The Rule 5 draft takes place at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7 and is one of the final big events of the annual Winter Meetings, which are being held in person this year for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
This past November at the 40-man roster deadline, the Guardians added Angel Martinez, Joey Cantillo, and Tim Herrin to the 40-man roster to prevent them from being taken in the Rule 5 Draft this year. The Guardians would have had several other players eligible to be taken for the first time like Xzavion Curry, Hunter Gaddis, Bo Naylor, and Will Brennan, but they added them to the 40-man roster during the regular season. Will Benson and Oscar Gonzalez also were added to the 40-man roster, although both had to survive previous Rule 5 drafts in 2020 (and 2018 and 2019 for Gonzalez).
Todd Paquette, aka @CleGuardPro on Twitter, compiled a list of all the Guardians' eligible Rule 5 draftees in their minor league system. There are 78 players listed, although I’ve crossed out the three who were added to the 40-man roster in November.
Players who have appeared in the Guardians prospect rankings for MLB Pipeline or Covering the Corner at some point include Peyton Battenfield, Ethan Hankins, Lenny Torres, Aaron Bracho, Gabriel Rodriguez, Junior Sanquinton, Alexfri Planez, and Johnathan Rodriguez.
Hankins and Torres were first-round draft picks in 2018 out of high school and both showed incredible flashes of brilliance as prep school right-handed pitchers before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Torres is three years removed from TJ and has yet to recapture his prospect luster after pitching both last year and this season at Low-A Lynchburg. He most recently had a 7.27 ERA in 8.2 IP as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League. Hankins had his surgery more recently and he pitched a grand total of 1.0 professional inning this past season in a rehab outing in Arizona.
Another right-handed pitcher, Battenfield spent the entire 2022 season at Triple-A Columbus and was expected to help the Cleveland rotation this season, but declining strikeout numbers (6.38 K/9) and soaring walk-rate (3.34 BB/9) caused him to be skipped over repeatedly.
Bracho, Rodriguez, and Sanquinton were all highly-regarded international signings. Bracho infamously was the highest-paid signing in Cleveland’s vaunted class that included George Valera, Brayan Rocchio, Jose Tena, and Johnkensy Noel, among others. He has struggled for two consecutive seasons at High-A Lake County and should be safe from selection.
Gabriel Rodriguez and Sanquinton were the top two international signings the following year. Sanquinton has yet to make his mark professionally, making a brief appearance at Low-A Lynchburg this season, but Rodriguez had an impressive 2022 campaign with High-A Lake County, slashing .272/.343/.416 over a full season and posting his first wRC+ of over 100 (112) since he debuted in the rookie league in 2019.
Johnathan Rodriguez was a third-round pick in 2017 and is coming off a breakout season where his power numbers exploded. After slugging 14 home runs from 2017 to 2021, he bashed 26 between High-A and Double-A last season, posting a ridiculous 148 wRC+ in 79 games at Lake County before coming back to Earth after his promotion.
Planez was a part of the Valera/Rocchio etc international class and he also had his moments last year, bashing 19 home runs, although his .289 OBP at High-A should scare away any potential teams.
Honestly, the players I’m most concerned about losing aren’t considered top prospects but are players who could help the team in 2023. They are:
LHP Andrew Misiaszek — A 32nd-round pick in 2019, Misiaszek was one of Cleveland’s top bullpen arms in its minor league system last season. In 17 appearances at Double-A, he struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings while sporting a minuscule 0.56 ERA. he spent the second half of the season at Triple-A Columbus, where his ERA climbed to 3.64, but his strikeout rate remained elite at 12.5. Walks could prevent him from being selected.
RHP Nic Enright — A 20th-round pick in 2019, Enright has flashed impressive strikeout ability at every level. Most impressively, he performed better at Triple-A last season than he did at Double-A. While with the Clippers, he whiffed 12.16 batters per nine innings while nearly cutting his walk rate in half to 1.46 per nine.
1B/OF Micah Pries — Pries potentially fills the gap for Cleveland in two areas of need, although the fact that he bats left-handed doesn’t help him with all the southpaw swingers blocking his path in the pecking order. A 13th-round pick in 2019, he has hit at every level he’s ever played, including Double-A last season, where he slashed .266/.341/.473, bashed 18 home runs and sported a 119 wRC+.
C/1B/3B David Fry — Cleveland acquired Fry last offseason for JC Mejia. He’s not a particularly great defensive catcher and didn’t spend a ton of time there last season (12 games), but he hit pretty well (.256.329.450) with 17 home runs and a career-low 19.2% strikeout rate.
The Guardians did not lose any prospects in the 2021 Rule 5 draft because there wasn’t one due to the lockout (Oscar Gonzalez says thank you).