While there wasn’t a minor league baseball season that took place in 2020, there will still be a Rule 5 Draft this year. The fact that there was not a season played is going to bring about a lot of uncertainties, both for teams when it comes to protecting players, and for teams when it comes to potentially selecting players. Some of that can be mitigated by the fact that teams did have alternate sites with expanded 60-man player pools and many, but not all teams did at least join into sharing video and data (Trackman). That does give teams information on players from other organizations that isn’t available to us in the public sphere.
So, who is eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft? When it comes to players who were draft eligible, high school players selected in the 2016 draft or earlier as well as college players selected in the 2017 draft or earlier who are not on the 40-man roster.
Looking at the 2016 draft for high school players and the 2017 draft for college players, the Reds didn’t exactly go heavy on the infielders. No high school selection that signed in 2016 was an infielder (and only one of the four that signed overall even remains in the organization). Among the college group of players from 2017 the first infielder taken was catcher Mark Kolozsvary in the 7th round. He represents the only college infielder (of three) still in the organization from that draft. When it comes to first-time eligible players from the draft for the Rule 5, it’s literally just Kolozsvary.
But, that’s only a part of the equation. Any player that was signed internationally in 2017 that was 19 or older, or 2016 and was under 19, is also eligible. The 2016 international signing class has a few prospects in it, but only one infielder that isn’t already on the 40-man roster jumps out: Debby Santana. He, however, has never played above complex level rookie ball. Despite good tools, the last time he played he was an 18-year-old at the second lowest level of the minors. Without a 2020 season to show any improvements, there’s almost no possible way a team would take a chance on him.
Among the first-time eligible players it seems like we really only will be looking Mark Kolozsvary. Unlike many players, Kolozsvary got time on the field this year. He was one of the players that was added to the Cincinnati Reds 60-man player pool and he spent two months playing at Prasco Park. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how he looked while participating there – everything was shut off to the public. The Reds got important information while there (both in terms of being able to actually have eyes on him, get feedback from his coaches, as well as getting data on what he was doing both behind the plate as well as with the bat).
What we, though, can look back on is his last season. That came in 2019 with the Advanced-A Daytona Tortugas. At the plate it was a real struggle. Splitting time behind the plate with Hendrik Clementina, Kolozsvary played in 79 games and hit just .188/.341/.321. Behind the plate, though, is where he shines. He threw out 35% of opposing base runners. But beyond that he was lauded by the coaches for everything he brought to the job – whether that’s his calling a game, working with the pitchers, his pitch framing, or his leadership.
With all of that said, and while also noting that defense is far more important than offense for a catcher, it’s going to be a tough one to see a situation where a team would take Kolozsvary unless the data coming out of Prasco Park was very different than what he’s shown at the plate in the past.
When it comes to players who are eligible for the draft once again, if a player wasn’t selected last year and didn’t participate at an alternate site as a part of their teams 60-man player pool this year, it is hard to believe they would be selected this year without anyone actually seeing them play. The loophole in that, though, could be a guy playing winter ball right now who over the next three weeks looks like a different player than they have in the past. Only one player fits the criteria of being eligible from past years and was also at Prasco Park this year and is still in the organization and that’s Alfredo Rodriguez.
In 2019 we saw Alfredo Rodriguez take some steps forward at the plate in Double-A. He hit .286/.325/.347 in 104 games. There was still no power at all, but he finally hit for an average and got on base at a respectable rate. That was followed up by hitting just .169/.261/.221 in the final month in Triple-A Louisville, though. Last winter he played in 19 games for Estrellas in the Dominican Winter League and hit .309/.351/.324 – just one double accounted for the total of his non-singles.
A quality fielder around the infield, Rodriguez brings a glove that would be useful to any team off of the bench. But his bat has long been a concern. In 2019, mostly, he showed that he was making some strides in hitting for average. But he also went to the plate 600 times between the regular season and winter ball and hit one home run. Much like the argument against believing someone would select Kolozsvary, unless Rodriguez showed something quite different at the plate at Prasco than he’s shown in the past, it’s hard to believe that someone would draft him this time around.