Toolshed: 40-man protection preview

Outlooks for all 30 farm systems ahead of Rule 5 Draft deadline

At No. 11, Cristian Pache is the highest-ranked prospect in need of 40-man roster protection from the Rule 5 Draft. (Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | November 19, 2019 10:15 AM

For most, Wednesday is just Nov. 20. For some Minor Leaguers, it could be the biggest day of their baseball careers thus far.

By 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, all 30 Major League organizations will lock in their 40-man rosters ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. Any players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft who are not added to their respective clubs' 40-man rosters before that deadline could be selected during the Draft on Dec. 12 at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. Rule 5-eligible players are defined as those who signed or were drafted when they were 18 or younger and have been in pro ball for five years, or those who signed or were drafted when they were 19 or older and have been in pro ball for four years. In essence (and with some exceptions), this year's Rule 5 class includes college players drafted in 2016 or earlier and high schoolers/international players signed or drafted in 2015 or earlier. If a player is picked in the Rule 5 Draft, he must stick in the Majors with his new club for the duration of the 2020 season or be offered back to the original organization.

That is what's at stake Wednesday.

The following is a breakdown and outlook for the Rule 5-eligible players ranked by MLB.com to be among the top 30 prospects in each farm system. Next to the team name is the amount of players on its 40-man roster as of Monday night.

Arizona Diamondbacks (35)

13. Taylor Widener
23. Andy Young

Outlook: Widener's 8.10 ERA might scare off some. In fact, it was the highest among Pacific Coast League pitchers with at least 100 innings last season. But his 5.90 FIP and 5.57 xFIP were much closer to the middle of the pack -- the latter actually ranked seventh -- indicating the right-hander might have been victimized by the new Triple-A ball and some extreme play in Reno. It would be strange to see the D-backs leave him out to dry after he averaged roughly a strikeout per inning (109 in 100 frames) and was just one season removed from posting 176 K's in 2018 at Double-A Jackson. Going the other way, Young might not be as much a slam dunk as his .280/.373/.611 slash line and 21 homers in 68 games at Triple-A seem because of those same factors. The 25-year-old doesn't have a set position having played shortstop, third base and second base and will need to rely on his bat to make it work in the Majors. But with roster space to spare, Young should get added with Widener, allowing Arizona more time to figure out how he fits into the big league picture.

Atlanta Braves (33)

1. Cristian Pache
8. William Contreras
13. Tucker Davidson
14. Jasseel De La Cruz
16. Thomas Burrows

Outlook: Is there an easier player to protect than Pache? Not likely. The Braves probably should have done it already just to eliminate any inkling of drama going into Wednesday. Contreras belongs in that camp as well because of the way his bat and arm play as a potential catcher of the future. Davidson likely played his way into protection by posting a 2.15 ERA with 134 strikeouts in 129 2/3 innings between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett, looking like yet another starting option in a system that has found it difficult to get higher-ceiling arms like Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson consistent time in the Majors. De La Cruz climbed even more, jumping from Class A Rome to Double-A and moving up from No. 27 in preseason ranks to his current place in the middle of the top 30. He should be protected, if only because there's likely a team willing to jump on his mid-90s velocity and solid slider. Burrows is a more interesting case. The 25-year-old left-hander was expected to be a quick climber as a reliever coming out of Alabama in 2016, but in 2019, he bounced up and down between Double-A and Triple-A. He finished the season at the lower level and with a 4.42 ERA over 57 innings between the two stops. He can get swings-and-misses with his above-average fastball and plus slider, but 40-grade control limits his ceiling, even as a reliever. He'd make for an interesting Rule 5 addition for a club looking for left-handed bullpen help. But are the contending Braves, who are likely to make additional moves this winter, a club willing to hold onto a 40-man roster spot for a bullpen-only 25-year-old who hasn't figured it out yet? The amount of 40-man space tips the scales to yes as a prediction, but it could be close.

