40-Man Roster Decisions: Players Eligible for the 2018 Rule 5 Draft

The 2018 Major League Baseball season has culminated in the Boston Red Sox winning another World Series. Qualifying Offers have been extended and free agency is underway across baseball. The off-season is upon us and the team-building must continue for the White Sox. The organization has amassed a lot of talent but as is the case for most rebuilding clubs, keeping all of the talent requires some significant roster roulette. Many decisions need to be made and among them is which players to protect on the 40-man roster prior to December’s 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 Thursday December, 13th in Las Vegas, Nevada. 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 season in an organization can be selected by another club for $100,000 paid to the holding club. For players signed at the age of 18 or younger, they have five years in an organization before becoming eligible. Players who are signed at the age of 19 or older have four years with their respective clubs. There is also a minor league phase where unprotected players not on the “minor league reserve” rosters can be selected as well, under the same service time restrictions. But where MLB selections must be kept on the drafting team’s active roster all year or have to offer them back at $50,000, in the minor league phase there is no such requirement.

In 2017, the Chicago White Sox selected Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Carlos Tocci with the 4th pick in the Rule 5 Draft and immediately traded him to the Texas Rangers for cash considerations.

The 40-man roster of record for the draft must be finalized by November 20th at 7:00 PM Central Time. This means that the White Sox front office will be making some difficult decisions 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 proverbial bubble.

Current Roster

Here is a look at the current 40-man roster for the White Sox, which sits at 35 players. The roster includes 17 pitchers, 10 outfielders, 6 infielders and 2 catchers.

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:

The roster currently sits at 34 players and while some roster shuffling could occur, it’s not completely necessary until more transactions are presented. There aren’t as many definitive roster bubble players presently as there have been in the past. In the outfield, Charlie Tilson and Ryan Cordell could possibly be outrighted to clear space. There’s also a chance that Avisail Garcia could be moved before his final year of arbitration as well. Nicky Delmonico and Adam Engel are other players that are likely safe but could move off the roster in some fashion. Infielder Jose Rondon was quite useful last year as well but he’s a potential candidate if a roster spot ends up being needed.

On the mound, there are some areas where some space could theoretically be made as well. Ian Clarkin was added to the 40-man roster before last year’s deadline to protect him. Clarkin struggled with injuries in 2018 and there’s a chance he could bounce off of the roster and back into the organization. I think it’s unlikely in the immediate future as well but guys like Thyago Vieira, Carson Fulmer, Juan Minaya and Jose Ruiz could be moved off the roster in some fashion as well. The majority of the White Sox 40-man roster on the pitching side consists of younger talent that the club will want to see in 2019. The White Sox also made a trade on Thursday for 27-year-old lefty Manny Banuelos. He slots in to their 40-man roster.  If the front office makes significant pitching additions this winter it will be interesting to see the roster moves made to accommodate.


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 RHP Dylan Cease. He’s eligible for the first time after being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2014. The 22-year-old really broke out last year and averaged more than 13 K/9 with a FIP of 2.39 in Double-A. As one of the best pitching prospects in the sport, Cease is certain to be protected by the White Sox. Cease should start the season at Triple-A Charlotte and it’s very likely that he’ll surface on the South Side of Chicago sometime in 2019.

Southpaw Kodi Medeiros is eligible for the Rule 5 after being taken in the first round of the 2014 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. The Hawaiian throws hard with a funky delivery and struggled in 34 innings with the Birmingham Barons this season. The 22-year-old threw 103 innings in the Milwaukee system prior to his acquisition and posted a 3.14 ERA in that stint. Medeiros was the primary return for reliever Joakim Soria so it’s not very likely that the team would leave him exposed this soon. Kodi will be developed as a starter to start 2019 but he could transition to the bullpen at some point and find a home there as a very successful relief option. Zach Thompson was a 5th round pick out of The University of Texas at Arlington. The 25-year-old spent three years starting for affiliates in the White Sox system and finally moved to the bullpen in 2018. The 6’7″, 230 pound righty has been pitching well in the Arizona Fall League this month as well. In 35.1 innings for Winston-Salem, Zach posted a 1.78 ERA to go with a 2.71 FIP. He earned a promotion to Birmingham where he pitched to a 1.30 ERA in 40 innings. Thompson throws hard with heavy stuff and could be a candidate to be selected in the Rule 5 if not protected

25-year-old catcher Seby Zavala earned himself a promotion to Triple-A Charlotte after his hot start in the Southern League and showing marked defensive improvements with Birmingham. The former 12th rounder out of San Diego State posted a 135 wRC+ with a .373 wOBA in 230 plate appearances with the Barons. Seby struggled with the bat in AAA but was injured for most of his 191 plate appearances. Zavala slashed .243/.267/.359 but his pitchers love throwing to him. Catchers are often taken in the Rule 5 and stashed on major league rosters so he’d have a high likelihood of getting selected if left exposed. Zavala likely starts the year in Triple-A with the Knights and should make his big league debut sometime in 2019.

