November 17, 2009 at 10:46 AM
Look for the Red Sox to make a few roster moves on Friday to protect players from selection in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft. Per the Major League Rules, eligible players must be added to their teams’ respective 40-man rosters by close-of-business on November 20 in order to be protected from selection in the Rule 5 Draft, which is scheduled to take place on December 10. As of today, our sources and calculations indicate that the following players in the Boston system will be eligible to be selected if they are not added to the 40-man roster on or before November 20:
Juan Apodaca, Anatanaer Batista, Travis Beazley, Bubba Bell, Ronald Bermudez, Randor Bierd, Jason Blackey, Zach Borowiak, Cesar Cabral, Yeiper Castillo, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Robert Coello, Bryce Cox, Zach Daeges, Sean Danielson, Mitch Dening, Andrew Dobies, Reid Engel, Roberto Feliz, Kyle Fernandes, Kason Gabbard, Miguel Gonzalez, Matt Goodson, Tommy Hottovy, Jorge Jimenez, Kris Johnson, Mike Jones, Ryan Khoury, TJ Large, Will Latimer, Ryne Lawson, Richie Lentz, Leandro Marin, Miguel Marquez, Blake Maxwell, Jeff Natale, Yamaico Navarro, John Otness, Josh Papelbon, Pedro Perez, Chad Rhoades, Jason Rice, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Jon Still, Felix Ventura, Armando Zerpa
Boston’s 40-man roster presently has thirty three players on it (including potential free agent Alex Gonzalez), leaving seven to eight open roster spots. Don’t expect all those spots to get filled – the Sox always leave a lot of breathing room for upcoming off-season acquisitions. Look for three or four players to be added on November 20. The primary candidates are shortstop Yamaico Navarro (pictured), pitcher Richie Lentz, and third baseman Jorge Jimenez. Each of these players ended the 2009 season in Double-A Portland, and each could potentially see some playing time with Boston in 2010, especially if they're added to the 40-man this off-season.
Navarro, the twelfth-ranked prospect in the system by SoxProspects.com, missed the first two months of the 2009 season with a hand injury. He then played in 23 games at High-A Salem, hitting .319/.373/.543, before earning a promotion to Portland in late July. The 22-year-old struggled offensively in 39 games for the Sea Dogs, hitting just .185/.270/.304. While Navarro has the potential to be a starting infielder at the major league level down the line, he currently projects more as a long-term reliable bench option. He’s also a candidate to slide over to third base in 2010 to make room for Jose Iglesias. In brief playing time this winter for Licey in the Dominican Winter League, Navarro is hitting .125 in six games.
Lentz, 25, is another player who struggled in 2009, putting up a 6.75 ERA for the Sea Dogs in 29 appearances out of the bullpen. He also struggled with control, walking almost a batter an inning, but that has largely been attributed to a shoulder injury that lingered throughout the season. All that being said, the flame-throwing righthander leads the organization with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings over the last three seasons. He has also bounced back nicely this fall, going 1-0 with a 1.98 ERA, 13 strikeouts, and just 2 walks in 13.2 innings for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League. He’s presently the forty-fifth-ranked prospect in the system by SoxProspects.com.
Jimenez has been voted the SoxProspects.com All Star at third base for three years running. He was also named the Sea Dogs’ Most Valuable Player in 2009 after a year in which he hit .289/.366/.424 with 13 home runs. Look for the 25-year-old to compete for the starting third base spot for Pawtucket in 2010. While Jimenez has shown success offensively at nearly every level since being drafted in the fifteenth round in 2006, his defense has been called into question, leaving his potential as a major league backup corner infielder in doubt. Additionally, until he picks up a little more power, his bat doesn’t profile as a starting major league third baseman. In the end, the Sox may not want to risk losing him in the Rule 5 Draft, so he’s a strong candidate for protection this year. Jimenez, the twenty-eighth-ranked prospect in the system by SoxProspects.com, is presently playing for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Winter League, which just got underway on Thursday.
Two other logical possibilities for protection are outfielder Zach Daeges and pitcher Jason Rice. Daeges, a sixth-round pick in 2006, missed most of the 2009 season with an ankle injury, but put up a .307/.412/.454 line for Portland in 2008. Rice, selected by Boston in the Triple-A phase of the 2008 Rule 5 Draft, impressed in 2009, putting up a 2.44 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP with 94 strikeouts in 70 innings for High-A Salem. The 23-year-old righty gets his fastball up to the mid-90s. Because injured fourth outfielders and high-velocity relievers are among the prototypical Rule 5 picks, both players could be in danger of selection if left unprotected this off-season.
Other than the five players discussed above, it seems unlikely that any of the other players in the system will be protected this year, but one never knows, as the Sox have pulled a few surprises in recent off-seasons. Potentially unprotected Sox players who other teams may be willing to take a flyer on include pitchers Randor Bierd, Kason Gabbard, TJ Large, Bryce Cox, Kris Johnson, and Armando Zerpa, and outfielder Bubba Bell. Ultimately, we’ll get to see who the Sox opt to protect on Friday.