Prospects Detroit Tigers could add to 40-man roster to protect from Rule 5 draft

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers know how beneficial the Rule 5 draft can be.

Outfielder Akil Baddoo, the No. 3 overall pick in last year’s event, made the Opening Day roster, then worked his way up to being manager AJ Hinch’s leadoff hitter against right-handed pitchers and hit .259 with seven triples, 13 home runs, 55 RBIs and 18 stolen bases over 124 games in his first MLB season.

Baddoo hadn’t played above High-A, but in his age-22 season, he quickly became a fan favorite at Comerica Park, drawing early AL Rookie of the Year buzz and becoming one of the organization’s most fascinating stories.

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The draft is scheduled for Dec. 8, the final day of the annual Winter Meetings. But the deadline to protect prospects — by placing them on the 40-man roster — is 6 p.m. Friday. Any Rule 5-eligible player left unprotected by then can be targeted in the draft, just as the Tigers did to the Minnesota Twins when general manager Al Avila picked Baddoo.

Any team that makes a selection pays $100,000 to the organization losing the player. Players chosen in the draft must spend the entire season on the active MLB roster (or injured reserve) or be offered back to their former team for $50,000. They can’t be sent to the minor leagues without clearing waivers and their old organization getting another chance to keep them.

The Tigers’ Rule-5 draft list

Here’s the full list of Rule 5 draft-eligible players from the Tigers’ organization as of Wednesday night: 

RHP: Gio Arriera, Brad Bass, Nolan Blackwood, Yaya Chentouf, Ethan DeCaster, Sandel De La Cruz, Angel De Jesus, Chavez Fernander, Ruben Garcia, Carlos Guzman, Wilkel Hernandez, Garrett Hill, Zac Houston, Chance Kirby, Billy Lescher, Keider Montero, Joe Navilhon, Reese Olson, Angel Reyes, Paul Richan, Jesus Rodriguez, Logan Shore, Hugh Smith and Will Vest.

LHP: Jack O’Loughlin, Jared Tobey and Adam Wolf.

C: Eliezer Alfonzo, Brady Policelli, Christopher Proctor and Jon Rosoff.

INF: Kody Clemens, Jose King, Dane Myers, Wenceel Perez, Daniel Pinero, Reynaldo Rivera and John Valente.

OF: Ulrich Bojarski and Dylan Rosa.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the Tigers’ more notable Rule 5 eligibles. The organization’s 40-man roster is full, so if they want to protect any of them, they’ll have to remove someone else.

Acquired: Round 3 (No. 79 overall), 2018 draft.

Age: 25.

Finished 2021 in: Triple-A Toledo.

The buzz: Clemens — the son of seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens — ranks as the Tigers’ No. 18 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, which makes him the organization’s top position player eligible for the Rule 5 draft. He hit .247 with 18 home runs, 59 RBIs, 36 walks and 94 strikeouts in 97 games for Triple-A Toledo. The left-hander slugged .466 with a .788 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, the best marks of his three-year minor-league career. Until 2021, Clemens had only played second base. But this year, in addition to 74 games at second, the Tigers moved him around in the field, putting him at right field (24 games), first base (7) and third base (1). Clemens has proven himself as a versatile defender, making it more likely that the Tigers add him to the 40-man.

[ Why Tigers prospect Kody Clemens is taking on some new duties in Triple-A Toledo ]

Acquired: From Milwaukee Brewers in 2021 Daniel Norris trade.

Age: 22.

Finished 2021 in: Double-A Erie.

The buzz: Olson came to the Tigers in July and gained immediate respect within the organization with 11 scoreless innings with two walks and 14 strikeouts in High-A West Michigan. He advanced to Double-A Erie in August and posted a 4.74 ERA, 14 walks and 21 strikeouts over 24⅔ innings (five starts). Olson is the Tigers’ No. 11 prospect. Although he has the swing-and-miss arsenal to reach the majors, he won’t make a big impact unless he cleans up his command. Over three years in the minors, Olson has 102 walks and 204 strikeouts in 209⅔ innings — 4.4 walks and 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings. The Brewers drafted him in the 13th round in 2018 out of high school in Gainesville, Georgia. The Tigers want him to reach Triple-A Toledo this season, so he should get a spot on the 40-man roster.

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Acquired: From Chicago Cubs in 2019 Nick Castellanos trade.

Age: 24.

Finished 2021 in: Double-A Erie.

The buzz: Of the Tigers’ Rule 5-eligible players, Richan is the final one on MLB Pipeline’s list of the team’s top prospects, at No. 25. Acquired along with righty reliever Alex Lange, who made his MLB debut in 2021, Richan was selected No. 78 overall in 2018 out of the University of San Diego. He logged eight starts in Double-A Erie last season before landing on the injured list in June. The Tigers expect him to be ready for spring training. He finished with a 3.72 ERA, nine walks and 26 strikeouts over 29 innings. Richan owns a 3.65 ERA in 40 games (39 starts) across his three-year pro career.