Baltimore Orioles (35)

4. Ryan Mountcastle
8. Dean Kremer
11. Keegan Akin
13. Ryan McKenna
17. Cody Sedlock
29. Brett Cumberland
30. Gray Fenter

Outlook: The Orioles have made a Rule 5 pick every year since 2006 and famously two last year in Las Vegas, picking up Richie Martin (who stuck with the club) and Drew Jackson (who didn't). After a 54-108 season and with contention still a few years away, the O's can't afford to let any of their own prospects slip through the Rule 5 cracks. That said, they have seven ranked prospects and only five open 40-man spots going into Wednesday's deadline. Start with the easy ones -- International League MVP Mountcastle, who many believed should have ended 2019 in Baltimore, and strikeout wonder Kremer. Akin has likely done enough to earn his spot after spending all of 2019 at Triple-A Norfolk, where he fanned 131 in 112 1/3 innings. McKenna's numbers at Double-A the past two seasons leave much to be desired, but with plus speed and a good glove in center field, the 22-year-old is the type of toolsy prospect the O's can ill afford to lose these days. Those are four spots. One can probably cross out Cumberland because of his defensive issues behind the plate, leaving Sedlock and Fenter. Both have past injury issues but rebounded nicely in 2019. The guess here is Sedlock might get protected because of his experience in the upper Minors, having reached Double-A Bowie while Fenter dominated Class A Delmarva but hasn't seen above that yet.

Boston Red Sox (34)

2. Bobby Dalbec
9. C.J. Chatham
17. Marcus Wilson
25. Eduard Bazardo
27. Kyle Hart
29. Yoan Aybar

Outlook: Dalbec's power and slowly declining strikeout rate not only make him an easy 40-man roster addition, but possibly a big part of Boston's first-base plans in 2020. Chatham is average-first and average-only when it comes to his bat, but he also has the glove at either middle-infield spot and the upper-level experience to get himself a spot. While there are six ranked prospects, the rest are far from slam dunks. Wilson was acquired from the D-backs for Blake Swihart in the middle of the season and bounced between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland before taking a spin in the Arizona Fall League. Strikeouts remain a major issue, but if everything clicks, there is enough power and speed to make the 23-year-old an intriguing option. Bazardo and Aybar are relief-only. Bazardo -- an MiLB.com Organization All-Star -- has two above-average pitches in his fastball and curve, but Aybar, who only became a pitcher in 2018, has higher octane stuff with a plus-plus fastball. Hart doesn't have a plus pitch but boasts the best four-pitch arsenal to work out of the rotation. If he goes unprotected, expect him to get some looks for any organization hoping to fill out its starting five on the cheap. Otherwise, he's just a depth piece for the Sox.

Chicago Cubs (32)

2. Miguel Amaya
9. Zack Short
12. Tyson Miller
22. Oscar De La Cruz
28. Trent Giambrone

Outlook: It appears the Cubs could have one of the most interesting offseasons around, and that starts here with their 40-man roster decisions. Amaya, as the No. 90 overall prospect, will be an easy protect despite not playing above Class A Advanced yet. Because of the room available, Short, Miller and Giambrone -- each of whom has reached Triple-A already -- will probably make the cut. De La Cruz is a more complicated case. The 24-year-old right-hander has an 80-game banned-substance suspension on his ledger and moved to the bullpen for good at Double-A Tennessee this past season. He showed more promising results there for the Smokies (3.86 ERA, 49 strikeouts, nine walks in 37 1/3 innings), but it's hard to say if that was enough alone to protect him, especially in a reduced role. He may go unprotected only because of the risk a Rule 5 club would take on by signing him, but if he is added to the 40-man, that's a solid sign of what the Cubs believed they saw in him in his new role.

