some intrigue here. Consider Machin a potential Brock Holt replacement as a guy who doesn’t really hit for power but doesn’t strike out, makes solid singles-type contact and can play all over the diamond. He does only have 31 plate appearances above Double-A and his defense reportedly is not great anywhere.

Dylan Cozens, TB

Cozens is one of the more familiar names here as he made the majors just a couple years ago with Philadelphia. He’s spent most of his career as an outfielder, but you fit as a left-handed first base option here. Cozens hits for big power but also has major problems making contact. The real intrigue here is that he signed a two-year minor-league deal with the Rays as he recovered from injury last season. Presumably, Chaim Bloom was part of that decision-making process.

Roberto Ramos, COL

Ramos is very similar to Cozens as a big-power, high-strikeout lefty who fits in at first base. Ramos doesn’t have the major-league experience, of course, but it’s not like Cozens’ experience was all that impressive.

Starting Pitcher

Brandon Bailey, HOU

You don’t really see many starters go in this draft for the simple reason that viable starters don’t really make it here. There are some options, though, including Bailey. The righty has four solid enough pitches and just struck out ten per nine with a 3.30 ERA in Double-A. He’s probably more of a follower in an opener system at best, but given the Red Sox depth (or lack thereof) right now that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Griffin Jax, MIN

Among the potential fringe starters available, Jax is probably the most intriguing. His stuff doesn’t really jump off the page, but rather he’s sort of a right-handed version of Kyle Hart. Jax consistently strikes out less than 20 percent of his opponents but also walks around five percent or fewer. I bet someone will take a chance on him.

Ljay Newsome, SEA

Newsome has under 60 innings under his belt above High-A, which is a mark against him right off the bat. However, he has four pitches and while they don’t really jump off the page they have gotten him strikeouts in the minors. I don’t see this profile working at the higher levels, but someone could take a chance on it.

Relievers

Dany Jimenez, TOR

The prototypical Rule 5 pick can be found in this category where high-upside, low-floor relievers will get chances in spring training. Jimenez fits that category with a big fastball and good slider that got him big strikeout totals. He also had solid walk rates to go along with that, which is rare for a Rule 5 prospect. He hasn’t pitched in Triple-A, but my guess is he gets taken before the Red Sox pick.

Joe Barlow, TEX

Barlow did make it to Triple-A this past year, but he struggled mightily with his control as he walked 22 percent of his opponents there. Those were extreme numbers in a small sample (17 innings), though. He has strikeout stuff thanks to a fastball/power curveball combination that the Red Sox have done so well with in recent years.

Andre Scrubb, HOU

Scrubb is a very, very similar to Barlow’s. Obviously things are different now with Bloom and a new pitching coach staff, but I just think about guys like Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Craig Kimbrel who have played big roles in recent years with that fastball/curveball combination that includes some control issues.

Jordan Sheffield, LAD

Sheffield is one of the bigger names available in this draft. He was a former 36th overall pick and was even taken by the Red Sox out of high school back in 2013 (he didn’t sign). His control is a major issue, but his stuff is there with, again, a fastball/curveball combo. He’s wildly inconsistent, though, even with his stuff.

Anthony Gose, CLE

Gose is maybe the most interesting guy available here. A former major-league outfielder, Gose is making the switch to pitching and was taken by the Astros last year but couldn’t stick on the roster. That bit is important, though, because as BA notes two-time Rule 5 draftees can choose free agency rather than moving back to their original team. So, theoretically, the Red Sox could choose Gose, waive him after free agency and bring him back on a minor-league deal. Also of note, Gose would be an elite pinch running option as well as a potential reliever. I don’t see this happening, to be fair, but it’s interesting enough that I had to mention it.


So, there are a lot of possibilities here and plenty more that I didn’t mention. Even if the Red Sox don’t pick anyone, however, this event is still worth monitoring as they could lose players as well. Eduard Bazardo is probably the most likely to be selected, with Josh Ockimey, Daniel McGrath and Chad De La Guerra standing out as longshot possibilities as well.