Several top Red Sox prospects will be added to the 40-man roster on Friday in order to keep them from being taken by other teams in the Rule 5 draft.
Those players who were signed at age 18 or younger in time for the 2016 season or at age 19 or older in time for the 2017 season must be added to the 40-man roster on Friday to keep them from being taken by other teams through next month.
For the Red Sox, six players are almost certain to get added to the 40-man roster, including three of the team’s top pitching prospects: righthander Bryan Mata, lefthander Jay Groome, and righthander Connor Seabold.
Mata, a 21-year-old recently ranked the No. 4 prospect in the Red Sox system, has an electrifying arsenal that projects as that of at least a mid-rotation starter if he can throw enough strikes.
Groome, the 22-year-old who was taken by the Sox in the first round of the 2016 draft, has logged fewer than 100 innings in affiliated professional baseball. Given that he’s never pitched above Single A Greenville, he represents a somewhat unusual profile for a player who gets protected.
However, the No. 6 Red Sox prospect remained healthy this year while pitching at the Red Sox alternate site in Pawtucket and in fall instructional league. He added a slider to his fastball (mostly 92-94 m.p.h.)/curveball/changeup combination. His pitch mix, strike-throwing ability, size (6-foot-6), and easy delivery give him the upside of a No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
Seabold, 24, was acquired from the Phillies in August in the deal that sent relievers Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to Philadelphia. He has strong command of a low-90s fastball, a decent slider, and a very good changeup, with his precision allowing his relatively modest arsenal to project as that of a No. 4 or No. 5 starter.
Others likely to be added to the 40-man roster on Friday include catcher/infielder Connor Wong, a versatile catcher with intriguing power who was added in the Mookie Betts trade; outfielder Jeisson Rosario (a strong defensive center fielder who has shown plate discipline but little power in his early pro career); and third baseman Hudson Potts (significant power, but with concerns about his ability to avoid strikeouts). Rosario and Potts both came to the Sox from San Diego in the Mitch Moreland deal.
The Sox may wrestle with the question of whether to protect righthanded reliever Eduard Bazardo. The diminutive 25-year-old was not protected last offseason after forging a 2.21 ERA with 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 73 1/3 innings between High A Salem and Double A Portland last year. In instructional league, however, his fastball velocity ticked up, topping out at 97 m.p.h. rather than the 95 m.p.h. highs of a year ago.
Bazardo also added a splitter as a third pitch, and still featured a swing-and-miss curveball as the anchor of his repertoire. He could help a big league bullpen in 2021, though his ceiling is generally viewed as that of a righthanded middle reliever, helping to explain why he was passed over a year ago and wouldn’t be a lock to be taken this year. Even so, given his increased velocity, the Sox may be tempted to add him to the 40-man and other teams might be more inclined to consider taking him to help in their big league bullpens.
Those Rule 5-eligible players who aren’t added to the 40-man roster by Friday can be selected by other teams in December’s Rule 5 draft, in which teams can draft an unprotected player, paying $100,000 to the player’s former club for his rights. The drafting team then has to keep the player on its big league roster for the entire season or offer that player back to his former team for $50,000.
The Red Sox have 36 players on their 40-man roster, meaning that they would have to clear at least two spots in order to protect six players or three spots if they decide to add seven.