Who will Padres protect from Rule 5 Draft?

With MLB's best farm system, SD will have tough 40-man decisions

November 16th, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' Rule 5 Draft intentions have changed drastically in the past three years.
In 2015 and '16, they combined to select seven players from the rosters of other teams during the Rule 5 Draft, which is staged each December on the final day of the Winter Meetings. This year, they boast MLB Pipeline's top-rated farm system, and a handful of their prospects must be added to the 40-man roster -- or they'll be at risk of being selected by another club.
"From our own standpoint of protecting players, that's ratcheted up a little bit," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller.
The deadline to add those prospects looms on Tuesday. The Padres currently have a full roster, but it shouldn't be all that difficult to clear space for a handful of youngsters.
To be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, a player must have gone through five Minors seasons without being added to the 40-man roster -- or four if they were signed at age 19 or older. If a player is selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he must remain with his new Major League club for an entire season or be offered back to his original team.
Here's a breakdown of the most notable Rule 5 eligible players in the Padres' system.
Chris Paddack
No. 5 prospect, 22-year-old right-hander
Status: Expected to be added to 40-man roster
There's no easier decision than this one. Paddack is one of the fastest-rising pitching prospects in baseball. Between Class A Advanced and Double-A last season, he recorded a mind-boggling 120 strikeouts to just eight walks while notching a 2.10 ERA. Paddack will be invited to big league camp and is expected to debut at some point in 2019. But after missing the '17 season due to Tommy John surgery, he'll be limited again, innings-wise.

Anderson Espinoza
No. 12 prospect, 20-year-old right-hander
Status: Expected to be added to 40-man roster
Espinoza still hasn't pitched above Class A, and he missed the entire 2018 season because of Tommy John surgery. He's scheduled to face hitters for the first time in Spring Training, and it's not a guarantee that another club would take a shot on him in next month's Rule 5 Draft. The Padres probably aren't going to give those clubs a chance. Espinoza's upside is too great, and on a roster that won 66 big league games last season, it shouldn't be hard to find room for him.

Austin Allen
No. 25 prospect, 24-year-old catcher
Status: Expected to be added to 40-man roster
The Padres are already talking as though Allen is a part of their 40-man roster. Said Preller last week: "At the catcher position, it's a hard spot to find talent, and we have three really good ones." That's , and Allen. In the long term, it could be hard to find playing time for Allen (unless Hedges or Mejia gets dealt). Allen is an excellent hitter, but his defense has always lagged behind a bit. For now, however, Allen is a lock to be added to the 40-man, and he'll most likely open the season at Triple-A El Paso.

Edward Olivares
No. 28 prospect, 22-year-old outfielder
Status: Likely to be added to 40-man roster
Olivares landed with the Padres in the deal that sent to Toronto. It's hard to see San Diego risking his departure. Olivares hit .277/.321/.429 with Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore this season. He's still a long way from being big league ready, but, again, the Padres almost certainly have room for him.
Pedro Avila
No. 29 prospect, 21-year-old right-hander
Status: Questionable, could be added to 40-man roster
With Avila, we're getting into question-mark territory. No doubt, the Padres like his stuff -- particularly a pair of swing-and-miss offspeed offerings. But he notched a 4.27 ERA at Lake Elsinore with far too many walks. If he's left unprotected, it's worth wondering whether another club would swoop in.
Hansel Rodriguez
Unranked, 21-year-old right-hander
Status: Questionable, could be added to 40-man roster
Rodriguez, who was traded straight up for Melvin Upton Jr. in 2016, has only made eight appearances at Class A Advanced, and he was recently shut down in the Arizona Fall League because of olecranon stress reaction issues in his elbow. The club doesn't believe surgery will be required. But given the injury -- and his 4.36 career ERA over five Minor League seasons -- it's hard to envision a team taking a flier on Rodriguez for their big league roster. (Of course, Preller himself has taken similar chances in the past.)
Ty France
Unranked, 24-year-old third baseman
Status: Questionable, could be added to 40-man roster
A year ago, the Padres left their Minors home run leader unprotected for the Rule 5 Draft. Now, there are about 29 other clubs who could use the services of , after Reyes put forth a brilliant rookie season out of nowhere. That's all to say: Leaving France unprotected could amount to the same thing. The San Diego State product batted .267/.355/.464 last season with 22 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. The Padres need to ask themselves whether his bat will translate at the next level.
Trevor Megill
Unranked, 24-year-old right-hander
Status: Questionable, could be added to 40-man roster
There could be a spot for Megill on a big league roster -- if a team were willing to stash him at the back of a bullpen. He posted a 3.35 ERA between Lake Elsinore and San Antonio last season, and his fastball sits in the mid-90s. Now it's just a matter of whether the Padres would sacrifice a player currently on the 40-man to protect him.
Other notable Rule 5 eligible players: 1B Kyle Overstreet, 1B Brad Zunica, OF Michael Gettys, LHP Travis Radke, RHP Gerardo Reyes
Reyes might be the most intriguing of this group. The 25-year-old righty reliever posted a 29 percent strikeout rate in the Minors last season, and another club might be willing to take a shot (if the Padres aren't.) As for Gettys, a one-time top-15 prospect for the club, he's fallen off quite a bit. Gettys has always been an excellent defender, but he's striking out at a 35 percent clip in the Minors, and he's not adding nearly enough power to justify his addition to the roster.