Thursday is a big day for MLB and those who just absolutely love its arcane, confusing roster rules. Typically, today would be the final day of the Winter Meetings. That isn’t the case in 2020 because the Winter Meetings didn’t really take place due to COVID, but the hallmark of that final day remains. That would be the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place at noon ET today and is one of the weirdest quirks of the MLB calendar.
For those who are unaware, in this draft any minor-league players who have been in professional baseball for a certain amount of time — four seasons for those who signed at age 19 or older, five seasons for those who signed at age 18 or younger — and not on a 40-man roster are eligible. If a team selects an eligible player, said player must then spend the entire upcoming season on the active roster (or the injured list, but that gets a little more complicated and we won’t get into that right now). If they do not make it through the season, their original team can take them back into their minor-league system. There is also a minor-league portion of the draft, but we won’t worry about that part here either.
In the past, the Red Sox have not been very active in this draft, and when they did take players it was often to trade them to teams that really wanted the player. It is, after all, harder to keep a Rule 5 player around as a contender, and the Red Sox have typically been trying to contend every year. Last year, though, they took Jonathan Araúz and kept him on the roster all year. Araúz is now expected to spend most of 2021 in Triple-A.
This year, they may be looking to take someone for a second year in a row. While they are ostensibly trying to build a more competent roster for 2021, they also have a lot of holes and aren’t likely to spend a ton this winter. They could look at this draft as an opportunity to fill one of their holes for a relatively cheap price. Teams must pay $100,000 as a fee to select a player. The draft order is the same as the amateur draft the following summer, which means the Red Sox will be picking fourth today.
Below, I have selected ten players that look like potential targets for the Red Sox. To be clear, these are just a few of the names that the team could be looking at, as there are literally hundreds of names that are eligible for selection. Sites like Baseball America and CBS were huge helps in putting together this list. The names are in no particular order.
Garrett Whitlock, RHP, NYY
We start off with a former Yankees prospect who only a few years ago looked like one of the better prospects in their system. The former 18th round pick had rolled through the lower levels of the minors and made it up to Double-A in just his second full professional season. Midway through 2019, however, he underwent Tommy John surgery and hasn’t been able to pitch in an organized game since. That said, he is throwing again and before the injury he hit the mid 90s with his fastball along with solid secondaries. He could come in and serve as a multi-inning reliever for 2021 and potentially be developed into a starter down the road.
Paul Campbell, RHP, TB
Campbell is the first of two former Rays on this list. It is admittedly a convenient, canned response to put anyone with connections to the Rays on this list given Chaim Bloom’s ties there, but there is some merit to the idea in a format like this. Bloom knows these players, which doesn’t necessarily mean he likes them, of course, but he does have extra information. As for Campbell himself, he’s a spin rate darling who has a full starter’s arsenal of pitches. The stuff isn’t a huge, but there is a potential back-end starter here who could, like Whitlock, serve as a long reliever to get through this season.
Matt Krook, LHP, TB
Krook is the other Rays prospect on this list. The Red Sox already have one of the players that went to Tampa in the Evan Longoria deal with Christian Arroyo, and this is an opportunity to grab another. Krook is a ground ball machine with a nasty sinker that gets grounders at a 60 percent clip, and he’s also been able to strike out over 10 batters per nine in the minors. The control is an issue, but that is something that can be worked around in short stints if you are missing bats and inducing grounders.
Domingo Leyba, INF, ARZ
There are only two position players on this list. It used to be that pitchers were the main targets in these drafts, and while they still certainly are targets it is less appealing than in years past. Today, teams prefer to be able to shuffle their middle relief options between the majors and Triple-A, and that obviously isn’t possible with a Rule 5 pick. Position players can sometimes be easier to hide within your team strategy, as weird as that may sound. Leyba would be a second base option. He made it up to the majors in 2019 and was solid in 30 plate appearances. He was suspended for PEDs in 2020 and was taken off the roster earlier this winter, but he’s less of a project than the others on this list and could step in and help right away. The Red Sox could prefer this route to finding an infielder in free agency.
Marcel Renteria, RHP, NYM
There’s really not much to explain with this one, as Renteria just profiles as what we think of when we think of good, modern relievers. Since transitioning to the bullpen he’s seen his velocity bump up to the mid-90s and he has a good slider to go along with it. That said, it could be a bit of a reach as he has only one inning about High-A under his belt.
Brett de Geus, RHP, LAD
The Dodgers have turned into a player development machine, and de Geus is among their best stories on that front. He is a former 33rd round pick out of JUCO, and he’s just improved every year. He has a fastball that has sat in the mid-90s at times, though Baseball America reports that it fell a couple ticks this past year. He also boasts a curveball and a cutter. It seems overly simplistic, but a legitimate strategy for this draft is to look at the deepest organizations and pick their best unprotected players. This would qualify as that kind of pick.
Brian Howard, RHP, OAK
Howard is a giant of a man, standing at 6’9”. He’s a starter right now, but he’s had some trouble maintaining his stuff through his starts and this could be a chance to transition him to the bullpen. There, he could be a fastball/curveball pitcher, and we know the Red Sox love those kind of pitchers in the bullpen.
Riley Pint, RHP, COL
Pint is probably the most recognizable player with a chance to be selected today. The former fourth overall pick still shows off the stuff that made him such a high draft selection, but the control remains a complete mess. There is an argument to be made that getting him out of Colorado’s player development system will do wonders for his career, though I’m not sure the solution is bringing him to Boston’s.
Lazaro Armenteros, OF, OAK
Armentos is another relatively big name here, as he was given a $3 million bonus when he signed out of Cuba. He has had major strikeout issues in the minors, including a rate over 40 percent in a full season at High-A in 2019, but he’s a tremendous athlete with big raw power and the ability to play all over the outfield. This would be a high-risk, high-reward type of pick, but it’s also the opposite of the Pint idea. The Red Sox have had success developing athletic outfielders in the past, and if they’re looking for a potential big payoff, this could be the move.
Darius Valdez, RHP, SD
Valdez is another monster of a man, coming in at, according to Baseball America, 6’8”, 254 pounds. That alone is worth a shot for sheer intimidation reasons, but he also has a big fastball that can get up to triple digits and a strikeout rate that has risen above 11 per nine in the minors. The control is a real issue, but the stuff alone — he also has a plus changeup and a slider — could be worth a flier.
Jordan Sheffield, RHP, LAD
Oliver Ortega, RHP, LAA
Buddy Reed, OF, OAK
Cole Freeman, UTL, WAS
Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP, HOU