Tuesday is the deadline for MLB teams to decide which prospects to protect from the Rule 5 draft, and the Dodgers have some decisions to make, perhaps more than in recent years.
The Rule 5 draft happens at the Winter Meetings and involves professional players as opposed to amateur ones. Players on the 40-man roster are exempt from being drafted, regardless of other eligibility factors.
Teams can ‘protect’ their prospects by placing them on their 40-man roster. Eligible players for the draft must have been signed at age 19 or over and have played professionally for four years, or were drafted at age 18 and have played professionally for five years.
As the Dodgers are currently sitting at 39 players, they will have to reduce that number if they want to keep the prospects they prize the most. Tom Koehler, Erik Goeddel, Zac Rosscup and Pat Venditte seem to me to be the most likely candidates to be non-tendered, but could be offered minor league contracts with invites to spring training.
As far as the prospects the Dodgers will most want to protect, I believe it begins with Keibert Ruiz. He is the second ranked prospect in the Dodgers farm system, behind Alex Verdugo who is already on the Dodgers 40-man. He is one of two highly regarded catching prospects, along with Will Smith, but is at least a year away from making the big leagues. Ruiz is only 20-years-old, but because he was signed so young, he is already eligible. He will be a no-brainer to protected.
Yadier Alvarez is the tenth ranked prospect, a pitcher who has been shaky in recent years. He left the Double-A Tulsa Drillers team in the middle of the season, only to return later. While he has not shown steady progress toward reaching his full potential, his overall ceiling and fastball make his case for being protected, as well as the $16 million investment the Dodgers made in him.
The rest of the list of players that are eligible are as follows:
Infielders: 1B/3B Matt Beaty, C/1B Garrett Hope, SS/2B Drew Jackson, 1B/3B Connor Joe, IF Gersel Pitre, 1B/3B Edwin Rios, 3B/1B Cristian Santana, IF Jake Peter, 3B Jefrey Souffront, and IF Jared Walker.
How many prospects total the Dodgers will be interesting to watch. Rios, Joe and Sborz all have good cases to be made to keep them also. We will see just how much of the farm system the front office would like to keep in place, and what current players they feel are expendable.