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Who do the Twins need to protect from the Rule 5 draft?

The deadline to protect players is tomorrow. Who should the Twins make sure they keep safe?

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Tomorrow is the deadline for players to be added to their team’s 40-man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. Lets take a look at who the Twins will need to protect, and take a guess at who they actually will.

If you’re not sure of the rules, or want a bit of history, click here. The Twins currently have 33 players on the 40-man roster, which means they could add up to seven players, but also need flexibility to add free agents. My guess is they will add five players, but could add more, with an eye towards some future cuts.

The Twins have a few obvious candidates they WILL be protecting, no doubt about it. I’m pretty sure Stephen Gonsalves, Jake Reed, and Zack Littel will be added to the roster. That makes them not very interesting to talk about, but the Twins have some interesting edge-cases to consider as well. Here are a few guys I’ll be watching closely.

Lewin Diaz

The problem with prospects signed from Latin America is you often have to protect them way, way too early in their career. That ended up costing the Twin’s Randy Rosario, as he is still nothing but potential. Lewin Diaz falls into the same sort of category. He started playing professional baseball at age 17, and therefore will need to be protected on the same day he can legally order a drink in the USA. (Happy Birthday, Lewin!)

After tearing up E-town in 2016, Diaz had a very successful A-ball campaign at Cedar Rapids in 2017. He plays first base, which makes this a little bit simpler. In the last five years, only three first basemen have been taken in the Rule 5 draft, and you probably haven’t heard of any of them. A MLB team would have to hide him as a low-versatility bench player, or perhaps a DH. With the large number of available players in free agency who fill that role, it makes him less likely to be taken. This is also an area the Twins currently have a lot of options.

Verdict: probably not protected

Kohl Stewart

The fourth pick of the 2013 draft hasn’t worked out quite the way the Twins wanted, but is still a valuable player. He’ll be 23 for all of the 2018 season, and got a taste of triple-A in 2017. The vast majority of players taken with the rule-5 draft are pitchers. While the numbers aren’t where one would hope, the combination of his pedigree and his level in the organization make him a good prospect for a team to stash in the bullpen for a season, and convert back to starting later; ala Johan Santana.

Verdict: probably protected

Nick Burdi

If he had been healthy in 2017, we probably would not be having this conversation. The reliever has the stuff to be successful in the MLB, but has been plagued by injuries. His health was supposedly the hang-up in acquiring Jaime Garcia this summer. Due to mid-season Tommy John Surgery, he is likely to miss most or all of 2018, and will likely be in his late 20’s before a possible MLB debut for the Twins.

Verdict: probably not protected

Lewis Thorpe

Another player who’s age and injuries have left him more projection than results at this time, the 21 year old Australian made it to Chattanooga by the end of 2017. He’s a left-handed pitcher with good stuff, which makes him an in-demand prospect. Similar to Stewart, he would be an easy player to hide in low-leverage relief this season, and convert back to a starter afterwards.

Verdict: probably protected.

Luke Bard

Bard showed good results in Chattanooga and Rochester this season, and with the “graduation” of Curtiss and Moya, is one of the most MLB-ready pitchers the Twins have left to protect. Due to this, I think you have to protect him, if you see him having a moderate MLB ceiling — unlike players who haven’t made it to the higher levels of the minors, he is likely to be able to actually contribute in a major league bullpen. This one is going to come down to what the Twins think of his future.

Verdict: 50-50

Obviously, there are a lot of other eligible players, but with limited space, these are the most likely candidates to be protected.

Who do you think the Twins should (or should not) protect?