Chicago White Sox (33)

5. Dane Dunning
9. Blake Rutherford
18. Jimmy Lambert
23. Zack Burdi
27. Alec Hansen
28. Bernardo Flores

Outlook: Dunning was likely already on the path to joining the White Sox in 2019 before undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring. When healthy, all four of his pitches have above-average potential, and it'd be silly to let a team take him just because he's recovering from surgery. Once of the most promising talents in the 2016 Draft, Rutherford's stock has slipped in the past three years, but he still has the average tools and Double-A experience to deserve at least Rule 5 protection for now. Like Dunning, Lambert underwent Tommy John surgery this season but likely showed enough of an uptick in stuff to get protected from a team that might snare him in the Rule 5 Draft. At age 24, Flores relies heavily on control and looks more than ever like a potential Major League starter, making him a likely protected player as well. Burdi and Hansen are much more complicated. Burdi's velocity as a reliever is legendary but he's undergone two major surgeries, the latest of which was on a torn tendon in his knee. He should be ready for the spring, but even before that, he had shown major control concerns. His ceiling is still high, but is it high enough to earn a spot? Hansen was once one of the Minors' most dominant starters but has struggled immensely after experiencing forearm issues in 2018. He posted a 5.45 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP with 37 walks in 39 2/3 innings as a Double-A reliever this past season, and it's tough to envision him getting protected.

Cincinnati Reds (35)

4. Tony Santillan
7. Tyler Stephenson
18. Alfredo Rodriguez
19. Andy Sugilio
20. TJ Friedl
21. Michael Beltre
24. Mariel Bautista
28. Ryan Hendrix

Outlook: Hard-throwing right-hander Santillan and well-rounded Stephenson will no doubt receive good news. There aren't many slam dunks from there. Friedl is a plus runner and good center fielder at Double-A, but was out from July on due to ankle surgery. Beltre has somewhat of a similar profile, but struggled even more so offensively when he made it to Chattanooga. Bautista and Sugilio are plus runners, but neither has made it past Class A Advanced. Rodriguez got in 23 games at Triple-A, but is only known for his defensive work at short with little bat to speak of. Hendrix, a right-handed reliever, looks like the most likely outside the top 10 to get taken because of his mid-90s fastball, above-average curve and improving control out of the Chattanooga bullpen. A Rule 5-picking team could make that work. Santillan, Stephenson, Friedl and Hendrix would seem to be solid bets for the first four openings with diminishing odds for the rest. One wild card: Ibandel Isabel, who has hit 90 homers in the past three seasons, is Rule 5-eligible but not ranked among Cincy's top 30 prospects.

Cleveland Indians (38)

2. Triston McKenzie
14. Luis Oviedo
16. Daniel Johnson
17. Scott Moss

Outlook: This could be tight, so perhaps expect some moves from the Indians if they want to clear out 40-man space. McKenzie didn't pitch at all in the Minors in 2020, but his ceiling is too high to be ignored. He'll definitely get one of the two open spots. Oviedo might have the highest ceiling of the other three, but is coming off a season in which he posted a 5.38 ERA in 87 innings at Class A. He's too far away to protect now. Johnson and Moss both spent time at Triple-A Columbus, and it could be a close call between them. Johnson has the higher ceiling with good speed, some decent pop and a strong outfield arm. But Cleveland acquired Moss for a reason in the Trevor Bauer blockbuster, and the 25-year-old left-hander posted a 1.26 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings at Double-A and Triple-A after the deal. Johnson, who represented the Tribe at the Futures Game in July, would seem to have the leg up, but again, don't be surprised if moves are made to protect more than just two players.

