With the Rule 5 Draft approaching, the Mets have added a handful of eligible minor leaguers to protect them from being selected by another Major League club. Andres Gimenez, Jordan Humphreys, Ali Sanchez, and Thomas Szapucki have all been added to the Mets’ 40-man roster, thereby protecting them.
The Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on December 12 this season, was instituted as a means to protect teams from signing and stockpiling players in their minor league systems. For a fee- $100,000- a team may select a player that has been left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. That player must be added to the team’s 25-man roster for the full season, or be offered back to his original club for a $50,000 return cost.
In order to avoid exposing a player, a team must add to its 40-man roster players signed at age 18 or younger that have five seasons of minor league experience, or players that were signed at age 19 or beyond with four years of minor league experience. For the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, this means players that were signed at age 18 or younger in 2015, or players that were signed at age 19 or older in 2016.
Protecting Gimenez, who was the Mets second-best prospect for the 2019 season and is very likely to remain high atop the Mets’ top prospect lists for 2020, was an obvious move. In his age 20 season, the shortstop hit .250/.309/.387 in 117 games for Double-A Binghamton. After the season ended, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .371/.413/.586 in 18 games, winning the AFL Batting Title. While his batting average and on-base percentage were seemingly diminished due to swing changes, the shortstop hit a career high 9 home runs and continued displaying plus speed on the base paths and playing above-average defense. While Gimenez struggled in 2019- and struggle is a very relative term, as he still posted a 105 wRC+- he is about as polished and ready to perform in the majors as any prospect in the Mets’ system and is likely to see some major league time in 2020.
Jordan Humphreys underwent Tommy John surgery in late 2017. He missed the entire 2018 season, and his return to the field was delayed in 2019 due to complications. His time on the mound was extremely limited during the 2019 season- he appeared in a pair of games for the GCL Mets- thanks to continued complications. The Mets assigned him to the Arizona Fall League when the regular season ended, and he was able to get semi-regular work there, posting a 0.77 ERA in 11.2 innings with 8 hits allowed, 4 walks, and 8 strikeouts. The well-built right-hander has a fastball that sits in the low-90s and complements it with a changeup, a slurvy curveball, and a newly-added slider. Though unlikely to be able to handle a starter’s workload or pitch effectively against Major League hitters at this point, Humphreys could certainly be stashed in a bullpen and used as a reliever periodically, prompting his addition to the 40-man roster.
Ali Sanchez was left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft last season, when he was first eligible, but thanks to a successful season with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse, the Mets are seemingly less inclined to take a chance losing him. The 22-year-old catcher began the season with the Rumble Ponies and hit .278/.337/.337 in 71 games. He was then promoted to the Syracuse Mets, where he hit .179/.277/.250 in 21 games, giving him a .261/.326/.322 batting line for the season, almost identical to the .262/.347/.310 he hit in the Arizona Fall League. While the backstop has an extremely BABIP-dependent hit tool and possesses next to no power thanks to an approach at the plate that sees him go to the opposite field almost as he does pulling the ball, his defensive skills are held in high regard. He moves well behind the dish, has a quick transfer, has shown good pop-up times, and has an accurate arm- though that arm is only average for a catcher. He calls a good game and is well-liked by coaches and the pitchers that throw to him. While his bat may currently be an unknown against major league pitchers, his ability to catch would improve any team.
Once considered one of the most exciting and dynamic pitchers in the Mets minor league system, Thomas Szapucki underwent Tommy John surgery in mid-2017, causing him to miss the entire 2018 season. Recovering from the surgery, no one was quite sure how the southpaw would fare when he finally got back on the mound. Coming off the heels of Marcos Molina returning from that same procedure a shell of his former self, expectations for Szapucki were tempered. While his pitch count and innings load were carefully managed throughout the entire year, and his stuff looked rusty at times, it would be hard to call his season anything but a success. Pitching over three levels for the Columbia Fireflies, St. Lucie Mets, and Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Szapucki posted a 2.63 ERA in 61.2 innings, allowing 49 hits, walking 26, and striking out 72. The left-hander’s stuff looked questionable early on, but by the time the season was ending, his fastball was sitting in the low-90s with sinking movement. Complementing his heater was a curveball and a changeup that both looked rusty early on but progressively looked better and better as time passed. Though unlikely to be able to handle a starter’s workload, Szapucki could certainly be stashed in a bullpen and used as a reliever, prompting his addition to the 40-man roster.