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The Giants need to make roster moves before the Rule 5 draft

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The draft isn’t for a couple weeks, but the deadline to add players is Friday

Minor League Baseball: Arizona Fall League-Fall Stars Game
Surprise! Arizona!
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the Giants lost Joe Biagini in the Rule 5 draft. He ended up being valuable for the Blue Jays, while the Giants’ season crumbled because of a lack of quality relievers. The correlation might not be perfect, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t punching your screen right now, and please remember that SB Nation and Vox Media is not liable for whatever damages you’re incurring.

This year, the Giants would like to not lose a valuable pitcher in the Rule 5 draft, which will be held December 8. To do that, they’ll have to add some players to the 40-man roster and keep them away from the rest of the league.

A quick primer:

  • Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and played for four years without being added to the 40-man roster are eligible
  • Players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years are eligible
  • This really messes with teams that have a bunch of Grade A, upper level prospects.
  • The Giants are probably fine
  • Which is what we thought last year! So be vigilant

The 40-man roster is currently at 35 players, and there aren’t any obvious players to ditch. Gorkys Hernandez fits with almost any potential bench permutation, but not at the cost of a prospect. The same goes with Albert Suarez and Chris Heston as safety nets, to different extents. Plus, the Giants are going to need roster spots when they sign Brad Ziegler and Josh Reddick, so they’ll probably have to make tough decisions at some point.

For now, though, we’ll assume the Giants can add five players. They’ve already added right-hander Ian Gardeck. Who else should they protect? (Note: Roger helped me with this post, so there’s at least a chance it will be accurate.)

Obvious players to protect

Reyes Moronta is a 23-year-old right-handed reliever who struck out 93 batters in 59 Cal League innings. That’s good. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, and he could be one of those pitchers who starts the year in Double-A and is in the majors before you’ve heard of him.

Chase Johnson is a complete sentence and a right-handed pitcher who was used primarily as a starter until 2016. His strikeout rate crashed this season after moving to Double-A, but he pitched much better in relief (2.30 ERA, 16 strikeouts in 15⅔ IP) toward the end of the year.

Dan Slania is shaped like Juggernaut and he has apparently gone in the other direction, taking quite nicely to the rotation. He was a reliever since his college days, but the Giants stretched him out in Richmond, and his strikeouts ... went up? Okay. He even had two strong starts for Fresno late in the year.

Possible players to protect

D.J. Snelten is a 24-year-old left-hander, and he’s stalled just a bit in San Jose, spending some time in relief this season. He was striking out 10 batters per nine innings before that, and there’s a chance a team might think a full-time conversion to the bullpen could allow him to be hidden in the majors for a year.

Tyler Rogers is a big, 25-year-old right-handed reliever whose strikeout rate also crumbled upon reaching the high minors. He’s in the Arizona Fall League right now, though, and he’s doing well. He was probably put there in part for the Giants to scout him and see if he should be protected.

He also fits a classic Rule 5 template: the funky submariner.

Not going to lie. Rooting for him harder than just about any minor leaguer who ever existed. This is how I would have made the majors, you know.

Fringe players to protect

Pat Young is a 24-year-old, 6’7” righty who was moved to the bullpen this year and struggled with his command in San Jose.

Christian Jones is a 25-year-old lefty who was moved to the bullpen last year and struggled with his command in Richmond.

Miguel Gomez is a 23-year-old infielder who’s always been old for his league, but he hit .371/.401/.532 with Augusta this year before finishing the season with San Jose. He doesn’t have a true position, but he’s a switch-hitter who can at least stand at several different bases and fake it, which might interest a team enough to snatch him in the Rule 5, try him out in the spring, and return him if he doesn’t make the roster.

Tyler Horan has showed off left-handed power in the minors, but he’s going to be 26 by the draft, and there’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. The .337 OBP in Double-A suggests that he wouldn’t stick on a major league roster all year.

Brandon Bednar almost looks like one of those classic Giants infielders who relies on contact, but he’ll be 25, and he has a career .661 OPS in the minors. Rooting for him to develop just for the “Bednar and boomsticks” pun.

WILD CARD

The Giants don’t really have to protect Gustavo Cabrera, do they?

Do they?

Cabrera was a five-tool talent the Giants signed out of the Dominican Republic for a lot of clams, and he prompted articles like this:

Byron Buxton and Gustavo Cabrera are not your typical teenagers.

They are not built like the kids next door, and the outfielders don't play ball like them. These young men are in a class all by themselves, and their talents are incomparable, except, perhaps to each other.

After a freak accident that nearly cost Cabrera his hand, though, his progress was delayed. He missed 2014 and most of 2015, finally getting regular action this year. He hit just .241/.288/.393 between Salem-Keizer and Augusta but a) he was 20, b) he missed nearly two years, and c) he had to re-learn how to use his digits.

There’s almost no way a team will take him, considering how far he is from the majors, except he still has that big-bonus pedigree, and another team could take a gamble that he’ll need rehabilitation time at some point next year, which would allow them to stash him in the minors on rehab assignments and in instructional league.

So I’ll guess (with Roger’s help) the Giants will add Johnson, Slania, Moronta, and Cabrera. That would put them at 39 players, giving them a little wiggle room when they sign their closer. Last year they added Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, and Steven Okert (along with five others), and we ended up seeing them in the majors. We’ll see if any of these guys will be ready for the horror show of the odd year.

Are we still doing the even/odd year thing? No? Okay. Thanks.