Colorado Rockies (36)

8. Ben Bowden
11. Tyler Nevin
17. Robert Tyler
19. Reid Humphreys
24. Daniel Montano
27. Roberto Ramos

Outlook: Bowden has hit a few road bumps since he was taken in the second round in 2016 as a Vanderbilt reliever, but for a farm system that needs all the internal pitching help it can get, the Rockies can ill afford to lose a reliever who has averaged 13.7 K/9 over the past two seasons. Nevin climbed to Double-A at age 22, and while his .399 slugging percentage won't jump out from there, he still has the good strike-zone approach and overall hit tool to advance his career with Colorado. Humphreys, who has a plus fastball and a plus cutter, could have worked his way into the conversation, but he underwent shoulder surgery in June -- his second major procedure after previous Tommy John surgery. Neither Tyler nor Montano took the necessary jumps forward in 2019 to merit necessary protection. That leaves Ramos and his power, including 62 homers in the past two seasons. He is limited as a full-time first baseman, but it's tough to argue the Pacific Coast League midseason All-Star hasn't done enough to make the next step.

Detroit Tigers (33)

5. Isaac Paredes
8. Daz Cameron
14. Beau Burrows
18. Kyle Funkhouser
20. Anthony Castro
22. Elvin Rodriguez
27. Jacob Robson
28. Derek Hill   

Outlook: The Tigers own the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft, and fans can expect them to keep a lot of Rule 5 options in-house first. They likely wouldn't dare let Paredes and Cameron become December options for others, and those two position players will be the easiest protections. Burrows had his struggles at Triple-A, but like those two, the Tigers can't afford to let the former Top-100 prospect potentially go elsewhere. Rodriguez showed positive gains on the mound and should be heavily considered, despite being only at Class A Advanced Lakeland. All three of his pitches have above-average potential, and his control is good for a 21-year-old. Funkhouser and Castro struggled with control at Triple-A and Double-A respectively. The former is more likely to be protected, given he has the higher ceiling and better overall resume. Hill might be the most perplexing decision here. The 2014 first-rounder is back into the Tigers' top-30 ranks, pairing some offensive improvements with his elite outfield defense and plus-plus speed. But was a .705 OPS at Double-A enough to help? Robson is a plus runner in his own right, but lacks the other tools to carve out himself a spot here. The prediction is Paredes, Cameron, Burrows, Rodriguez, Castro, Funkhouser and Hill, if Detroit wants to fill those seven spots. If they don't now (leaving open a few 40-man spots for Rule 5 picks and other signings), then Funkhouser, Castro and Hill could be on the chopping block.

Houston Astros (34)

9. Cristian Javier
13. Enoli Paredes
16. Ronnie Dawson
25. Jonathan Arauz
26. Nivaldo Rodriguez
28. Taylor Jones

Outlook: Enough open 40-man roster spots here to take everyone, but that isn't likely to happen for an Astros team looking to stay in contention with more moves this winter. Of those who should be protected, Javier, Dawson and Paredes seem like the safest bets. Rodriguez, sporting a plus curveball, broke out with a 2.40 ERA and 114 strikeouts between Class A and Class A Advanced, and his stuff might have moved him just into a roster spot. Jones has an uphill battle as the No. 28 prospect, but he is certainly knocking on the door after spending all season at Triple-A Round Rock, where he produced a 116 wRC+ and showed impressive defense at first base. Arauz would seem to have the toughest case here. The 21-year-old infielder has been constantly challenged in his Minor League career, but after posting just a .707 OPS between Class A Advanced and Double-A, it's tough to see how he could be Major League-ready enough to be a Rule 5 threat.

Kansas City Royals (40)

11. Seuly Matias
13. Carlos Hernandez
19. Emmanuel Rivera
29. Gabriel Cancel

Outlook: The roster is full. So are any of the above good enough for the Royals to make an extra move to create space for them? The answer could very well be no right now. The name that jumps out is Matias, but for a player who relies on his power, the right-handed slugger hit only four homers in 57 games at Class A Advanced. He also struck out 98 times in that span and missed time with a fractured hand. Kansas City could have high hopes for him in the long run, but right now, he's not much of a worry to be taken by another club in December. Hernandez has yet to crack above Class A, and Rivera and Cancel didn't show enough at Double-A. It could be a quiet day for the Royals.

