Transactions involving players on the 40-man roster are frozen around baseball at the moment due to the lockout, as I’m sure most everyone reading this knows. That has largely brought the winter in baseball to a standstill, but it doesn’t put a total transaction freeze in place. Players not on the 40-man can still move, and that includes the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft.
Most baseball fans are familiar with the major-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft in which eligible players who are chosen must spend the entire next season on the major-league active roster. The minor-league portion is less known, but it takes center stage with the major-league version being postponed due to the lockout. (Players chosen would by definition be placed on 40-man rosters, and thus can’t happen during a lockout. The event is expected to take place shortly after the lockout is lifted.)
For this minor-league portion of the draft, the same eligibility rules apply, except where in the major-league players eligible players not on the 40-man roster can be selected, for this portion it is eligible players who are not only not on the 40-man, but also not on the 38-man Triple-A reserve roster. The Boston Red Sox did not lose anybody in this portion of the draft, but for a seventh straight season they have added multiple players. This year they added a pair of pitchers, snagging Austin Lambright from the Kansas City Royals organization, and then in the second round they grabbed Brian Keller from the New York Yankees organization.
We’ll start with Lambright, a left-handed reliever who was drafted by Kansas City in the 10th round of the 2018 draft. He hasn’t pitched since 2019 due to injury, and in that season he split time between A-Ball and High-A, pitching to a 2.85 ERA over 47 1⁄3 innings, striking out 74 while walking 25. He was mentioned as a sleeper in the Royals’ system by FanGraphs last season, noting his fastball got up to 95 mph in 2019.
As for Keller, he makes it four straight seasons in which the Red Sox have selected a Yankees pitcher in this MiLB Rule 5 Draft, joining Kaleb Ort, Raynel Espinal, and Anyelo Gomez. A right-handed pitcher, Keller was a 39th round selection back in 2016, and spent all of last season in Triple-A. Splitting time between the rotation and bullpen, he finished with a 2.77 ERA over 55 1⁄3 innings, striking out 65 and walking 46. Baseball America mentioned him in their preview of this draft, noting that his control was always an issue, but less of one in relief. They report an arsenal that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a curveball, as well as the occasional slider and changeup.