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Acquired: From Oakland Athletics in 2018 Mike Fiers trade.

Age: 26.

Finished 2021 in: Triple-A Toledo.

The buzz: Shore hit the injured list in June, made three rehab assignment starts and didn’t return for Toledo until early August. He still appeared in 16 games (15 starts) for the Mud Hens and registered a 3.95 ERA, 30 walks and 64 strikeouts in 73 innings. In 2019, Shore had a 3.43 ERA with 39 walks and 58 strikeouts over 97 innings in 23 games (16 starts) in Double-A. He was drafted No. 47 overall by the A’s in 2016 and seems lined up to make his MLB debut in 2022. Because Shore has five years of experience in the minors, he would be an easy fit on most teams’ 26-man roster as a reliever. If the Tigers want to make sure that doesn’t happen, they’ll need to add him to the 40-man roster. He boasts a 3.80 ERA across 371⅔ innings in 86 games (75 starts) in the pros.

Acquired: Round 26 (No. 765 overall), 2018 draft.

Age: 25.

Finished 2021 in: Double-A Erie.

The buzz: It’s going to be tough for the Tigers to deny Hill a spot on the 40-man roster, as he has dominated every level. He finished 2021 with a 2.74 ERA, 28 walks and 99 strikeouts over 75⅔ innings in 17 starts in High-A (13 starts) and Double-A (four). He put up a 2.57 ERA for the Whitecaps, followed by a 3.20 ERA for the SeaWolves. He then went to the Arizona Fall League and continued to impress, with a 1.98 ERA with three walks and 21 strikeouts across 13⅔ innings in five games (three starts) with the Salt River Rafters. That landed him a spot in the AFL’s Fall Stars Game. He pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two — each on four pitches — and worked around a one-out double. The only other Tiger named to the Fall Stars Game: No. 1 prospect Spencer Torkelson. Hill has a 2.54 ERA with 85 walks and 274 strikeouts over 237⅓ in 49 games (46 starts) in three minor-league campaigns. The Tigers believe Hill could thrive, especially if he accepts fresh ideas from the organization’s new progressive-minded player development staffers.

Acquired: Signed in 2016 as an amateur free agent out of Dominican Republic.

Age: 24.

Finished 2021 in: Triple-A Toledo.

The buzz: De Jesus didn’t last long in Double-A, thanks to 13⅓ consecutive scoreless innings, along with five walks and 18 strikeouts in nine games (one start). Promoted to Triple-A in June, he wasn’t as successful for the Mud Hens but still delivered a 4.21 ERA with 32 walks and 62 strikeouts across 51⅓ innings in 35 games (two starts). De Jesus logged one save for Erie and five for Toledo. After the season, he returned to the Dominican Republic, where he is playing in his country’s winter league for the first time. For Gigantes del Cibao, he has allowed one earned run on four hits and two walks over 3⅔ innings in four games, for a 2.45 ERA. There’s no doubt De Jesus — with a 2.85 ERA in five seasons — is on the right track toward making his MLB debut in 2022 or 2023.

Acquired: Selected in 2020 Rule 5 draft by Seattle Mariners, returned.

Age: 26.

Finished 2021 in: MLB.

The buzz: Seven picks after the Tigers selected Baddoo , the Mariners snagged Vest at No. 10. While the Twins didn’t get a second chance with their prospect (who hit .313 in 17 matchups against his former organization), the Tigers got a second chance at Vest when the Mariners returned him in the middle of July. Before returning, Vest pitched 35 innings in 32 relief appearances for Seattle. He had a 6.17 ERA with 18 walks and 27 strikeouts. Although Vest is back, the Tigers still haven’t added him to the 40-man roster so he is once again exposed to the Rule 5 draft. He had a 4.91 ERA, eight walks and 25 strikeouts over 25⅔ innings in 23 games out of the bullpen with Triple-A Toledo to end his season.

Acquired: Round 35 (No. 1,035 overall), 2018 draft.

Age: 24.

Finished 2021 in: Double-A Erie.

The buzz: Fernander had a 3.68 ERA with 26 walks and 56 strikeouts over 58⅔ innings over 33 games (three starts) in High-A and Double-A. He posted a 3.86 ERA for the Whitecaps (11 games) and a 3.60 ERA for the SeaWolves (22 games). Fernander also went to the Arizona Fall League to play for the Rafters. He didn’t make the Fall Stars Game, but he affirmed himself as a prospect to watch with a 3.38 ERA, six walks and seven strikeouts across eight innings in eight games out of the bullpen.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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