November 20 is the deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 draft. This year, the Oakland A's elected to add just one 'Rule 5 eligible' player to their 40-man roster: top pitching prospect Raul Alcantara. Alcantara was acquired by the A's from the Boston Red Sox before the 2012 season. He spent the 2013 campaign with the A's two A-ball affiliates.
Alcantara, who turns 21 on December 4, struggled during his first year in the A's system, but he had an outstanding age 20 season in 2013. The right-hander posted a 3.11 ERA and walked only 24 in 156.1 innings split between Low-A Beloit and High-A Stockton. He struck-out 124. Alcantara has a good sinking fastball that has touched 95, an excellent change-up and a breaking ball that made significant strides during the 2013 season. He has always had plus command and the A's believe he has the work ethic and talent to be a frontline starter.
"This year, he hit the ground running," A's Director of Player Personnel Billy Owens said. "He was able to improve his sequences and was just getting acclimated to [the A-ball] level [in 2012] and catching up. When you are a teenager in a full-season league, the talent might be there, but the results might not be. This year, he was able to combine the talent with the results.
"When I saw him in the California League late in the year, I was almost jumping out of my seat. I was so excited to see this kid mixing his pitches, commanding the strike-zone and throwing a ton of strikes. Not so much just the stuff, but the focus. I try to watch what these guys do for preparation between games. How they run the outfield and take care of business in between starts. I would probably rank Raul Alcantara as being among the top three or four within the entire organization in preparation between starts."
Players who were 19 or older when they were signed for the first time in 2010 or earlier (or players who were younger than 19 when signing for the first time in 2009) are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. In other words, college players who were drafted in 2010 or earlier are now eligible, while high school players drafted in 2009 or earlier and amateur free agents who were younger than 19 when they signed in 2009 or earlier are now eligible.
By adding Alcantara, the A's have chosen to leave all but two of their collegiate picks from the 2010 draft unprotected (top pick Michael Choice and pitcher A.J. Griffin are already on the 40-man roster). Two of their 2010 draft picks won't be eligible for the Rule 5 draft until next season (high school picks Aaron Shipman and Tyler Vail).
The A's are leaving several notable prospects unprotected from the Rule 5 draft. Hard-throwing right-hander Blake Hassebrock could be targeted by a team looking to take a flier on a pitcher with top-shelf stuff who hasn't yet had a breakthrough season. Relievers Jeff Urlaub and Seth Frankoff were also left unprotected. Both pitched very well in the recently completed Arizona Fall League. A team that liked what they saw from either pitcher during the AFL could take a chance on one of them. Omar Duran also pitched in the AFL and was left unprotected, although he struggled with his command and to maintain his normal velocity during league play.
On the position-player side, first baseman Anthony Aliotti and utilityman Conner Crumbliss are eligible for a second straight year. Both had excellent seasons, although neither has the traditional power profile that comes with many Rule 5 outfield or first base selections.
Reliever Paul Smyth had a solid 2013 season that included his first extended stay at the Triple-A level. The sidearming right-hander is currently pitching well in the Venezuelan Winter League (2.95 ERA, 15:5 K:BB and a 1.67 GO/AO in 18.1 innings) and may have opened some eyes this winter.
Minor league free agent signings are also eligible for the Rule 5 draft. The A's have signed free agent Philip Humber and have re-signed free agents Jonathan Joseph, Darwin Perez, D'Arby Myers, Frank Gailey and Luke Montz. Since any team could have signed these players while they were free agents, it isn't likely that any will be selected, but stranger things have happened.
Leaving a player exposed to the Rule 5 draft isn't a huge risk. Most teams have trouble keeping a Rule 5 player on their MLB roster for an entire season. The A's have had several Rule 5 players on their spring rosters over the years, but only two in recent history have remained on the team for the entire season (Jay Marshall and Nate Freiman (who was a Rule 5 selection by the Houston Astros, but was claimed by the A's during spring training last year so the Rule 5 restrictions still applied for Freiman throughout the 2013 season)).
The A's haven't had a player taken in the major league portion of the draft in several seasons. The most notable player the A's have lost in the Rule 5 draft is reliever Jared Burton, who was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2006 Rule 5 draft.
The A's now have one open spot on their 40-man roster. That means that they can select no more than one player during the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, even if they remove other players from the 40-man roster between now and the draft day.