After the Dodgers added Victor Gonzalez to the team’s 40-man roster on Thursday, many questions arose about whether there would be subsequent moves ahead of the Rule 5 draft at this year’s Winter Meetings.
By placing Gonzalez on the 40-man, Los Angeles basically protected the lefty reliever from being snagged by a rival club. As the rules reflect, 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. Once on the 40-man roster, these players are exempt from being drafted, regardless of other eligibility factors.
The biggest thing to remember about Rule 5 selections is that once a player is drafted by another team, that player must remain on the team’s 26-man roster for the duration of the season. In essence, this provides a secondary level of protection for some prospects who might not be anywhere near MLB-ready.
In total, the Dodgers have 24 players who fall into the Rule 5 category. Most of these youngsters aren’t even close to the fringe. For those reading this story, many will never hear their names mentioned among the notable prospects on the farm.
However, I think we might see at least one more addition to the 40-man roster over the coming weeks, if not two. As it stands now, the Dodgers have 38 players on their 40-man roster, including Gonzalez. Teams have until November 20 to finalize their 40-man rosters in advance of the Rule 5 draft, which takes place on December 12.
One player I think will be a lock for the 40-man is outfielder DJ Peters. Despite his high strikeout rate, he’s still among the club’s Top 12 rated prospects. After being promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, his average rose about 20 points, showing just how difficult hitting in the Texas League can be. In all, the 23-year-old right-handed hitting product of Western Nevada CC hit 23 homers and 20 doubles with a .811 OPS.
He’s very quick for his 6-foot-6 frame, which allows him to handle center field duties easily. His strong arm may place him in a class among the organization’s best right fielders from a defensive standpoint.
Peters has been around the MLB side of the past few camps at spring training, drawing constant praise from skipper Dave Roberts.
Another player who I can conceivably see joining Peters is 22-year-old third baseman Cristian Santana, but I’m not quite sure there’s another team out there who might like the righty hitting Dominican native enough to throw him on their 26-man roster for the entirety of the 2020 season.
Once believed to be a legit power threat, Santana saw some strange things happen to his numbers last season. While his power stats dropped, his ability to hit for contact and average rose significantly. Exclusively at High-A Rancho in 2018, he slashed .274/.302/.447 with 23 doubles, 24 HR and 109 RBI over 131 games, but he punched out a whopping 143 times. Last year for Double-A Tulsa in the pitcher-friendly Texas League, he slashed .301/.320/.436 with just 10 homers in 102 games; however, he struck out just 88 times.
On defense, he’s much more advanced, as some believe he has the capability to be an above-average defender at the hot corner in the majors right now. He has excellent quickness and range, and his arm strength is probably his best defensive asset. In addition, his ability to handle multiple infield spots could potentially boost his value.
If front office boss Andrew Friedman does not add Santana to the 40-man, he’d certainly be taking a risk, but it would not be an overly huge gamble by any means.
Somewhere in between the probables and improbables is righty pitcher Mitchell White. Once ranked among the Dodgers’ Top 3 prospects perennially, the 24-year-old Santa Clara product has fallen off the radar as of late. Across two levels last season, he made 20 starts, posting a 4-6 record with a 5.09 combined ERA and a 1.30 WHIP over 93-2/3 innings of work.
Among the notable names who will not be added are a trio of bullpen arms—Joe Broussard, Shea Spitzbarth and Jordan Sheffield. Broussard and Spitzbarth were eligible to be snagged last year; yet, they went unselected in the draft. Sheffield becomes eligible for the first time this season, though. The former 2016 first-round choice out of Vanderbilt finally settled in as a reliever last year after being jockeyed back and forth between bullpen and starting duties his first few years in the system.
Another handful of other Rule 5 eligible players who might raise the eyebrows of several rival clubs come draft time are position players Errol Robinson, Starling Heredia and Cody Thomas, in addition to pitchers Leo Crawford and Michael Boyle.
The 22-year-old Crawford, a southpaw, struck out 134 batters over 121 innings across two levels last season.
Boyle, another lefty, threw 39 games in relief for Tulsa last year.