Tuesday was a busy day for all 30 teams in terms of schedule maintenance.
With a deadline of 6pm ET to make decisions on who should be added to the 40-man rosters, the transaction thread skyrocketed and a large number of prospects were added to avoid being included in Rule 5 Draft of December.
Players first signed at age 18 or younger must be added to a 40-man roster within five seasons or be eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players who are 19 years or older must be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League stage of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn’t stay on the big league active roster all season, he must be returned 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 drafted into the 2019 Draft was in the same position. There were 15 players in the MLB Pipeline Top 100 to be protected, led by No. 4 overall Grayson Rodriguez of the Orioles, and not surprisingly, all 15 were added to the rosters. A total of 76 prospects on Top 30 lists also earned roster spots.
But there were also a large number of unranked prospects that were protected on Tuesday, and they are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Last year’s list of intriguing unranked prospects included the Guardians’ Steven Kwan, who finished third in this year’s American League Rookie of the Year election, and Orioles reliever Félix Bautista, who eventually became Baltimore’s closer.
Here are 10 players who were unranked when they got protected this year and hope to follow that path in 2023:
Jake Alu, INF, Nationals: A 24th round pick in 2019 from Boston College, Alu has shown a knack for making contact from the left side of the plate. He hit .323/.372/.553 in Triple-A last year and showed a bit more pop overall with 40 doubles and 20 homers combined between Double-A and Triple-A, while not hitting much. Playing mostly at third base, he saw time in second and left field, but it’s his bat that should take him to the big leagues next season at age 26.
Isaiah Campbell, RHP, Mariners: Campbell was added to the Mariners’ Top 30 on Wednesday when the Teoscar Hernández trade sent Adam Macko to the Blue Jays. The 2019 second-rounder from Arkansas has raised his profile with a full-time move to the bullpen after struggling to stay healthy in 2021 and now has a 96 mph fastball with a nasty sweeping slider.
Jonny DeLuca, OF, Dodgers: The Dodgers swept DeLuca in Round 25 of the 2019 Draft and have seen him take some very impressive strides to turn his athleticism into performance. He was a track star in high school before focusing on baseball in Oregon and is still an explosive athlete with some loud tools. He has an intriguing combination of power and speed and his plate discipline improvements have helped him use those tools as he finished 2022 with 25 home runs and 17 steals.
Brent Headrick, LHP, Gemini: Headrick, a 2019 ninth rounder from Illinois State, reached Double-A for the first time and really stepped up as the 2022 season progressed. He’s a 6-foot-6 lefty whose stuff went up last season, with a fastball going from about 89 mph in 2021 to averaging just under 150 mph last year to go along with a harder slider with more depth. More could come and he has a chance to start, although that stuff from the left in a bullpen could be nasty and he could be a Rule 5 hot commodity as a result.
Matt Krook, LHP, Yankees: Krook was a high school supplemental first-round pick way back in 2013, didn’t sign, went to Oregon and was a fourth-round pick from the Giants in 2016. Traded to the Rays in the December 2017 Evan Longoria deal, he was really held back through injuries, and the Yankees picked him in the Minor League stage of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft. Now 28, he’s on a roster for the first time as a southpaw who gets lots of groundball outs (last year 1.80 GO/AO) and misses bats with his slider and changeup.
Roddery Munoz, RHP, Braves: Munoz signed for just $30,000 in June 2018 and worked primarily as a starter in the Braves system, though he missed part of the 2021 season through injury. He hit 10.7 per nine in 2022 and reached Double-A while surpassing 100 IP for the first time. He could end up in a bullpen, and with a 95-98 mph fastball and a slider flashing plus, he’d be the kind of power arm that teams would give a long Rule 5 look to.
Riley Pint, RHP, Rockies: This could be a great comeback story. Pint was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 Draft, but a combination of injuries and an inability to throw strikes led to him leaving the game entirely. But he came back in 2022 and reached Triple-A as a reliever. Commando is still a problem, but he pitched 11.4 per nine strikeouts last season with a fast ball that easily hits the upper-90s and a nasty slider to complement it.
Sean Reynolds, RHP, Marlins: Reynolds was a fourth round high school pick in 2016…as an outfielder/first baseman. He had tremendous raw power, but couldn’t make enough contact to get there, so he moved to the mound in 2021. He smashed his way into Double-A last year, striking out 11.4 per nine and holding hitters on a .201 batting average. The 6-foot-8 right-hander threw his fastball in the 97-100 mph range in 2022.
Jon Singleton, 1B, Brewers: Granted, he’s not a prospect anymore, but this is quite a redemption story in the making. Singleton was once a top-level prospect, someone who seemed like the future at first base for the Astros. But he has not played in the major leagues since 2015, was out of baseball from 2018 through 2020, and played in Mexico in 2021 before leading the Brewers system with 24 home runs and all Minor Leagues with 117 walks in 2022. He signed a Minor League deal with the Brewers last month, exposing him to Rule 5 considerations, so the Brewers added the 31-year-old, marking his first time on a 40-man since November 2016.
Colby White, RHP, Rays: Mississippi State’s product was the Rays’ sixth-round pick in 2019. He’s been in their Top 30 in the past, and after a season in 2021 where he made his way to Triple-A, he looked like he could make an impact have in the major league. pen in 2022 until he had to have Tommy John surgery in April. Assuming he gets back to health in 2023, he should be able to take his 95-97 mph fastball, which he places well in the zone, along with a very powerful slider, to Tampa.