Prospects to watch in today's Rule 5 Draft

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- On Wednesday, there will be some new big leaguers discovered.

At 2 p.m. ET (1 p.m. CT at the Winter Meetings in Nashville), the annual Rule 5 Draft will take place, a chance for teams to take low-risk gambles on players not protected on 40-man rosters, giving them a chance to make a Major League roster.

Players available in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 are ones who were not added to their club's 40-man roster at the mid-November deadline. If selected, for a price of $100,000, they have to stick on the 26-man roster for the full season or get offered back to his former team for $50K.

Players first signed at age 18 or younger must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons.

For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2019 had to be protected. A college player taken in the 2020 Draft was in the same position.

As attention turned from Tuesday’s Draft Lottery to the Rule 5 Draft, there were some names from the list below who were generating a little more interest. As seemed to be the case beforehand, it’s mostly arms on the market this year.

It’s looking like the Yankees might get poached twice, with a pair of right-handers coming up in many discussions. There was some buzz on Tuesday night that Mitch Spence and Matt Sauer could get selected in the early going of the Major League phase. But if the Yankees lose pitchers in this year's Rule 5 Draft, they won't likely be alone. Rangers righty Justin Slaten has drawn interest. The Rays’ Cole Wilcox and the Guardians’ Tanner Burns have also come up. A newer name -- right-hander Tobias Myers from the Brewers -- has also been mentioned. Injured Mets right-hander Coleman Crow could be intriguing, and the one position player who has been mentioned more than once is Marlins infielder Nasim Nuñez.

Below is this year’s complete Rule 5 Draft order, which is dictated by the reverse order of last season's standings, unlike the amateur Draft (Rule 4), the order of which is now determined in part by a lottery. A team must have room on its roster to make a pick, so each team’s current 40-man status is included in parentheses.

1. A's (39)
2. Royals (39)
3. Rockies (39)
4. White Sox (39)
5. Nationals (38)
6. Cardinals (39)
7. Angels (39)
8. Mets (34)
9. Pirates (39)
10. Guardians (39)
11. Tigers (38)
12. Red Sox (37)
13. Giants (36)
14. Reds (39)
15. Padres (31)
16. Yankees (37)
17. Cubs (37)
18. Marlins (39)
19. D-backs (38)
20. Twins (36)
21. Mariners (36)
22. Blue Jays (37)
23. Rangers (35)
24. Phillies (38)
25. Astros (39)
26. Brewers (36)
27. Rays (40)
28. Dodgers (39)
29. Orioles (36)
30. Braves (34)

The arms

This is the hottest commodity on this year's Rule 5 market. Some are healthy and could step right in, and some might be a draft-and-stash on the injured list type of situation.

Tanner Burns, RHP, Guardians (No. 19): There have been some injury issues, but he’s topped 85 IP in each of the last two seasons and pitched well with a move to the bullpen in Double-A in 2023 (2.73 ERA, 10.6 K/9), which could intrigue teams.

Coleman Crow, RHP, Mets (No. 29): He had Tommy John surgery this summer, so he's yet to pitch for the Mets after they got him from the Angels in the Eduardo Escobar trade, but he'll only be 23 for all of the 2024 season and has a four-pitch mix.

Tobias Myers, RHP, Brewers: Myers has bounced around, playing for a total of six organizations. He signed with the Brewers as a Minor League free agent in November 2022 and amassed 140 2/3 innings this past season while striking out 175 (11.2 K/9) and walking only 46 (2.9 BB/9).

Mitch Spence, RHP, Yankees: A 10th-round pick in 2019 out of University of South Carolina-Aiken, Spence was a durable part of the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre rotation in 2023, amassing 163 innings. He throws strikes with a deep (albeit largely average) arsenal, leaning on his cutter and missing bats with a newer sweeper.

Matt Sauer, RHP, Yankees (No. 25): He's had a hard time staying healthy, but in 68 1/3 innings in 2023, he missed a ton of bats (11.3 K/9) and held hitters to a .189 batting average with a riding fastball up to 95 mph and a tight slider.

Justin Slaten, RHP, Rangers: Pitching across Double-A and Triple-A, Slaten finished with a 2.87 ERA, 13.0 K/9 rate and .206 BAA with a fastball that touched 98 mph and a low-80s slider that missed a ton of bats.

CJ Van Eyk, RHP, Blue Jays: He missed 2022 due to Tommy John surgery and was limited during the 2023 regular season, but the Florida State product threw well in the Arizona Fall League with a full array of pitches that could allow him to fit into a rotation.

Cole Wilcox, RHP, Rays (No. 11): Acquired from the Padres in the Blake Snell trade, Wilcox had Tommy John surgery in 2021, so last year was his first full healthy season, with teams thinking there could be more to come from his sinking fastball, slider and changeup.

Other names: Angel Bastardo, RHP, Red Sox; Ian Bedell, RHP, Cardinals; Bryce Bonnin, RHP, Reds; Christian Chamberlain, LHP, Royals; Austin Cox, LHP, Royals; R.J. Dabovich, RHP, Giants; Shane Drohan, LHP, Red Sox; Stevie Emanuels, RHP, A's; Kohl Franklin, RHP, Cubs; Stephen Kolek, RHP, Mariners; Asa Lacy, LHP, Royals; Zach McCambley, RHP, Marlins; Evan McKendry, RHP, Brewers; Nick Mikolajchak, RHP, Guardians; Tyler Owens, RHP, Braves; Carson Ragsdale, RHP, Giants; Julio Robaina, LHP, Astros; John Rooney, LHP, Dodgers; T.J. Sikkema, LHP, Royals; Leonardo Taveras, RHP, Cardinals; Brian Van Belle, RHP, Red Sox; Beck Way, RHP, Royals; Grant Wolfram, LHP, Rangers

The position players

This list, at present, is a bit thin, but a few names came up more than once.

Will Banfield, C, Marlins (No. 27): He has at least a plus arm and is a very solid receiver behind the plate. His approach in the box isn't great, but the power started showing up in 2023 with 23 homers in Double-A.

Troy Johnston, 1B, Marlins (No. 21): The 26-year-old is coming off a 20-20 year with a .948 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A. If you think he can handle left field along with first base, that adds some versatility.

Kyle McCann, C, A's: He's a left-handed hitting backstop who gives a competitive at-bat, displays power and has improved behind the dish.

Grant McCray, OF, Giants (No. 7): The fact he's yet to play above A ball and still has an elevated K rate (29.3 pct in 2023) make this a bit of a long shot, but these kind of raw tools (37 homers and 95 steals over the last two years) don't come around the Rule 5 that often.

Nasim Nuñez, SS/2B, Marlins (No. 16): He can really defend at two spots up the middle and he can really run, but he's never really hit, so we're looking at a glove-first utility type.

Anthony Prato, UTIL, Twins: He can play all over the field and puts together consistently professional at-bats, posting a .990 OPS in 72 Triple-A games in 2023.

Other names: Trei Cruz, UTIL, Tigers; Tyler Tolbert, SS, Royals