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Looking at offseason Rule 5 eligibles

What Rangers prospects are going to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason?

2021 Texas Rangers Photo Day
I could use some more Curtis Terry photos in the database
Photo by Ben VanHouten/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Texas Rangers prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the 2021 season...

What? Why are we talking about this? Isn’t it way too early to be thinking about the coming season’s Rule 5 Draft?

Yeah, probably. But when I was looking yesterday at Cole Ragans’ performance, and seeing what Mark Parker on Twitter was saying about it, I remembered Ragans was Rule 5 eligible last year and will be again this offseason. And I mentioned a day or two ago that Curtis Terry will be a minor league free agent after the season, and thus will have to be added to the 40 man roster or else he can sign elsewhere.

And so I figured, with the minor league season starting up, and with us have minor league box scores and performances to obsess over for the first time in like 20 months, its worth noting what minor leaguers will need to be added to the 40 man roster or else be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, or eligible for minor league free agency. Its one of those datapoints that is worth keeping in mind when following what these guys are doing this year.

A couple of notes here...I’m using Scott Lucas’s R5 eligibility spreadsheet (which you can see here) as my primary reference. Generally speaking, college players drafted in 2018 or earlier, high school players drafted in 2017 or earlier, and international players signed in 2017 or earlier will be Rule 5 eligible this offseason.

I’m not listing every possible Rule 5 eligible player, but I am highlighting guys I think at least could have a chance of being protected on the 40 man roster, or I think are at least worth mentioning in passing.

Near locks to be added

These are guys who, barring injury (or in one case, a set back from injury) or disastrous performance in 2021, I think are near locks to be added to the 40 man roster before the Rule 5 Draft.

Curtis Terry — Terry has been Rule 5 eligible the last two seasons, and as noted above, as a 2015 draft pick, he is eligible to be a free agent after this season if he isn’t added to the 40 man roster before the official end of the 2021 championship season (which I believe is five days after the World Series is over). The 24 year old righthanded hitting first baseman has been Rule 5 eligible the previous two years, but gone unselected. He made a huge impression in camp, however, and is off to a ridiculous start in AAA.

Saying Terry is a “near lock” is not because of what he’s done in 6 games in Round Rock, just to be clear. Its more about how his stock has risen since the start of spring training, along with the fact that if he is not added to the 40 man roster before the season’s end, Texas will lose him (though of course they could look to re-sign him). Unless Terry is awful for Round Rock, I think he’s close to a lock to be added to the 40 man, and but for the fact that September roster expansion is limited to 28 players now, I’d say he is a near lock to be promoted in September.

Ricky Vanasco — A 22 year old righthander who was a 15th round pick in 2017, Vanasco is R5 eligible for the first time this offseason. Before Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2021 campaign, he was arguably the Rangers’ top pitching prospect. Vanasco would have four options if he is added this offseason (or if he is left unprotected this offseason and is added the following offseason, for that matter).

Ronny Henriquez — A tiny (listed at 5’10”, 155 lbs.) 20 year old righthander who was signed as an international free agent, Henriquez broke out in a big way in 2019 for Hickory. He’s back in high-A Hickory to start the 2021 season, and has spent time at the Alternate Training Site. He throws really hard but can sometimes be too hittable. He could be up in Frisco before season’s end.

The premium 2017 draft picks

The Rangers signed three players to 7 figure signing bonuses in the 2017 draft — their top three picks, all of them high schoolers. All are Rule 5 eligible for the first time this offseason. None of the three quite fits in the “lock” category right now, but they all have really good shots to be added, and I figured I’d make them their own category.

Bubba Thompson — The Rangers’ first round pick in 2017, an Alabama high schooler who was a high school quarterback as well as a baseball player, Bubba Thompson fits the “toolsy upside guy from the Southeast” category the Rangers seemed to prioritize for much of the 2010s. He still has a lot of tools, he’s still fast, has a great arm, and has power, and he still has contact issues. He’s off to a nice start in Frisco, though he’s still striking out a ton and not walking.

Chris Seise — A few months after he was drafted, we started hearing buzz that Seise could be the top position player prospect in the system. He missed all of 2018 with a shoulder injury, most of 2019 with a shoulder injury, then the pandemic wiped out 2020. He is playing shortstop for Hickory, and seems likely to move to Frisco at mid-season if he’s performing. If he’s healthy and doesn’t drown I suspect he’ll be added. Due to his injury history, he’d have four options if he’s added this offseason.

Hans Crouse — A top 100 prospect on BA and MLB Pipeline heading into 2019, Crouse had bone spurs in his elbow that limited him in his first taste of full season ball, and his performance at low-A was somewhat underwhelming. He’s at Frisco for 2020, though he hasn’t pitched yet. He could break out and see the majors this year, or he could flame out and go unpicked in the Rule 5 this offseason, and neither would be all that surprising.

Upper level starters previously on the bubble

These are guys who are close to major league ready, theoretically, and who have been under consideration for being added to the 40 man previously, were not added, and were not selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Jason Bahr — Essentially purchased by the Rangers from the San Francisco Giants in 2018 for the price of taking on Austin Jackson’s contract, Bahr split 2019 between high-A and AA, and had a nice year. He spent time at the Alternate Training Site in 2020, but was not protected after the season, his first year of Rule 5 eligibility. he’s in the Round Rock rotation currently.

Jake Latz — A lefthanded pitcher selected out of Kent State in the fifth round in 2017, Latz had a breakout 2019 season split between low-A and high-A, though he was limited to 61 innings. He spent some time at the Alternate Training Site and appeared in six games for the (then) Independent League Sugar Land Skeeters in 2020, but was not protected this past offseason. Latz is in the rotation for Frisco this year.

