Who Will The Rays Lose In The Rule 5 Draft? A Dozen Prospects To Watch

Rays May Lose Multiple Players In The Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 draft is held annually on the final day of the Winter Meetings. The pool of players is populated by those players not on their respective organizations 40-man roster that have either four years (College/Junior College players) or five years (high school players/international players) of professional experience.

A team can draft the player for $100,000 but the player must remain on another teams 25-man roster the following season or be offered back to the original team for $50,000.

The Tampa Bay Rays lost one of the most significant players in the history of the Rule 5 draft when they left Josh Hamilton protected in 2006. He was selected by the Chicago Cubs and traded to the Reds on the same day.

More recently the Rays lost catcher Oscar Hernandez to the Arizona Diamondbacks (2014), Joey Rickard to the Baltimore Orioles and Tyler Goeddell to the Philadelphia Phillies (2015), and Burch Smith to the Kansas City Royals (2017).

This Rays dipped into the Rule 5 most recently in 2016 selecting Kevin Gadea from the Seattle Mariners. The Rays were in the process of sending him back to Seattle when an injury was discovered. He missed the 2017 season and afterwards the Seattle Mariners relinquished claim to him. He subsequently underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his elbow ligament causing him to miss the 2018 season.

The Rays currently have a full roster, so it would seem unlikely that they would be making a selection but that doesn’t discount them from clearing room ahead of Thursday draft. “We have some players that we’re looking into,” Rays Senior President of Baseball Operations and General Manager said. “But obviously would require a move on our side to get into position to take someone.”

The decision of who to protect is easier some years than others.  “I think we’re fortunate to enough to be in position that we have some players, we have some depth.” Neander said. “We have some players that have really blossomed. If we didn’t feel so good about our group in total that we’d probably protect.”

The process is a tough one but it’s done by calculating risk. The best you can do is make educated guesses and try to determine what makes the most sense in total as Neander explained. “We’ve had guys picked in previous years and you recognize the risk of leaving people exposed and what comes with that and we’ll see what happens and feel good about our work.”

With the risk of leaving players exposed, there is the chance that the front office will look back and wish they  would have done things differently.  It’s something that all teams have to got through every year.

The Rays have a deep and talented system and are projected to lose multiple players. The most likely to be selected are infielder Kean Wong and right handed pitcher Sam McWilliams. The following list highlights a dozen Rays whose name may be called Thursday morning during the Rule 5 draft.

1. Infielder Kean Wong, 23, was selected by Tampa Bay in the 4th round in 2013. He has spent the bulk of the last two seasons with the Rays Triple-A Durham Bulls. In 2018 with Durham he hit .282/.345/.406 in 502 plate appearances. His numbers are tempered a bit by a worrisome finish over his final 251 plate appearances in which he hit .241/.313/.300.

2. Right handed pitcher Mike Franco, 27, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh round of the 2014 draft. He is a very intriguing arm and in most organizations I believe he’d already be on a 40-man roster. He can hit into the mid-90’s on the gun and has shown the ability to bounce back and provide multiple innings when needed. Last season in 41 appearances split between Durham (29) and Double-A Montgomery (12) he posted a 4-3 mark with a 3.16 ERA while striking out 9.6 batters per nine innings while walking 3.0 per nine spanning 62.2-innings of work.

3. Right handed pitcher Sam McWilliams, 23, was acquired by the Rays as part of the return from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the deal for Steven Souza Jr. The one time eighth round pick of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2014 and was sent to Arizona in exchange for former Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. Last season he appeared in 27 games (23 starts) between three teams posting a 7-9 mark with a 4.38 ERA while striking out 8.7 batters per nine innings and walking 3.2 per nine spanning 137.2 innings of work.

4. Outfielder Nathan Lukes, 24, was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the seventh round of the 2015 draft and sent to Tampa Bay as part of the return for outfielder Brandon Guyer. He spent the 2018 season with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits where he hit .278/.331/.400 while playing all three outfield positions.

5. Catcher Brett Sullivan, 24, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 17th round of the 2015 draft. He caught 76 games for the Montgomery Biscuits last season and hit .266/.322/.380 with seven homers and 17 stolen bases. The converted infielder had shown a solid arm behind the plate before the 2018 season in which he only nabbed 20-percent (17-of-83) of runners attempting to steal.

6. Catcher David Rodriguez, 22, was part of the Rays international draft signing class in 2012 signing for $600K. He has been a slow mover through the Rays system but did reach Double-A at the tail end of the 2018 season. Overall between the Charlotte Stone Crabs (High-A) and the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits he appeared in 97 games batting .256/.316/.376 and threw out 26-percent (10-of-39) runners attempting to steal.

7. Catcher Zacrey Law, 22, was selected by Tampa Bay in the 23rd round of the 2014 draft and has battled injury throughout his minor league career. Last season he only appeared in 53 games with only 27 with the Charlotte Stone Crabs (High-A). Overall between the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Class-A) and the Crabs he hit .277/.341/.397 spanning 217 plate appearances. He nabbed 35-percent (8-of-23) of runners attempting to steal.

8. Infielder Jake Cronenworth, 24, was selected by Tampa Bay in the seventh round in 2015 out of the University of Michigan. He spent the 2018 season appearing in 115 games with 108 coming with the Double-A Biscuits. Overall, he hit .253/.321/.345 and was successful in 22-of-25 stolen base attempts. In his minor league career he has started 274 games at shortstop, 35 at third base, and 18 at second base.

9. Right handed pitcher Benton Moss, 25, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 6th round in 2015 out of the University of North Carolina. He spent the 2018 season split between the Charlotte Stone Crabs (High-A) and the Montgomery Biscuits (Double-A). Overall, in 21 games (18 starts) he pitched to a 9-6 mark with a 2.86 ERA while striking out seven batters per nine inning and walking 1.8 per nine.

10. Right handed pitcher Blake Bivens, 23, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 4th round in 2014 out of George Washington High School in Danville Virginia. He spent the 2018 season between the Charlotte Stone Crabs and Montgomery Biscuits appearing in 18 games (13 starts). Overall, he pitched to a 6-6 mark with a 3.76 ERA while striking out 7.2 batters per nine innings and walking 3.0 batters per nine.

11. Right handed pitcher Ryan Sherriff, 28, was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays on November 26, 2018 as a minor league free agent. He was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 28th round of the 2011 draft. He appeared in 18 games with St. Louis between the 2017-2018 season before requiring Tommy John Surgery to repair his elbow ligament in 2018.

12. Left handed pitcher Travis Ott, 23, was acquired by Tampa Bay in the 12-player three team deal that included the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals. He was drafted by the Nationals in the 25th round in 2013 out of Shippensberg High School in Shippensberg Pennsylvania. He spent the majority of the 2018 season (sans one game in Durham) with the Montgomery Biscuits and went 3-3 with a 3.53 ERA spanning 71.1-innings. He struck out 11.5 batters per nine innings while walking four per nine.

I am a fan of all sports but am most passionate about baseball. From the fanatical to analytical, nothing about the game escapes me. Being born and raised in Northeast Ohio I'm very familiar with the heartache and pain that sports can bring and hope that I bring some understanding of the other side to my coverage. I will focus mostly on baseball but also cover the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the most electric franchises in all of sports. Always willing to converse about any sport and have only one rule and that is be respectful at all times.