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Which Mariners prospects are eligible to be STOLEN in the Rule-5 draft?

Keep them safe, grow them strong. Tonight’s the deadline before December’s draft.

MLB: Seattle Mariners-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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The Mariners lit the Hot Stove yesterday, but many components of the offseason come together as a slower burn. One such feature is the Rule-5 draft, which will be held on December 13th in Las Vegas. Today, however, is the deadline for teams to set their 40-man rosters and determine which players are eligible to be taken. Here’s a quick primer on the draft an its two stages:

Rule 5 ensures that teams can’t bury players in the minors forever by allowing anyone who isn’t on their organization’s 40-man to be drafted by another club. To be eligible, a player must have been 19 or older when he signed and have accrued four years of service time (or 18 and under with five years of service time). The new organization pays a fee to the original team, and the player must be kept on the new organization’s 25-man roster all year or offered back to their original team for a slightly smaller fee.

Teams also are able to participate in the “AAA” level Rule-5 draft, wherein, beyond the initial 40-man roster, the team may protect 38 further eligible players from their AAA and AA rosters from selection. Any remaining players are available to be taken in the minor league portion, and have no restrictions on being used at any particular level. The ability to protect nearly every player of acclaim, of course, ensures few, if any players with MLB futures are taken in the minors portion. There is also a thinner talent pool in the MLB portion, but plenty of success stories are sprinkled throughout.

Last year, the Mariners didn’t protect anyone extra and didn’t lose any high-ceiling talents. UTIL Tyler Smith was snagged by the Braves in the minor league portion, along with LHP Lane Ratliff who was selected by the Diamondbacks. For their parts, the Mariners selected catchers Tyler Baker and Joe Odom last year in the minor league portion, as well as 1B Mike Ford in the MLB component, who they eventually returned to the Yankees. This year, with 34 spots filled on the 40-man and a rebuilding focus for 2019, the Rule-5 draft makes sense for Seattle, but first, they’ll have to see who they’ll be protecting.

“Veteran” Starting Pitchers

Erik Swanson, RHP (25 - age on Opening Day, 2019)

The Mariners just traded for Erik Swanson. Did you hear? If you didn’t, by what mechanism have you arrived on a post about Rule-5 eligible Mariners prospects without seeing the news of the team’s blockbuster trade yesterday? Congratulations, you’re a marvel. Let’s sit and chat for a while, I have so many questions. Anyways, they’ll be keeping Erik Swanson on the 40-man. ~ JT

Protected or Neglected?: Protected

Anthony Misiewicz, LHP (24)

It is with great pleasure that I can now say Misiewicz is no longer the de facto top left-handed pitching prospect in the organization. That’s not to say I don’t like Misiewicz—his inconsistency is just a bit more palatable when there’s not quite as much hinging on his future prospects. After his strong finish to 2018—he posted a 2.00 ERA, 2.60 FIP, 10.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 through five starts in August—and breakthrough performance in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League where he allowed just one earned run through his final 16.1 innings, it’s easy to see a non-competitive team being willing to throw a few starts or some mop-up innings his way in order to add him to their system. A severe lack of left-handed starting pitching in the upper levels of the minors alone makes him a strong candidate for protection and likely a rotation spot in Tacoma come April. I might not be saying this back on July 31 however. He’s really improved his standing in the organization since then. ~ BT

Protected or Neglected?: Protected

Rob Whalen, RHP (25)

~ JT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

“Veteran” Outfielders

Ian Miller, OF (27)

Although he’s never been particularly lauded for his abilities at the dish—his 70 grade speed has long been his calling card—Miller showed some interesting signs of improvement in his first full season at the Triple-A level in 2018, nearly matching his career high walk rate at a mark of 9.0% while continuing his career-long streak of never posting a strikeout rate north of 20.0%. His speed and defensive abilities make him a premiere candidate to be selected if he’s not protected, and those same things are what make him a unique prospect in Seattle’s system and could be his ticket to protection. Of all the outfielders on this list, Miller’s the only one to clear the Lewis/Fraley/Thompson-Williams/Filia group that figure to make up Arkansas’ outfield, which may just work to his favor. His experience at a higher level than those guys combined with the Mariners’ need for outfielders in Tacoma could make for a recipe to keeping him around. It could go either way, or even result in a low-profile trade just before the deadline. ~ BT

