The deadline for protecting players from Rule 5 Draft eligibility by way of adding them to the 40-man roster is Friday, November 20. Brewers GM David Stearns told reporters on Thursday that he was still considering who to protect. This post is to call out the list of those who require protection and to give my opinions on who they need to add.
After acquiring Jonathan Villar from the Houston Astros via trade on Thursday, the 40-man roster stood at 35 and therefore has five open spots.
This is a slimmed down list as upkept by Jim Goulart over at Brewerfan.net. (View his original and the discussion thread here.)
Current AAA Players —
Current AA Players —
SS Orlando Arcia
RHP Jacob Barnes
C Parker Berberet
LHP Jed Bradley
RHP Drew Gagnon
RHP Brooks Hall
3B Brandon Macias
RHP Damien Magnifico
RHP Jorge Ortega
1B Nick Ramirez
OF Victor Roache
2B Nick Shaw
RHP Martin Viramontes
C Adam Weisenburger
Current A-Level (or below) players —
RHP Yomelbin Almonte
3B Taylor Brennan
UT Francisco Castillo
RHP Zach Cooper
C Paul Eshleman
RHP Preston Gainey
RHP Milton Gomez
C Dustin Houle
OF Anderson Jesus
3B/OF Sthervin Matos
2B Chris McFarland
C Natanael Mejia
C Rafael Neda
LHP Luis Ortega
1B Juan Ortiz
OF Jose Pena
IF/OF Yerison Pena
LHP Stephen Peterson
RHP Junior Rincon
RHP Gian Rizzo
OF Elvis Rubio
RHP Orlando Torrez
RHP Angel Ventura
*italics indicates players who are Rule 5 eligible for the first time
First and foremost, there is no easier choice for Rule 5 protection this year than SS Orlando Arcia. Widely considered the Brewers best prospect, it would be foolish to not protect the young man. That gives us four spots to play with.
The Brewers don’t announce at which level they protect players, but there is a 38-man Triple-A reserve roster for any unprotected players. The names on that list are the ones eligible for selection in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Any player selected during the MLB portion of the draft must be kept on the selecting team’s 25-man roster for minimum time constraints the next MLB season or be offered back to said player’s original ballclub.
A recent example of how that works is Wei-Chung Wang back in 2014. The Pirates protected Wang on the Triple-A reserve roster despite his never having pitched above High-A ball. The Brewers dealt with his obvious lack of experience that season for the ability to continue his development in the minor leagues the following year. Now, most players taken are much closer to MLB-ready and can somewhat hold their own. Wang was an exception to that side of the coin.
Let’s get back to the topic at hand though and discuss which players I think the Brewers need to protect for fear of losing their talents.
I’ve already mentioned Arcia. I look next to the Arizona Fall League, a sort of finishing school for prospects on the cusp. Damien Magnifico has flourished in that league and needs protection, in my opinion. Relief pitchers tend to be the most easily plucked since it’s easier to “hide” them if they are struggling to adjust. I think what he’s shown this entire regular season as a reliever for Double-A Biloxi coupled with his strong AFL play has garnered him attention to the point where he’d end up elsewhere if the Brewers left him unprotected.
Next, despite his early career struggles making consistent contact, I think that power is such a premium skill these days that outfielder Victor Roache could get protected. The Brewers invested highly in him following a broken wrist suffered in college and I think they owe it to themselves to see if Roache’s gains at the plate in 2015 are long-term gains. Granted, Stearns wasn’t around back then so he may evaluate Roache differently, and the Brewers do have a lot of outfield prospects coming, but there is at least room for Roache now. That said, a jump from Double-A to MLB, even as a bench bat with pop — might be analyzed as too great to think that anyone would take the risk. I’d rather not take the chance, but I’m not a part of Stearns’ front office.
Back to the pitching side of things, there are a quartet of names that I think warrant consideration. That said, given my earlier choices I’m limited to picking just two more if all things remain the same. The players are Jacob Barnes, Jorge Ortega, Brent Suter, and Wei-Chung Wang.
Wang and Suter are left-handed and it’s been quite some time since the Brewers developed a southpaw, especially into the rotation. Wang has already been invested in, but again that’s by the previous regime. That said, he absolutely took off mid-season following being designated for assignment. If the Brewers feel the turnaround is permanent, they’d need to protect him.
Suter worked his way from Double-A into the Triple-A rotation by season’s end, really putting together a nice season. He’s getting older as far as prospects go, and he isn’t a fireballer by any means, but we’ve seen how long it can take some left-handers to really realize their potential. Suter appears to be getting there.
Barnes is another Arizona Fall League participant this year and he’s put together a nice short season there to follow up a solid campaign with Double-A Biloxi in 2015. In eight AFL games (as of this writing) Barnes hasn’t allowed a run on just six hits and three walks (against 17 strikeouts) in 11.2 innings pitched, all in relief. It’s exactly the type of stint that makes the minor league talent evaluators happy but potentially nervous with the Rule 5 Draft coming up.
Finally, with Ortega you have a pitcher who shot from High-A Brevard County all the way up to a spot start at Triple-A Colorado Springs during the season. He was great in both spots and pitching so well that he was officially added to Biloxi’s playoff roster. He made all those moves based in large part on his command and control. Get this stat: Ortega has pitched 439.0 professional innings in the regular season over five years. He has walked just 55 batters, one intentionally. That’s outstanding. A jump all the way from, virtually, High-A ball to the majors might seem too daunting for a team to risk a Rule 5 pick, but there is certainly precedent and if you don’t walk batters then you might be able to find quick success at any level. There are enough rebuilding teams that one of them might be quite happy to pluck Ortega for their system.
There are a couple of other names (Nick Ramirez, Brooks Hall are examples) that I could see Stearns wanting to protect if he evaluates them highly enough, but it feels like the six guys I listed are the core pool this year.
Let me begin my synopsis by saying that I have a feeling Stearns is going to take advantage of all his currently open spots. It feels like he’s got other moves in the works that will free up additional 40-man roster space yet this winter so there’s little reason not to protect as many worthy assets as possible right now.
Without the knowledge of anything coming in the future, I think protecting Arcia and Magnifico happen in every scenario. Of the five players I mentioned outside of them for the three remaining spots I think I’d roll the dice by not protecting Roache and not protecting Suter (I guess?). I think Wang should be protected given his rebound. I think Barnes is going to be a big-league reliever and would rather that be in Milwaukee. I think Ortega is intriguing enough that someonen would pop him if unprotected.
I like Suter and even though he’s left-handed, I think the Brewers would be taking a calculated risk that pays off. With Roache, it’s partially about his strikeout rate (which many teams seem to mind less and less) and his contact rate in general, and partially that they really do have several outfielders in the pipeline who they also believe in who will warrant protection soon too.
I could easily see them protecting Suter and Roache and exposing Barnes (again) and Ortega too. I really don’t know with those four. All of them could go either way and I think there’s justification. Stearns could also have evaluated Wang and not think he’s worth protecting at this time.
We’ll find out on Friday.