Another Rule 5 draft is just around the corner, and we're still waiting for the Twins to find their next diamond in the rough. Scott Diamond lived up to his name well enough in 2012, but that's as good as the results have been for a while. The 40-man was full last year, meaning Minnesota didn't (and couldn't) draft anyone in the Major League phase.
The Twins did, however, add a few players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the draft: Logan Darnell, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Kennys Vargas. Three of those guys ended up contributing in some respect to the Major League club in 2014. With collegiate picks from 2011 and prep selections from 2010 eligible for the Rule 5 for the first time, who will the organization protect this year?
All adds need to be made by Thursday. There are 36 men currently on the 40-man roster, meaning that if the Twins want to add more than four players they'll need to clear a little more space. It should also be noted that these are just the guys who are eligible for the first time. Repeats, such as Alex Wimmers, are still up for grabs.
Alex Meyer (University of Kentucky, 2011)
Any call up of Meyer in 2014 would have required his addition to the 40-man roster first, but of course that didn't happen. He still struggles with command at times and the Twins still want him to work on repeating that delivery and tightening things up, but he's a guaranteed add and should have every opportunity to make the team out of spring training.
Eddie Rosario (Rafael Lopez Landron High School, Puerto Rico, 2010)
Rosario was a sure add even before he went through AFL pitchers like a hot knife through butter. He should continue to play some center and left field between Double and Triple-A this season. Could he make a late-season debut for the Twins? I have my doubts right now, but I'd love to be wrong.
Miguel Sano (International signing, 2009)
Because Sano signed later in 2009 than fellow '09 international signees Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler, he had an extra year of protection. But now he's eligible for the draft for the first time, and he qualifies as one of three "no-brainers." 2015 will be his age-22 season.
Sean Gilmartin (Florida State University, 2011)
A low-upside, high-floor acquisition in return for Ryan Doumit, Gilmartin's case for addition is strong. He gave the Twins' Double and Triple-A affiliates 146 innings of 3.71 ERA baseball in 2014, and as an effective left-handed pitcher it's hard to see reasoning for not protecting him. He'll give Rochester a reliable veteran performer, and would provide the Twins with acceptable reserve depth.
Niko Goodrum (Fayette County High School, FL, 2010)
Although he will be 23 by Opening Day and possibly just getting his first taste of Double-A, Goodrum was Minnesota's second-round pick in 2010 and his defensive skills and versatility give him potential to be taken by a team willing to take a gamble. He doesn't have the contact skills of Danny Santana but his defensive instincts and skills are at the very least Santana's rival. If Minnesota does not protect him in the Major League phase, they will protect him in the minor league phase.
Tyler Jones (Louisiana State University, 2011)
This Jones is an interesting case. He's a strikeout reliever with mediocre command, and at 25 years old you'd like to already have seen him at Double-A. A quick rise through the last two levels is possible, however, for a team who might like to audition one or two bullpen roles in spring training. Minnesota should protect him in the minor league phases if they choose not to do so in the Major League phase.
Jason Wheeler (Loyola Marymount University, 2011)
The 23-year old lefty gave the Twins 26 starts of 2.67 ERA baseball this year, mostly between Advanced-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. The strikeout rates are pedestrian but he has good command, and he does a decent job of keeping people off the base paths. It will be interesting to see if he continues to be developed as a starter, or whether the Twins try to harnass his abilities in a more focused fashion by shunting him to the bullpen.
Levi Michael (University of North Carolina, 2011)
After two disappointing campaigns, Michael's 2014 began to produce a little fruit. He hit .313/.389/.387, mostly between Doug Mientkiewicz's Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. There hasn't been any power of which to speak, but his strike zone judgement looks strong, his defense at second base has been better, and his balls in play found holes all summer. Michael will be 24 in February, but he's worth watching.
Matt Koch (Loyola Marymount University, 2011)
Wheeler's teammate in college, Koch has become quintessential organizational depth at catcher. His offense has never really gotten going and he turns 26 in a few days. While the Twins have three catchers on the 40-man his addition feels unlikely, but if something unexpected happens he could become the emergency backup guy.
Tim Shibuya (University of California, 2011)
Shibuya is a 25-year old who has yet to see Double-A, but he could be an interesting choice for somebody in the minor league phase. Thanks to superb command his mediocre strikeout rates stand out, with a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5-to-1 in spite of a career 6.8 K/9.
Cole Johnson (University of Notre Dame, 2011)
Johnson has become something of a fascinating watch for me. He spent 47 relief appearances and two starts in Double-A this season, giving the Rock Cats a 3.84 ERA and striking out 82 in 72.2 innings while walking just 21. Yes, Johnson just turned 26, but I think he's a dark horse candidate for the Twins bullpen in 2015.