We are quickly approaching an important part of the season for young players, as the yearly Rule 5 draft will be occurring during the winter meetings this December. The Rule 5 draft is designed to keep teams from hoarding young players, making certain players eligible to be selected by the 29 other teams in the draft. Eligibility is for players who have never been added to a major league team’s 40 man roster who were signed at least five seasons prior to the draft if they were 18 years of age or younger, or four season prior to the draft if they were 19 or older at the time of signing. If a team chooses a player from another organization, they send $100,000 to that organization and have to add the player to the 26 man roster and keep him there for the entirety of the next season and active for at least 90 days. Should a team wish to remove the player from the 26 man roster, the player must be offered back to the original team who can choose to take them back for $50,000.
An important part of this process happens every winter when teams clear space on the 40 man roster to add players that would be eligible and protect them from the Rule 5 draft. This is how many young players are ultimately given their first opportunity at a 40 man spot and chance to play in the major leagues. This season the deadline to add players to the 40 man roster to protect from the Rule 5 draft is November 18th, so we will soon see an announcement of which players the Braves have chosen to protect.
One last note: without making any cuts, we are expecting the Braves to enter the offseason with 37 players on their 40 man roster. They do have some guys that could easily be removed from the roster one way or another, but that does give us something to work with in terms of how many players they could reasonably protect (if you want the full breakdown on the 40 man roster, you can click this link right here). A fair guess is that the Braves end up protecting three players and that they end up removing some more guys (DFA, trade, etc.) to allow for other offseason additions. Below, we’re going to go over players that are likely to be on the 40 man roster, which will fast track them to a major league opportunity, and those who will likely be left open to another team.
If the Braves protect any player this winter, it would be Vines who would be certain to be a high selection in the draft if unprotected. Pitchers in particular are vulnerable to being selected and stored on rosters, and Vines as a nearly major-league ready starter is clearly in that category. Vines is a player that projects to make an impact at the major league level as soon as 2023, so adding him here is a no brainer and wouldn’t even be a wasted roster spot as he could contribute this season.
Shewmake may be the name that we have the least confidence that should be close to a lock based on his performance as well as the fact that he is a position player which makes him significantly less likely to be selected just as a demographic. Shewmake has struggled at the plate as well as with injuries, but his defensive prowess at a premium position combined could give a team the opportunity to add him and then hope he figures out how to hit consistently again. At the end of the day, Rule 5 picks are cheap and given the Braves spent a first round pick on him, so we think he ends up being protected despite his shortcomings so far.
If we are ranking the probability of being selected, Roddery would be firmly #2 behind Vines given that 1) he is a pitcher and that makes him more likely to be selected and 2) the quality of his stuff makes him an option either as a starter or in the bullpen. Roddery has a mid to upper 90’s fastball and a breaking ball that gets swings and misses. That checks a lot boxes in terms of the type of pitcher that gets picked in the Rule 5. Not necessarily a completely sure thing since there is still some rawness to him and he hasn’t placed much above A-ball, but the Braves have protected worse pitchers in the past and we think he gets added.
Milligan had a nice offensive season and impressed in the infield and outfield on the defensive end, so a team may feel his versatility makes him worth stashing on the bench. That said, his lack of ceiling due to limited power and his pedestrian Double-A numbers may keep teams away.
Mezquita had a breakout campaign this season and has one of the higher ceilings among Rule 5 eligible players, but he’s had limited plate appearances in High-A making the likelihood of his selection being low. If the Braves don’t want to take the risk he could be protected, but is more likely going to be one to keep an eye on next season.
Winans was a minor league Rule 5 draftee who the Braves converted to a starter, but he didn’t get much time on the field as injuries sidelined him. Winans has had good numbers in his limited action at Double-A and Triple-A this season and is a player the Braves seem to like and perhaps want to ensure they keep in the organization.
The Braves have a number of relief arms eligible this winter, and of those Yeager has the biggest arm. He regularly sits 97-99 on his fastball and struck out 13.9 batters per nine this season which could make him an enticing pickup for a team needing relief arms. He has however struggled with command and that may keep him from being a player the Braves want to protect right now.
Santos posted otherworldly strikeout numbers in Rome this season, bouncing between the bullpen and rotation before finally settling back in the bullpen. Unfortunately he struggled at Double-A upon promotion, but a team could be enticed by a left handed relief arm that sits in the upper-90s with his fastball.
Diaz was the star reliever in the system last season and it seemed then that a 40 man spot would be a lock, but his struggles to start this season quickly casted doubts on his future. Diaz’s overall numbers this season aren’t good, but he finished the season strong and that could be enough to convince the Braves to protect him or convince another team to bite on him.
Power bats are the name of the modern game in major league baseball, and arguably no player in the Braves system has as much as Lugbauer. His strength is impressive, but his strikeout numbers are just as gaudy and likely to scare away most teams. Still, 28 home runs in 128 games in Mississippi is impressive.
Luis De Avila
De Avila dealt the lone no hitter in the system this season, but he wasn’t just a one outing flash-in-the-pan. He quietly put together a solid season in Rome as a 21 year old, and while his distance from the major leagues may be a deterrent, a young left handed pitcher with a pair of solid offspeed offerings could make for an intriguing pickup for another team.
Javier has been around the system for awhile, but came into his own last year in a full time bullpen role and advanced all the way to Triple-A with 2.58 ERA across two levels. Javier performed well and has proximity to the big leagues on his side, though his lack of impressive raw stuff could keep him from being selected.
Notable Names Unlikely to be protected
Valdes put together a breakout offensive campaign and performed well at Double-A, but his lack of arm strength makes catching an unlikely proposition long-term and that lack of a defensive home and limited upper level at bats makes it hard to see him being added.
Bunnell is an interesting extreme as he strikes out or walks more than 50% of the time he comes to the plate and he can play shortstop. There is power and plate discipline there, but his strikeout rates are well over 30% and it’s hard to see a team jumping on him.
The 2019 second round pick sandwiched between Braden Shewmake and Michael Harris II has never hit at the minor league level and will not be selected this fall. He was a fairly recent high draft pick and the second highest Braves pick newly eligible this fall, but it seems he’s barely holding onto a roster spot at this point.
Another former second round pick, Jenista struggled at Triple-A this season, though that proximity to the big leagues and his raw power are interesting. Still, he is a below average defender who struggles to make contact or display his power in games consistently and a team would have to really believe they have a fix for him to take him.
Tanner Gordon posted insane numbers at Rome before going to Double-A and getting shelled when his command backed up a bit. While he currently starts, he does have a big frame and above average fastball that could play out of a bullpen if a team is willing to take on a 25 year old with no upper level success.
Segal has been recovering from injury since 2019, and though the Braves like the arm he hasn’t had enough game action to expect a team feels confident to put him on a major league roster. It’s a name to watch however as it would not be surprise if he is in the conversation to be protected next year.
Full list of eligible players