Baseball’s 40-man rosters are set, giving the Toronto Blue Jays an idea of who will be available in next month’s Rule 5 draft.
The Jays select ninth on Dec. 13, provided the club clears at least one space on its full 40-man roster between now and then. Toronto has to decide whether it will tender contracts to its 10 arbitration-eligible players by Nov. 30, which could open a spot on the roster.
Should the Jays make a selection in the Major League phase of the draft, they would owe $100,000 (U.S.) to the player’s previous club. That player would be automatically assigned to the team’s 25-man roster; if he doesn’t stay on that roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.
Toronto wasn’t active in the 2017 version of the draft, but selected right-hander Glenn Sparkman from the Kansas City Royals in 2015 and right-hander Joe Biagini from the San Francisco Giants in 2016.
The last Jays’ player lost in the draft was Brad Emaus in 2010. The second baseman was selected by the Mets but returned to Toronto in late April and was traded to the Colorado Rockies a day later. With the likes of pitchers Jordan Romano, Travis Bergen, Corey Copping, Jackson McClelland and Jon Harris as well as catcher Max Pentocost, left unprotected by the Jays at Tuesday’s deadline, the organization is prepared to lose a player.
As for adding a new face, there are 76 prospects on organizational Top 30 lists that will be eligible for the draft, according to MLB.com.
Here are a few could pique Toronto’s interest:
Josh Ockiney, 1B, Boston Red Sox: One of just four players on organizational top 10 lists left unprotected, Ockimey, Boston’s No. 10 prospect, will likely garner interest. The 23-year-old lefty batter hit 20 home runs with 71 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A this season and could be a good option off the bench, though it looks to date like the Jays are lining up Rowdy Tellez to take over from Justin Smoak at first.
Trevor Clifton, RHP, Chicago Cubs: There was little wiggle room to add the Cubs’ No. 17 prospect to the 40-man with the likes of starters Alec Mills and Jen-Ho Tseng, who both made their MLB debuts in 2018, and No. 2 prospect Adbert Alzolay ahead of him. But Clifton, 23, had a 3.43 ERA in 26 games (24 starts) between Double-A and Triple-A and could offer the Jays some pitching depth.
Spencer Adams, RHP, Chicago White Sox: Adams, the Sox’s second-round pick in the 2014 draft, posted a 3.19 ERA in 15 starts in Triple-A this past year, throwing a total of 159 innings between that level and Double-A. According to the Chicago Tribune, the organization felt not protecting their 22-year-old No. 26 prospect was a low-risk move because Adams, another starter, struck out only 95 batters while walking 48.
Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Cleveland Indians: Gonzalez, at just 20 years of age, is still a ways away from the big leagues and has yet to play higher than A ball, which makes him an unlikely selection in this draft. But there is history between the player and Jays GM Ross Atkins and president and CEO Mark Shapiro, who were with Cleveland when Gonzalez, now the Indians’ No. 20 prospect, signed for $300,000 in 2014.
Tyler Alexander, LHP, Detroit Tigers: Alexander, the Tigers’ No. 24 prospect at age 24, was another pitcher who spent the season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 6-8 record and a 4.44 ERA. He is expected to be a part of the rotation for the Tigers’ Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, next year if he is not selected next month. Allowing 184 hits in 140 innings in 2018 isn’t enticing, but a lefty option might be.
Riley Ferrell, RHP, Houston Astros: Ferrell was a third-round pick in 2015 known for his swing-and-miss stuff, if not his control. The 25-year-old reliever, who sat out most of the 2016 season after surgery to remove an aneurysm from his shoulder, put up a 1.90 ERA in 21 appearances in Double-A this past year but struggled after a promotion to Triple-A, posting a 6.75 ERA in 22 outings. Believed to have the talent to become a future closer Ferrell, Houston’s No. 17 prospect, could be a help in the Jays’ bullpen.
Richie Martin, SS, Oakland Athletics: The Jays have made it clear they believe you can never have too many shortstops and Martin, the A’s No. 12 prospect, is coming off a breakout season at Double-A, having slashed .302/.370/.442. The 23-year-old may be too far away from the big leagues to tempt Toronto, but he will likely garner interest elsewhere.
Tom Eshelman, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies: Eshelman was named the Phillies’ best minor-league pitcher in 2017, only to be left unprotected a year later. The 24-year-old struggled in Triple-A this past season, finishing with a 5.84 ERA in 140 1/3 innings. But the possibility of Eshelman getting back to his former self next year could be alluring.