Major League Baseball teams have until this Friday to add eligible minor league players to their 40-man rosters in order to keep other organizations from selecting them in the Rule 5 draft that will take place on the final day of the winter meetings during the second week of December. Some teams have already begun to make their additions.
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.
There aren’t any high school pitchers from the 2016 high school draft class that fall in as relievers, so scratch that section off of the list. When looking at the 2017 college draft class for relievers there’s not much, either. But it’s not completely empty. In the 16th round the team selected Ryan Nutof out of the University of Michigan.
During the 2019 season he split time between Daytona and Chattanooga, with more time coming with the Tortugas. In Advanced-A with Daytona he posted a 2.61 ERA in 31.0 innings with eight walks – three of which were intentional – and 39 strikeouts – all of which were also intentional. He struggled a bit when he headed to Double-A with the Lookouts, posting a 5.89 ERA in 18.1 innings with nine walks (two intentional) and 17 strikeouts. As we wrote about two weeks ago, Nutof picked up some velocity in 2020 and was showing off a 98 MPH fastball in instructional league. He’s always missed bats, and with more velocity, that bodes well. The flip side is that he did struggle in Double-A a bit – granted it was in a small sample size.
There are some players from past years that could be of intrigue, but if a player went unselected in the past, and wasn’t on the field this year – it’s just a tough sell. When looking at the guys who were on the field, over at Prasco Park, you have Joel Kuhnel and Brandon Finnegan. Kuhnel was placed on waivers near the end of the season and cleared them – a sign that no team was willing to take a shot on him when they had the right to option him. Making him a Rule 5 pick would mean he would have to stick to the big league roster all year, which would make the pick a bit confusing given how things played out.
With Brandon Finnegan, it’s been a long time since he was last successful on the mound, whether it’s the big leagues or the minor leagues, and that makes it a tough sell that someone would select him unless he showed big strides at Prasco Park that we aren’t aware of that other teams are – which is certainly a possibility.