Protected or Neglected?: Protected

Chuck Taylor, OF (25)

Since being selected by the Mariners in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft two years the 5’9” Taylor appears to have done everything in his power to appease the M’s decision-makers, slashing his strikeouts and continuing to walk at a satisfactory rate. He’s even hitting for a little more power than he’d previously done, posting a couple of his most productive offensive seasons since joining organization, posting wRC+’s of 117 (2017) and 112 (2018) over the last two years with Double-A Arkansas. Still, he just turned 25-years-old and is limited to some degree by his stature, and his odds of securing a significant role in the system were made only slimmer by the acquisitions of Mallex Smith, Jake Fraley, and Dom Thompson-Williams. ~ BT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Maybe Our Next Catcher?

Joe DeCarlo, C (25)

It would be a real bummer for Joey Deeks, the lone catcher the Mariners have quasi-developed beyond Mike Zunino (and, funnily enough, taken with the next pick after Zunino’s selection way back in 2012), to get snatched up as he is within striking distance of the majors. Even more so, it’d sting, considering the Mariners currently only boast one catcher - David Freitas - on their roster. DeCarlo remains raw as a receiver, with only a few years of experience, but he’s come along well, and his bat has continued to hang. It’d be a long shot for any organization to peg Deeks as their full-time backup and take him in the Rule-5 this year, but I suspect DeCarlo to begin 2019 as the 3rd option at catcher, splitting time in Tacoma, and therefore he should nab a 40-man spot. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Protected

International Outfielders With Tools & Trouble Translating Them

Anthony Jimenez, OF (23)

You’d probably think I was crazy if I told a 23-year-old outfielder that’s posted wRC+’s of 139, 128, 126, and 138 in his first four professional seasons is a) unlikely to be protected by the Mariners and b) unlikely to be selected by another team (at least in the Major League phase) but that’s likely to be the case for Jimenez. Once one of the more interesting outfield prospects in the organization, injuries have derailed his professional career to the point that he’s assembled roughly three seasons-worth of experience despite having played in each season since 2013 and all but terminated any chance he would have had at hitting the 40-man by this point in his career. ~BT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Luis Liberato, OF (23)

A surprising amount of what you just read about Jimenez applies to Liberto here as well. Also a toolsy outfielder that debuted in 2013, Liberato too has missed a fair amount of time to injury. As a 22-year-old at High-A in 2018, Liberato posted a 97 wRC+ that matched his mark from 68 games at the level in 2017, although he increased the walks and significantly cut down on his strikeouts. In fact, His 17.0% strikeout rate was his lowest mark of his career and a whopping 11.3% better than the 28.3% rate he had at High-A last year. Liberato’s got 70 grade speed like the aforementioned Ian Miller, but unlike Miller, isn’t ready to fill in for the Rainiers quite yet and is being pushed out of the picture by the shiny new outfielders added over the last couple of weeks. ~BT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Ronald Rosario, OF (22)

It really speaks to the state of the Mariners’ farm system that one of their Top 30 was demoted from Short Season-A ball midseason. It might be different if it was a guy who was young and perhaps a bit rushed, but at 21, Rosario was one of the older players in the league and still somehow posted a -47 wRC+ through 13 games in what was his fifth professional season. The Mariners have likely been fighting the urge to cut ties with him after forking over a $350,000 signing bonus for him back in 2013-14, but it’s becoming quite evident that he’s likely to require more patience than Seattle is willing to grant him going forward. A 70 grade throwing arm can only get you so far, and it ain’t getting Rosario protection by the Mariners this winter. Perhaps a James Jones-style pitcher conversion awaits? ~BT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Ariel Sandoval, OF (23)

