At the end of the post-season, the Oakland A’s will begin a busy period of roster construction. The A’s have 11 players on their 60-day disabled list that will need to be added back to the active 40-man roster at the conclusion of the World Series. Oakland doesn’t have any impending major league free agents (correction: Sam Fuld and Ross Detwiler are impending free agents; neither is likely to be offered a major league deal by the A's), meaning that the A’s front office will need to cull their roster from 51 to 40 via designations for assignment.
Those moves will not be made in a vacuum, as the A’s will have several other areas of roster construction that they will need to plan for this off-season. The first of which will be possible 25-man roster additions via free agency or trades. The A’s front office acknowledged to A’s beat writers on Monday that they would likely be in the market for outfielders and possibly a veteran starter. Any additions along those lines will require room to be made on the 40-man roster at the time of those acquisitions.
The second, and bigger factor, in the A’s off-season roster planning will be protecting talent from the December Rule 5 draft. The deadline to protect eligible prospects from the Rule 5 draft comes in late November, so the A’s have some time to adjust their roster for those moves. Still, it is never too early to look at which prospects are eligible for the Rule 5 draft and will need to be protected.
As a reminder, the Rule 5 draft is an annual event that takes place at the close of the MLB Winter Meetings. 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. This year, any player not on a team's 40-man roster who signed his first professional contract in 2013 or earlier who was at least 19 years old at the time he signed and any player who signed his first professional contract in 2012 or earlier who was at least 18 years or younger at the time he signed is eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Very few players are selected in the Rule 5 draft, given the commitment that the acquiring team has to make to keep that player on the 25-man roster all season. However, that doesn’t mean that teams can be cavalier about who they protect in the draft. Good players have been acquired via the Rule 5 in the past, most notably Josh Hamilton and Johan Santana. Prospects most likely to be selected are those with upper-level experience (Double-A or above) who have a skill or skills that appear major-league ready, even if the entire package isn’t major-league ready. In more rare circumstances, a very raw but talented player with lower-level experience will be selected by a team not anticipating a playoff-run. Those players are often hid on the roster for the year and used in only low-leverage situations and then are often sent to the minor leagues the following year to gain more experience.
The A’s came into the 2016 season knowing that they had a big group of potentially eligible players. Oakland’s 2012 and 2013 drafts were particularly strong, and players selected out of high school in 2012 and college in 2013 (to simplify the rule) are eligible for the first time this year. In addition, the A’s had several top prospects who signed as international amateur free agents in 2012 or earlier who were eligible. The A’s did some of their work ahead of time, adding several players eligible for the draft to their 40-man roster during the season. Those players include: Ryon Healy, Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Dillon Overton, Chad Pinder, Bruce Maxwell and Zach Neal. If any of those players – or any other players on the A’s current 40-man roster who meet the draft criteria – are designated for assignment before the Rule 5 deadline and outrighted to Triple-A Nashville, they would then be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. It isn’t likely, however, that a team would pass on claiming a player off of waivers just to take him in the Rule 5 draft.
Even with the addition of those seven Rule 5-eligible players to their 40-man roster, the A’s are still likely to protect several more prospects from the draft. Below we look at the players eligible for the Rule 5 draft and assess the likelihood that they are going to be protected.
Franklin Barreto (signed by TOR in July 2012): Given the A’s roster crunch, there is really only one player who will, without any doubt, be protected in November. There are likely to be more than one protected, but who those others are will be a matter of some guessing before the deadline arrives. Barreto, of course, is a no-brainer. Not only is he the A’s top prospect, he is very close to being major-league ready, having spent an entire year in Double-A and having gotten his feet wet in Triple-A at the end of the 2016 season. Barreto is very young (20) and won’t be on the A’s roster on Opening Day 2017 – barring a big upset – but it isn’t a stretch to think that he will be a mid-season contributor in the big leagues. There is no chance that the Minnesota Twins would pass on taking Barreto with the top pick in the draft if he were available.
Better than 50% chance of being protected
Jaycob Brugman (drafted in 2013): Brugman has never had as high a profile as some of his 2013 draftmates who graduated to the big leagues this season, but Brugman opened a lot of eyes this season. Despite starting the year in Double-A, Brugman earned the Nashville team MVP award after hitting .295/.352/.438 and playing solid defense in centerfield. The A’s didn’t give Brugman a September call-up, but they are short on upper-level outfield talent and Brugman is the best they have not currently on the 40-man roster. Given his Triple-A experience, his ability to play all three outfield positions and his balanced skillset, Brugman has a decent chance of being selected in the Rule 5 draft if left unprotected. That and the A’s lack of depth in the outfield give him a strong chance of being added to the 40-man roster.
Tucker Healy (drafted in 2012): Healy is one of the most underrated relief prospects in the minor leagues. It was surprising that he didn’t receive a chance in the big leagues this season given the year he put together in Triple-A in 2016. For his career, Healy has a 12.22 K/9 and he had a 13.07 K/9 for Nashville this season. He walks a few too many, but Healy is very difficult to hit (6.84 H/9 for his career) and he has swing-and-miss stuff, even without a high-90s fastball. Healy profiles very similarly to his draft classmate and friend Ryan Dull. Healy might sneak through the Rule 5 draft because he doesn’t have elite velocity, but given how hard it can be to find good relievers, the A’s may not want to take that risk.
