With the off-season in full swing, one big part of structuring the roster for the following season is protecting players from the Rule-5 Draft. The deadline is fast approaching, as Friday, a select group of players not on the 40-man roster will be Rule-5 eligible.
Any player not on the 40-man roster by Friday that signed their first professional contract in 2013 or earlier that was 19-years-old or older - or - signed in 2012 prior to their 18th birthday, will be eligible to be drafted in the Rule-5. Players picked in the draft must remain on the 25-man roster through the entirety of the 2017 season, or will be returned to the team they were selected away from.
Though the Rule-5 has not produced a high amount of immediate value, there have been samples of talented players that have given teams a strong boost to their daily lineup, such as Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana and Josh Hamilton.
The draft also has a Triple-A and Double-A portion where players placed on the Triple-A reserve lsit cost $12,000, and players on the Double-A reserve list cost $4,000, making the players easy to acquire but at a higher cost.
Listed below are Angels' players eligible for the draft, and a look at who may be protected, and others that may not.
100% To Be Protected
- LHP Nate Smith (drafted in 2013): Arguably the top pitching prospect, Smith was nearing Major League time before tendinitis in his throwing elbow finished his 2016 campaign. The organization has been open about they're feelings towards Smith being a part of, or fighting for a spot in the 2017 rotation. Though it's questionable that he'd be taken by another team in the Rule-5, the Angels will need to add Smith to the 40-man to protect him and their rotation depth.
- RHP Keynan Middleton (drafted in 2013): The Angels had to wait a few years to figure out how to utilize the big raw tools of their 2013 third-round pick, and reaped the rewards this past year as everything changed once he moved to the bullpen. Over his first three years in the system, Middleton was used as a starter, working with a low to mid 90's sinker, but the numbers never produced, seeing a 5.97 ERA. This last year, he was moved to the bullpen permanently, and saw a 3.41 ERA over three levels, seeing his fastball velocity jump to the high 90's with regularity, touching 102 at one point. Other teams have been open about their desire in acquiring Middleton, and mixing him into their bullpen, so the Angels will need to add him if they see him as a part of their future.
50% To Be Protected
- RHP Austin Adams (drafted in 2012): Skipped over last year in the draft, Adams battled injuries over the year but saw his walk rates and strikeout rates jump to near career highs. Some of the best pure stuff in the system, Adams works in the mid to upper 90's with his fastball and has a wipeout slider. Teams may stay away from him due to his inability to throw strikes consistently, but there's a luring item in how he misses bats and keeps them quiet with his .183 opposing batting average in his minor league career.
- LHP Manny Banuelos (signed in 2008, NYY): One of baseball's top pitching prospects suffered multiple arm injuries that not only took his velocity, but also the early stages of his professional career. Another elbow injury forced the Braves to release him, which could be a reward for the Angels and Billy Eppler, his former and now current GM. Though the prospect status isn't there anymore, the ability to pitch at the Major League level hasn't left him, and the Angels may need to keep him from being taken away from their rotation depth.
- 2B Sherman Johnson (drafted in 2012): There were some within the organization that felt he could fight for a second base spot in Spring Training last year. Things didn't pan out and he had a down year in Triple-A. One thing that didn't change was his ability to work counts, maintain his on-base abilities, and play above-average defense. The Angels don't seem ready to part with him yet, but also may not feel teams will be ready to take him on either for a full season at the Major League level.
- LHP Chris O'Grady (drafted in 2012): Already taken in last year's Rule-5, O'Grady was returned when he didn't break the Cincinnati Reds roster out of Spring Training. Many saw him as a lefty-specialist, despite his .259 opposing average from lefties. O'Grady was turned into a swingman this past year, but many still believe he isn't ready to take over a Major League role.
- C Jose Briceno (signed in 2010, COL): The "throw in" from the Andrelton Simmons trade has proved to be much more than that. One of the premier defensive catchers across minor league baseball, Briceno came to the Angels system and showcased an amazing arm, throwing out 58% of runners in Double-A. The power numbers never showed up like they were supposed to and his .602 OPS won't leave much for teams to throw him into the Major League mix, but if the defense is enough to love, it may be worth protecting him.
- RHP Jesus Castillo (signed in 2012, ARZ): The prospect acquired in exchange for Joe Smith is just 21-years-old and nowhere near the Major League level. He performed well in his short stint with the Angels in A-Ball, posting a 2.43 ERA in 29.2 innings. Only time will tell what's really in store for the young starting prospect, but there isn't any necessity in protecting him.
- RHP Kevin Grendell (drafted in 2012, BAL): Sometimes new opportunities are the best kind. When the Angels signed Grendell as a minor-league free agent, it probably wasn't expected that he'd pitch at three different levels, posting a 2.64 ERA and holding bats to a .171 average. Sources say he'll be given an invitation to the big league roster in Spring Training.
- RHP Kyle McGowin (drafted in 2013): Fighting his mechanics through this last season, McGowin took a big hit to his numbers in the hitter friendly, Pacific Coast League. It's highly unlikely teams will try to put him in their rotation at the Major League level without more development, which gives the Angels the chance to keep him off the 40-man with no concern.
