Look for Boston to make at least three roster moves on Wednesday to protect prospects from selection by other teams in the 2013 Rule 5 Draft.
Eligible players must be added to their teams’ respective 40-man rosters by close-of-business on Nov. 20 in order to be protected from selection in the Rule 5 Draft, which is scheduled to take place on Dec. 12, the final day of the winter meetings. If selected, the player must stick on the drafting team’s 25-man roster for the entire 2014 season, or must be offered back to the Red Sox.
The following players in the Red Sox system will be eligible to be selected if they are not added to the 40-man roster on Wednesday:
Mario Alcantara, Michael Almanzar, Chris Balcom-Miller, Carson Blair, Bryce Brentz, Chris Carpenter, Garin Cecchini, Keith Couch, William Cuevas, Keury De La Cruz, Luis Diaz, Leonel Escobar, Derrik Gibson, Dreily Guerrero, Jayson Hernandez, Chris Hernandez, Peter Hissey, Aaron King, Aaron Kurcz, Tommy Layne, Juan Carlos Linares, Mario Martinez, Mike McCoy, Heiker Meneses, Boss Moanaroa, Yunior Ortega, Oscar Perez, Mathew Price, Anthony Ranaudo, Nate Reed, David Renfroe, Pete Ruiz, Felix Sanchez, Kyle Stroup, Francisco Taveras, Raynel Velette, Jose Vinicio, Kolbrin Vitek, Stefan Welch, Shannon Wilkerson, and Madison Younginer.
Boston’s 40-man roster presently has 36 players on it, leaving four open roster spots -- and that’s before the club has made any re-signings or forays into the free-agent market. Additionally, a few players on the 40-man roster are candidates to be traded, non-tendered or designated for assignment, so there is some flexibility to add a few players on Wednesday. It’s expected that at least three players will be added.
The primary candidates are right-handed starter Anthony Ranaudo, third baseman Garin Cecchini, and right fielder Bryce Brentz. Ranaudo and Brentz ended the 2013 season with Triple-A Pawtucket, while Cecchini ended the campaign with Double-A Portland.
Ranaudo, 24, was a supplemental first-round draft pick in 2010. He spent a large portion of the 2013 season with Portland, going 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP, 106 strikeouts, and 40 walks in 109.2 innings. In the process, he was named a mid-season and post-season Eastern League All-Star, the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, and participated in the All-Star Futures Game.
He was promoted to Pawtucket on Aug. 2, where he went 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 21 strikeouts, and 7 walks in 30.1 innings. Ranaudo features a solid 92-95 mph fastball, a plus 78-82 mph curveball, and a fringe-average 81-83 mph changeup. He projects as a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation starter, and is expected to open the 2014 season in the Pawtucket starting rotation. He’s a sure bet to be added to Boston’s 40-man roster.
Similarly, Cecchini will almost surely will be added to the roster this week. A former fourth-round draft pick, the 22-year-old split the 2013 season between Portland and High-A Salem. He ended the season with a line of .322/.443/.471 with 7 home runs and 23 stolen bases. He also took home some awards in 2013, including Carolina League All-Star, Future Game All-Star, Arizona Fall League Rising Star, and the Arizona Fall League Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. A smart, disciplined hitter, Cecchini is expected to add some more power to his game in the coming years. However, a larger frame might slow him down a bit on the base paths. After manning the hot corner for Arizona Fall League champion Surpise Saguaros, he’s on the bubble to open up the 2014 season in either Portland or Pawtucket.
In 82 games with Pawtucket this season, Brentz posted a line of .264/.312/.475 with 17 home runs. He missed a decent chunk of the season after injuring his knee on a slide on July 5. He’ll turn 25 in December. While he has plus power, an average bat, solid defensive skills, and an above-average arm, his pitch recognition and plate approach need a lot of improvement if he’s to develop into an everyday regular for a team like Boston. He’s still an ultra-aggressive hitter after spending four seasons in the Red Sox farm system. At this stage, he profiles better as a second-division regular or a platoon starter. Still, there’s too much potential in Brentz not to protect him on the 40-man roster.
Two other candidates to be added are right-hander Luis Diaz and third baseman Michael Almanzar. While it seems less likely than not that he’ll be protected, Diaz is a sleeper here, as he’s the type of arm that another team might be able to stash at the back end of a bullpen.
The 21-year-old Venezuelan split the 2013 season between Salem and Low-A Greenville, going 9-4 with a 1.96 ERA, 94 strikeouts, and 24 walks in 101.0 innings. He throws a low-90s fastball, a solid 82-84 mph slider, and a changeup that is a work-in-progress. He’s likely be back with Salem to start the 2014 season.
Almanzar spent the entire 2013 season in Portland, posting a line of .268/328/.432 with 16 home runs. Only 22 years old, the former $1.5 million bonus baby has shown flashes of plus-plus power and an average bat over the past two seasons. However, his defense, maturity, and ability to hit high-velocity fastballs are all question marks. He was left unprotected in 2012, and likely will be left unprotected again this year. There’s a decent shot he could get scooped up this season, but a low likelihood that he'd stick in the majors for a full year.
Other than the the five players listed above, it seems unlikely that any other players in the Red Sox system will be protected this week, but you never know. Potentially unprotected Red Sox players who other teams may be willing to take a flyer on in next month’s Rule 5 Draft include pitchers Keith Couch, Aaron Kurcz and Mathew Price, and outfielders Keury De La Cruz and Juan Carlos Linares. The Boston front office has likely calculated that even if drafted, those players have lesser chances of sticking on another club’s 25-man roster in 2014, thus they would be returned to Boston in the spring.