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Blue Jays protect five from Rule 5 Draft

@KeeganMatheson
November 20, 2020

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added five prospects to their 40-man roster ahead of Friday’s deadline, protecting them from this December’s Rule 5 Draft. Catchers Gabriel Moreno and Riley Adams will be joined by versatile infielder Otto Lopez, outfielder Josh Palacios and right-hander Ty Tice. This moves the club’s 40-man

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added five prospects to their 40-man roster ahead of Friday’s deadline, protecting them from this December’s Rule 5 Draft.

Catchers Gabriel Moreno and Riley Adams will be joined by versatile infielder Otto Lopez, outfielder Josh Palacios and right-hander Ty Tice. This moves the club’s 40-man from 35 to a full 40, meaning that a free agent signing would require a counter-move to create roster space.

Moreno is the top-ranked prospect of the group, coming in eighth on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Blue Jays prospects. Still just 20, Moreno was part of the club’s alternate training site in 2020 and has earned impressive reviews throughout the organization. In his last full season with Class A Lansing in 2019, Moreno hit .280 with 12 home runs and an .823 OPS over 82 games. With an above-average plate approach, plenty of hard contact and a defensive game that the Blue Jays believe in long-term behind the plate, Moreno was a no-brainer to protect this offseason.

In Adams, the club’s No. 22 prospect, the Blue Jays add a fifth catcher to their 40-man roster. Now 24, the former third-round pick reached Double-A in 2018 and has shown the ability to hit for power with a full, 6-foot-4 frame. Adams’ power ceiling might be the biggest variable in his career path from here, but he adds to a crowded group of catchers who profile very differently.

With Moreno and Adams joining Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Reese McGuire, the Blue Jays have a good problem on their hands. It’s not comfortable for a team to carry five catchers on their 40-man roster while also trying to be aggressive in adding external players over the offseason, but the Blue Jays can face that logjam when they reach it. When negotiating on the trade market, many opposing teams will check in on the availability of Toronto’s catching depth, given how rare it is across baseball.

Stepping out from behind the plate, Lopez, the other ranked prospect to be added at No. 13, hit .324 with Class A Lansing in 2019 while playing all over the diamond. Similarly to how the Blue Jays used Santiago Espinal in '20, Lopez is a prospect Toronto likes for his ability to play multiple positions while still contributing with the bat. He’s yet to play above Class A at age 22, but he should be able to climb relatively quickly from here.

Palacios is the closest to the Major Leagues after spending 2020 at the alternate training site, including a brief addition to the club’s taxi squad in September. At 25, Palacios doesn’t dominate in one particular area, but he’s a steady player across the board and has supporters within the organization. The Blue Jays were encouraged by an improved plate approach from '18 to '19, as he jumped to Double-A. The Blue Jays also have Jonathan Davis and Derek Fisher on their 40-man roster as outfield depth.

On the mound, Tice is a hard-throwing right-hander whom the Blue Jays found in the 16th round of the 2017 Draft. Combine Tice’s velocity with his high strikeout numbers and experience at Triple-A, and the 24-year-old would have been a sensible Rule 5 gamble for another organization. He posted a 2.34 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, so it’s possible Tice competes for a role in early '21.

The Rule 5 Draft will be held on the morning of Dec. 10.

Keegan Matheson covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.