With the end of the season upon us, the off-season for the Mets is about to begin, and that means a lot of roster movement. Part of that roster movement is preparation for the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. November 20th is the last day players can be added to the 40-man roster in order to be protected. So let’s take a look at some notable guys that are Rule 5 eligible this year.
Zack Wheeler – I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got a hunch Wheeler will be protected. I can’t explain it, it’s just a feeling I have. Just to clear things up regarding Wheeler: he was drafted out of high school four years ago, which would ordinarily mean he wouldn’t be eligible until next off season, but (and I don’t know the back story why) he was 19 when he was drafted out of high school, so he only got four years.
Chris Schwinden – The Mets like having Schwinden stashed in the minors, but not enough to protect him. I can actually envision a scenario in which Schwinden has trouble making the AAA rotation, which speaks to the depth the Mets have there if everyone’s healthy. It wouldn’t be shocking if someone took him, as three other teams claimed in on waivers last year, but if that happens it’s no great loss.
Josh Satin – He’s a nice AAA player, but he doesn’t have the tools or the versatility to be a useful MLB bench player. He’ll be in Vegas next summer.
Eric Campbell – After a wretched 2011, Campbell bounced back nicely in 2012. He may be able to stick on an MLB roster as a bench player for a whole season, but he doesn’t have the upside to make it worthwhile.
Juan Centeno – Protecting Centeno is a possibility. He’s the closest catcher to contributing that the Mets have in their farm system, but he’s undersized, a light hitter, and nothing special defensively. I’m not sure if another team would look to draft him, but it would be unfortunate to lose another catcher in rule 5.
Francisco Pena – He’s been in the organization a long time and he’s been rule 5 eligible a long time, but Pena is finally old enough for teams to consider taking him, after finishing the season in AA. Don’t be surprised if he gets protected, because Terry Collins has said he’s curious and would probably like to take a look at him in spring training. Also, the genes, the body, and the defensive skill set are intriguing enough for a team to pick him, even though at this point it’s hard to conceive him staying on a major league roster for an entire season.
Allan Dykstra – If you don’t remember, Dykstra came over to the Mets in exchange for Eddie Kunz. He’s hit plenty of homeruns, but he doesn’t do much else and the Mets appear set at first base for the foreseeable future. I still wouldn’t expect anybody to draft him, but I’ve been wrong before.
Gonzalez Germen – Not a guy worth protecting, but I could stick as a middle reliever or long man in a major league bullpen next year. He’s got one of the better changeups in the farm system, so he could face both righties and lefties. Still, he’s not the prototypical rule 5 selection.
Darin Gorski – This could go either way. Gorski was fantastic in 2011, being named Florida State League pitcher of the year, but he was fairly average in AA in 2012. He’s definitely vulnerable to getting picked if left unprotected, but the Mets do have some rotation depth and Gorski still hasn’t been exposed to AAA, so it’ll be a tough call.
Brad Holt – He was actually decent coming out of the Binghamton bullpen for much of the year, but he no longer resembles a first round draft pick.
Jefry Marte – This is another tough call. Being so young and such a liability on defense makes it hard to imagine Marte sticking on a major league roster for an entire year. At the same time, Marte is a legitimate prospect that is worth keeping an eye on and it’d be a shame to lose him in rule 5.
Armando Rodriguez – Rodriguez was protected a couple years ago after a good season in Savannah, but has since been removed from the 40-man roster. He’s made a nice transition to the bullpen, where his future will be, but it’s not like he’s a future closer or 8th inning set up man, so it’ll be hard to justify using a valuable roster spot to protect him.
Wilfredo Tovar – Tovar is definitely a guy that would get picked if the Mets leave him unprotected. Defensively, he could play shortstop in the big leagues right now. Offensively, he’s tiny, he’ll never have much power, and it would have been nice to see better numbers from him at AA in the second half of the season, but he doesn’t strike out much and has good plate discipline. At the very least, Tovar should grow into a back up middle infielder that doesn’t hit much but is brilliant defensively, which is what he would be this year for some other team if left unprotected.
Alonzo Harris – I’m not sure Harris has done enough to warrant protection, and I’m also not sure he’s done enough to warrant selection, but I have him as a top-20 prospect. He’s athletic, he can play centerfield, he can steal bases, and he’s got a little pop, so there’s plenty to like. Of course, he’s yet to see AA, so you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. Bottom line, I’d be surprised if the Mets protected him, but I’d be really disappointed if someone took him away from the Mets.
Aderlin Rodriguez – A-Rod is eligible for the first time and he’ll probably have to be protected. He’s quite a ways from being a big leaguer, but he made good strides this past year both offensively and defensively. Most importantly, he has incredible power, which is a rare find.
Luis Cessa – He signed back in 2008, so the 20-year old has been in the organization for a while even though he has just two years of experience. He was one of several quality starters in Brooklyn this past summer. He probably won’t be protected or selected, but he’s a guy to watch this year, especially considering that he will continue to be rule 5 eligible in subsequent years.
So, conclusions? Well, Wheeler, Tovar, and Aderlin Rodriguez are locks to be protected in my mind. Beyond that, it’s tough to know what will happen. Part of the problem is that even after guys file for free agency and others are non-tendered, there won’t be a lot of open roster spots to use on minor leaguers that need protecting, especially guys that may not be major league contributors for over a year. To help remedy this situation, the Mets may have to examine the roster status of guys like Reese Havens, Zach Lutz, Cesar Puello, Elvin Ramirez, and possibly others to make room for more rule 5 protectorates and free agent signings or re-signings (Haiston, Rauch, Shoppach, etc). I do expect the Mets to protect more than just Wheeler, Tovar, and A-Rod, but any more than five new additions would be surprising. If I were making a prediction, I’d say that Pena and Gorski would round out the group that’s protected, with Centeno and Marte also being possibilities. Any others would be a surprise, because, like I said, the Mets still don’t have a lot of roster flexibility, and those roster spots are valuable.