St. Louis Cardinals face tough decisions as Rule 5 Draft approaches
The deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft is November 20th. Which talented young players do the St. Louis Cardinals need to make room for?
Before any big splashes are made this offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals have some roster maneuvering to do. Every winter, certain minor leaguers become eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Based on age and service time, teams must place any eligible players on the 40-man roster before the deadline in order to avoid losing that player to another team.
This year, the deadline for protecting players from the Rule 5 Draft is November 20th. The Rule 5 Draft itself is December 10th. As the Cardinals currently have 37 players on the 40-man roster, some talented players might be at risk. It’s important to remember that a player selected in the Rule 5 draft must stay on the MLB active roster of the team that picks them, so low-level minor leaguers usually aren’t taken.
As an organization with lots of depth, the Cardinals always face a roster crunch when the Rule 5 draft comes along. While there are certainly others who are eligible, here are the notable players the St. Louis Cardinals have to protect (listed in order from oldest to youngest):
Kramer Robertson (SS)– 26 years old; highest level- Memphis (AAA)
Drafted in 2017 as a senior in the 4th round, Robertson has steadily advanced through the minor leagues. He was at the alternative site this season, which might be a sign that the Cardinals value his defensive versatility on the infield and his all-around approach at the plate.
Evan Mendoza (3B)– 24 years old; highest level- Memphis (AAA)
Also drafted in 2017, Mendoza was taken in the 11th round. A very similar player to Robertson, Mendoza was also invited to the alternative site in 2020. MLB.com had Mendoza as the 28th-ranked prospect in the organization in 2018.
Julio Rodriguez (C)– 23 years old; highest level- Springfield (AA)
The Cardinals signed Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. A defensive-minded player, MLB.com has Rodriguez as the current 15th-ranked prospect on the Cardinals. However, his path to the big leagues is currently blocked by other highly-touted young catchers.
Angel Rondon (RHP)– 22 years old; highest level- Springfield (AA)
Another talented player signed in 2016 from the Dominican, Angel Rondon has the ability and stuff to become a starter or a reliever at the major league level. Currently ranked as their 13th-best prospect, the Cardinals would be crazy to let Rondon get away.
Juan Yepez (1B, 3B, OF)– 22 years old; highest level- Springfield (AA)
You might remember Yepez as the low-level prospect the Cardinals acquired for Matt Adams. Now, Yepez is the power-hitting righty that plays the corner spots in both the infield and outfield. While still a year or two away from the big leagues, Juan Yepez is developing into a solid everyday player.
Alvaro Seijas (RHP)– 22 years old; highest level- Palm Beach (A-advanced)
Alvaro Seijas was signed by the Cardinals in 2015 when he was only 16 years old! Over the years, he’s developed into a solid young pitcher. We still don’t know too much about Seijas, but the Cardinals clearly saw something in him at a young age and it will be interesting to see how that continues to develop.
Delvin Perez (SS)– 21 years old; highest level- Peoria (A)
Perez was an uber-talented prospect, debuting at number five in the Cardinals organization in 2016. However, the 23rd overall pick from the 2016 draft is still stuck in single-A. I picked Delvin as a trade candidate for this offseason. While the young shortstop could still develop into a star, it might be time for a change of scenery
Ivan Herrera– 20 years old; highest level- Palm Beach (A-advanced)
Signed in 2016, Herrera is currently the Cardinals’ number four prospect. A fantastic young hitter, Herrera has become solid enough defensively to stick behind the plate. It might not be too much longer before he is knocking on the door and challenging Andrew Knizer as the heir to Yadier Molina.
As I mentioned previously, there are currently 37 players on the St. Louis 40-man roster. While this gives them room to protect three players, it doesn’t account for any free agent acquisitions or room to re-sign Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. This means the Cardinals have some work to do before the deadline next week.
There are probably only three players on the current 40-man roster that are at any risk of being taken off. Those three are first baseman John Nogowski, corner infielder Rangel Ravelo, and one of the excluded outfielders (Lane Thomas, Austin Dean, or Justin Williams).
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I don’t see any of these three actually being let go. While Nogowski is 27 years old, he has been a solid contributor both offensively and defensively. Similarly, Ravelo is one of a few players on the roster who fits the important role as a power bat off the bench. The outfield candidates who are blocked are still super talented. Can you imagine letting one of them go for free? I’m not even going to mention what happened with Randy.
The most likely scenario to me is that Herrera, Rondon, and either Mendoza or Robertson are protected. Herrera and Rondon are just too talented to risk losing, and both could make an impact in St. Louis as early as 2022. Ideally, you could protect both Mendoza and Robertson, but as they play the same position at the same level, you don’t really need both.
The Cardinals will just have to cross their fingers with the other guys. Despite being a former top draft pick, it is unlikely that Delvin Perez could last a whole year on an active roster given his struggles at the plate. Similarly, Julio Rodriguez is still fairly unproven and teams probably won’t take a risk at catcher.
Alvaro Seijas could be taken, but he hasn’t really advanced high enough in the system that I would be too scared. The player who is the most at risk is Juan Yepez. There’s a chance he sneaks through, but I would predict that the talented young slugger is part of a new organization in the coming month.
Hopefully the Cardinals can make a trade happen soon. That’s probably the only way to create space to re-sign Yadi and Waino and/or protect more players. Don’t expect the Cardinals to take any exposed players from other teams, either– they barely have room for their own.
Again, the deadline to protect these players is November 20th. Keep your eyes out for some roster adjustments in the coming week. Even a minor move could be a signal that the Cardinals are about to make something happen.