ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals shuffled their roster on Wednesday to protect three prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.
Wednesday was the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place at the Winter Meetings in San Diego on Dec. 12. Prospects signed at age 18 or younger become Rule 5-eligible once they have been in their organizations for five seasons. Those signed at age 19 or older become eligible after four seasons. Teams have the option of protecting those players by adding them to the 40-man roster, so now Woodford, Montero and Seijas are not available in the Draft.
Montero and Woodford were locks to be added. Montero, 21, is the Cardinals’ No. 4 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and is projected as a future impact hitter in the big leagues. He spent most of his year in Double-A Springfield recovering from a broken hamate bone in his left hand, but in 2018, he led the Class A Midwest League in batting average (.322), slugging (.529) and OPS (.910), earning him MVP honors.
Woodford is the Cardinals’ No. 13 prospect and was drafted with the 39th overall pick in 2015 out of Plant (Tampa) High School. In a full season with Triple-A Memphis this year, the 23-year-old had a 4.15 ERA over 26 starts and 151 2/3 innings with 131 strikeouts. He was third in the Pacific Coast League in ERA and strikeouts and first in opponent average (.223).
Seijas isn’t ranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 list, but the 21-year-old showed promise this year with a 2.81 ERA -- which led all Cardinals full-season Minor Leaguers -- over 24 starts between Class A Peoria and Class A Advanced Palm Beach.
There are two top Cardinals prospects who are Rule 5 eligible and were not protected: outfielder Conner Capel (No. 24) and second baseman Max Schrock (No. 30). Other teams could look at these two for bench depth, although it’s unlikely considering that player must stay on the 25-man roster for the full season.
Capel, 22, slashed .248/.296/.388 with 11 homers between Springfield and Memphis this year, while Schrock slashed .275/.366/.381 in Memphis. The 25-year-old came from the A’s in the Stephen Piscotty trade in 2017, but his offense has dipped in the last two years after hitting .324 in his first three seasons. The Cardinals have tried to increase his versatility by giving him more reps at third base and in the outfield.
Leone was a non-tender candidate this year, as he was arbitration-eligible and made $1.26 million in 2019. The deadline to tender players is Dec. 2, so this move clears a spot on the roster earlier and allowed the Cardinals to protect one more player from the Rule 5 Draft.
Leone had a 5.53 ERA over 40 games and 40 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. The 28-year-old right-hander opened the season with the Cardinals, but struggled early on and he was optioned two different times over the course of the season.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.