The San Francisco Giants protected five players from the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. They protected some players who seem obvious to protect, but also had a couple of mild surprises. I’ll go into my thoughts about these choices, but let’s refresh some knowledge about the Rule 5 Draft.
The Rule 5 Draft, which will occur on December 7th, allows teams to take players off of other team’s rosters who are not on the 40-man roster, and have been playing for more than four or five seasons, the amount depends on if they were drafted or signed before or after they were 19. The purpose is to give prospects a chance to advance if they haven’t had it from their original team.
However, for a new team to keep a player they take, there are a lot of requirements. A team that selects a prospect from another’s roster must pay that team $100,000, and keep the player on the team’s 26-man roster all season, and must be placed on and pass through outright waivers if he is to be removed. If he passes waivers, his previous team can get the prospect back for $50,000 and be outrighted back to the minors, remaining off the 40-man roster. If a selected player is put on the Injured List, he must also remain active for 90 days in the subsequent season before he remains on his new club without restrictions.
What this means is that a drafted player must be good enough to be in the Majors all season. That is a huge hurdle, even for a bad team. Under Farhan Zaidi, the Giants have taken at least one player in every draft, and none of them have been kept. Few last until May, even when the Giants have been relatively bad.
There is also a minor league portion to the draft, but that is so rarely impactful that I won’t deal with it in this article.
This year’s Rule 5 is also very unique. There was no Rule 5 draft in 2021 due to the MLB Lockout. What this means is that there are twice as many players available in the Rule 5 draft for the first time as usual. While that doesn’t mean that there’s necessarily twice as many draftable players, it’s fair to say that the field is more packed than usual.
So let’s look at who the Giants selected to protect, and a few notable players they didn’t:
IF Marco Luciano
Who he is: The Giants’ longtime number one prospect since he originally signed, Luciano had an injury plagued season, only playing 65 total games and was never really into a good pattern. Only 21, Luciano still shows a ton of promise, even as he’s struggled a bit.
My take: Duh.
OF Luis Matos
Who he is: Matos opened a ton of eyes in 2019 and 2021 with huge performances, but had a truly bad 2022 season, batting .211 in 91 games at High-A in a season punctuated with injuries, barely able to get things into any sort of rhythm. He was the biggest Giants name in the Arizona Fall League, but struggled there as well.
My take: I’ve got to be honest…I don’t get this. It would be hard to imagine any team keeping Matos on a Major League roster all season after his 2022. The chatter I heard from scouts was very negative, which adds to my assumption teams mostly would not be interested in. I don’t feel this was needed to protect him.
RHP Tristan Beck
Who he is: A 2019 trade deadline acquisition, Beck started with a strong three games in Double-A before he put up a 5.64 ERA in 20 games at Triple-A Sacrament. He had a 6.27 ERA in an injury-shortened 2021 from the ACL to Double-A.
My take: This is a tough one. There’s talent in Beck, but injuries have stopped him from being able to capitalize on it. However, as a pitcher who has been in Triple-A, he’s certainly got more near-MLB experience. Plus, if he deals with injuries in 2022, the bar for staying on a new team is lower. I don’t know how much of an impact Beck could have in 2023, but this protection makes sense.
RHP Jose Cruz
Who he is: The 22-year old is in his fourth season as a pro, but he made it to A-Ball for the first time with a 2.06 ERA at Low-A San Jose. Unlike many pitchers who get protected at Low-A, Cruz doesn’t have the most dominating fastball by velocity, but by movement, with some of the best movement on a fastball int he minors, plus he has a great sinker and a strong changeup.
My take: Protecting Low-A players is often a reach, as few are ever close to being big league ready, but relievers are an exception, especially ones with overwhelming pitches they can use. The Giants under Farhan haven’t been afraid to do this with Low-A pitchers (Camilo Doval, Kervin Castro, Gregory Santos, and Randy Rodriguez all are examples), and this protection makes sense but is still borderline. If Cruz can show more control, he can move quickly up the minors.
RHP Keaton Winn
Who he is: Winn hadn’t pitched since 2019, but came back to move up from Low-A to Double-A through the season, putting up a combined 4.08 ERA with 125 strikeouts to 32 walks in 108.0 innings. Winn has pushed his fastball up to sit in the mid-90’s and scrape triple digits, and has a split-finger pitch that he uses to get strikeouts. While he’s been a starter, there’s a lot of possibility he might move to relief.
My take: Winn was probably the biggest surprise, due to his injury history and general lack of keeping runs off the board, but with his pitches and a good look at becoming a 2-pitch short-inning reliever, and with him having Double-A experience, this is sensible. I’ll trust the Giants to potentially know if a team was sniffing around him.
IF Brett Wisely
Who he is: Wisely was traded for on decision day, after a strong season where he hit .273 on the season mostly in Double-A, and has speed (32 steals in 43 attempts) and a bit of power (15 home runs), while being able to play all over the infield.
My take: This guy could easily have been a utility infielder in the big leagues this season, with pinch-hitter/runner potential. Once he was traded for, he was obvious, and he could be in SF sometime in 2023
Lots of players were left unprotected, but here’s some very notable players that were left unprotected.
Who he is: Traded for by the Giants after he was a first round pick, the Giants have pushed Wilson despite relatively little offensive production. In 2022, he spent most of the season at Double-A Richmond, where he hit .225/.324/.445, but got a push to Triple-A for ten games, hitting .182/.250/.242 before a broken hamate bone cost him a lot of time, and he returned to Richmond to finish the year.
My take: I thought the Giants would protect him based on how they have pushed him, despite his relative lack of production, but once the Giants traded for Wisely, his spot was taken. There’s some risk he gets taken, but it is small considering how little he’s hit for.
Who he is: Pomares made a name for himself in 2021 at San Jose and Eugene with 20 home runs in 77 games there while batting .334 overall (but just .262 in Eugene). He returned to Eugene, batting .266 with 17 home runs on the season, but suffered through some injuries and some visa issues that cost him games.
My take: Pomares is a legitimate power threat, but he also had 127 strikeouts in 402 plate appearances in 2022, almost all at High-A. He’s also average at best in the outfield. Chances are that if he was pushed into the big leagues, he would struggle so much his power wouldn’t be a factor, and he doesn’t offer speed or defense as a bench player in the big leagues. It’s safe to leave him unprotected.
Who he is: A Modesto native who had a breakout year, putting up a 1.14 ERA split between Eugene and Richmond, and struck out 58 to 14 walks in 55.1 innings. Northwest League managers called him the Best Relief Prospect from the High-A league in a Baseball America survey.
My take: While Avila doesn’t have the overwhelming single pitch tool, he sits low-mid-90’s with the fastball, but has various breaking balls that he uses effectively. The mix has worked well. It’s truly a surprise the Giants did not protect him, and if any Giant is taken in the Rule 5 Draft, it’s Avila.
Who he is: The Giants 2019 first round pick, Bishop’s career has been marred by injury, missing almost all of 2021 and chunks of 2022. He hit .235/.320/.406 in High-A Eugene this season, with 13 home runs and 20 steals in 22 attempts.
My take: Hunter Bishop’s pure tools are apparent. He’s a plus defender anywhere in the outfield, and when he was able to get into a rhythm, Bishop’s power was legitimate and his speed is a weapon. But with a total of 134 games in four seasons, just 562 total plate appearances, would teams think he could be at all effective in the Majors? Or be able to develop by sitting on a bench? I doubt it. He should be safe.