2021 St. Louis Cardinals Rule 5 Draft Preview

Peoria Chiefs shortstop Delvin Perez (33) holds at second base to tag Wisconsin Timber Rattlers right fielder Jesœs Lujano (7) in the MiLB game between the Peoria Chiefs and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium on May 22, 2019. The Timber Rattlers won 7-2.Chris Kohley/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Timberrattlers 052219 161Peoria Chiefs shortstop Delvin Perez (33) holds at second base to tag Wisconsin Timber Rattlers right fielder Jess Lujano (7) in the MiLB game between the Peoria Chiefs and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium on May 22, 2019. The Timber Rattlers won 7-2.Chris Kohley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Peoria Chiefs shortstop Delvin Perez (33) holds at second base to tag Wisconsin Timber Rattlers right fielder Jesœs Lujano (7) in the MiLB game between the Peoria Chiefs and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium on May 22, 2019. The Timber Rattlers won 7-2.Chris Kohley/USA TODAY NETWORK-WisconsinApc Timberrattlers 052219 161Peoria Chiefs shortstop Delvin Perez (33) holds at second base to tag Wisconsin Timber Rattlers right fielder Jess Lujano (7) in the MiLB game between the Peoria Chiefs and Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium on May 22, 2019. The Timber Rattlers won 7-2.Chris Kohley/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin /
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The St. Louis Cardinals face a deadline on Friday to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. Who are the important names to know as the roster is finalized this week?

The St. Louis Cardinals face an important roster deadline before Friday, Nov. 19. That’s when 40-man roster decisions are due before the upcoming Rule 5 Draft.

For those that are unaware, the Rule 5 Draft is a process that allows major league teams to select players from other minor league systems. Players that are not on the 40-man roster within four years of signing (five if they sign when they are 18) with a big league club are eligible to be selected. The caveat is that the selected player must remain on the active roster for the entire season, or be offered back to their original team.

Many notable players have been selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Extremely successful players like Johan Santana, Odubel Herrerra, and Shane Victorino have all been taken. Josh Hamilton, Dan Uggla, and Joakim Soria are other All-Stars who moved organizations in the Rule 5 Draft.

Last year, 18 players were selected in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Akil Baddoo was a standout for the Tigers, and is the latest example of how talented ball players can be lost due to a roster crunch. The last time a Cardinals player was selected, however, was 2016, when the Padres took shortstop Allen Cordoba.

It’s not expected that the Cardinals will select a member from another organization. So before Friday’s deadline, here is a look at the Rule 5 eligible prospects to know on the Cardinals. The Cardinals have 34 players on their 40-man roster, so at most only six of these players can be protected– some tough decisions lie ahead.

KRAMER ROBERTSON, SS/2B, 27 years old

Drafted as a senior out of LSU in 2017, Kramer Robertson has had a slow but steady rise through the St. Louis system. When I spoke to him before this season, he was confident in his improving ability to field multiple positions and do whatever it took to help his team win.

In 118 games at Memphis this season, Robertson was a solid contributor. He played all over the infield with very few errors, and finished with an OPS of  .780, his best as a professional. Kramer Robertson is knocking on the door of the big leagues, and he is more than ready for the opportunity to be on the roster.

GRIFFIN ROBERTS, RHP, 25

Griffin Roberts was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round in 2018. A promising right-handed pitcher, he’s struggled in his few years of pro ball. Injuries derailed much of his 2021 season, and he only pitched 1.1 innings for AA Springfield. It’s unlikely that the Cardinals need to protect Roberts this week, but hopefully the former Wake Forest Demon Deacon (ranked No. 10 in football this year, which is incredibly awesome and worth noting) can get back on track in 2022.

LUKEN BAKER- 1B, 24

A second-round pick out of TCU in 2018, Luken Baker knows how to hit. He spent most of 2021 in Springfield, slashing .248/.322/.530 with 26 home runs. Baker had a few at-bats with AAA-Memphis, too, going 2-6 with two RBI. He’s only played first base, but the bat has real potential.

