While the Rule 5 draft is a month away, the deadline to shelter players for protection under the 40-man roster is Nov. 20. Now is a good time to look at some players not currently on the 40-man who are eligible for selection via Rule 5.
As a brief overview, the Rule 5 draft allows players who are stuck in the minors opportunity to play in the majors if another team has an available spot. Players are protected under the 40-man, but the acquiring team must place the player on their 25-man roster for the duration of the season or they will be, by rule, offered back to their original team. Generally, eligible players are those who signed contracts at 19 and have four years of service, or who signed at 18 with five years of service.
While Rule 5 is sometimes considered an afterthought, some will recall the Orioles acquiring Jose Bautista from Pittsburgh for a moment back in 2004.
Here are five eligible Jays not on the 40-man.
Justin Jackson – RHP
Justin Jackson has been a bit of a project from day one. After being regarded as a potential five-tool player in his 2007 draft year, his future seemed bright. But while his defense shined, his hitting never developed to its full potential. He moved from the middle infield to the outfield, but the lack of hitting remained an issue. Last season they took the bat out of his hands and put him on the mound. His repertoire included a low-90s fastball, a slider, and a change. His combined numbers for Dunedin and Lansing resulted in a 3.26 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP over 49 innings. Not impressive, but not bad for a guy who hadn’t pitched since high school. The ten games with Dunedin, however, yielded a 5.28 ERA, showing he isn’t ready for the majors yet as a pitcher either. Still, given his varied positions and athletic ability, there’s an outside chance he could find work as a role player on a team with an open spot.
Sean Ochinko – C
It’s always valuable to keep as many catchers as possible in an organization. Last spring catching instructor Sal Fasano said Sean Ochinko was in good shape defensively, but he admitted there were areas yet to work on. Last year Ochinko struggled at the plate in Double-A, but he was called up to Buffalo following Josh Thole’s promotion to the Jays. In Buffalo his struggles continued, where he hit a mere .220 with only a few home runs over 50 games. Add to this a 50-game suspension he received in August due to amphetamine use and it’s safe to assume he won’t be going anywhere over the winter.
Deck McGuire – RHP
Deck McGuire is arguably the most in need of protection of guys on the bubble. There are many reasons the Jays might want to keep him around. He’s a 1st round pick, still only 24, and with loads of potential. After struggling in 2012, he turned the corner last season and headed in a positive direction. While he posted a 4.86 ERA, his WHIP lowered to 1.32 and his strikeout rate improved considerably. Still unlikely to become a regular starter at the major league level any time soon, he’s not someone the Jays want to lose just for nothing.
Kenny Wilson – OF
While Kenny Wilson lacks power, he has terrific speed and a solid contact swing which helps him get on base. Defensively Wilson is also solid with great range in the outfield. At only 23 years old with his hitting continually improving (albeit in small increments year to year) Alex Anthopoulos and the organization need to make a decision on the very athletic Wilson. With Jays pitching in abundance, Wilson may find himself protected under the 40-man.
Ricky Romero – LHP
Ricky Romero is of course also eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, and he will certainly not be on the 40-man. Yes, if someone wanted him they would have put in a claim when he cleared waivers during the season. Still, headed into a new season may be a different story. It’s a hefty contract for a player with some baggage, but with Romero at least you have a good deal of major league experience to work with—even if that comes with its own set of problems. Although it’s unlikely, a team may decide to pay the nominal fee, keep him on the 25-man, and if he doesn’t work out, try to send him back to the Jays or waive him.
Any of this could change in the coming weeks. Upcoming trades will open doors for some, and close doors for others.
Who would you want the Jays to protect on their 40-man?