Los Angeles Angels (38)

6. Jahmai Jones
17. Hector Yan
18. Oliver Ortega
25. Leonardo Rivas

Outlook: Jones' stock has certainly slipped in recent years, and he will likely be ranked lower in the offseason update. That aside, the Angels remain fans of their 2015 second-rounder, his plus run tool and his impressive makeup. Given he'll be 22 for most of the 2020 season, Jones could still have some more growth around the corner, and Los Angeles will likely prefer that happens under its watch. With only one other spot open, keep an eye on Ortega. The 23-year-old right-hander enjoyed a breakout 2019 in which he fanned 135 in 111 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A, and he was the only other prospect in this group besides Jones to see Mobile. His fastball and curve earn above-average grades, so the stuff is there. The control could hold him back, but he could make sense as a Rule 5 pick teams would consider because of his upward trajectory. It would be in the Angels' best interests to protect him as a result.

Los Angeles Dodgers (37)

9. Mitchell White
12. DJ Peters
23. Cristian Santana
26. Jordan Sheffield

Outlook: Good teams tend to have loaded rosters, and the Dodgers have that problem here with only three spots open and four solid prospects to consider. White has the highest ceiling by far of the group with three above-average pitches, and he is much better than his 6.50 ERA at Triple-A would indicate alone. Peters, who has also reached the PCL, is known primarily for his power and is capable of playing all three outfield spots, making him a likely protect. That brings it down to Santana or Sheffield. Santana, who posted a .756 OPS at Double-A, would seem more likely, considering his ceiling is that of an everyday player while Sheffield is only a reliever (and one with control issues at that). Whoever gets left off should merit heavy Rule 5 consideration, however.

Miami Marlins (35)

1. Sixto Sanchez
4. Jazz Chisholm
6. Edward Cabrera
11. Nick Neidert
12. Lewin Diaz
26. Will Stewart
29. Humberto Mejia

Outlook: There are seven names here, but it'd take a real upset to see anyone outside the top five go unprotected. Sanchez, Chisholm and Cabrera are must-adds as Top-100 prospects. Neidert slipped in the rankings because of right-knee surgery, but he showed health and effectiveness by ending the season in the Arizona Fall League. Diaz was acquired from the Twins on July 27 as the Marlins' lone return in a three-player deal. They clearly value the 22-year-old first baseman, and he helped his case by smacking a career-high 27 homers and finishing with an .851 OPS in a season spent mostly at Double-A. Stewart or Mejia -- both of whom ended at Class A Advanced -- might get more consideration elsewhere, but there isn't the 40-man space in Miami at present.

Milwaukee Brewers (33)

3. Zack Brown
4. Corey Ray
14. Lucas Erceg
18. Braden Webb

Outlook: The Brewers certainly have the 40-man space with players like Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Gio Gonzalez and Drew Pomeranz hitting free agency, and while this isn't the most exciting group of prospects here, expect all four to get heavy consideration. Brown, Ray and Erceg spent a lot of time at Triple-A in 2019, and their collective ceilings are high enough that Milwaukee won't consider letting another team give them a shot in the Majors. Webb's case is more complicated. When he's on, the 24-year-old right-hander is capable of three above-average pitches in his fastball, curve and changeup. But he experienced major control woes in 2019 (i.e., walking 15 in 15 innings at Double-A), and he was also limited by shoulder tightness. If Milwaukee didn't have the space, this would be a tighter call, but his overall stuff might be too good to risk leaving unprotected.

