Rockies protect seven from Rule 5 Draft

USA TODAY Sports

The Rockies chose to devote all seven of their open 40-man roster spots to protecting minor leaguers from the draft, leaving them with a full 40-man roster as soon as LaTroy Hawkins' signing becomes official tomorrow. While several of the selections were not surprises, there are a few names that were added that came a bit out of the blue. Let's break them down.

The two most obvious selections for protection this year were our 2009 and 2010 first round picks, Tyler Matzek and Kyle Parker. Both players spent time in this year's Arizona Fall League competition. Matzek's history has been well documented here at Purple Row; as the lefty starter has matured, he has developed from a somewhat-effectively wild talent into a more standard mold of pitcher. We still don't really know what we have in Matzek. He spent his time at the AFL pitching in relief, to minimize innings at the very least, but some have speculated that with players like Jonathan Gray, Eddie Butler and Tyler Anderson on his heels, his future as a major leaguer may be in relief.

Parker represents the closest to the majors of those in the set of protectees. Having spent his AFL time at first base, having converted from the outfield, Parker could now slide into either role as early as this year if necessary. Though his minor league history isn't indicative of a future superstar, he's the best right handed internal option to fit onto the Rockies in a corner capacity, with his strongest internal competition coming from Corey Dickerson, a lefty. The Rockies likely still intend to pursue an outside option to fill this void on the major league roster, making Parker's shot at a 2014 roster spot an uphill battle for him regardless.

The Rockies protected another piece of right handed outfield depth in Kent Matthes. Matthes was eligible for last year's Rule 5 draft, but with the roster a lot tighter at that time, the team instead chose only to protect three players and take their chances with leaving him unprotected. Matthes was passed over last year, and it is likely the team wanted to secure that at least one upper level outfielder that hit from the right side of the plate would be available when assembling depth at the upper levels.

Infielder Rosell Herrera struggled with his move to full-season ball in 2012, but rebounded with vigor last season, one of the best breakout seasons in the system. With Trevor Story's ascent taking a step backwards, Herrera's significance to our depth is much more significant. He was an obvious choice for protection here.

Many felt that Jayson Aquino was likely to be passed over due to his youth and inexperience, but teams rarely seem to incorporate questions of whether or not a player is likely to be picked in favor of how big of a hole it would leave if he were. Aquino's situation reminded me of Esmil Rogers' in 2007, a pitcher just moving out of short season ball that could have been a candidate to risk holding off on another season, but the team was gifted with so many roster spots that I felt protecting him made sense from the start. In a rare instance, the team has actually been fairly conservative with Aquino's development. Starting his options clock in 2014 is likely to foreshadow a bit more aggressiveness in his development moving forward.

The final two players were more surprising, particularly the selection of Raul Fernandez, a right handed reliever who hasn't appeared on many radars when it comes to prospect evaluation. Fernandez spent much of 2013 injured, though in his time with the Asheville Tourists he demonstrated an insanely high strikeout rate of 14.4/9, far beyond his career numbers in that category at 7.9. Fernandez may end up being this year's Joe Gardner, a player who is protected and then outrighted as soon as a roster spot is required. It's an interesting selection, one likely designed to protect a potential power arm likely to receive more scouting attention as teams prepare for selections. That said, I'm not sure the Rockies would miss much were he to be selected.

Kraig Sitton is the final new major leaguer, and while not as big of a surprise as Fernandez, the lefty reliever was fairly under the radar until his selection to the AFL this year. Sitton did put up a good season with the Nuts this year, a season which saw him healthy for the first time in two years, with his strikeout skill returning. Much like Matthes, Sitton represents an area that the Rockies system currently lacks great depth in. The attention on Sitton can be boiled down in large part to the team's need for left handed relievers in the upper levels.

The most notable player left off the roster in his first year of eligibility is Christian Bergman. Though many people feel Bergman may fall into the Alan Johnson-form of successful minor leaguers with little shot at a regular MLB chance, Bergman's selection would still have made more surface-level sense than either Fernandez or Sitton. He represents this year's Coty Woods, the player most likely to be taken from us in the draft. He has his third straight good season with the Drillers, and is easily developed enough for someone to take a look at him for an extra slot in their bullpen.

Other notable players that will be eligible for the draft this year include Ben Paulsen, whose presence on the periphery of an MLB opportunity remains fairly stable as the team gives him a lot of attention every Spring Training before a return to the minors where everyone forgets he exists. Paulsen was eligible for last year's draft, and with the team choosing not to promote him this year, it likely confirms that the team views the left-handed hitting first baseman much as Purple Row's prospect community does. The Rockies have chosen to leave Joe Gardner off the roster as well; Gardner was one of three players protected at the deadline last year, but struggled in his first season in the bullpen and was outrighted midseason to make room for more pressing needs. Woods, the only player selected from the Rockies in last year's draft, will be eligible once again after his worst year as a professional in 2013 with the Sky Sox.

Three players with some prospect attention in Francisco Sosa, Jose Briceno and Julian Yan will be eligible for the draft, but all three players are much less likely to be taken due to their development. Briceno and Yan have yet to break fully out of short-season ball, while Sosa's presence on the map is very fresh after his 2013 breakout with the Tourists. These would be very risky picks for any team, and are not likely to be selected, but still could be if a team is feeling bold. Both Sosa and Yan have been eligible for the draft at least once before (several in Sosa's case), and were not selected.

Below is the full list of players currently in the system that will be eligible for the draft in mid-December.

SP
- Justin Berg
- Christian Bergman
- Tyler Gagnon
- Pedro Hernandez
- Manuel Montilla

RP
- Alejandro Barraza
- Yoely Bello
- Greg Burke
- Russell Brewer
- Ryan Buch
- Joe Gardner
- Leuris Gomez
- Nelson Gonzalez
- Steven Hensley
- Jefri Hernandez
- Dan Houston
- Bruce Kern
- Josh Mueller
- Geoff Parker
- Angel Reyes
- Kenny Roberts
- Nate Striz
- Josh Sullivan
- Cole White
- Coty Woods

C
- Drew Beuerlein
- Jose Briceno
- Dustin Garneau
- Dallas Tarleton

IF
- Juan Ciriaco
- Drew Garcia
- Jayson Langfels
- Angelys Nina
- Ben Paulsen
- Jose Rivera
- Kiel Roling
- Wilson Soriano
- Brett Tanos
- Russell Wilson
- Joey Wong
- Rafael Ynoa

OF
- Delta Cleary Jr.
- David Kandilas
- Tyler Kuhn
- Tyler Massey
- Jose Monzon
- Jared Simon
- Francisco Sosa
- Julian Yan

Trevor Gibson, Bryce Massanari and Kenny Williams Jr. are also eligible if they are still with the Rockies. These players were never officially released by the organization but did not appear anywhere in the system, even on disabled or restricted lists, in 2013.

Marcos Derkes may also be eligible for the draft, but I cannot confirm as nobody has been able to identify when he signed his contract.

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