Image credit: Austin Beck (Photo by Taylor Jackson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
There are multiple demarcation points during a player’s career where a team has to demonstrate how it truly feels about him. One of those, the Rule 5 protection deadline, is coming up on Nov. 14.
If a team really believes a player is going to help its big league club before long, they won’t be willing to risk leaving that player off the 40-man roster and leave the player available for other teams to pluck in the Rule 5 draft. Whether a team wants to spell it out or not, a decision to leave a player unprotected for the Rule 5 draft is an indication that there are other prospects and players who are higher priorities.
We just passed an even simpler demarcation line. The 2023 minor league free agents are now free to sign with any MLB team. Any player who has reached seven years of MiLB service time is eligible to become a free agent. Teams can avoid having them reach free agency by adding them to the 40-man roster. The Twins did just that recently, adding catcher Jair Camargo and infielder Yunior Severino to their 40-man roster. By doing so, they ensured that both players are protected from the Rule 5 draft, but also, and this is why they were added this early, it prevented either player from becoming a minor league free agent.
But for hundreds of players, this week is their first taste of free agency. And as such, it’s also another demarcation point for how teams fared in the 2017 draft.
There are 17 players picked in the top 100 in the 2017 draft who hit MiLB free agency yesterday.
The Full List
Since this looks at MiLB free agency, it’s just one more piece in a rather large puzzle as far as evaluating the 2017 draft. The Dodgers have no top 100 picks on this list, but that’s because Jeren Kendall (pick 23) and Morgan Cooper (pick 62) are already either retired or released.
What’s most notable here is what a missed opportunity the 2017 A’s draft was. Oakland had the sixth pick in the draft and three picks in the top 50. Beck, the sixth pick, and Deichmann, the 43rd pick, are both on the free agent list. The A’s other first rounder, shortstop Kevin Merrell, isn’t on the list because he was already a free agent after being released by the Twins this year. He, like Deichmann, was traded by the A’s years ago.
So far, A’s third rounder Nick Allen is the only player the A’s signed from that draft class to have a MLB career of any significant length.
The A’s aren’t the only team who can look at the 2017 draft as one that got away. The Giants have two top 100 picks (Jacob Gonzalez and Seth Corry) on this free agent list. Heliot Ramos and Bryce Johnson are the two players from San Francisco’s 2017 draft signees to make the majors, and neither has reached 50 MLB games played yet.
The Marlins (Miller and Dunand) also had two 2017 top 100 draftees on the list, but they picked lefty Trevor Rogers in the first round, which lessens the blow. Similarly, the Pirates (Jennings and Mitchell) have two on the list, but they picked Shane Baz in the first round. He’s had some MLB success when healthy, even if the Pirates can regret including him in a Chris Archer trade they wish they could do over.
The Rangers’ 2017 class will be remembered mainly for injuries. No one embodied that more than Seise, the 29th pick who has battled more bad injury luck than almost anyone. He and Crouse are on the Top 100 pick MiLB free agent list.
We don’t fully know how the 2017 MLB draft will fill out. Players like No. 1 pick Royce Lewis are still just getting fully established in the majors. But with the arrival of MiLB free agency, we do have a clearer picture of where some teams wish they could have a do-over.