The Cardinals announced Monday the additions of four players to the team’s 40-man roster ahead of the pre-Rule 5 Draft roster deadline. Pitchers Austin Gomber and Derian Gonzalez were added along with outfielders Oscar Mercado and Tyler O’Neill, protecting each from being eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place next month at the Baseball Winter Meetings. After these additions, the Cardinals 40-man roster stands at 39 players.
Minor league players with at least five years in an organization who are not on a team’s 40-man roster are eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. If the selecting team keeps the selected player on its major league roster for the entirety of the following season, that player remains with the organization. If a selecting team decides to no longer roster the player at any time throughout that season, he is offered back to his previous team for a discounted rate.
Teams expected to ‘tank’ in an upcoming season have been known to swoop in like vultures, taking fliers on talented prospects that may not be considered ready for advancement, but could someday provide quality at the MLB level. The Padres have taken a player from the Cardinals’ system each of the past two years through this process, with Luis Perdomo in 2015, and utility man Allen Cordoba last year.
Gomber, a lefty, led the Class-AA Springfield Cardinals in wins (10), ERA (3.34), strikeouts (140), innings pitched (143) and games started (26) in 2017. Originally a 4th round pick of the Cardinals back in 2014, the soon-to-be 24-year-old could provide some much-needed left-handed depth in the St. Louis starting rotation in the coming years.
Gonzalez, 22 years old and another lefty in the Cardinals farm system, was originally signed out of Venezuela in 2012 as an international free agent. Though Gonzalez had only reached High-A within the minor league system, going 4-7 with a 4.33 ERA this past season, the Cardinals’ aggression in protecting him will prevent the possibility of losing his raw talent to another team, as they did with Perdomo and Cordoba.
The two outfielders protected by the Cardinals Monday could each enjoy bright futures in the major leagues. Tyler O’Neill, who was brought in by St. Louis in the Marco Gonzales trade with Seattle over the summer, has raw power highly valued by the organization. Between Class-AAA Tacoma and Memphis last season, O’Neill stroked 31 home runs with 95 RBIs and an .820 OPS. Don’t be surprised if O’Neill is left standing after the anticipated game of outfielders musical chairs with a shot to make the 2018 Cardinals roster in spring training.
Mercado, a converted shortstop, has impressed scouts with his athleticism as a centerfielder. The 22-year-old put together a solid 2017 season offensively, too, hitting 13 home runs, swiping 38 bases, and posting an OBP of .341 at Springfield. If the Cardinals don’t include him in a trade to improve the roster this offseason, expect to hear his name more often in the years to come.