Today at 4pm (CST) is the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Players eligible to be drafted are those not on the 40-man who were either (i) 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft since signing or (ii) 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fourth Rule 5 draft since signing.
It costs a team $50K to draft a player. To keep him, essentially he has to be on the 25 man roster for all of 2017. Otherwise, he's offered back to his original team for $25K. The draft takes place on December 8, the last day of the Winter Meetings.
This offseason, there are no glaringly obvious players who need to be protected, as no one who is even remotely a top prospect requires protection. On the other hand, there are some guys in the top 10-15 range who would need protection. And, with the 40-man roster currently sitting at 38, there isn't a great deal of room, particularly if the team intends to trade players later in the offseason such as Chris Sale or Jose Quintana, who could each net multiple players who would be on the 40-man.
There is certainly some jetsam that could be jettisoned to create more space -- the likes of Brandon Brennan, Matt Purke, and Anthony Ranaudo come immediately to mind. But it's hard to see the White Sox deciding to cut several players now in order to max out their roster with 5 or 6 six additions, as that would almost certainly just necessitate additional pruning later. So I'd expect to see some of those bubble players left out in the hope that teams pass over them or, like in the case of Blake Smith last year, the expectation that a player couldn't last a full season in the majors. My guess is they add 3, possibly 4, players.
Let's start with the obvious ones on the position player side. Center fielders Jacob May and Adam Engel used to populate the back half of White Sox top ten lists but have seen their statuses fall with middling 2016 seasons. May has suffered multiple injuries the past couple seasons, including a concussion in 2015, and hasn't been able to return to the level he showed early that season. Still, he's a plus defensive outfielder with excellent speed who switch-hits and, historically, had a decent contact rate. Already with Triple-A experience, his profile is a typical one for a Rule 5 pick, particularly if a team thinks that further distance from the concussion will help him regain past form. And, for the White Sox, he's a guy they would expect to be in their outfield mix sometime in 2017.
Engel's profile is similar -- he's a plus defensive outfielder with excellent speed -- but he's a right-handed hitter and his contact skills are at least a step below May's but he's got more power. And, like May, a decent shot to stick all season if drafted while the White Sox would view him as worth protection as a depth piece in 2017.
On the pitching side, from the outside, there's one seemingly obvious add -- lefty reliever Will Lamb. I say "seemingly" because I was a bit surprised that he didn't merit a September call-up, considering he performed well for Charlotte. While his overall line was rather unsightly, Lamb was not used in the LOOGY-type role he'd have in the majors and, instead, more often than not pitched 1+ innings. He held lefties to a .153/.265/.237 line and struck them out 25 percent of the time. With just Dan Jennings, Purke, Brian Clark and newly claimed Giovanni Soto in the organization as potential lefty relievers for Opening Day, Lamb seems like a necessity.
A guy who might be a 4th addition is righty reliever Brad Goldberg. It might scare off some teams that he's likely to be picked to pitch for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic, though a shot at the majors could certainly make Goldberg rethink such a commitment to ensure he can spend a full spring camp with a new team. He's got a decent low-to-mid 90s fastball and can spin a nice slider now and then. He's a guy I expect to see make the majors at some point and his 2016 season for Charlotte showed he could get hitters out there. By no means was he dominant, though, and higher ceiling arms than his are the types that typically draw attention in the draft.
In anticipation of questions regarding some other notable-ish eligible players:
- INF Nick Delmonico: I think you have show a lot more hitting acumen in Triple-A before a team is going to spend a pick on a guy who is probably a first baseman.
- LF Courtney Hawkins: Um, no.
- LHP Jordan Guerrero: Wore down after a solid first half in Birmingham. Still has starting pitcher potential but wouldn't have a chance to stick in majors now.
- RHP Luis Martinez: A Jim-favorite and Marco Paddy's first signing, he finally started to deliver on his promise in 2016. But he's never been above Low-A.
- SS Johan Cruz: Another Paddy signing, he's a good defender and the bat projects as potentially playable if he sticks at shortstop. Like Martinez, though, never been above Low-A.
- RHP Yelmison Peralta: This Paddy signing has made it to High-A and has shown some projection but arm isn't high-ceiling enough nor would he have a chance to stick.