The Rule 5 draft goes later today at the winter meetings in San Diego.
Unlike 2015, when Toronto plucked an underachieving starter from the Giants named Joe Biagini and turned him into a reliever, or the following season, when they took (but later returned) Glenn Sparkman from the Royals, or even last year, when an unknown pitching prospect available because of a contract technicality named Elvis Luciano was selected, it’s unlikely Toronto will be an active participant in today’s lottery.
Starting Pitching is the commodity valued above all else in this organization. They were willing to live with Luciano on the 25-man (and the IL) last season because of his upside as a rotation member. And while he most certainly was over-matched last season, the Blue Jays now have the relative luxury of giving him an opportunity to head to A-ball and resume his development in a starting role. You would have to think that the Blue Jays might be looking for a similar project this year, but unless there’s another voided contract out there that no one knows about, it would appear that there is no Elvis among this year’s Rule 5 crop. Nationals SP Sterling Sharp might attract some interest, but otherwise there appears to be no one with Luciano-like levels of upside and projection. With space on the 40-man, there is room to add a player, but the likelihood of that seems slim.
Will the Blue Jays lose a player who was not added to the 40 last month? That, too, seems unlikely. Relievers Kirby Snead and Jackson McClelland might have been drafted by a team willing to kick the tires on them in spring training, but they may be victims of a numbers game this year. There are over 50 Top 30 MLB prospects (as per MLB Pipeline) eligible this year, so unless there is a specific role in mind for McClelland on the part of a team, he’s likely to remain a Blue Jay. In the past, Snead would profile as an ideal one-out guy, but with pending MLB rule changes, that would appear to limit his chances. Baseball America, speaking of rule changes, did mention the name of one Blue Jay who could be a Rule 5 candidate: OF Reggie Pruitt. With the 26 man roster being instituted for 2020, teams might find Pruitt’s combination of speed and defence useful in a reserve role. Pruitt has not played above High A since being drafted in 2015, but swiped 48 bases (in 61 attempts) at two levels in 2019, and can cover a lot of ground in CF.
If the Blue Jays do select (and ultimately keep on the 25 next season) a player today, it’s probably a signal that despite their talk of free agent pursuit this week, they likely don’t see the team being a pennant contender until 2021 at the absolute earliest.