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Here are 9 intriguing prospects left unprotected heading into the Rule 5 Draft

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Not long ago these MiLB prospects were atop their respective teams top 20 lists. Now they are Rule 5 eligible.

MLB: Spring Training-Milwaukee Brewers at Oakland Athletics Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As the MLB Winter Meetings approach us, so do the hot stove rumors. But we also are treated to the MLB Rule 5 Draft.

Here is a quick recap of what the Rule 5 Draft is. There is a bit more that goes into it, but if there was a book for new GMs called the Rule 5 Draft for Dummies, this would be it.

Right here at Minor League Ball, we tracked the top prospects being added to MLB 40-man rosters for you. The eligible prospects that were left unprotected can now be selected in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. So here are the two biggest questions answered:

Who’s eligible? Any prospect who signed when they were 18 or older and has played five years, or any prospect who signed when they were 19 or older and has played four.

How’s it work: Once a team selects an unprotected player, they owe the team he was drafted from $50,000 and must add him to their 25-man roster for the entire season, and he must be active for at least 90 days. If not, said player is returned to the original team for half the price.

So there is some strategy here. Teams can gamble that some of their better prospects who were left unprotected won’t be selected simply because they aren’t quite 25-man roster ready. Let’s take a look at some of the more known names left unprotected.

Max Schrock, St. Louis Cardinals: Schrock has been well traveled the past few seasons. Once one of the more promising second base prospects for the Nationals, Schrock was sent first to Oakland in the Marc Rzepczynski deal, and then to the Cardinals in the Stephen Piscotty deal. Schrock is a professional hitter, leading MiLB with 177 hits in 2016, not showing any struggles against lefties or righties, and making consistent contact. He struggled in his 2018 Triple-A debut, but has a carer .304/.352/.410 slash line.

Richie Martin, Oakland Athletics: Martin was a 2015 first-rounder out of Florida for the A’s and showed well-above average defensive skills on his climb up the ladder. This season in the Texas League, his bat came alive, posting a career-high .300/.368/.439 slash line with career-bests in doubles (29), triples (8), and home runs (6). You could argue that he was helped out by a nice .357 BABIP, but this seems to be more of a case of a maturing bat. Without any career at bats in Triple-A, the A’s are banking on teams not seeing him ready for the 25-man.

Tyler Alexander, Detroit Tigers: The 24-year-old southpaw made our LHP prospects that we are excited to see debut list. Like another lefty on that list, Justus Sheffield, there seems a good chance it will be on a new team. Alexander hasn’t been lights out on his climb up the ladder, but it seems he has little left to prove in Triple-A. He doesn’t walk batters, but his stuff is inconsistent and he can be very hittable at times.

Tyler Jay, Minnesota Twins: Once one of the more highly-anticipated starting pitching prospects in the Twins system, the 2015 first-rounder has battled injury and has moved to the bullpen. His fastball-slider combo should play there in the big leagues if he can stay on the bump.

Ray-Patrick Didder, Atlanta Braves: The Braves had some big decision on their 40-man, and when Kurt Suzuki officially signed with the Nationals, it earned Alex Jackson the final spot. RPD has a lot of tools, highlighted by his speed, arm, and positional versatility, but he’s not quite ready for prime time. The Braves are hoping their future utility star slips through the cracks. While not as widely known, RHP bullpen arm Josh Graham has the best chance of unprotected Braves to get selected, so keep tabs on him.

Dom Nunez, Colorado Rockies: It seems like an eternity ago that Nunez was one of the more well-known catching prospects in the game. Selected in the sixth-round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Nunez began his career as a shortstop. He moved behind the plate in 2014 and adjusted very quickly as a catcher while hitting very well. He continued that progression in his full-season debut in 2015. While he remains solid as a catcher, his bat has not progressed and he still hasn’t taken a Triple-A at bat.

Jose Marmolejos, Washington Nationals: The 25-year-old left-handed hitter has had an illustrious minor league career. Marmolejos was the Nats MiLB player of the year in 2015 and 2016, and then made the Eastern League All Star squad with a solid 2017 season in Harrisburg. The problem is he is a first baseman and outfielder, and the power, arm-strength, and defense don’t really profile there.

Art Warren, Seattle Mariners: The Mariners right-handed bullpen piece looked on the verge of his big league debut after a big 2017 campaign in the Arizona Fall League, but his 2018 was plagued by injury. He is a solid addition to any bullpen with a fastball that can hit the high-90s and a slider that is elusive to hitters. But Warren also has a curve and change up that are usable pitches, making him a reliever with a four-pitch arsenal. He could be used in plenty of struggling bullpens, but are teams willing to throw him on the 25-man roster after a year mostly spent on the DL.

Kean Wong, Tampa Bay: Wong was never a big-time prospect but he showed an ability to hit at every level. Despite having one of his best offensive performances in 2018 (.282/.345/.406) he was surpassed in the system. The second baseman definitely has big league value, and the Rays would probably like to keep him for depth. But in a deep system with some of the best youth in the game, it was a gamble they had to take.

OTHERS OF NOTE:

Forrest Wall, Toronto Blue Jays: Once one of the Rockies intriguing outfield prospects, Wall was shipped to the Blue Jays for Seunghwan Oh at the 2018 MLB Trade Deadline. He’s likely to slip through, having no career at bats in Triple-A, but has shown an ability to hit with some pop over the years.

Ali Sanchez, New York Mets: Sanchez isn’t going anywhere with at least two years to see if his bat can work, but the 21-year-old catcher drew rave reviews for his arm and defensive prowess heading into 2017. It’s crazy to see him already unprotected after making his full season debut just last year, but that’s what happens when you make your pro debut at age 17.