Minnesota Twins (32)

7. Wander Javier
9. Jhoan Duran
20. Gilberto Celestino
21. Griffin Jax
23. Travis Blankenhorn

Outlook: Oh, Wander Javier. A top-10 prospect is usually a pretty simple 40-man roster protectee, but it's difficult to make the case here. The 20-year-old shortstop signed for $4 million and showed promise over two seasons in Rookie ball before missing all of 2018 with a shoulder injury. He returned to produce just a .601 OPS in 80 games at Class A Cedar Rapids this summer, meaning it would be a massive risk for any team to take him in the Rule 5. The Twins seemingly should find better options for 40-man spots, starting with Duran, Jax and Blankenhorn -- each of whom enjoyed varying levels of success at Double-A and above in 2019. Celestino performed much better than Javier at Class A (.759 OPS, 10 homers, 14 steals) but lacks the offensive carrying tool to make him a clear Rule 5 possibility. He is a candidate to be left off as well, despite his stellar defense in center.

New York Mets (37)

3. Andres Gimenez
8. Shervyen Newton
12. Thomas Szapucki
17. Ali Sanchez
22. Jordan Humphreys
27. Patrick Mazeika
28. Desmond Lindsay
29. Luis Carpio

Outlook: Limited 40-man spaces make this easier. Gimenez will certainly be protected as the No. 92 overall prospect. Szapucki has two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball with both potentially ready for the Majors right now. Even though he has dealt with injuries and was limited again in 2019, he is too good when healthy to leave on the outside looking in. He should be protected. The third spot, should New York choose to use it, will come down to the organization's taste. If they like defensive catchers, it should be Sanchez. If they want to protect players who are far away but have high ceilings, the spot should go to Newton. If the club believes Mazeika's offensive improvements were real and sustainable, he could get the nod. Sanchez is likely the favorite for his work behind the plate, but keep an eye on the other two.

New York Yankees (36)

1. Deivi Garcia
3. Estevan Florial
4. Luis Gil
14. Nick Nelson
20. Luis Medina
26. Miguel Yajure

Outlook: The Yankees' 40-man roster crunch is back. There's no reason to debate Garcia here. Florial is more worthy of discussion because of the way he has stalled out at Class A Advanced, but at the end of the day, there's always a chance a Rule 5 team could take a chance on a player with three plus tools (run, arm, field) and an another above-average one (power). Florial should be protected. Gil is likely headed for the same fate because of his plus-plus fastball and plus curve. Then it gets interesting. Medina has the highest ceiling of the other three with killer stuff in his plus-plus fastball, plus curve and above-average change. He also posted just a 6.00 ERA and a 6.5 BB/9 with Class A Charleston, though it should be noted he improved dramatically after July. Nelson climbed the highest of the three, reaching Triple-A with a mid-90s heater and an above-average curve. Unlike the other two, Yajure relies more heavily on his control to get outs, and at age 21, finished up at Double-A as a result. On stuff, Medina is more likely to help a Major League team in 2020. On experience, it's Nelson. On results, it's Yajure. It's a tough call. Nelson might have the slight advantage right now because Medina's control has been that inconsistent, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Yankees go the other way.

Oakland Athletics (40)

12. Daulton Jefferies

Outlook: Keep this simple. The A's are fully loaded on their 40-man. But Jefferies showed enough to be worthy of protection. Previously limited by Tommy John surgery, the 24-year-old right-hander broke out with a 3.66 ERA, 72 strikeouts and seven walks in 64 innings with Double-A Midland. His 10.3 K/BB ratio was tops among all Double-A pitchers with at least 60 frames in 2019. If the A's don't protect him, someone will jump on him in December. Expect some sort of move to come before Wednesday to keep him around.

Philadelphia Phillies (35)

10. JoJo Romero
12. Jhailyn Ortiz
13. Rafael Marchan
15. Mauricio Llovera
17. Rodolfo Duran
23. Daniel Brito
28. Cornelius Randolph

Outlook: Five open spots, but maybe only three prospects here who seem like good bets to be protected. Once one of the top arms in the system, Romero struggled early on in 2019, earning a demotion to Double-A Reading in May only to see improvements as the summer wore on. He still has a starter's arsenal and his ground-ball-heavy approach has some value in the modern game. Marchan is the type of defense-first catcher who Rule 5-picking teams love to grab, so while his offense (especially is power) lags behind, he should receive good news this week. The other is Llovera, who can throw in the mid- to upper-90s and add an above-average slider. Llovera fanned 72 in 65 1/3 innings at Double-A before moving to the injured list with an undisclosed injury in July. None of the others -- including Ortiz and Randolph, who used to have much higher acclaim in the Phils system -- would make for sensible Rule 5 picks demanding protection now.

