16 prospects who could get taken in today's Rule 5 Draft

December 7th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- After a one-year hiatus, the Rule 5 Draft is back. And Wednesday afternoon (5 p.m. ET/2 PT) will mark the first time since 2019 that the baseball world will be coming together for the event in person. Figuring out who might get taken in the Major League phase is always a bit of an adventure, but we’re here for the ride.

For the uninitiated, here’s a crash course on the Rule 5 Draft: 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. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn't stay on the big league active roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000. For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2018 had to be protected. A college player taken in the 2019 Draft was in the same position.

In talking to people at the Winter Meetings, we've gotten a sense of who might get selected, starting with this group of potential draftees. Their top 30 rankings are in parentheses when warranted.

Dominic Canzone, OF/1B, D-backs (No. 19)
The left-handed-hitting Canzone was an eighth-round pick of the D-backs out of Ohio State in 2019 and spent most of the 2022 season in Triple-A, finishing with a .300/.367/.541 line. There’s power (22 homers in 2022, .533 career SLG in the Minors) and he has shown the ability to play both the outfield (the corners particularly) and first base.

Steven Cruz, RHP, Twins (No. 27)
The Twins signed Cruz for $30,000 back in March 2017 and teams might be very intrigued by his size (6-foot-7) and arm strength. Command is still an issue (5.6 BB/9), but he has premium power stuff that helped him strike out 11.6 per nine in 2022. His live fastball touches triple digits and his 89-mph hard slider serves as a true out pitch at times.

Logan Davidson, 3B/SS, A’s (No. 19)
The 2019 first-rounder has proven to be a durable everyday player in his two years of pro ball. He struggled at the plate in 2021 when sent straight to Double-A. Repeating the level this past season, he made some strides offensively and got to his power a bit more while showing an ability to play at least two infield spots.

Lucas Erceg, RHP, Brewers
A former Top 30 prospect as an infielder, Erceg has overcome mental health and alcohol issues while also converting to the mound. Now 27, he reached Triple-A in 2022 and is starting to figure it out, with a combined 10.1 K/9 last year. He has a fastball that touches the upper 90s, a mid-80s slider and a changeup while he continues to work on finding the strike zone more consistently.

Sawyer Gipson-Long, RHP, Tigers
The Tigers acquired Gipson-Long from the Twins in return for Michael Fulmer at this past season’s Trade Deadline. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was a sixth-round pick out of Mercer University in 2019 and split the year between High-A and Double-A this past season, showing durability (123 innings) and an ability to throw strikes (2.05 BB/9). He can miss some bats (8.9 K/9) with an above-average slider. Though he commands his fastball well, it isn’t very dynamic.

Matt Gorski, OF, Pirates (No. 22)
The second-rounder out of Indiana has some serious raw tools that enabled him to turn in a 20-20 season in just 81 games in 2022. The power-speed combination does come with some swing-and-miss (28.7 strikeout rate in his career), but he can play all three outfield spots and has even dabbled at first base.

Jose Lopez, LHP, Rays
A full-time move to the bullpen in 2022 helped Lopez as he reached Triple-A for the first time while striking out a combined 14.4 per nine and holding hitters to a .169 average against. Command is an issue (5.8 BB/9), but lefties with mid-90s fastballs and swing-and-miss breaking stuff that has played at upper levels often get a long Rule 5 look.

Erik Miller, LHP, Phillies (No. 7)
The Stanford product has long shown glimpses of outstanding stuff, but injuries and command issues have been roadblocks. He was a prime candidate to move to the bullpen and did so in 2022, seeing Triple-A for the first time and striking out 11.5 per nine for the year. He can touch 97-98 mph in shorter stints with his fastball, and also has a low-80s slider and a spin-killing changeup, though the strike zone can be elusive (5.8 BB/9).

Kameron Misner, OF, Rays (No. 19)
In addition to Lopez, there’s been buzz the Rays might also lose Misner’s power bat. Taken No. 35 overall in the 2019 Draft by the Marlins and shipped to the Rays in the Joey Wendle deal, Misner could provide a team with legitimate raw power from the left side. He also could be a three-true-outcomes type, one who can hit the ball out of the park, draw walks (16.9 percent rate in Double-A in 2022) and strike out (30.4 K rate), while also being an asset on the basepaths, as he used his athleticism to swipe 32 bags last year.

McKinley Moore, RHP, Phillies (No. 24)
The Phillies got this power reliever from the White Sox last March and he spent the year with Double-A Reading, striking out 12.9 per nine, though he also walked 4.7 per nine. The 6-foot-6 right-hander fits the hard-throwing bullpen piece mold that often goes in the Rule 5, with a fastball that touches the upper-90s and a slider/cutter that can be nasty.

Jayden Murray, RHP, Astros (No. 12)
Acquired from the Rays in the three-team deal that also netted the Astros Trey Mancini from the Orioles, Murray spent most of the 2022 season in Double-A and posted a 3.50 ERA, .236 average against and 99 strikeouts in 108 innings. He commands his mid-90s-mph fastball with good carry and a sweeping low-80s slider very well (2.2 BB/9 career rate).

Malcom Nunez, 1B/3B, Pirates (No. 12)
Acquired at the Trade Deadline in the Jose Quintana deal, Nunez really started tapping into his power in 2022 with 23 homers, mostly in Double-A. He makes a ton of contact, doesn’t strike out much for a guy with this kind of raw power and his patience at the plate has improved. He’s probably destined for first base, which limits his profile, though his arm does play well from third.

Ryan Nutof, RHP, Reds
The Michigan product reached Double-A in 2019 but struggled there, then missed the next two years due to the pandemic and arm surgery. He returned in 2022 and pitched his way to Triple-A. The reliever has four pitches with two distinct breaking balls. He misses bats with his breaking stuff especially, helping him K 10.2 per nine last season.

Inohan Paniagua, RHP, Cardinals (No. 13)
This could be one of those instances in which a team rolls the dice on a lower-level starting pitcher and puts him in the big league bullpen. Paniagua has yet to pitch above A ball, but is coming off a season in which he missed bats (9.5 K/9), threw strikes (2.5 BB/9) and held hitters to a .212 BAA. He’ll be just 23 for all of the 2023 season.

Victor Vodnik, RHP, Braves (No. 9)
The Braves went over slot in Round 14 of the 2018 Draft to sign Vodnik as a high school pitching prospect. He had an unusual profile as a prepster who looked like a reliever, and after giving him some time to work on his repertoire as a starter, the Braves did move him to the bullpen full-time in 2022. His fastball flirts with triple-digits, averaging close to 96 mph in Triple-A last season, and his best secondary offering is an above-average changeup that misses bats.

Thad Ward, RHP, Red Sox (No. 15)
Ward had Tommy John surgery in 2021, but came back and threw well in Double-A (2.43 ERA, 41 K’s in 33 1/3 IP) and the Arizona Fall League (2.84 ERA, 15 K’s in 12 2/3 IP). The former fifth-round pick in 2018 leans heavily on his plus slider, thrown 81-85 mph, and a 92- to 96-mph sinker.