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Crew protects Feliciano from Rule 5 Draft

Righties Bettinger, File also added to 40-man roster
@AdamMcCalvy
November 20, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added a trio of prospects to the 40-man roster on Friday -- catcher Mario Feliciano and right-handers Alec Bettinger and Dylan File, to protect those players from being plucked away in next month’s Rule 5 Draft. Feliciano is No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added a trio of prospects to the 40-man roster on Friday -- catcher Mario Feliciano and right-handers Alec Bettinger and Dylan File, to protect those players from being plucked away in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.

Feliciano is No. 4 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top Brewers prospects, Bettinger is No. 24 and File is No. 25. They were on the Brewers’ list of Minor League players, including seven members of Milwaukee’s Top 30, who would be Rule 5 Draft eligible if not protected by Friday’s 5 p.m. CT deadline.

What is the Rule 5 Draft?

In the Rule 5 Draft, scheduled for Dec. 10 at the end of MLB’s virtual Winter Meetings, other teams can pay $100,000 to take a player in the Major League phase, and that player essentially must stay on the active roster the entire following season or be offered back to his original team for $50,000. Generally speaking, a player is exposed to the Draft after five seasons in the Minors if he signed when he was 18 or younger, or after four seasons if he signed when he was 19 or older.

Brewers' Top 30 Prospects

This year’s decisions were complicated by the uncertain state of baseball. Coming off a season without fans in the stands, might teams be more aggressive in using the Rule 5 Draft as a way to acquire cost-effective talent? It’s unclear.

“Honestly, we've debated that a little bit here internally, how the market will respond to those types of things,” said Brewers general manager Matt Arnold, who acquired that title on Thursday and will continue to work alongside president of baseball operations David Stearns. “We feel like it's going to be a challenge to decide how this works for us.”

Arnold elevated to GM post by Brewers

Feliciano, who turned 22 on Friday, was widely considered the easiest call. The Brewers drafted him No. 75 overall in 2016 out of Puerto Rico, and he offers great power potential, evidenced by 19 home runs in '19 between advanced Class A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi.

“This has been a pretty consistent performer at young ages throughout his Minor League career for us,” Stearns said. “He’s always been young for his level. He plays the hardest position on the field. And he’s done it well. There’s a reason he’s routinely considered one of our top prospects.”

At Biloxi, Feliciano was a teammate of Bettinger and File. Bettinger, 25, is a 6-foot-2 righty with a four-pitch mix drafted in the 10th round in 2017 from the University of Virginia. He took a step forward that season with a 3.44 ERA and 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings, ranking second in the Southern League with 157 total strikeouts, and he owns a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than three to one in the professional ranks.

File is a 24-year-old strike-throwing machine who topped out at Biloxi in 2019 and has 4.56 strikeouts for every walk since the Brewers drafted him in the 21st round in '17. In '19, he struck out 136 batters versus 22 walks in 147 innings between Carolina and Biloxi.

“These are two pitchers who are ready to pitch in the big leagues,” Stearns said. “They both have poise. They both can command the baseball. They can change speeds. To varying degrees they can change eye level. As we look forward to 2021, we see both of these pitchers as at least having the potential to help us at the big-league level.”

Feliciano, Bettinger and File were all part of the Brewers’ 60-man player pool in 2020, so while they missed a Minor League season, they did get to continue their development at the alternate training site.

The additions left one opening on the 40-man roster and left the following Top 30 prospects exposed to the Rule 5 Draft:

14) Zack Brown, RHP
15) Payton Henry, C
28) Lucas Erceg, 3B/1B
29) Pablo Abreu, OF

Brown and Erceg were also left unprotected last year and were not claimed by other clubs. Brown, who turns 26 on Dec. 15, was Milwaukee’s Minor League pitcher of the year in 2018.

Henry, an exceptional defensive catcher who has posted offensive numbers in the Minor Leagues comparable to Feliciano, could have been impacted by the fact the Brewers now have five catchers on the 40-man with the addition of Feliciano. While they do not want to lose Henry, 23, the Brewers may be banking that clubs will be hesitant to attempt to carry a catcher so young and relatively inexperienced on the big-league roster.

Abreu, 21, an international signee from the Dominican Republic, revealed this week that he underwent right elbow surgery.

“This is not a major injury for Pablo," Stearns said. "He will be fine. He should be ready to go by Spring Training.”

Stearns added, “These are always tough decisions and as we talk about every year, we always wish we had an extra roster spot or two to get through the offseason. … We have scouting staffs that have worked really hard to bring these players into the organization, and you have development staffs that have worked really hard to develop them and help them grow as players. So, it's tough to leave someone unprotected when there's a chance you could lose them. A lot of this is playing the odds.”

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram and like him on Facebook.