Today, Texas will finalize its 40-man roster in anticipation of the Rule 5 draft. In brief, players left off the 40 are eligible for the draft if 18 or younger when drafted/signed and have five seasons of experience, or 19 or older when drafted/signed with four seasons of experience. So, for the upcoming draft, eligible players include collegiate draftees from 2010 or earlier and under-19 players drafted during or before 2009. Drafted players must remain on the MLB roster for the entire season or be offered back to the original team. If the original team declines, the drafting team can attempt to run the player through waivers.
The Rule 5 draft has lost much of its intrigue. Under old rules, teams had only three years to decide on college-aged players and four on the high schoolers. The 40-man decisions were tougher, and many more beguiling names were available. Texas would be pondering the futures of Luke Jackson (an obvious addition), 2010 1st-rounders Jake Skole and Zach Cone, infielder Drew Robinson, 2011-drafted pitchers Nick Martinez, Jerod Eickhoff and Phil Klein, and infielder Ryan Rua. With the extra year, there's less projection, and the draft list is relatively dull, to be honest. But with little else of interest occurring in early December, it receives plenty of attention.
Even with the extra year of protection, some players who might someday reach the Majors are too young to draft now. This is particularly true of non-drafted players from Latin America, who might reach eligibility by the age of 21.
Quick thoughts on some players who'll be eligible for the draft if not added to the 40:
SS Luis Sardinas -- He'll be protected. Nothing else to say.
RHP Lisalverto Bonilla -- Bonilla owns a terrific changeup, hot fastball and occasionally interesting slider. It's a Major League package. In Round Rock, he relied far too heavily on the change as the other pitches degraded into subpar offerings. Demoted to AA, Bonilla displayed the best control of his life, statistically, tallying 50 strikeouts against just nine walks in 30.1 innings. That said, he only slightly allayed my concerns during the two times I saw him with Frisco. His command was scarily erratic even as he threw more strikes. If Texas doesn't protect him, there's a good chance he's nabbed by another team, but his new employer will have to be very patient and try to turn his slider into a functional pitch. I don't think a contender could wait him out.
RHP Ben Rowen -- If you're unfamiliar with Rowen, please watch his AAA debut that I shot in June
. Rowen throws a fastball that hovers around 80, a low-70s slider, and a "rise ball." Purely in terms of stuff, you could argue he's a waste of a 40-man spot, but I can reduce his scouting report to this: "He gets people out." Across four seasons, Rowen has an opposing line of .200/.255/.246. Nobody has figured him out yet. Major Leaguers might eat his lunch, and if he does get a shot, he won't be cut much slack. But, like Bonilla, I do think he's a good candidate to be on someone's 40 next March, if not Texas's.
1B/C Brett Nicholas -- Nicholas had a breakout 2013 and can catch, but I think the odds of him being lost in the R5 are low. Of course, I thought the same of Chris McGuiness last winter. Nicholas turned 25 in July and has yet to play above AA. I'm hoping to see him continue his development in Round Rock next year.
Other draft picks eligible for the first time: LHP Jimmy Reyes, RHP Nick McBride, RHP Ryan Rodebaugh, OF Jared Hoying, OF Ryan Strausborger. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus listed Hoying as potential contributor to the 2014 Rangers, but I don't think that corresponds to a 40-man spot this winter.
Other non-drafted players eligible for the first time (not a complete list): LHP Luis Parra, RHP Richard Alvarez, RHP Arlett Mavare, RHP Randol Rojas.
Eligible for the second or third time (not a complete list): LHP Chad Bell (injured in 2013), C Jose Felix, C Tomas Telis, 2B Odubel Herrera, OF Teodoro Martinez.
Late note: J.J. Cooper of Baseball America
suggests Sardinas and Bonilla are "extremely likely" additions and Parra is "possible." I don't see another team taking a chance on Parra this soon.
Also of note: Baseball America named catcher Jorge Alfaro the #6 prospect in the Arizona Fall League and listed righty Keone Kela among "others to watch." I'm compiling a winter report and will have more info soon on them and others.