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MLB Rule 5 draft: How it works, and which Tigers players are eligible

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Six of the Detroit’s top 30 prospects are currently unprotected.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball teams must submit their 40-man rosters by November 20 in order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft. The Detroit Tigers currently have 32 players on their 40-man roster following their latest round of cuts earlier this month. Six of the Tigers’ top 30 prospects ranked by MLB.com will be eligible if they are not added to the 40-man roster by the deadline. The Rule 5 draft carries extra interest for the Tigers this winter, since they have the first draft selection.

The Rule 5 draft is conducted on the last day of MLB's annual Winter Meetings each year. This year’s draft will take place on December 14 in Orlando, Florida. The players eligible to be selected are minor leaguers who have been with their organizations for four or five years, but are not on the team’s 40-man roster.

Players eligible this year will be those who were drafted and signed their first pro contract in 2014, or those who first signed in 2013 but were under the age of 19 at the time. Basically, this includes players who were drafted out of college in 2014 and international free agents or high school draftees who were signed before the end of the 2013 season.

In 2016, the Tigers added just one player, pitcher Sandy Baez, to the major league roster. Detroit selected Daniel Stumpf in last year’s Rule 5 draft. Players who were eligible in previous years are also eligible again.

Derek Hill, the Tigers’ first round draft selection in 2014, is not eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter because he was drafted out of high school and was under age 19 when he signed. There are no high school players drafted by the Tigers in 2013 who might be protected.

Players chosen in the Rule 5 draft will have an opportunity to stay with their new club for the season. The player’s former club will receive a $100,000 fee. Players selected must be kept on their new team's 25-man MLB roster for the entire season. They cannot be sent to the minors without clearing waivers and being offered back to their former club. A player is more likely to get through the Rule 5 draft than clearing waivers later on, so teams will not add players to the roster intending to take them off at a later date.

In order to make a selection, a club has to have an open space on their 40-man roster as of the start of the draft. A player could still be non-tendered or put on waivers to create the roster space so that the club can select a player in the Rule 5 draft, so the vacancy doesn’t need to be there by November 20. However, players may not be added after November 20 unless they are acquired as a free agent or from another team. There is a major league phase, a Triple-A phase, and a Double-A phase to the Rule 5 draft.

Players who are signed as international free agents as teenagers are normally slower to develop. It’s often a race against the clock for them to secure a roster spot before being Rule 5 eligible.

Here are the players who are ranked among MLB.com’s top 30 Tigers prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft if they are not added to the 40-man roster by November 20.

Michael Gerber, OF, Toledo
MLB.com rank: 10
5th round selection in 2014; Age 25

Gregory Soto, LHP, Lakeland
MLB.com rank: 12
IFA Signed Dec 26, 2012; Age 22

Jose Azocar, OF, Lakeland
MLB.com rank: 21
IFA Signed Oct 21, 2012; Age 21

Sergio Alcantara, SS, Lakeland
MLB.com rank: 24
IFA Signed July 10, 2012; Age 21

Gerson Moreno, RHP, Erie
MLB.com rank: 25
IFA Signed Oct 5, 2012; Age 22

Adam Ravanelle, RHP, Erie
MLB.com rank: 26th
4th round selection, 2014; Age 25

Spencer Turnbull, RHP, Erie
MLB.com Rank: 28th
2nd round selection, 2014; Age 25

Grayson Greiner, C, Toledo
MLB.com rank: NR
3rd round selection, 2014; Age 25