Who will the A's Protect from the Rule 5?

The deadline for protecting prospects from the 2014 Rule 5 draft is coming up soon. The Oakland A's have already had some activity impacting the 40-man roster this off-season, but the A's could still add players to the roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft in December. We take a look at the players who could be added to the A's roster or impacted by the Rule 5 draft.

The Rule 5 Draft Rules

Any player not on a team's 40-man roster who signed his first professional contract in 2011 or earlier who was at least 19 years old at the time he signed and any player who signed his first professional contract in 2010 or earlier who was at least 18 years or younger at the time he signed is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this December. The A’s top pick in 2011 was Sonny Gray, who has been on the A’s 40-man roster since making his major-league debut in 2013. Only 10 members of that draft class remain in the A’s system.

During the Rule 5 draft, teams select in draft order until all teams have declined to select players. Once a player is selected from an organization, that organization can pull back another eligible player to be protected. Teams that select a player must keep that player on their 25-man roster for the entire regular season or offer him back to his original team. Teams generally set their rosters in advance of the 40-man roster in late November.

There is a minor league portion of the draft, but determining what players are exposed in that draft is tricky because it involves knowing whether players have been placed on a Triple-A or Double-A roster during the off-season. That information is usually kept secret by most organizations, so we won't address that part of the draft in this article.

As of November 12, the A's have two open slots on their 40-man roster. Last year, the A’s chose to protect only one player from the Rule 5 draft – right-handed pitcher Raul Alcantara – but they didn’t lose any players in the major league portion of the draft. They also didn’t make any Rule 5 selections in the major league portion of the draft.

Below we take a look at some of the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft and discuss the chances that they are protected.

Rule 5 Protection Candidates

Renato Nunez: There is one player in the A’s system who is a slam-dunk to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season and that is third baseman Renato Nunez. Although Nunez is at least a year away from being major-league ready, he is the kind of talent that a team would take a Rule 5 flier on if he were left exposed to the draft. The 20-year-old signed as an amateur free agent with the A’s in 2010 out of Venezuela. Nunez hit 29 homeruns for High-A Stockton this past year and will be jumping up to Double-A next season. Nunez currently has an 815 OPS in his rookie season in the Venezuelan Winter League and is drawing raves from close followers of that league. He will enter 2015 as one of the A’s top-five prospects.

Seth Frankoff: Frankoff was eligible for the Rule 5 draft last year and was left unclaimed, but since that time, he has excelled in Double-A and pitched well in Triple-A, making him a more attractive Rule 5 candidate. He had a 3.36 ERA in 64.1 innings during his first stints at Double-A and Triple-A with 69 strike-outs and 21 walks this season. He is currently pitching in the Dominican Winter League and could open more eyes there. The A’s have a lot of relief depth and may decide they don’t want to use another 40-man roster spot on a reliever, but if they don’t protect Frankoff, he could be a candidate to be selected.

Ryan Doolittle: Like Frankoff, Doolittle has been eligible for the Rule 5 draft previously and went unclaimed. In fact, Doolittle was eligible for minor league free agency this off-season, but he re-signed with the A’s before the Arizona Fall League. Doolittle has since put together an outstanding stint in the AFL. In 12 innings, he has allowed just two earned runs. He has struck-out 10 and hasn’t walked any. The right-hander has plus command and he has a fastball that can touch 94 MPH with two solid secondary offerings. As with Frankoff, Doolittle is a reliever and the A’s may not decide to add another reliever to their 40-man roster.

Aaron Shipman: Shipman was the A’s third-round pick in 2010 out of a Georgia high school. The centerfielder has had his development delayed by injuries, but over the past two seasons, his play on the field has improved dramatically, although he has still been limited by injuries. Last season, he appeared in just 52 games because of an oblique injury, but he hit .292/.414/.410 at the High-A level. Shipman has an excellent eye at the plate and the plus speed needed to be an asset on the bases and in the field. Because of his injury history, Shipman isn’t likely to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, so the A’s aren’t likely to protect him, but if the A’s get an inkling that another team is interested in Shipman, they could pull the trigger.

Chris Lamb: Lamb was the A’s 11th-round pick in 2011. The left-hander from Berkeley had some injury issues early in his career and then he had to work through a mechanical adjustment that took a little while to click. Things came together for Lamb this season, as he posted a 3.25 ERA and a 134:45 K:BB in 130 innings for Low-A Beloit and High-A Stockton. Lamb was a little old for his level (24), but he is a left-hander who can touch 94 MPH with his fastball and has an excellent split-finger to go along with improving command. Lamb probably won’t be a target for the Rule 5 draft, but he will be a prospect to watch going into next year.

Josh Whitaker: Bad luck has followed Whitaker throughout his professional career, as he has suffered several unlucky injuries from collisions, beanings and other misfortunes. The A’s 2010 25th-round pick has shown a lot of promise when healthy. In 2014, he had an 890 OPS and hit with a .320 BA in 51 games for the Double-A Midland RockHounds. That earned Whitaker a promotion to Triple-A, but an injury sidelined him for the final six weeks of the season after just 22 games in Triple-A. Like so many others on this list, Whitaker’s injury history will likely keep him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft and, therefore, he is likely to be left unprotected.

Tanner Peters and Drew Granier: Peters and Granier are both currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League, where scouts are getting a close look at the 2011 draft picks. Peters missed most of the 2014 season with an arm injury and injuries have been an issue for the right-hander during his professional career. When healthy, Peters profiles similarly to former A’s reliever and starter Justin Duchscherer. However, his past health issues will likely keep him off of the A’s 40-man roster for now. Granier has been at the Double-A level for the past one-and-a-half seasons. The right-hander has outstanding secondary stuff, but his fastball command has hurt him at the higher levels. Granier’s command has improved as the AFL season has progressed, but he is likely to be left unprotected this season.

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