The Tigers will add potential closer Bruce Rondon to their 40 man roster by November 20, to protect him in the upcoming rule five draft. However, a scan of the players that would be eligible to be drafted by other clubs does not reveal a lot of talent that needs to be protected.
By Tuesday, November 20, major league clubs must submit a list of no more than 40 players who will be protected in the rule five draft, which will take place on December 6 at the winter meetings in Nashville, TN.
The Tigers are expected to add highly regarded relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (pronounced ron doan) to their roster. Players who are eligible for this year’s rule five draft are those drafted out of college in the 2009 draft, players drafted out of high school in 2008, and international free agents who signed their first pro contract in 2008 or earlier.
Rondon, who was mentioned by Dave Dombrowski as a possible option to take over for Jose Valverde as the Tigers’ closer in 2013, was signed from Venezuela as a 16 year old in 2007, and will surely be added to the roster.
Dombrowski said of Rondon that the club considered adding him to the roster in September, and may have done so if they had any idea of the struggles that Jose Valverde would have at the end of the season. The 21 year old reliever throws at 100 mph routinely and has worked his way up through the system to the triple-A level.
The Detroit News reported: "This guy is a talented guy," Dombrowski said. "He's a rare talent. You would not believe the number of teams that call me about Bruce Rondon and trading him. And I would tell you that if I had a choice of any young closer in baseball to give an opportunity to, with any organization, it would be him. Now will he be ready? I don't know that. But he is that good."
The Tigers will not necessarily be required to remove other players from the roster to make room for this year’s newest Tigers, since there are vacancies created by the removal of free agents Valverde, Delmon Young, Gerald Laird, Don Kelly, and Anibal Sanchez. Two of those spots will be filled by Victor Martinez and Dan Schlereth coming off the 60 day disabled list, leaving 37 players and three vacancies on the 40 man roster.
Schlereth is one player that might be removed from the roster should the Tigers need to make room for another player. Ryan Raburn is another, since he would be a strong non tender candidate in any case. It would come as no surprise to see a pitcher such as Luke Putkonen or Adam Wilk taken off the roster if necessary. This story might be more interesting if there was a deeper pool of prospects in need of protection. We could then speculate which players might have to be removed to make room for the prospects.
This year’s crop of rule five eligibles, after Rondon, is very thin. There may be no players chosen in the amateur player draft added to the Tiger roster this year. The Tigers didn’t draft any high school players in the first ten rounds of the "great relief draft" of 2008, and the 2009 draft hasn't exactly yielded a bumper crop of talent. Eddie Bajek has compiled a chart of the rule 5 eligible players, along with their rankings in the organizatin according to Tigstown.com.
Relief pitcher Michael Morrison, a 29th round selection out of Cal State Fullerton, is pitching in the Arizona Fall League and is also eligible. Outfielder Danny Fields, son of Tigers' hitting coordinator Bruce Fields, was drafted out of high school in 2009, so he will not be eligible for another season. Center fielder Michael Rockett has a great arm, and a great name. He was drafted out of the University of Texas in the 13th round of the 2009 draft, but putting him on the major league roster seems like a big stretch.
Among the international players, 21 year old right handed pitcher Melvin Mercedes is a highly regarded reliever who missed most of the 2010 season with Tommy John surgery, and could be added. Dixon Machado, a 20 year old shortstop from Venezuela, signed a six figure contract in July 2008 at the age of 16, and is eligible. Machado is known as a slick fielder but he hit just .195/ .283/ .252/ .534 with only 19 extra base hits in 490 plate appearances for Lakeland in 2012.
Brian Sakowski, BYB's resident prospect expert, mentioned Rondon, Mercedes, Morrison, Machado, and pitcher Jay Voss as the prospects most likely to be protected. Voss was acquired from the Marlins in a trade for Nate Robertson. He was eligible to be drafted in last year's draft, after a breakout season in the rotation at double-A Erie but snuck through. Voss was sidelined by an elbow injury that required surgery this summer and was rehabbing by season's end.
Players who were 18 years or younger when they signed their first contract are eligible for the rule 5 draft after five seasons, or partial seasons in the organization, and players who were 19 years or older when signed are eligible after four seasons, or partial seasons, if not protected on the 40 man roster. Clubs must submit their 40 man rosters by November 20 each year.
Any player claimed in the rule five draft must remain on the major league roster of the claiming team for the next full season, or pass through waivers before being sent to the minors. For that reason, it’s easier to sneak a player through the rule five draft than it is to clear waivers if the player has to be removed from the roster later on. Clubs don’t typically add players prior to the rule five draft only to remove them shortly after, when another player is added. If they're added to the roster, expect them to remain for at least a season.
Some notable major leaguers who were selected in past rule five drafts include Roberto Clemente, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Bobby Bonilla, and Shane Victorino. Former Tiger players selected include Darrell Evans, Willie Hernandez, Wilfredo Ledezma, and Chris Shelton.
Speculating on which players the Tigers might add to the roster can be hazardous. A year ago, the Tigers added relievers Tyler Stohr and Matt Hoffman, left handed starting pitcher Casey Crosby, outfielder Avisail Garcia and shortstop Hernan Perez to the roster. The Tigers lost shortstop Gustavo Nunez, a more highly rated prospect at the time, to the Pirates in the draft. I was sure that Nunez would have been protected. He was claimed off waivers by Arizona last week.