Pittsburgh Pirates (39)

2. Ke'Bryan Hayes
3. Oneil Cruz
10. Will Craig
15. Lolo Sanchez
28. Blake Cederlind

Outlook: Definitely expect a few moves here. Hayes and Cruz are non-negotiable Rule 5 adds given their Top-100 statuses, and Craig is right behind them as a 2016 first-rounder who belted 23 long balls at Triple-A in 2019. Already, that would require moving two players off the 40-man. That could extend to three if they also choose to protect Cederlind, a right-handed reliever who climbed the top three levels and finished with a 2.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 55 K's in 59 1/3 innings. His triple-digit heater is certainly ready for the Majors. Keep an eye on Pittsburgh's transaction page.

San Diego Padres (40)

18. Esteury Ruiz
25. Buddy Reed

Outlook: The Padres have had to make a few moves this offseason, including designating No. 28 prospect Jacob Nix for assignment two weeks ago, to address a 40-man roster at its brim. They'll need to make some more if Ruiz, Reed or any other Rule 5-eligible players are to be added Wednesday. Reed is the more likely of the two to be protected right now because of his plus-plus speed, defensive gifts in the outfield and Double-A experience. Ruiz has an exciting speed-power combo of his own but is a little too far away from helping a Major League club.

San Francisco Giants (40)

16. Sandro Fabian
20. Franklin Labour
22. Ricardo Genoves
28. Garrett Williams

Outlook: Another fully loaded group. The only one of the above arguably worth making clearing out a 40-man spot for would be Williams, who posted a 3.60 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 110 innings at Double-A Richmond. But control issues are a concern for the 25-year-old southpaw, so it's possible the Giants won't want to make a move just for him, Labour, Genoves or Fabian -- the last three of whom haven't seen time above Class A Advanced. It's possible the Giants stand pat.

Seattle Mariners (35)

24. Dom Thompson-Williams
28. Ljay Newsome

Outlook: The rebuilding Mariners will hope to keep their prospects together, and they have the space to add their two ranked farmhands. Thompson-Williams was acquired from the Yankees in the James Paxton deal last summer, and while his .234/.298/.391 line at Double-A Arkansas doesn't jump out, he is a good runner with a good outfield glove. It's also likely he's much better than that line, considering he hit 10 of his 12 homers and put up a .841 OPS away from the pitchers' park in Arkansas. Newsome was Seattle's breakout hurler in 2019, showing off special control by fanning 169 and walking only 17 in 155 frames across the system's top three levels. His slider is his only above-average pitch, but that shouldn't hold him back here. 

St. Louis Cardinals (38)

4. Elehuris Montero
13. Jake Woodford
24. Conner Capel
30. Max Schrock

Outlook: The Cardinals got aggressive with Montero, sending the 21-year-old to Double-A, and paid the price. The third baseman batted just .188/.235/.317 with seven homers in 59 games with Springfield and was limited by surgery to fix a broken hamate bone in his left hand. No matter. Montero still has the impressive offensive ceiling to make sure St. Louis keeps him away from this year's Rule 5 Draft. Among the other three, Woodford seems the easy favorite to take the other open 40-man spot after pitching the entire season at Triple-A Memphis, where he finished with a 4.15 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 151 1/3 innings. That was good for third-best ERA among qualifiers in the PCL this season.

