The 2022 Rule 5 Draft is coming on Wednesday at the winter meetings in San Diego, and a few Dodgers prospects are among the possible selections.
Nobody covers the Rule 5 Draft better than the folks at Baseball America. This week, J.J. Cooper and Geoff Pontes co-hosted a Rule 5 preview podcast, in which a few Dodgers were mentioned.
Pontes vouched for Ryan Noda as a likely Rule 5 Draft selection, who was among the handful of Dodgers prospects we previewed earlier in the week. Pontes on the podcast said he thought Noda was better than ten current starting major league first basemen right now.
“I look at his ability to get on base. I look at the power. I don’t think the contact is that much of a deterrent overall. And the fact that he’s actually a good defensive first baseman, and can provide some value there,” Pontes said. “I look at some of these guys who are playing first base on a daily basis, and you can’t tell me that Noda doesn’t have more upside than Bobby Dalbec has at this point.”
Noda, one of two players the Dodgers received from the Blue Jays in the Ross Stripling trade, hit .259/.396/.474 with 25 home runs, 23 doubles, and a 120 wRC+ for Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2022.
There’s risk all around the Rule 5 Draft, both in teams deciding whether to add players to the 40-man roster or expose them to the draft, and in selecting teams who must navigate keeping a player who may not be quite ready on the major league active roster all year long in order to keep them.
On the podcast, Cooper theorized that roster rules might mean more position players than usual get selected in the Rule 5 Draft. When active roster limits expanded to 26 players for the 2020 season, a limit of 13 pitchers was also added. But in 2020 and 2021, pitcher limits were relaxed as part of COVID-19 protocols, and in 2022 the lockout-induced truncated spring training allowed for larger rosters and more pitchers to open the year. Barring some unforeseen change, 2023 will be the first full season that teams must carry at least 13 position players at all times on the active roster.
That might mean more room for otherwise flawed players to stick on a major league roster longer than in previous seasons. Among Dodgers position players who might have their names called Wednesday afternoon are Noda and outfielder Jose Ramos, the latter who hit .249/.339/.479 with 25 home runs and a 120 wRC+ between Rancho Cucamonga and Great Lakes at age 21 in 2022, but has yet to play above High-A.
Last year the Dodgers protected two such players, adding infielders Eddys Leonard and Jorbit Vivas to the 40-man roster despite only limited experience in High-A. Those decisions were made before the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft was canceled due to the MLB lockout. Both Leonard and Vivas spent their entire 2022 seasons in Great Lakes.
Another player we did not mention earlier in the week but who was flagged as a potential Rule 5 selection by Cooper and Pontes at Baseball America was infielder Devin Mann.
“His selectivity and upper-level minor league experience make him one of the more MLB-ready hitters on the Rule 5-eligibles list,” said Baseball America. “But a team picking Mann would have to decide how comfortable it is with his defense.”
Mann was drafted by the Dodgers in the fifth round in 2018 out of Louisville. He hit .264/.380/.464 with 16 home runs and 21 steals between Oklahoma City and Tulsa in 2022, with 74 games at Double-A and 44 games in Triple-A. In the minors Mann has primarily played second base and third base, but in 2022 he started games at all four infield positions and both corner outfield spots.
Mann, who turns 26 in February, spent time at the Dodgers’ alternate training site as part of the player pool in 2020, and was a non-roster invitee to big league camp in spring training in 2021.
Another Dodgers prospect we mentioned as a potential Rule 5 selection was Carlos Duran, a 21-year-old right-hander who has yet to pitch above High-A. He had Tommy John surgery recently, per Kyle Glaser at Baseball America.
Dodgers prospect news: RHPs Edgardo Henriquez and Carlos Duran both had Tommy John surgery recently. The two big, hard-throwing righthanders were among the Dodgers top pitching prospects at the Class A levels.
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) November 30, 2022
That doesn’t necessarily preclude Duran from getting drafted, but if he is taken in the Rule 5 Draft, his new team’s decision whether to keep the pitcher would be delayed until 2024, after paying him a major league salary — the minimum next season is $720,000 — while on the injured list for 2023.
Duran was signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2018.
On Friday, Pontes and Cooper updated their expansive Rule 5 preview with a few more Dodgers who might get selected — right-hander Adolfo Ramirez, whose highest level is four games in Double-A; and right-hander Gus Varland, acquired in the Adam Kolarek/Sheldon Neuse trade from Oakland in 2021, who posted a 6.11 ERA in 70⅔ innings for Tulsa in 2022.
In his recent analysis of 40-man rosters across the National League West, Eric Longenhagen at FanGraphs mentioned Duran and Ramirez as potential Rule 5 Draft selections. Longenhagen also wrote, “I think at least one of outfielder Ryan Ward and first basemen Ryan Noda and Justin Yurchak will be drafted.”
After a breakout season in 2021, the first baseman Yurchak regressed a bit in 2022, hitting .283/.375/.399 with a 105 wRC+ for Double-A Tulsa. Yurchak, now 26, was acquired by the Dodgers in November 2018 for pitcher Manny Banuelos in a minor league trade.
The Rule 5 Draft is 2 p.m. PT on Wednesday.