It’s been just under three weeks since the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the 2017 World Series. In the 18 days that have followed, there hasn’t been much news in the baseball world. Sure, there are plenty of rumors about which free agent will sign where, lots of minor transaction news, as well as a plethora of Giancarlo Stanton trade rumors, but all-in-all it has been a quiet November so far. However, the news should begin to pick up with teams facing an 8 o’clock EST deadline on Monday night to set their 40-man rosters ahead of next month’s Rule 5 player draft.
Over the last few years with A.J. Preller at the helm, the Padres have been easily the busiest team in the Rule 5 Draft. Not only has the team made seven selections over the last two years, but they have also kept five of those players within their own system. At the same time, the Padres have not lost any players to the Rule 5 Draft during those two years. However, going into this year, the Padres have some tougher decisions to make regarding who to protect leading up to the draft next month.
Before we delve too deep into which players the Padres may consider protecting as the deadline looms near, it’s important to remember the rules for Rule 5 Draft eligibility. For teams with open 40-man roster spots, they will be allowed to select Rule 5-eligible players from other organizations during the Rule 5 Draft, which will be held on the last day of the Winter Meetings, December 14. To determine eligibility, MLB uses a sort of tiered system which depends on player age when originally signed. Players signed at 18 years of age or younger will be eligible for the draft if they have played at least five seasons with their organization without being protected. Players signed at 19 years or older are also eligible if they have played at least four seasons with their organization without being protected. To say it another way, college draftees out of the 2014 class, high school draftees out of the 2013 class, and international amateurs from the 2013-2014 signing period are all eligible, barring any other specific circumstances for an individual player.
So with two open roster spots on the 40-man, the Padres have some room to work with, both for adding current organizational players that have not yet been added, or adding players from other teams in the Rule 5 Draft next month. Before we speculate on who the Padres may desire to add in next month’s draft, let’s first take a look at notable players who the Padres could protect.
Interestingly enough, the Padres do not have a single top-30 prospect, going by MLB Pipeline’s top 30 rankings, that is either not already on the 40-man and eligible for the draft or not eligible for the draft at all. This makes the Padres job a little easier, but there are still some interesting names of note that are eligible and who could garner some attention from other teams. Among that list is a plethora of pitchers, which is to be expected given the general nature of the Rule 5 Draft and the recent history of players selected in that draft.
The most obvious name who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if not added to the Padres 40-man roster by tonight’s deadline is Franmil Reyes. Originally signed as 16-year-old by the Padres in November of 2011, Reyes has played six seasons with the Padres’ organization and is now eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. At 22 and standing at 6’5”, Reyes is certainly an intriguing prospect based on his size and power alone. However, he does come with his warts, as his contact and defense certainly lag behind his power at the plate. Even so, he could be of some interest to an American League team as a designated hitter or bench bat to round out a roster. Given he has some appeal, he makes sense as the likeliest guy on this list to be given a 40-man roster spot prior to tonight’s deadline. Reyes slashed .258/.322/.464 with 25 home runs in Double-A in 2017.
Next up on the list is starting pitcher Chris Huffman, who started out in High-A and made it all the way up to Triple-A this season. It wasn’t flashy, but Huffman had a moderate degree of success, with a 3.31 ERA and 12.9 K-BB rate. The peripheral numbers weren’t as kind to the 24-year-old right-hander, but teams could be interested in taking a flier on him in the Rule 5 Draft next month. Given the Padres’ noteworthy starting pitching depth in the minor leagues, it’s hard to see them using a 40-man roster spot on Huffman at this juncture.
Finally, the Padres have quite a handful of relievers who could be of interest to contending teams. With how much the game of baseball has tilted towards relief pitching in recent years, teams are bound to be looking for cheap relief options in the Rule 5 Draft next month. The Padres have no shortage of older relief pitchers, with T.J. Weir, Eric Yardley, Brad Wieck, and Adam Cimber all fitting that bill, as all are at least 26 years of age and draft eligible. Beyond those two, Gerardo Reyes, Jose Castillo, and Yimmi Brasoban are a few other younger names to potentially look at. Out of this group, the latter three are younger, which may help their case for protection, but guys like Yardley and Cimber could probably help a big league bullpen now, making them possible choices for a 40-man roster spot.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this situation plays out, as the Padres have less than seven hours to make some decisions on these guys. However, fans must remember: even if a player is selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he must spend the entirety of the 2018 season with his new team in the big leagues or he will have to be offered back to his original team. The Padres have gone two straight years under A.J. Preller without a player being selected off the Padres. Why not make it a third?