Yairo Munoz (signed in 2012): Munoz fits into that category of raw prospect who isn’t major-league ready but has enough talent that a team might risk carrying him at the end of their bench all season just to get him in their system. The 21-year-old struggled in his first season in Double-A, hitting just .240 with a .298 OBP. However, he showed flashes of big league potential with the RockHounds and has the skillset to be a major-league starter down-the-road. Munoz has above-average power for a middle infielder and the athleticism and arm strength to play anywhere on the infield. He also has solid bat-to-ball skills. Munoz has plenty of growing to do when it comes to his approach at the plate and his consistency on defense, but he is among the top-5 most talented position players in the A’s system. That alone is likely to land him on the 40-man roster in November.
Bobby Wahl (drafted in 2013): Were it not for an intercostal issue that popped up right before the end of the regular season, Wahl likely would have joined that list of Rule 5 eligible players added to the A’s 40-man roster during the 2016 regular season. Wahl has struggled with injuries during his pro career, but he has arguably the best fastball in the A’s system and he put together his healthiest year to date in 2016 (the late-season injury aside). It isn’t a stretch to see Wahl as the A’s closer in a year or two. He saved 14 of 15 opportunities between Double-A and Triple-A this season while also posting a 2.65 ERA and a 65:28 K:BB in 54.1 innings. Wahl regularly touches 98 with his fastball, has a swing-and-miss breaking ball and is one of the fiercest competitors in the A’s system. The only negative on his resume is his health history. That history wouldn’t be a deterrent necessarily in the Rule 5 draft, so Wahl is a strong bet to be protected.
Other Notable Names
Luis Barrera (signed in 2012): A talented outfielder who had a breakout campaign this year, Barrera has only played 19 games in a full-season league. The A’s are probably safe not protecting him from the Rule 5 draft.
Joe Bennie (drafted in 2013): Bennie has raised his profile significantly over the past season-and-a-half. He had one of the top hard-hit rates in the A’s system the past two years and he received his first opportunity in Double-A at the end of this season. Bennie has power and he knows how to work a walk, although he needs to cut down on his strike-outs. He can play multiple positions – something that appeals to teams in the Rule 5 draft – but he isn’t a standout with the glove at any of those positions and he is still just getting his feet wet above the A-ball level. Bennie isn’t a high risk to be selected if left unprotected.
B.J. Boyd (drafted in 2012): Boyd had a solid season with High-A Stockton and he opened some eyes in a late-season cameo with the Nashville Sounds, but he has only played seven games above the A-ball level.
Sam Bragg (drafted in 2013): Part of the hard-throwing Midland RockHounds’ bullpen this season, Bragg dominated in relief after a slow start in the rotation. He struck-out more than a batter an inning in Double-A this season and has a career 9.81 K/9. Bragg is likely behind Wahl and Healy in the A’s relief depth chart, but he has a chance to raise his profile both with the A’s and with the rest of the league during the Arizona Fall League season.
Dylan Covey (drafted in 2013): Covey got off to a strong start with Midland before an oblique injury shelved him for the year only six starts into the season. Covey’s K:BB has never been ideal, but he has a big league sinker and a chance at being a back-end starter in the major leagues. Given the A’s young starting pitching depth, Covey is likely to be left unprotected, however. Like Bragg, Covey will be in the Arizona Fall League with a chance to open some eyes.
Angel Duno (signed in 2011): Duno had a breakout season with Low-A Beloit, posting a 2.68 ERA in his first experience in a full-season league. He walked just 16 in 121 innings and has always had plus command. Duno lacks an explosive fastball, however, which likely makes him a safe bet not to be picked in the Rule 5 draft.
Kyle Finnegan (drafted in 2013): Finnegan, on the other hand, has a very explosive fastball. The right-hander moved into the bullpen this season and his fastball was clocked as high as 100 MPH. Finnegan showed he could handle Double-A after an early season promotion from High-A Stockton. He still walks a few too many, but he has major-league potential. If the A’s leave him unprotected, Finnegan could be a candidate for a team looking for middle innings bullpen help.
James Harris (drafted by TAM in 2011): Harris made some noise in his second season in the A’s organization, earning a post-season All-Star nod in the Cal League. A player with traditional lead-off hitter skills, Harris showed more power and better base-running skills in 2016. He is only 23, but he only has 15 games of experience above the A-ball level, making it less likely that he will be selected in the draft.
Tyler Marincov (drafted in 2013): Marincov had a solid year, making the leap from High-A to Double-A and reaching double-figures in homeruns (19) for a third straight year. Marincov showed better pitch recognition and plate discipline, although those are both still areas in need of some improvement. A late-season slump with Midland dragged down his overall numbers, but he put on a show during the Texas League post-season. Marincov is one of the top outfield prospects in the A’s system, but he isn’t a strong bet to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. The A’s may take the risk leaving him available given their roster crunch.
