St. Louis Cardinals: Players To Protect From The Rule 5 Draft

Mar 11, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Magneuris Sierra (98) connects for the go ahead rbi base hit in the bottom of the 8th inning against the Atlanta Braves during the game at Roger Dean StadiumThe Cardinals defeated the Braves 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals center fielder Magneuris Sierra (98) connects for the go ahead rbi base hit in the bottom of the 8th inning against the Atlanta Braves during the game at Roger Dean StadiumThe Cardinals defeated the Braves 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

Rumors have been flying around about the direction of the St. Louis Cardinals this off season as far as free agency and trades. But the Rule 5 draft is also coming up and leaves the front office with some decisions to make.

This means that the St. Louis Cardinals need to figure out who to protect. Currently there are three open spots on their 40-man roster. So, if the front office chooses to, there are three players that can be protected from being drafted away.

Matthew Bowman was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals last year during the Rule 5 draft, and this year he proved to be a very reliable arm out of the bullpen. So these players can turn out to be very important for the future of the club.

The Rule 5 draft takes place during the annual winter meetings. When a player is selected, that player must be on the 25-man roster for the entire following season. If the team wants to waive the draftee from the roster, he must clear waivers. After that, he is offered back to the original team for half the cost of selection. This negates the draft for the original team, and would penalize the drafting team $25,000.

With that in mind, once the first season after the player is drafted ends, the waiver rules go return to normal. So at that point if the player clears waivers, then they are sent down to the minors. Recently, the St. Louis Cardinals have lost Jeremy Hazelbaker and Dean Kiekhefer after they were placed on waivers.

In order for a player to be eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he cannot be on the 40-man roster. The other two stipulations are (1) that they must have been 18 or younger on the June 5th before their signing their contract,and have spent six years in the minors or (2) the same scenario except being 19 years of age and being in the minors for at least five years.

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That got complicated, so to sum it up, if they are not on the 40-man roster and meet one of the two age stipulations, then they are eligible to be selected by any team during the Rule 5 Draft.

Now to the matter at hand. There are several options the St. Louis Cardinals would want to protect, but they can only protect three by adding them to the 40-man roster. After evaluating the Cardinals organization, there are six players that can be considered.

Among these are two middle infielders, and three pitchers, and one outfielder. Personally, I think one of each should be protected.

The pretty obvious choice to protect is the outfield prospect Magneuris Sierra. He is the third ranked position playing prospect in the organization. Furthermore, Sierra is almost guaranteed to join the 40-man roster before the winter meetings.

At 20 years old, Sierra is poised to be a future star roaming center field.  Especially now, as the Cardinals are actively looking for outfielders, he is a no-brainer.  This past season, he slashed .307/.335/.395, and collected 31 steals playing for Class-A Peoria.

Now, the bigger question is who else will end up being protected? The two guys that should be heavily considered are Edmundo Sosa and Juan Herrera.  While there are two other talented middle infielders that are eligible (Allen Cordoba and Eliezer Alvarez), they are not up to the level of the Sosa and Herrera. Therefore they will likely not be protected.

Emundo Sosa is the number seven prospect in the organization. At 20 years old he has plenty of time to develop.  Sosa and Sierra were teammates this past season in Peoria, where Sosa slashed .270/.307/.343. He also showed some discipline at the plate, drawing 20 walks in 97 games.

Juan Herrera got promoted as high as Double-A during this past season. He is 23 years old, and has time to grow. However, his 2016 campaign was somewhat of a disappoint as he slashed .194/.234/.263. While those numbers are rough, he still showed a lot promise and potential.

Overall, the decisions should sway towards protecting Sosa.  When all is said and done, the higher prospect gives more value to the club.  Especially after the season he had, and the promise he showed, he would likely be selected during the Rule 5 Draft.

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After the poor showing at the Double-A level, Herrera should be safe for the draft.  At 23, he doesn’t seem to have proven worthy of being on a 25-man roster just yet.  Protecting Sosa and leaving Herrera will leave the Cardinals with everyone at the end of the day.

The pitching options, at least on the surface, look like a tough decision.  One of them may disappear come the Winter Meetings due to a trade. There are two lefties and a righty. The southpaws are Ryan Sherriff and Corey Littrell. The righty is Rowan Wick.

Wick is a good story. He is a converted catcher trying to play catch-up and he is doing well.  In 44 relief appearances over two levels, the highest being Double-A Springfield, he posted a 2.44 ERA. Being a catcher has helped him develop a good fastball, which led him to strike out 57 batters in 44 innings.

Littrell made it to Triple-A Memphis during the 2016 season. He took on a solid workload, and even had a spot start. By the end of the year, he had an ERA of 4.56 at the Triple-A level. His numbers suggest he is more of a pitch-to-contact type of a guy as he only struck out 49 in 51 innings. He had a rough year, all in all but it isn’t easy changing positions let alone becoming a pitcher.

Sheriff is coming of a career year at Triple-A. And with the injuries the Cardinals bullpen has suffered, especially to their lefties, they need to protect Ryan Sheriff. During the past year, Sheriff ended with a 2.84 ERA and proved to be a workhorse out of the bullpen, pitching 66 innings in 49 appearances. He will surely be selected if not added to the 40-man roster before the Winter Meetings begin.

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The Cardinals have a very talented farm system so losing a player wouldn’t kill them, but it would be ideal to keep all the talent they have. Just because these players are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, does not mean they will get taken but protecting the few players who can make a difference can help secure a positive future for the organization.