A world series has been won, qualifying offers have been extended and free agents can officially put ink to paper with clubs. The major league baseball off-season is upon us. The White Sox have embarked on a rebuild and while much of the heavy lifting occurred last season, the team-building must continue. The organization has procured a lot of talent in a short amount of time but keeping all of that talent is sometimes a struggle due to major league rules. Many decisions need to be made and among them is which players will be protected on the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft.
The Rule 5 Draft takes place on the final day of major league baseball’s annual Winter Meetings. This year, that occurs on Friday December 15th. In the major league phase of the draft, any player who is not on a club’s 40-man roster and is also approaching their 4th or 5th year Rule 5 Draft since signing a professional contract can be selected by another club for $100,000 paid to the holding club. For players signed at age 18 or younger it is 5th, for 19 or older at signing it is 4th. There is also a minor league phase, where unprotected players from the “minor league reserve” rosters can be selected as well, under the same service time restrictions.
In 2016, the Chicago White Sox selected Oakland Athletics right-hander Dylan Covey in the Rule 5.
The 40-man roster of record for the draft must be finalized by November 20th at 7 P.M Central Time. This likely means that the White Sox front office will be making some tough calls on who will be left exposed to the draft. Let’s take a look at the 40-man roster and some potential players on the roster bubble.
Here is a look at the current 40-man roster for the White Sox, which sits at 35 players. The roster includes recent waiver claim Daniel Palka who was detailed here as well as outfielders Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell who were injured during the season.
We can’t predict future trades or transactions that may occur, so we’re working from the current organizational depth chart. The following minor and major league players require protection, are already on the 40, but aren’t definitely 25-man roster players at this point:
With the roster currently sitting comfortably at 35 players, some shuffling will need to be done soon even though the definitive bubble guys of the past aren’t as readily apparent. In the outfield, Willy Garcia and Jacob May could be candidates to be outrighted off of the 40-man roster to clear a spot for someone that needs protection. In-season waiver addition and super utility player Alen Hanson is in a similar position. He was forced out of Pittsburgh due to a roster crunch and it’s not a guarantee that he won’t get lost in the shuffle once again. Former 3rd round pick out of Chris Beck struggled in the big leagues this season and may not be a lock for the 40-man roster either.
Right-handed pitchers Gregory Infante and Danny Farquhar ate innings out of the White Sox bullpen in 2017 and should get a chance to compete for a roster spot in 2018 as well. Juan Minaya and Al Alburquerque could also be in the mix, but seem potentially expendable. All of those players could possibly be added back on minor league deals however.
THOSE NOT YET ON ROSTER
There are also numerous players not currently on the 40-man roster that present some risk of being taken in December’s Draft if not protected. If another team takes a player in the Rule 5, they must keep the player on their active roster for the entirety of the season or return the player to his original club for $50,000 – something to keep in mind when evaluating claim risk. I will split these players into two categories.
High Risk of Claim
The most obvious name on this list is outfielder Eloy Jimenez. He’s eligible for the first time since being signed by the Cubs out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. As one of the very best prospects in the game and the prize of the trade return for Jose Quintana, Jimenez will certainly be protected by the White Sox. The big right-handed hitter slashed .312/.379/.568 with 19 homers across three minor league levels last season.
Casey Gillaspie was acquired at the trade deadline from Tampa Bay in exchange for left-hander Dan Jennings. The 24-year-old first baseman only hit .210/.300/.429 in Charlotte last year but did slug 6 homers in 119 plate appearances. Gillaspie possesses some left-handed power and he could see some time in the big leagues this season. Jake Peter looks like a potential utility guy as soon as next season and could be attractive to clubs as a 24-year-old. The left-handed hitter plays all over the diamond and compiled an .856 OPS in Triple-A last year while hitting 13 home runs across two levels.
