The Rule 5 draft will be held at the Winter Meetings in December, but in anticipation of that, players must be added to the 40 man roster by this Wednesday to be protected from being selected by other clubs. Players that are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft are players that have (a) finished their fourth professional season if they were 19 or older when they signed their first professional contract; or (b) finished their fifth professional season if they were under 19 when they signed their first contract.
Bob Dutton writes about the Royals decisions in this piece.
The top names under discussion for protection are believed to be reliever Michael Mariot, infielder Christian Colon, third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert and outfielders Brett Eibner, Lane Adams and Brian Fletcher.
Michael Mariot is a 25 year old right-handed reliever who posted a 3.56 ERA in 47 games for Omaha last year. He converted to relief last year, and had a huge jump in strikeouts, with over a strikeout per inning after being a mediocre starting pitcher. The former 8th round pick is not considered a prospect, but has performed well at every level.
Christian Colon is a former first round pick (fourth overall) from 2010. He is considered a good defender at second base, but has struggled with the bat in his career. The twenty-four year old hit .273/.335/.379 in 577 plate appearances for Omaha last year. He'll almost certainly be added to the roster and be given a chance to compete for a reserve infielder role next year.
Cheslor Cuthbert was once a very promising prospect who has struggled the last two seasons. He was named a Top 100 prospect by Baseball America before the 2012 season before having a disappointing season. He bounced back a bit in 2013 when he repeated a stint in Wilmington, but was a disaster in Northwest Arkansas. Cuthbert is still just 21 and has some potential, but its also hard to see a team stashing him on their big league roster the whole season.
Brett Eibner was a raw prospect who many thought could be a pitcher, but the Royals tabbed as an outfielder. The former second-round pick struggled initially, but has come on and enjoyed his best pro season this year, hitting .243/.330/.451 with 19 HR in 504 plate appearances for Northwest Arkansas. I can see a club liking Eibner's power potential and taking a gamble with him, so the Royals might be wise to add him to the roster.
Lane Adams is a 24 year-old centerfielder who enjoyed his best professional season this year. He hit .265/.353/.415 with 12 HR and 38 steals split between Wilmington and Northwest Arkansas. Adams has been a terrific base-stealer with some good plate discipline, and speedy players tend to be selected in the Rule 5 draft to be stashed as pinch-runners. Adams is in the Arizona Fall League.
Brian Fletcher is a 25 year-old left-fielder who hit .293/.330/.505 with 17 HR split between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha. Fletcher has little plate discipline, drawing just 18 walks in 336 plate appearances in 2013. He's not considered much of a prospect and seems to be a guy who can take advantage of minor league pitcher's mistakes, but would struggle against the command of MLB pitchers.
Omitted from Dutton's list is Buddy Baumann, a 25 year-old reliever who was eligible last year but not selected. Baumann turned in a terrific season as a reliever for Omaha, striking out over 12 per nine innings with a 2.76 ERA in 30 games for the Stormchasers. Baumann would be a good candidate to be selected as a potential LOOGY in the Rule 5 draft.
The Royals currently have one open spot on the 40-man roster with the Francisco Pena signing. They could open up more by designating for assignment one or several of the following players:
The Royals could also outright a player they expect to non-tender like Chris Getz or Brett Hayes.
The Rule 5 draft will be held December 12, on the final day of the Winter Meetings.