With the collective agreement between MLB and its players about to expire in less than four weeks, there is considerable uncertainty around many aspects of what constitutes a “normal” off season.
Free agency, among other things, is up in the air, and the likelihood of teams making moves before the December 1st expiry date seems slim.
As far as the Rule 5 draft, that annual dispersal of minor league talent, is concerned, the precedent appears to be business as usual. During the last work stoppage in 1994, the Rule 5 still went ahead. Minor League Baseball, in general, is unaffected by any strike/lockout at the MLB level because its players are not members of the MLBPA, and are not covered by the collective agreement. The exception to that, of course, is players not on a 26-man roster but are part of a team’s 40-man. They are expected to honour any picket line.
Teams selecting players in the Rule 5, for their part, will have to consider the impact and duration of any work stoppage; players taken in the draft have to remain on the MLB roster for the season, or be offered back to their original team for half the draft price.
The Blue Jays do not figure to select any players in this year’s draft, but with the 40-man currently at 34, they will have some decisions to make in the coming weeks with several players in the organization outside of the 40.
Players in the Toronto system who must be placed on the 40-man by the deadline or be exposed to the draft include:
Samad Taylor, Miguel Hiraldo, Leo Jimenez.
Taylor had a breakout season at AA, and showed some versatility in the field. There are still questions about his ability to make consistent hard contact at higher levels, but you have to think lower echelon teams are doing their homework on him. Hiraldo was a much heralded IFA signing, but he has yet to match the hype. Jimenez could probably play MLB short stop right now, but he hasn’t played above Low A, and is hitting .208 against high level competition in the Arizona Fall League.
Chavez Young, Forrest Wall, Logan Warmoth, Cullen Large
All four were exposed and left undrafted in last year’s Rule 5, and it’s more than reasonable to expect the same this year.
Bowden Francis, Joey Murray, Zach Logue, Maximo Castillo, Naswell Paulino, Alejandro Melean, Eric Pardinho
This is where the Blue Jays might lose a player, particularly to a team who would convert one of these arms into a reliever.
Murray is the highest-rated prospect of the group, but after a breakout 2019, had several setbacks in a 2021 season plagued with shoulder issues, and threw all of 17 pitches in the Complex League before being shut down. Pardinho was another much-hyped IFA signing, but struggled to regain his form and health this season after undergoing Tommy John the year before. He was limited to two appearances at the Complex. Logue might be an interesting conversion project, having steadily added velo over the past two seasons, and his stuff might play up in a relief role.
Jackson Rees, Hobie Harris, Curtis Taylor, Graham Spraker
Rees was the MiLB reliever of the year in 2019, and was a non-roster invitee to spring training this year. But he was shut down in May after three appearances, and was finished for the year. Harris himself was a pick from the Yankees in the minor league phase of the 2019 R5, while Spraker was a pleasant surprise (13.1 K/9, mostly at AA) after being moved to the bullpen this year, and earned an invitation to the Arizona Fall League.
In case you’re wondering, the Blue Jays took care of their current top prospect, C Gabriel Moreno (currently tearing up the AFL), by adding him to the 40 last year.