Blue Jays implications
For the Toronto Blue Jays, current top 30 prospects who would need to be added to the 40-man roster to be protected include: Dahian Santos (No. 11), Alex De Jesus, (No. 19), Adam Macko (No. 22), Adrian Pinto, (No. 25), Gabriel Martinez (No. 26) and Dasan Brown (No. 29).
The full list of currrently Rule 5 eligible players in the Jays farm system is here, listed as “R5” under the “R5 status” column.
Other potential names to consider would be some of the players sent to the Arizona Fall League, including CJ Van Eyk and Will Robertson. Lazaro Estrada, 24, who pitched for the A-level Dunedin Blue Jays this year and had 103 strikeouts and a 2.83 ERA over 76.1 innings, with a 1.061 WHIP and a 3.96 K/BB ratio, is another possible candidate.
The Blue Jays also have some very young players who are Rule 5 eligible, including Santos, who pitched at High-A Vancouver this year; as well as infielders De Jesus (21-years old), Pinto (21), Estiven Machado (21), Rikelbin De Castro (20) and Marcos De La Rosa (21). While they all have potential, they’re all still very young. Making the jump to MLB might prove difficult, which means the risk of them being drafted this December is probably relatively low.
Importantly, the Blue Jays are currently rostering 38 players on their 40-man roster, leaving only two slots at present to add a prospect or a free agent. They could free up more roster spots by non-tendering someone like Adam Cimber, by trading players, or by designating players currently on the 40-man for assignment and passing them through waivers, like Wes Parsons and Nathan Lukes.
Last year, the Jays added prospects Yosver Zulueta, Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger and Spencer Horwitz to the 40-man roster to protect them ahead of the Rule 5 Draft.
While a rebuilding team might take a flyer on pitching prospects like Santos or Estrada, with only two 40-man roster spots currently available, it’s most likely that the Jays will protect Slovakian-born and Alberta-raised lefty Adam Macko this year.
He was acquired from Seattle along with Erik Swanson in the Teoscar Hernández trade last November, and had a respectable season with High-A Vancouver, posting a 4.81 ERA over 20 starts and 86.0 innings, with 106 strikeouts against 40 walks. Scouting reports on Macko note that he has a “low-to-mid-90s [fastball], and his strikeout upside is significant thanks to a strong [55-grade] curveball and fast-improving slider.”
He was also a key part of Vancouver’s 5th Northwest League Championship, pitching them to a Game 1 win on Sept. 12, with five innings of scoreless, one-hit ball. He’d entered the game on a 9.2 consecutive hitless innings streak. That strong finish certainly boosted his probability of being protected.
Santos or Estrada are probably next up if they decide to protect more than one eligible player. Santos was shut down with an undisclosed injury on July 8 this year after making 12 starts for Vancouver, pitching to a 3.54 ERA in 48.1 innings, with 56 strikeouts. It was his 142 strikeouts over 86 innings (14.9 Ks/9 innings) between Dunedin and Vancouver in 2022 that put him firmly on the radar.
His scouting report says he “is still working to add more weight [to his 5-foot-11, 160 lb frame], which the Blue Jays hope will bump his fastball velocity up as he moves through his early 20s. It currently sits in the low 90s and touches 94 mph. His [60-grade] slider, which he uses heavily at times as a secondary pitch, can produce plenty of whiffs as a low-80s sweeper.”