Right handers Spencer Adams and Jordan Stephens present interesting cases this off-season. At first blush, both hurlers seem like no-brainers to be protected. Both players have fairly low ceilings however. Adams was a 2nd round pick out of a Georgia HIgh School back in 2014 and Stephens was selected in the 5th round out of Rice in 2015. Both players have been fixtures on top-30 prospect lists here at FutureSox and at other publications. The 26-year-old Stephens forced his way to Triple-A but then struggled with a 4.19 FIP and didn’t miss enough bats in 107 innings pitched in the International League. Adams, just 22 years old still, posted a 3.19 ERA in Charlotte but has consistently carried some disastrous peripherals. Stephens could be a rotation candidate with holes in the major league staff or his stuff could play up in shorter relief outings. Adams is a low-upside innings eater and likely remains with the Knights to start 2019. Neither of these guys were added to the 40-man roster prior to September though and that could be a red flag in regards to how the organization feels about protecting them this off-season.

Lower Risk of Claim

These players aren’t ready to take up time on a big league roster but stranger things happened when it comes to the Rule 5 Draft. Danny Dopico is a right-handed reliever with good stuff that is currently pitching in the Arizona Fall League. He’s 24 years old and could move quickly if he continues to pitch well. The 2015 11th rounder posted a 2.62 FIP with 11.93 K/9 for High-A Winston-Salem in 2018. Lefty Colton Turner is a 27-year-old failed starter that pitched well in Birmingham’s bullpen last year. In 42 innings, Turner posted a 2.06 FIP with an ERA of 0.86. Colton was very tough on lefties but still struggle upon arriving in Charlotte. Kyle Kubat, Kevin Escorcia and Andre Davis all have some upside as potential left-handed relievers down the road but none should be at risk of being taken. From the right side, Luis Martinez, Blake Hickman and Brandon Brennan are in a similar position. A familiar face in Jordan Guerrero is also available yet again as well. Many were concerned last year that Guerrero would be taken in the Rule 5 Draft and he was a member of the organization again. The southpaw was recently re-signed to a minor league deal after posting a 3.46 FIP in Charlotte. The 24-year-old is a potential back end lefty and could be attractive to a rebuilding club.

Amado Nunez is a 21-year-old infielder who was an international signing back in 2014. During his breakout season with Great Falls in 2018, he produced a 141 wRC+ with a .417 wOBA while sporting a .212 ISO in 260 plate appearances. He should start next year with Kannapolis in Low-A. It would be a pretty stunning development for a club to select him and roster him all season given he’s never even played in full season ball. James Fegan of The Athletic hinted at the possibility of AJ Preller’s San Diego Padres contemplating such a move.

Two other position players that could be deemed interesting by other clubs are Danny Mendick and Tito Polo. Mendick is a 25-year-old shortstop that posted a 111 wRC+ in AA last season. Danny hit 14 homers and is solid defensively. He could be a big league utility guy and should start the season in Charlotte. Polo battled injuries in 2018 after coming over from the Yankees a year prior. He’s a 24-year-old center fielder that plays with energy and possesses speed and on-base ability. Casey Gillaspie, Eddy Alvarez, Trey Michalczewski, Bryant Flete, Ti’Quan Forbes and Yeyson Yrizarri are other infielders eligible for selection but it would be highly unlikely if any of these players get selected. Carlos Perez and Yermin Mercedes are lower level catchers that are eligible as well.

Likely Outcomes

For the second consecutive year, the White Sox have more than a handful of notable prospects in need of roster protection. Last year, the organization protected some higher upside players even though they were further away from the majors. They still have some decisions to make as far as deciding who they’re willing to risk and who they can’t live without. It’s not a secret that the organization has procured gobs of talent but one of the few pitfalls of that process is not being able to keep all of said talent. This process will be interesting to say the least.

Dylan Cease and Seby Zavala seem like the most obvious no-brainers. Those players will certainly get protected. Kodi Medeiros will likely be added to the roster as well. The next three names are a bit more cloudy. Zach Thompson’s presence in the AFL gives him the edge over Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams who failed to earn September call-ups. I would expect the White Sox to add five players to the roster and they could stretch to six if they see fit. The 40-man roster is at 35. Regardless of if they add five or six players in the next few weeks, there will likely be some movement on the current roster to accommodate.

The club is likely looking to add in the Rule 5 this year as well. There are a number of organizations teeming with talent and some of that talent will be left unprotected. The White Sox pick 3rd and could use some help at multiple positions. It should be expected that the Sox will leave a roster spot open on November 20th and that will make the decisions on who to protect that much more difficult.

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    I believe there is a good chance that all 6 of the high risk candidates to be claimed will be granted 40-man roster spots by the November 20th deadline. I also think that Ian Clarkin and Ryan Cordell might be the two most likely bubble candidates to lose their current spots on the reserve roster. Of course, other transactions are just as likely to occur that could impact those current roster numbers before the November 20th deadline with free agency commencing on Saturday along with the GM meetings in Carlsbad, California next week.

  • fb_avatar

    Clarkin and Cordell would be claimed, I think. I like them both. The biggest loss, to me, is Tito Polo. I would really like to see what he could do before the big name prospects arrive. I would like to see what Ryan Cordell could do at 3rd base. He's played it before. 3rd base is the only position not currently filled or has gobs of prospects in the minors. Our only hope there is Burger. They can risk losing Adolfo. No way he makes a roster the whole year.

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