RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: Five prospects the Sox may not want to lose in Rule 5 Draft

RED SOX INSIDER

Only two years ago, the Red Sox farm system was so thin, they protected left-hander Kyle Hart ahead of the Rule 5 Draft. Hart was a great story, a 19th-round pick who had risen from obscurity, but he didn't exactly scream top prospect, which he then proved by posting a 15.55 ERA in four starts with the forgettable 2020 Red Sox.

A lot has changed. The Red Sox have more prospects than roster spots and will be forced to expose someone they'd rather keep in this year's Rule 5. Their 40-man roster currently stands at 33 and they must add players they don't want to lose by Friday.

So who are the candidates? They range from former No. 1 prospect Jeter Downs to big-league disappointment Franchy Cordero.

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Let's take a look at the five most intriguing names on the bubble, with the understanding that Downs, right-hander Brayan Bello, and right-hander Josh Winckowski are automatics as top-10 prospects in the system.

1. Gilberto Jimenez, CF

A one-time top-10 prospect with some of the highest upside in the organization, Jimenez spun his tires in 2021 at Low-A Salem. His numbers looked OK -- he hit .306 with a .751 OPS -- but he showed little ability to hit the ball in the air, and the switch hitter's high average owed in part to his tremendous speed on infield choppers.

Jimenez isn't ready to contribute in the big leagues, but a team may bet on his athleticism and defensive potential in center.

2. Thaddeus Ward, RHP

It's not exactly accurate to call him this year's Garrett Whitlock, but the rehabbing Ward could be a tempting grab-and-stash candidate while recovering from Tommy John surgery. It's possible he misses the entire 2022 season, which means a team could select the former fifth-rounder and put him on the 60-day injured list, punting his time on the active roster to 2023.

 

When healthy, Ward stood neck and neck with Tanner Houck among pitching prospects in the system.

3. Kutter Crawford, RHP

Blink and you missed Crawford's contributions to the 2021 Red Sox, a spot start in the middle of COVID hell vs. the Indians in September in which he surrendered five runs in two innings.

Crawford ranks second on many Florida Gulf Coast leaderboards behind a fella by the name of Chris Sale and has transformed himself from nondescript 16th-rounder to legit prospect by pumping up his fastball velocity and coming out of 2019 Tommy John surgery stronger than before. He could entice a roll of the dice if he's not protected.

4. Durbin Feltman, RHP

It's easy to forget that when the Red Sox selected Feltman in the third round of the 2018 MLB Draft out of TCU, he was touted as a candidate to jump directly into the big-league bullpen. He instead excelled at the three lowest levels of the minors before taking his talents to Double-A Portland in 2019, where he promptly posted a 5.26 ERA.

Feltman fell off most prospects lists before rebounding this season to go 8-1 with a 2.96 ERA between Double- and Triple-A. If he's not protected, he's a legitimate candidate to be taken.

5. Ceddanne Rafaela, IF/OF

Could a 21-year-old utility guy with no experience beyond Low-A really end up on a big league roster next season? The Red Sox should know it's possible. They took and kept infielder Jonathan Arauz in 2020, and he had only played 28 games at Double-A.

If Rafaela draws interest, it will be for his glove. The team's minor league defensive player of the year in 2021 is a plus defender in center and at third base, the latter befitting his middle name of "Chipper." He remains a free-swinging work in progress with the bat, however, and would most likely be drafted as a project by a rebuilding franchise.