Tampa Bay Rays (37)

3. Vidal Brujan
7. Ronaldo Hernandez
12. Moises Gomez
17. Jake Cronenworth
19. Lucius Fox
27. Resly Linares

Outlook: With only three spots open for the Rays, two of them should be easy -- No. 39 overall prospect Brujan and former Top-100 talent Hernandez. The latter's stock may have slipped some, but the 22-year-old backstop still possesses good power potential and a strong arm, making him one of the top catching prospects in the game. As for the third spot, Cronenworth, who entered 2019 unranked, might have done enough to secure a spot. The 25-year-old shortstop batted .334 (the highest average for International League batters with at least 300 plate appearances) with 40 extra-base hits in 88 games with Triple-A Durham. He also got in some work as an opener with seven scoreless appearances for the Bulls. Talk about versatility, and there might not be a team that values that more than Tampa Bay. If the Rays decide to make other moves, Fox, who has a light bat but possesses plus-plus speed and good defense on the dirt, would be the next candidate.

Texas Rangers (36)

5. Leody Taveras
10. Sherten Apostel
11. Anderson Tejeda
16. Tyler Phillips
30. Eli White

Outlook: How much do the Rangers like their young position players? Or better yet, how much do they think other clubs like them? Taveras will be a no-doubt 40-man addition after climbing to Double-A for the first time at just 20 years old, showing off his tremendous defensive work in the outfield, good speed and an improving bat. Apostel and Tejeda still haven't seen the Texas League and enjoyed middling results with Class A Advanced Down East. Do the Rangers think Apostel's above-average pop and good arm are good enough for a Rule 5-style Major League look? Do they believe Tejeda showed enough beyond just a solid glove at short before a shoulder injury ended his season in May? There are still too many questions for either to be slam-dunk protections right now. Phillips, meanwhile, continued to post strong control numbers to the point where even a 4.73 ERA in 93 1/3 innings at Double-A might not be enough to move him away from a spot. White was a below-average hitter by Triple-A standards as a 25-year-old in 2019 and is likely to be on the outside looking in.

Toronto Blue Jays (40)

30. Thomas Hatch

Outlook: Same deal for the A's. The Jays are loaded up on the 40-man but only have one Rule 5-eligible ranked prospect. He also seems likely to get protected. Toronto picked up Hatch in a deadline deal for David Phelps, obviously seeing something in the 25-year-old right-hander. He made the swap look good by posting a 2.80 ERA with 34 strikeouts and only two walks over 35 1/3 innings with Double-A New Hampshire after the trade. Hatch has two above-average pitches in his fastball and slider, and while control was a concern of the past, it certainly didn't look like it in the Eastern League. The Jays seem likely to find him a spot or else they risk losing him a few months after picking him up.

Offseason MiLB include

Washington Nationals (30)

13. Sterling Sharp
15. Ben Braymer
21. Steven Fuentes
22. Malvin Pena
25. Gilbert Lara
27. Telmito Agustin
28. Jhonatan German

Outlook: The new World Series champs have the most open 40-man roster of the bunch and could be a busy club Wednesday, even if none of their top-10 prospects factor into it. One of the Minors' foremost ground-ball pitchers, Sharp seems like the most likely addition, coming off a strong Arizona Fall League. Braymer put up some rough numbers at Triple-A (7.20 ERA, 47 K's in 60 innings) but is only one year removed from being the Nats co-Pitcher of the Year, so he seems set for a 40-man spot as well. Fuentes picked up enough momentum as a starter with a 2.69 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 63 2/3 frames at Double-A Harrisburg before a suspension for a banned stimulant ended his season early in August. While there are many open spots, the only other possible addition would seem to be German after the right-hander climbed three levels as a reliever to finish at Double-A. The 24-year-old right-hander can throw in the mid- to high-90s and can mix in two breaking pitches that give righties and lefties fits. It's not a super-talented group here, but with the amount of space the Nats have, they don't have to be picky.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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