With the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft approaching Wednesday night, the Cardinals announced the addition of three prospects to the team's 40-man roster.
The Cardinals selected the contracts of infielder Elehuris Montero, as well as pitchers Jake Woodford and Alvaro Seijas. To make room on the 40-man roster, Dominic Leone was designated for assignment. Leone struggled with injuries and poor performance in 2019.
Not only was Leone left off the Cardinals postseason roster in October, but he didn't even travel with the team to road playoff games. The writing for this move was all over the wall.
Rule 5 eligibility is based on the following criteria, per MLB.com:
"Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years."
Rule 5-eligible minor leaguers who are added to the 40-man roster are then protected from being selected during the Rule 5 Draft.
This is important, because if an eligible player is selected in the Rule 5 Draft, the team that takes him must add that player to its 40-man roster and keep him on its MLB roster for the entirety of the following season. Otherwise, they must give the player back to his original team.
Montero is a power-hitting third baseman who could shift defensively to first base as his career progresses. Though he struggled in his first taste of Double-A baseball in 2019, Montero was facing competition well-beyond his age level.
As Montero only turned 21 in August, the fact that the Cardinals promoted him to quickly to Springfield shows the kind of belief they have in his future. Having seen comparably inexperienced players snatched up by non-contenders in the Rule 5 Draft in recent years, the Cardinals elected to protect Montero from a similar fate.
Notably, the Cardinals lost pitcher Luis Perdomo and infielder Allen Cordoba to the Padres in subsequent years (2015, 2016) through the Rule 5 Draft. Neither player was ready to contribute in the majors at the time, but that didn't stop San Diego from allowing them to try. Perdomo has since remained with the Padres pitching staff, while Cordoba hasn't played at a level beyond High-A ball since 2017.
Alvaro Seijas, too, fits the profile for the type of young players being considered more seriously by 'tanking' teams in the Rule 5 Draft. Though he's freshly 21 years old, Seijas was signed by St. Louis at 16, meaning he would have been eligible for this winter's Rule 5 Draft had the Cardinals not added him to the 40-man. Like Perdomo at the time, Seijas hasn't pitched beyond High-A, but his numbers there were quite strong. In 10 starts for Palm Beach in 2019, Seijas went 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA.
Seijas originally signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela for a bonus of $762,500, which further stresses the emphasis the Cardinals have placed on his development.
The most seasoned of the three players added to the Cardinals 40-man Wednesday is Jake Woodford, who pitched for Memphis in 2019. The 23-year old went 9-8 with a 4.15 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this past season. He represents precisely the kind of pitcher non-contending teams would to love snag via the Rule 5 Draft to throw into their rotation, hoping to strike gold for minimal risk. By protecting him, the Cardinals ensure those teams won't have the chance.
One popular prospect who was not added to the 40-man roster is Dylan Carlson. The 21-year-old outfielder blossomed into one of the most touted prospects in the game in 2019, ranking near the top of the Texas League (Double-A) in most major offensive categories. In a stint with Memphis late in the season, Carlson showed he has little left to prove in the minor leagues, thrashing Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .361/.418/.681 batting line in 79 plate appearances.
Fret not, however, as the reason Carlson wasn't added to the 40-man roster Wednesday is pretty simple: He's not Rule 5 eligible. Carlson signed with the Cardinals before he was 18, and has only played four years in the minors, not the requisite five.
Carlson is safe from the prying hands of other MLB clubs and will receive a non-roster invite to spring training, where he will have an opportunity to state his case for a promotion to the big leagues in 2020.