Once an interesting part of the Dodgers system, Sandoval is still mildly intriguing. Acquired for, most likely, $1 from the Dodgers, Sandoval showed power and whiffs in a second crack at Single-A. He’s safe from plucking. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

“Veteran” Relievers

Art Warren, RHP (25)

“Fine Art” had a tough 2018, with an injury that held him back and ultimately kept him from getting comfortable. Command issues aside, Warren’s upper-90s heat makes him a candidate to compete for bullpen space. He’s the type of guy who easily gets snapped up if unprotected, and with no cause to compete fervently in 2019, Warren should be a guy getting looks this year. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Protected

Darin Gillies, RHP (26)

It seems wrong to dismiss Gillies when holding up Warren, especially as Darin has beaten Art to AAA, but it’s less dismissal as playing the odds. Warren’s slight edge in visibility and prospect hype make him a juicier target. Gillies has had a more traditional incremental climb, and has done so without triple-digit heat. Perhaps he gets nabbed, but I think the Mariners will roll the dice. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Matt Tenuta, LHP (25)

Matt once was a Royal but then did he spoil, a chance for Kansas City play. With Tacoma-type stuff “to the bullpen!” he huffed, and there safely stowed he shall stay. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

The Middle Infield Prospects We’ve Seen More than Half a Season From

Joseph Rosa, 2B (22)

Rosa’s leading tool is his hit tool, which shone in Everett in 2017 but hit a wall in Clinton. and did not bring power with it. The switch-hitter should be safe from selection, and get another crack at moving his bat forward. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Jordan Cowan, 3B/2B (23)

After making it to AA back in 2015, health has gone missing for Jordan Cowan. Cowan missed much of 2018 with injury, looking rusty at the plate upon his return. It’d be shocking to see a team take him, despite his decent defensive versatility, so expect to see the snake-bitten infielder back in Modesto or Arkansas. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Chris Mariscal, SS/2B (25)

One of the only middle infield prospects anywhere close to sniffing the bigs for the Mariners, Mariscal has done his darnded to hit his way onto the 40-man roster during his short stay at the Arizona Fall League. He received 42 at-bats against some of the league’s top pitching prospects, and made the most of them, slashing .381/.458/.476 in limited playing time. On the heels of 97 wRC+ Double-A season that was a marked improvement over his first stint at the level and with little competition in the high-minors, there’s an outside shot for Mariscal to make the cut. If he does, however, it likely means more moves are coming, and fast. ~BT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

The Low-Minors Hurlers

Matt Walker, RHP (24)

Tall drink of water made flesh Matt Walker is in the AFL. It’s a chance for prospects to raise their profile and for teams to parlay that popularity into deals. Matt Walker allowed 10 earned runs in 9.0 innings pitched, walking 11. ~JT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected

Ryne Inman, RHP (22)

Inman is the youngest player on this list, without a pedigree or profile suggesting he’s a likely selection, even with 25 starts in Single-A. He’s also got some oddly bad strand rate numbers, which really must be hurting his ERA. C’mon Ryne, learn a nasty pickoff move. I bet it’ll be fun.

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected.

Kyle Wilcox, RHP (24)

I didn’t even realize Wilcox was eligible for selection, and dammit it probably doesn’t get protected, but will get snagged by somebody - in the minor league portion more likely. Honestly, it’s probably not that big of a deal to lose a guy who’ll be turning 25 shortly after the season opens and just spent a majority of last year at A-ball (not even High-A), but I’m going to be excited about a guy who posts 14.8 K/9 at any level. The walks continued to plague Wilcox last season, as he surrendered 4.3 BB/9, and that was actually a career-best mark. He’s flashed an intriguing ability to rack up punchouts, but it’s not going to be enough to keep him safe. ~BT

Protected or Neglected?: Neglected