When it comes to the Rule 5 draft, there's only one requirement for taking part: having space on the 40-man roster. Right now, Minnesota's 40-man is full. This was the case last year, although the Twins were active in the minor league phase where they took Kevin Thomas and James Fuller. Thomas didn't pitch for anyone in 2014, and Fuller struck out everyone at Double-A...or at least, everyone who he didn't walk.
Neither player looks like they have a history with the big league club, but there's certainly nothing wrong with organizational depth. Will the Twins be stuck looking for the same type of players this year? Here are a few guys to watch for in the Major League phase of the Rule 5, where Minnesota will pick fifth provided they (and every other team in front of them) has room on their 40-man roster.
De la Rosa is a 24-year old right-hander with a world-class fastball that can hit triple digits, but the problem is that it doesn't necessarily lead to strikeouts and the command (as you'd expect from a pitcher with such velocity) isn't brilliant. It's also worth taking into account that he was 23 years old and pitching for Detroit's equivalent of Fort Myers. We know that the Twins are more enamored with velocity now than they have been in the past, so would they consider stashing de la Rosa in the bullpen as a low-leverage change-of-pace?
As recently as pre-2013, Deshields was considered a Top 100 prospect in the game by Major League Baseball, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus. He stole 101 bases in 2012, and 105 since, possesses good discipline with 80 speed, and if he could find a way to consistently good contact would have all the tools he needs to be a top prospect. Unfortunately the contact skills are sub-par, which shows in strikeout rates that are too high for a guy who doesn't hit for power, and it also shows in his batting averages that are all over the board. Deshields is just 22, played at Double-A for the whole of 2014, and would appear to be a guaranteed selection in the Rule 5 for somebody.
I could argue, quite easily, that the Twins need a player on the bench who can play multiple defensive positions who is also capable of hitting. Canha could be that player, capable of playing first base, third base, and left field. He could join Josmil Pinto, Eduardo Escobar, and Jordan Schafer on a bench that would legitimately look much better than it did last season; it would also make Eduardo Nunez redundant, although I'm not sure why he wasn't non-tendered in the first place. Canha, who will be 26 in February, hit .303/.384/.505 in 2014 in his first spin through Triple-A. In his minor league career he's hit .285/.375/.474. The hit and power tools look good.
For a guy who can play second, short, and at a stretch third, Featherston has more power than you might expect for a guy who also knows how to use his speed pretty well. He's averaged 13 home runs and 31 doubles the last three seasons, in addition to 15 steals. He strikes out more than a player of his profile should and he doesn't walk a great deal, but the hit, power, and speed tools are interesting and his arm isn't bad from a middle infield spot. His issue, in addition to the strikeouts and mediocre discipline, is that he'll be 25 in 2015 and just finished his first spin through Double-A. If the Twins aren't completely sold on Nunez but prefer a defender in the Rule 5 over a hitter like Canha, Featherston could be a good look.
Those are four players who I think would be worth a look for the Twins, and I'm a particular fan of Deshields and Canha. Over at Baseball America, J.J. Cooper has compiled a fantastic reference list of players who could be taken.
What are the rules for the Major and Minor League phases of the Rule 5 draft? Do teams in front of the Twins have full 40-man rosters? Who are the best Rule 5 selections the club has made? I'll get to all those questions tomorrow in my Rule 5 cheat sheet.