I’m not sure what role Baker has for the 2022 St. Louis Cardinals. That being said, MLB.com has Baker as the No. 13 prospect in the organization, and the Cardinals will do what they can to keep him in the organization.

BRENDAN DONOVAN, UTIL, 24

No one has made more of a name for himself this season than Brendan Donovan. A seventh round draft pick in 2018, Donovan has turned himself into one of the top prospects in the organization. After tearing it up for AA-Springfield this season, Donovan was promoted to Memphis. The bat continued to produce, as Donovan hit six home runs with an OPS of .885 in 33 games. Oh, and he played every position except catcher and center field.

That brings us to the Arizona Fall League, where Donovan has continued his hot play. He’s slashing 350/.471/.625, good enough to be elected as one of the AFL all-stars. Donovan even had a walk-off broken bat single on Monday night. Donovan is hitting well and provides a unique defensive versatility. If anyone is a lock for the Cardinals to protect this week, it is Brendan Donovan.

JULIO RODRIGUEZ, C, 24

Rodriguez is a talented defensive catcher. As MLB.com writes, “The backstop has a strong, accurate arm and has thrown out 69% of attempted base stealers over the first four years of his professional career.” Cardinals fans know better than anyone the value of defensive behind the plate.

That being said, Rodriguez has struggled at the plate. Last year in 29 games in Springfield, he hit .196. Again, there is no understating the value of a strong defensive catcher. But with Yadier Molina, Andrew Knizner, Ivan Herrera, and Ali Sanchez already all on the 40-man roster, it is unlikely that Rodriguez grabs a spot on the St. Louis Cardinals this season.

DELVIN PEREZ- SS, 22

This might be the most difficult decision on the entire list. Coming out of Puerto Rico, Delvin Perez was projected to be a top draft pick in 2016. Due to reports of a failed drug test, the talented young shortstop fell to the Cardinals at 23. It was a huge pick for St. Louis, and expectations were high.

To say that Perez struggled would be an understatement. However, Delvin seemed to resurrect his career during the strange 2020 season. With his improvement at the plate, he was promoted to AA Springfield last season, where he hit .265 and stole 24 bases over 98 games. MLB.com has Perez back up to the No. 12 prospect in the organization.

Perez’s glove and speed are his best tools. The question is if he has shown enough development at the plate to garner protection. Would another major league team use a roster spot on his potential? Can the Cardinals risk losing him?

JHON TORRES, OF, 21

Jhon Torres is toolsy young outfielder. Although he is the 19th-ranked prospect on the Cardinals, Torres has yet to advance past single-A. He has a bright future ahead, but still plenty of development. I’d be shocked if the Cardinals protect him, and even more shocked if Torres was selected by another ballclub.

Kramer Robertson fields the ball during the Springfield Cardinals 9-2 loss to the Frisco Rough Riders at Hammons Field on Monday, April 29, 2019.Cardinals16
Kramer Robertson fields the ball during the Springfield Cardinals 9-2 loss to the Frisco Rough Riders at Hammons Field on Monday, April 29, 2019.Cardinals16 /

If I had to put money on it, I’d say the Cardinals protect Donovan, Robertson, and Baker. Donovan and Baker have just been tearing the cover off the ball, so you’d hate to lose either one. And Robertson looks major league ready, even if he doesn’t have the highest ceiling. Pay close attention to roster moves this week, as every team in baseball weighs the risks of who to leave unprotected.

Next. 6 free agents the St. Louis Cardinals should consider. dark

Leaving Perez off the roster would be a gamble, but I have a feeling his weak bat will scare other teams away. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Rodriguez is taken, given his strong defense, but it looks like the Cardinals will escape the Rule 5 Draft without losing anyone. As always, the St. Louis Cardinals have strong organizational depth all over the diamond.

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