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
36 38 players on their 40-man roster following their latest round of cuts and free agent departures. Three 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 is conducted on the last day of MLB’s annual Winter Meetings each year. This year’s draft will take place on December 13 in Las Vegas. 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 include those who were drafted and signed their first pro contract in 2015, or those who first signed in 2014 but were under the age of 19 at the time. Essentially, this includes players who were drafted out of college in 2015 and international free agents or high school draftees who were signed before the end of the 2014 season. Players who were eligible in previous years are also eligible again.
Among those eligible who were drafted in 2015, Christin Stewart and Matt Hall were added to the roster and made their major league debuts in September.
Beau Burrows, the Tigers’ first round draft selection in 2015, 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. He will be eligible next year. There are no other high school players drafted by the Tigers in 2014 who might be protected. In fact, the Tigers didn’t draft another high school player that year until the 31st round.
How does the Rule 5 draft work?
A club must have space on their 40-man roster on draft day in order to make a selection in the Rule 5 draft. A player can still be non-tendered or waived to create space before the draft. However, players may not be added after November 20 unless they are acquired from another team or signed as a free agent. 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 in a race against the clock to make the roster before being Rule 5 eligible.
Players chosen in the Rule 5 draft will have an opportunity to stay with their new club for the 2019 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 for $ 50,000.
Detroit chose Victor Reyes with the first pick in last year’s Rule 5 draft, and kept him on the major league roster all season. Now, he can be optioned to the minors in three future seasons without clearing waivers.
Players’ rule 5 rights can be traded, as can players who are selected in the draft. A player is more likely to get through the Rule 5 draft than clearing waivers, so teams will not add players to the roster intending to take them off later.
Who will the Tigers protect?
Here are some Tigers prospects who will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if they are not added to the 40-man roster by November 20.
Franklin Perez is the Tigers’ No. 3 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He was signed by the Astros in 2014 and came to Detroit in the Justin Verlander trade. The 20-year-old righthander is the No. 67 prospect on MLB pipeline’s top 100. He was shut down at High-A Lakeland in July due to shoulder inflammation. He is sure to be added to the 40-man roster.
Derek Hill was Detroit’s first round pick in 2014 out of high school. He is now 22 and has speed and defensive ability in center field to match anyone, but his hitting has lagged. Worse yet, injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2016, have slowed his climb up the ladder. He spent the 2018 season at High-A Lakeland and has fallen to No. 29 on MLB Pipeline’s list.
Tyler Alexander, the Tigers’ second round pick in 2015 out of TCU, is a left-handed pitcher who is better known for his control than velocity. He graduated from Double-A Erie to Triple-A Toledo in 2018, where he threw 92 innings. He gave up just 13 walks and struck out 60 batters in those frames, but surrendered 120 hits. He is the Tigers’ 24th ranked prospect.
Anthony Castro was signed in 2011 as an international free agent from Venezuela, making him eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the past couple of seasons. He posted a 2.49 ERA in 21 starts for West Michigan in 2017, and followed up with a 2.93 ERA in 23 starts at Lakeland last summer, before being promoted to Erie. He missed the entire 2015 season, but seems to be on track now, at age 24 by Opening Day 2019.
Cameron Gibson, son of Kirk Gibson, was thought of well enough to be sent to the Arizona Fall League a year ago, but he has not cracked any list of top Tigers prospects. He should sail through the Rule 5 draft unclaimed.
The Tigers added seven prospects to their roster prior to the 2017 Rule 5 draft, but just one player the previous season.