St. Louis Cardinals: Eligible Players Can Be Taken During The Rule 5 Draft


The St. Louis Cardinals have recently purchased the contracts of Rowan Wick, Edmundo Sosa, Eliezer Alvarez, and Magneuris Sierra to protect them from being chosen by another team during the Rule 5 Draft.

As the Winter Meetings approach, so does the draft.  Even after protecting the four players by adding them to the 40-man roster, there are still a number of players who can be taken away from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Some players are much more likely to be taken by another team come draft time.  A player that is taken must be on the MLB roster of the team that chooses them for a full season, so the selected player needs to be ready for that level.

Should a team want to designate that player for assignment, the drafted player 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.

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That means that not every prospect eligible for the Rule 5 draft is a serious threat to be lost.  This would include a player like the organizations 19th-ranked prospect Allen Cordoba.  His name has been thrown around by a few to be considered for protection.  But he has never risen above Rookie League.   Even after hitting .362, he still hasn’t gained the experience to be a useful MLB player next season.

Taking a look at the St. Louis Cardinals roster from last year, Matt Bowman is the example of how the Rule 5 draft can be useful.  Bowman was selected by the Cardinals last year and became an integral part of the bullpen.

Within the organization, there are five eligible players who carry a higher likeliness to be selected than Cordoba.  Four of these are pitchers, and the remaining player is an infielder.  The following Cardinals are listed in the order of least likely to the most likely to be chosen during the Rule 5 draft.

While there is still a chance that shortstop Juan Herrera gets taken, he is the least likely of any eligible member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization.  He actually just arrived to the Cardinals two years ago from Cleveland.

At 23 years old, Herrera had been having a solid career in the minors, hitting .273.  However, last year, he reached Double A and slashed .194/.234/.263.  The struggling numbers at the level he was at severely hurt his chances to be selected.

The fact that he found success before, could cause a team to take an interest in him.  But he would have to be on the team’s roster for a full season.  And with the poor hitting performance, he doesn’t show to be ready yet, even as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement.

That being said, Herrera shows promise.  At 23, he is one of the younger players up for the draft.  He is a player who can add value and depth to an organization or could possibly even bolster the back end of a trade.  The good news is that Herrera will still be a Cardinal when the Rule 5 Draft is over.  At least that is the way it looks.

Right-handed pitcher Arturo Reyes is also unlikely to be taken, but still shows enough promise to have a few teams consider taking him.  Reyes reached Triple-A Memphis and started nineteen games.  These resulted in a 9-4 record and a 4.17 ERA.  Triple-A batters hit .255 off of him during the 2016 season.

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Reyes is 24 years old, throwing from a 5’11” frame.  He is not showing Tim Lincecum power as a pitcher from the frame.  In fact, in 412.2 innings in his MiLB career, Reyes has 316 strikeouts.  When looking at his 418 hits, it shows how valuable he can be.

Even though he has been a starter, his best use will be as a situational change-of-pace pitcher out of the bullpen with potential to blossom as a starter.  There are plenty of power arms already in the league, so a change of pace is often successful.  Because of that, he can add value to teams as early as next year.

It is the .255 BAA that lowers his chance to be taken.  That is just too high to trust.  By the end of the year he may be a viable Major League relief option, but as it stands it is not worth the chance.  It looks as though Reyes will remain a part of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Next up is the number 29 prospect in the organization: left-handed pitcher Corey Littrell.  He has a solid 6’3″ build and throws from the left side.  He reached Triple-A Memphis in his first full year as a reliever.

At the highest level he reached, hitters were .259 through 51.1 innings against Littrell.  As a converted starter, he does have the potential to take on multiple innings at a time.  That can prove valuable.  But in order for that to matter he will need record more outs.  From the look of it, there is a better chance of him getting selected than Reyes or Herrera.

Lefties are always valuable, especially to the St. Louis Cardinals after the injuries suffered in the bullpen.  Losing Tim Cooney off waivers did not help the situation.  Needless to say, another lefty leaving the organization would not be ideal.  In the case of Littrell, it very well could happen. It is hard to be confident, but it would be smart to think he is not going anywhere.

Next is 25-year-old Trey Nielsen who was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013.  He currently ranks as the 27th best prospect in the organization.  The right-hander has passed through the ranks of the minor league system as a starting pitcher.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

The vast majority of the 2016 season for Nielsen was spent in Springfield at the Double-A level.  He posted a 3.84 ERA through 122 innings.  However, he did also start one game a level up in Memphis.  This was a 5.1-inning appearance where he gave up one run on two hits.  The only blemish on the outing is the fact that Nielsen walked four batters.

Nielsen has not shown much passed the Double-A level, but he performed with his chance.  Since the four walks are not consistent with the rest of his career, the organization could lose this prospect.  He has shown enough to prove to a team that he can hold his own in the bullpen and possibly develop further into a starter.  This one is truly up in the air; very hard to call. That said, though, I think he gets snatched up in the draft.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the St. Louis Cardinals did not protect lefty Ryan Sheriff.  At 26 years old, he has shown the most promise to be ready as a relief pitcher.  Without a doubt in my mind, Sheriff will get taken during the Rule 5 Draft.

He spent all year at the Triple-A level, and ended with a 2.84 ERA over 66.2 innings.  In only forty-nine appearances, he showed the ability to adequately cover a middle relief role.  His 7-1 record and 3 saves show a bit of versatility out of what his role can be.

The success that Sheriff found at the Triple-A level leaves him very vulnerable as a Rule 5 draft selection.  It would be shocking to not see him taken.  With the necessity for lefties, it was baffling to see Sheriff not protected.  The signing of Brett Cecil helps a little, but is not a full answer.  Needless to say, this is a player who is certainly a huge threat to be drafted.

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Time will tell who remains in the St. Louis Cardinals organization as the draft completes.  Players may leave but there are always players who are worth taking from other teams.  The front office is notorious for being active during the Rule 5 draft in the last few years wherein Bowman is a perfect example.