- RHP Eduardo Paredes (signed in 2012): By the numbers, no pitcher in the Angels system has been as consistent at managing runs as Paredes. The 21-year-old Venezuelan has already worked his way up to Double-A, and despite seeing a career high ERA of 3.33, his minor league career still looks at a 2.53 ERA, 1.079 WHIP, 2.2 BB/9 and 10.5 K/9. Working with an above-average cutter/slider combo, and mid-to-high 90's fastball, Paredes is one of the most promising relief prospects in the organization.
- 2B Alex Yarbrough (drafted in 2012): Once a promising middle infield prospect with his bat being the key tool, Yarbrough fell off offensively and was sent back down to Double-A last year. Some believe he was rushed, but there hasn't been much more for him to show at the Double-A level, yet he can't perform in Triple-A. There isn't much need to protect him as they should be able to keep him, and hope he gets back to his days of promise.
- RHP Ranyelmy Alberto (signed in 2012): There was a time where Alberto was the most promising power hitter in the Angels system. That time has passed and he is now being turned into a pitcher who throws relatively hard with a split-finger fastball.
- OF Forrestt Allday (drafted in 2013, BOS): After being let go by the Red Sox, Allday signed with the Angels as a minor-league free agent. He moved along three different levels in 2016, hitting .261 with a .661 OPS.
- C Anthony Bemboom (drafted in 2012): A defense-first catcher, Bemboom led the Pacific Coast League in 2016 in caught stealing percentage at 46%. At the plate, Bemboom has hit .232 with a .636 OPS in 351 games.
- RHP Alex Blackford (drafted in 2013): The Angels transformed Blackford into a starting pitcher in 2016 in Double-A. There, he posted a 3.07 ERA, picking up nine wins. He has a career 3.56 ERA in 98 games.
- RHP Michael Bolaski (drafted in 2010): Going from a corner infielder to a pitcher, many are wondering what the story is with Bolaski. He didn't play in 2016, with no note as to any injury.
- RHP Harrison Cooney (drafted in 2013): One of multiple pitcher dealing with an ulnar collateral tear, Cooney was put into the bullpen where many saw him as a hard-throwing reliever. He has a career 4.84 ERA in 70 games.
- LHP Tyler DeLoach (drafted in 2012): Used as a swingman through his five years in the minors, DeLoach has a career 3.78 ERA. Last season between Double-A and Triple-A, he held a 2.87 ERA in 62.2 innings.
- RHP Ryan Etsell (drafted in 2013): The organization thought highly of Etsell following his 2015 campaign, giving him a spot on their Arizona Fall League roster. He is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery and will return as a 25-year-old without any experience above High-A.
- C Angel Genao: A mixture to the catching depth, Genao has thrown out 35% of runners and hit .238 with a .640 OPS in his four-year minor league career.
- OF Chad Hinshaw (drafted in 2013): A toolsy outfielder, Hinshaw had the speed and defensive abilities, with enough hit-tool to possibly turn him into a fourth outfielder. Back-to-back injury-ridden seasons have limited Hinshaw.
- IF Juan Moreno (signed in 2012): A utility infielder, Moreno is still young (21), but has yet to move above 13 games at the High-A level. In 259 games, he's hit .232 with a .569 OPS.
- RHP Garrett Nuss (drafted in 2013): Drafted for his ability to throw strikes, Nuss hasn't found the zone consistently, seeing a career 3.8 walks-per-nine and 5.17 ERA, never pitching above High-A.
- OF Ayendy Perez (signed in 2012): Wildly fast, Perez has put home-to-first times under 3.8 and is one of the premier players with speed in the system. Over 327 minor league games, Perez has .281 with a .715 OPS and 120 stolen bases.
- OF Alexis Rivera (drafted in 2012, KC): Rivera has hit everywhere he's been, seeing a .273 average and .752 OPS in his five-year career. Signed out of high school by Kansas City, Rivera has yet to play beyond A-Ball, where he finished the 2016 season with a .760 OPS in Burlington.
- UTI Angel Rosa (drafted in 2013): Versatile, Rosa has served as a bench piece through his minor league career, hitting .249 with a .664 OPS.
- RHP Troy Scribner (signed as FA 2013, HOU): The Angels traded cash for the soft-tossing pitcher who has performed consistently. Last year, between Double-A and Triple-A, Scribner posted a 3.41 ERA, keeping bats to a .206 average.
- RHP Michael Smith (drafted in 2013): In the midst of an All-Star season where Smith posted a 1.98 ERA, the strike-throwing sinkerballer tore his ulnar collateral ligament, and is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
- OF Cal Towey (drafted in 2013): Showing promise as a senior sign in 2013, Towey had a .772 OPS in Salt Lake as a 26-year-old. He has a career .803 OPS in the minors.
This article was written and published by Scout.com Senior Publisher, Taylor Blake Ward. For more updates on the Los Angeles Angels, follow Taylor on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.