Eric Marinez (signed in 2012): Marinez had a solid season with Vermont and has drawn comparisons to former A’s farmhand Angel Berroa for his overall skillset. However, he is very far from big league ready and has never played in a full-season league. Marinez isn’t likely to be selected in the Rule 5 draft despite his talent.
Sandber Pimentel (signed in Nov. 2011): Pimentel slugged and walked his way into a solid season with the Stockton Ports in 2016. He finished fourth in the A’s system with 21 homeruns and he walked 60 times in 117 games. Pimentel has a lot of swing-and-miss to his game, however. He has shown some skills on defense, but is still lacking consistency at first base. Generally speaking, players with his skillset selected in the Rule 5 draft are at least at the Double-A level, so he isn’t likely to be picked if left unprotected.
Jake Sanchez (signed as FA with CHW in 2013): Sanchez pitched at the back-end of the Midland bullpen for much of last season and posted excellent regular and post-season numbers. Sanchez’s fastball jumped to the upper-90s with his move into the bullpen and he has a deep repertoire and solid command for a reliever. He raised his profile last winter with a strong showing in the Mexican Winter League and he will pitch there again this season. Sanchez could catch a team’s eye looking for a relief arm that could contribute right away.
Beau Taylor (drafted in 2011): Taylor’s career looked to be stuck in neutral before a breakout season with Midland this year. Now Taylor is back on the A’s catching depth chart as the next in-line behind the Stephen Vogt-Josh Phegley-Bruce Maxwell triumvirate. Taylor showed good on-base skills and the ability to hit for average with Midland while also flashing a strong glove. Teams don’t often look for their back-up catchers on the Rule 5 market, however, so Taylor isn’t a strong risk to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.
Lou Trivino (drafted in 2013): Trivino has a very similar profile to Finnegan and Sanchez as a starter-turned-reliever who has seen his fastball jump up to the upper-90s. Trivino hit 100 MPH on several occasions this season and he has a hard cutter and a solid slider. His mechanics can get messy at times, as can his command, but when he is on, he has impressive stuff. Trivino could land on another team’s radar for the draft this winter.
Jesus Zambrano (signed in 2012): Zambrano took a step back in his development this season, struggling through dead arm early in the year and only looking like himself towards the end of the season. The right-hander held his own in two starts with Triple-A Nashville as a teenager late in the 2015 season and he starred in the highly competitive Venezuelan Winter League last off-season. Zambrano still has plenty of potential thanks to his pitch mix and command, but he is a long way from being big league ready and is likely a safe player to leave unprotected.
Yordy Alejo (signed in 2011): Threw only 19.2 innings this season and has only 4.2 innings of experience above the short-season level.
Ivan Andueza (signed in 2012): Got his feet wet as a swingman for Vermont this year, his first season above the Rookie ball level.
Argenis Blanco (signed in 2012): Had a strong year but hasn’t pitched above Rookie ball.
Jose Chavez (signed in 2012): Excellent defensive catcher still looking for his way at the plate.
Kevin Ferreras (signed by MIA for 2011): Returned to Rookie ball this year after a solid 2015 season with Vermont. Hasn’t pitched above the short-season level.
Kris Hall (drafted in 2012): Flashes a big league quality fastball-slider combination at times but struggles with command and missed much of the year with a back injury.
Justin Higley (drafted in 2013): Lots of power and speed but also lots of swing-and-miss. Hasn’t played above High-A.
Chris Jensen (drafted by COL in 2011): Rubber arm with lots of upper-level experience but not enough swing-and-miss to get noticed in the Rule 5 draft, more than likely.
Cody Kurz (drafted in 2012): Hard-throwing righty overcame injuries to pitch a full season this year but still hasn’t pitched above Low-A.
Robert Martinez (drafted in 2012): Struggled in 2015 and then injuries robbed him of most of the 2016 season.
Melvin Mercedes (drafted in 2012): Can play anywhere and has speed and patience at the plate, but doesn’t have the numbers of a Rule 5 selection.
Robert Mullen (signed in 2012): Put together his best season as a pro in 2016 but hasn’t played above the Rookie ball level yet.
Emerson Nelo (signed in 2012): 21-year-old hasn’t pitched above the Rookie ball level.
Danny Oh (drafted by NYY in 2012): Was available in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft last season and served as a role player for Midland in 2016.
Andy Paz (signed before 2011 season): Coming into his own as a hitter and a receiver, but still likely too green to be selected in a Rule 5 draft.
Argenis Raga (signed in 2011): Has shown promise at the plate and has above-average arm strength but is still very raw and ways away from being considered for a major-league roster.
Victor Veliz (signed in 2011): Lefty posted a 7.24 ERA in 27.1 innings for Stockton this season.
Brett Vertigan (drafted in 2012): Outstanding defensive player with good on-base and base-running skills but hit only .241 for the RockHounds this year.