Who will Angels protect from Rule 5 Draft?

Newly improved farm system gives Halos difficult choices to make

November 17th, 2018

One of the tricky -- though welcomed -- consequences of their rebuilt farm system is that the Angels are now faced with a 40-man roster crunch that will force them to make difficult personnel decisions next week.
General manager Billy Eppler and his staff will have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. PT to add eligible Minor Leaguers to the club's 40-man roster to shield them from the Rule 5 Draft. Those left unprotected could be selected by another team during the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on Dec. 13 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.
Eligible players are those who signed or were drafted when they were 18 or younger and have logged five Minor League seasons, or those who signed or were drafted when they were 19 or older and have completed four Minor League seasons.
The Angels currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster, so they'll have to clear a handful of spots in the coming days if they want to protect more than one Draft-eligible prospect.
"It's going to be difficult this season," Eppler said at the GM Meetings earlier this month. "I'd rather be in that position than not. But we've already had an initial conversation internally about it to kind of help us prepare with some of the roster moves that you've seen us making now. We'll see how that unfolds."
Here are 10 notable players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if the Angels do not move to protect them by Tuesday:
LHP Jose Suarez (No. 8 prospect, per MLB Pipeline)
Suarez appears to be a lock to be added to the 40-man roster, as he's developed into one of the organization's top pitching prospects after making his way from Class A Advanced Inland Empire to Triple-A Salt Lake in 2018. The 20-year-old Venezuelan posted a 3.92 ERA over 117 innings across three Minor League levels and missed a ton of bats, averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He will enter the 2019 season on the Angels' rotation depth chart and should reach the Majors sooner rather than later.
INF Luis Rengifo (No. 10)
Acquired from the Rays in exchange for C.J. Cron in February, Rengifo, 21, should also be an easy add. The switch-hitting middle infielder batted .299 with an .851 OPS and 41 stolen bases in 127 games across three levels in 2018, finishing the year at Triple-A Salt Lake. He is expected to compete with and for a starting infield job during Spring Training.
INF Leonardo Rivas (No. 15)
Known for his on-base skills, speed and solid defense in the middle infield, the 21-year-old Rivas experienced a dip in his offensive production in 2018, batting .234 with a .687 OPS and 16 stolen bases in 121 games between the Rookie-level Angels and Class A Burlington. The fact that he hasn't played above A-ball could make it difficult for the Angels to award him a spot on their 40-man roster this fall.
RHP Luis Pena (No. 18)
Pena, 23, logged a 4.85 ERA over 105 2/3 innings in 23 starts between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake this past season. He mixes a low-90s fastball with a nasty slider, though his changeup and command have been inconsistent in the past.
RHP Joe Gatto (No. 28)
A second-round Draft pick of the Angels in 2014, Gatto recorded a 5.18 ERA over 120 innings in 25 starts between Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Mobile in 2018. He's had trouble developing a third pitch to complement his sinker-curveball combination, but the 23-year-old still has some time to continue to improve.
OF/1B Jared Walsh
Walsh isn't ranked among the Angels' Top 30 prospects, but he's likely to be added to the 40-man roster after batting .277 with an .895 OPS and 29 home runs in 128 games across three levels in 2018. A 25-year-old left-handed hitter, Walsh can play the corner outfield, first base and was also sent to the instructional league this fall to take part in a formal pitching program. Eppler has already included Walsh among the group of young position players that he believes will be ready to contribute to the Angels in 2019.
CF Bo Way
A seventh-round Draft pick out of Kennesaw State in 2014, Way hit .312 with a .759 OPS in 2018, though he was limited to only 68 games between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake. Way has also been deployed as a left-handed pitcher in the Minors and posted a 2.84 ERA over 6 1/3 innings in six relief appearances this past season. He joined Walsh in the instructional league to further his development as a pitcher this fall.
INF Roberto Baldoquin
The Angels spent nearly $15 million to sign Baldoquin out of Cuba in 2014 and have since watched the 24-year-old infielder make a slow climb up their organizational ranks. He showed signs of improvement in 2018, batting a career-high .278 with a .713 OPS in 82 games between Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Mobile. But that success did not extend to Baldoquin's stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit just .188 with 17 strikeouts and five walks in 11 games with the Mesa Solar Sox.
LHP Conor Lillis-White
Lillis-White has enjoyed a steady rise through the Angels' farm system since being selected in the 32nd round of the 2015 Draft out of the University of British Columbia. The 26-year-old reliever logged a 3.50 ERA over 72 innings in 46 appearances between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake in 2018. His ability to pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen could also help bolster his case for a spot on the club's 40-man roster.
RHP Jeremy Rhoades
Rhoades, a fourth-round Draft pick by the Angels out of Illinois State in 2014, is another intriguing relief option who is coming off a breakout season in the Minors. Rhoades recorded a 2.54 ERA over 78 innings in 54 appearances between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Salt Lake this past season. The 25-year-old was named a Pacific Coast League All-Star in July and allowed only one earned run in 22 games in the second half.