Relievers tend to be selected more so than other positions, in part because they can be more easily “hidden” in a 7- or 8-man bullpen. The White Sox have two arms they likely want to keep around who could very well be selected. 23-year-old southpaw Jordan Guerrero profiles as a back end starting pitching option in the near future. He had a 4.18 ERA for the Barons in 2017 and struck out 136 hitters in 146.1 innings. The left-hander throws low 90’s heat with a plus changeup and good command and could conceivably be thrown into a major league bullpen for a season by a non-contender. Brian Clark was a 9th round pick of the Sox out of Kent State back in 2014. This lefty has been solid in the minor leagues as a relief option thus far. He pitched almost 50 innings in Charlotte last year and struck out 44 guys with an ERA of 4.01. He’s likely worth keeping around if the roster space is available, and his demonstrated success in AAA and lefthandedness make him a flight risk.
Lower Risk of Claim
Outfielder Micker Adolfo is the most prominent name on this list after being a big expenditure as an international amateur back in 2013. Adolfo started to put it all together as a 21 year-old for Low-A Kannapolis this past season. The right hander with prodigious raw power hit 16 homers and had an OPS of .784 in roughly 450 plate appearances. But he’s clearly not near MLB–ready.
Left-handed pitcher Ian Clarkin was a 1st round draft pick of the Yankees out of a California high school in 2013. He’s battled injuries as a pro and the Sox see upside after acquiring him in a mid-season trade from New York back in July. In most years it would be unlikely to see guys like Adolfo or Clarkin taken in the Rule 5 draft, however the San Diego Padres selected and kept two players from A-ball in the majors all of last season. It will be something interesting to consider and the White Sox will have to determine whether they want to protect either of these players at all costs.
Tito Polo just played in the Arizona Fall League and the 23-year-old Colombian outfielder is also Rule 5 eligible. He’s very active and plays good defense but his lack of power may give the organization some pause on whether or not to definitely protect him. He was also acquired in a mid-season trade with the Yankees. Danny Hayes is a 27-year-old 1B that hit 19 homers for the Knights last year but only batted .228. He’s likely to be exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.
On the pitching side, Matt Cooper, Louie Lechich, and Connor Walsh are likely to be left unprotected. Cooper had a lot of success after being a 16th round selection out of the University of Hawaii in 2014 and looked quite good in AA, but left the team for personal reasons in June and isn’t ready for the jump. Connor Walsh was on display in the Arizona Fall League recently and he pitched to a 3.36 ERA over two minor league levels this season. Walsh struck out 63 hitters in 56.1 innings and possesses a big fastball with a slingshot delivery, so there is a little risk here. Louie Lechich was a 6th round pick as an outfielder out of San Diego back in 2014. The 25-year-old looked good in his first season as a relief pitcher. The southpaw threw 58.2 innings last year in Winston-Salem and had a 2.45 ERA. He is however very new to pitching and untested above A-ball.
For the first time in awhile, the White Sox have more than two or three notable prospects that need roster protection as it relates to the Rule 5 Draft. They also must seriously consider protecting some promising prospects that are a little further away due to the nature of how the Rule 5 Draft has gone in recent years. They have some decisions to make as far as deciding who they’re willing to risk and who they can’t live without. It’s no secret that the organization has amassed a load of talent but one of the few pitfalls of that is being able to keep all of that talent. There are some players on the current 40-man roster that could be deemed expendable however in order to open some spots for players who need protection.
The team is probably looking to add in the Rule 5 this year if they can, with a number of teams unable to protect some key prospects and the Sox picking 4th and in need of some help at multiple positions. So expect the club to keep a few slots open on the 40-man roster on November 20th – making the decisions on who to protect, that much harder.
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Filed under: News and notes
Tags: Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Casey Gillaspie, Charlie Tilson, Chris Beck, Connor Walsh, Daniel Palka, Danny Hayes, Dylan Covey, Eloy Jimenez, Ian Clarkin, Jace Fry, Jacob May, Jake Peter, Jordan Guerrero, Louie Lechich, Matt Cooper, Micker Adolfo, Ryan Cordell, Tito Polo, Tyler Danish