If there is a Rule 5 Draft before the start of the 2022 MLB season, the Red Sox — like all other teams — will be at risk of losing some minor-league players.
After adding the likes of Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Josh Winckowski, and Jeter Downs to their 40-man roster in November, Boston now has 60 minor-leaguers who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, according to SoxProspects.com.
The major-league phase of the 2021 Rule 5 Draft was scheduled to take place during December’s winter meetings, but was and remains indefinitely postponed as a result of the ongoing lockout.
As of now, there is no guarantee that a Rule 5 Draft will take place before the season starts or there will be a 2022 major-league season to begin with. Under the assumption that a deal gets between MLB and the MLBPA gets done within the next few weeks, FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein wrote on Monday that front offices believe “they will get somewhere in the neighborhood of seven days from the joint presser of an agreement and starting spring training.”
At the time the Red Sox protected the four previously listed prospects from the Rule 5 Drat last fall, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom had mentioned how it was difficult to determine how many players they would be protecting and how many they would wind up exposing.
“We had a few tough calls, and I think some of that is a credit to the depth we built up in the system,” said Bloom. “Any time you add someone or leave someone off, in some sense it’s a calculated gamble. Over time, you learn sometimes the best way to lose a player is to add somebody that you shouldn’t. It might lead to you being in a crunch down the road, experiencing that pain of losing a player in another way, whether it’s that [unprotected] player or someone else.
“Knowing there are other things we want to accomplish this off-season with our 40-man roster and players we’d like to bring in both during the off-season and as we get into next year, wanting to have as much space as possible, that’s something you have to factor into the decisions you make,” he added. “So there were a few that were not easy, but ultimately, this is how we felt most comfortable.”
By adding four prospects to their 40-man roster in November, the Sox brought up the size of their 40-man to 37 players. They then non-tendered outfielder Tim Locastro, signed a trio of veteran pitchers (Michael Wacha, Rich Hill, and James Paxton) to major-league deals, and traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for fellow outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. as well as a pair of prospects.
That flurry of moves increased the size of Boston’s 40-man roster to 39 players right before the lockout commenced on Dec. 2. It remains that way to this day thanks to the work stoppage.
Based off what Goldstein wrote, though, it does appear that the Rule 5 Draft is still on and will be completed before Opening Day — whenever that may be.
With that being said, The Athletic’s Keith Law recently suggested that the Red Sox could lose pitching prospect Durbin Feltman in the Rule 5 Draft if it does indeed happen.
Feltman, who turns 25 in April, was originally selected by Boston in the third round of the 2018 amateur draft out of Texas Christian University. The right-handed reliever opened the 2021 season with Double-A Portland and closed it with Triple-A Worcester.
Between the two levels, Feltman posted a 2.96 ERA and and 3.87 FIP to go along with 62 strikeouts to just 14 walks over 39 appearances spanning 51 2/3 innings of work.
Despite those solid numbers, the 24-year-old was not added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November, thus leaving him eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
“Feltman had a solid year between Double and Triple A, working more in the low 90s now, topping out at 95 mph instead of the upper 90s he showed in college,” Law wrote of the righty. “He walked just four guys in 24 Triple-A innings to close out the season, and since the Red Sox declined to add him to their 40-man roster, he seems likely to be a Rule 5 pick for someone.”
Given the fact that he was left off the Red Sox’ 40-man roster, it does seem like the club is relatively low on Feltman at this point. This is reflected by him not receiving an invite to the team’s Winter Warm-Up program in Fort Myers last month and that he has fallen down to No. 48 in SoxProspects.com’s prospect rankings.
“He was trending down based on looks and reports last season and he was in danger of this kind of drop in the spring if his stuff was the same,” SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield tweeted on January 24. “When he wasn’t invited to the Winter Warm-Up, comparing to those who were, that was sort of telling.”
Coming out of TCU, Feltman had the projection of a high-leverage reliever who could work his way through the minors quickly. After four years in pro ball, it now appears that the Texas-born hurler has the ceiling of a middle reliever at the big-league level.
As SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall wrote last year, “middle relievers like [Feltman] are often left unprotected.” The Red Sox must have felt this way, but could another team be willing to poach Feltman away from Boston if they felt he had some untapped potential?
Only time will tell.
(Picture of Durbin Feltman: Katie Morrison/MassLive)