Upper level relievers previously on the bubble

These are guys who are close to major league ready, theoretically, and who have been under consideration for being added to the 40 man previously, were not added, and were not selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Alex Speas — Alex Speas was Rule 5 eligible for the first time after the 2020 season. He was not protected, a move that surprised some, and was also not selected. Speas was a second round pick in 2016 out of a Georgia high school, moved to the pen, threw really hard, had Tommy John surgery, and has been touching triple digits since returning. Questions about his delivery and major command issues are the red flags here — so far this season he has walked 7 of the 18 batters he has faced in Frisco, so the very early results are not encouraging on the command front. Whether or not he’s exposed again depends on the extent to which he throws strikes and stays healthy this year.

Joe Barlow — Joe Barlow was the team’s 11th round draft pick in 2016 out of Salt Lake Community College. Barlow, Demarcus Evans and Emmanuel Clase all broke out in 2019 after starting the year in Down East. Barlow made it to AAA but struggled with his command while pitching for Nashville after having blown through low-A and AA. He was seen as a candidate to be protected after 2019, but wasn’t, and was exposed again in 2020. He’s been really good in the very early going for Round Rock, and whether he is added to the 40 man or not will depend on his command.

Random advanced position players

Ryan Dorow — Ryan Dorow was a 30th round pick of the Rangers in 2017. He spent 2018 with Hickory, and split 2019 between Down East and Frisco. He’s a quality defender in the infield, and has gotten off to a fast start with Frisco this year. He turns 26 in August, so he is a little on the old side for AA, and I don’t know that he’s ever going to be consider a “prospect” prospect, but he could find himself called up at some point and sticking on a 40 man roster because of his versatility, particularly if he hits a little in the minors.

Also, the Rangers have a weird thing with 30th round draft picks in odd years in the 2010s (Jeffrey Springs, Joe Palumbo, Phil Klein) making the majors, so there’s that.

Yonny Hernandez — Yonny Hernandez was an international free agent signed in 2014, and can be a minor league free agent after the season. He has had time at the Alternate Training Site, split the 2019 season between Down East and Frisco, and is currently at Round Rock. He’s a switch hitter who can play all over the infield, has more walks than Ks in his career, and has zero power — as in, 3 home runs and 58 total XBHs in 1682 career minor league PAs. He does steal a lot of bases, though. Like Dorow, he could find himself on the 40 man due to his versatility.

Steele Walker — Extra points for having a cool name. Walker was a second round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2018 out of the University of Oklahoma, and came to Texas in the Nomar Mazara trade. He spent some time at the Alternate Training Site and is getting his first official action as a Rangers minor league with Frisco this year. He’s a lefthanded hitter and kind of a tweener — probably not good enough defensively to play center field, but a good chance he doesn’t hit enough to play a corner — but he’s someone who will have a chance to be protected if he performs this year.

I have no idea here

Cole Ragans — The Rangers’ first round pick in 2016 missed all of the 2018-20 seasons due to two Tommy John surgeries. Once of the Rangers’ top pitching prospects before he was injured, Ragans is at Hickory this year and had a bad first outing followed by a very good performance last time out.

I have no idea what to expect from Ragans this year, or what sort of innings limit he may be on. The 23 year old has a terrific change up, and guys with really good change ups can sometimes succeed in the lower

Intriguing Relief Arms to watch

One thing the Rangers have a lot of is interesting relief arms, and one of the tough decisions they have to make is which of those interesting relief arms do they protect, and which ones do they expose or let become a free agent. There’s only so many 40 man roster spots you can devote to interesting relief arms, after all.

Cole Uvila — LSB fans know about Cole Uvila. Long journey to the pros, supported himself in college playing poker, embraced analytics and pitch design, is currently a reliever for Frisco. I would wager he’s added to the 40 man roster, and he could be in the majors in 2021.

Jacob Lemoine — A fourth round pick out of the University of Houston in 2015, Lemoine has had issues staying healthy, but when he has been on the mound as a pro he consistently had success until he reached AAA during the 2019 season. Lemoine is pitching out of the Round Rock pen currently, and has a chance to end up on the 40 man (or possibly even called up this year) if he performs. As a 2015 draftee, he’s a free agent after the season if he’s not added to the 40 man.

Hever Bueno — A 9th round pick out of Arizona State in 2016, Bueno is a 26 year old righthander who throws hard. He missed all of 2018, pitched well for Hickory in 2019, and is in Frisco currently.

Scott Engler — A 16th round pick in 2016 out of Cowley County Community College, the JuCo from which the Rangers drafted the Travises Hafner and Hughes, Engler signed for $125,000, missed all of 2017 due to injury, was not very good for Spokane in 2018, and then had a nice season in 2019 split between low-A and high-A. He’s at Frisco and is another one of the Rangers’ never-ending collection of big (he’s 6’4”, 220 lbs.) hard-throwing righties.

Daniel Robert — Drafted by the Rangers as a senior out of Auburn in the 21st round in 2017, Robert wasn’t signed due to UCL damage that necessitated Tommy John surgery. After surgery, the Rangers ended up signing him as an amateur free agent, and he worked out of the bullpen for Spokane and Hickory in 2019. Robert is currently in Hickory. A converted first baseman, Robert is big (6’4”) and throws hard. He could move quickly, or he could not do anything.

Blake Bass — Giant (listed at 6’7”, 265 lbs.) righthander drafted out of Angelo State in the 8th round in 2015. A minor league free agent after the 2021 season, Bass spent 2019 with Frisco and is back with Frisco this year. He didn’t have great results in 2019 and isn’t off to a great start in 2021, but he’s someone who could, maybe, see it click.