2 players the Cardinals should protect from the Rule 5 draft and 2 they should expose

With the Rule 5 draft approaching, the St. Louis Cardinals have some decisions to make on which players to protect on the 40-man roster and which players to leave available for other teams to claim.
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The offseason is upon us, which means trading and signing speculations are in full swing. Often lost in the excitement is the Rule 5 draft, which is taking place on Dec. 6 to conclude the winter meetings. In 2022, the Cardinals took right-handed pitcher Wilking Rodriguez in the Rule 5 draft, but he missed the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery in early May.

The only player the Cardinals lost in the Rule 5 draft last season was Evan Mendoza, whom the San Diego Padres selected in the minor league phase of the draft. Mendoza hit only .226 across three levels of San Diego's farm system in 2023.

Bleacher Report ranked the Cardinals 12th in its updated list of farm system rankings in September. With a few players eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft this season, the Cardinals will need to decide on whom they want to protect and which players they're willing to risk losing in the draft.

The Rule 5 draft is a way to keep teams from hoarding talent in the minor leagues by allowing organizations to add certain players to their 26-man roster if those players are not on other major league teams' 40-man rosters. These players also need to meet certain other criteria, which are explained here.

An important note in determining which players are eligible to be chosen in the Rule 5 draft is that the canceled 2020 minor league season does not count as an accrued year that would bring the player closer to being exposed in the draft.

These are two players the Cardinals should add to their 40-man roster to avoid the possibility of losing them, as well as two players the team shouldn't bother protecting from the draft.