Everything you need to know about Red Sox prospects and the Rule 5 draft

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There a lot of deadlines and weird terms thrown around during MLB's offseason — arbitration, non-tender, Rule 5 draft. What even is the Rule 5 draft? Why does it matter to the Boston Red Sox, what could it mean for the future of the club, why should you care? The Rule 5 draft, though not a new baseball process by any means, is still lesser-known and doesn't have an immediate effect on a club the same way a trade or non-tender decision does. However, the draft still has ripple effects for the future of any organization. Here's what to know about it this year.

What is the Rule 5 draft?

The Rule 5 draft is held as part of the annual MLB Winter Meetings, which will take place in Nashville from Dec. 3-6 this year. The draft includes all prospects who have been in the minor leagues for 4-5 years, depending on how old they were when they were drafted (or signed, in terms of international pickups). Teams who don't have a full 40-man roster select available prospects in reverse order of the 2023 standings, and pay the prospect's original team $100,000. That's the general idea, though there are some more sort of confusing steps that can be taken after a player is selected.

A team can elect to protect a player and keep him out of the draft by placing him on their 40-man roster, and the deadline to do so is Nov. 14.

The Rule 5 draft was developed keep top talent from being hoarded by a few organizations, and to give players who might have plateaued with one club more of an opportunity to find success with another.

Red Sox prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft

Wikelman Gonzalez (No. 9)
Luis Perales (No. 10)
Angel Bastardo (No. 16)
Shane Drohan (No. 18)
Eddinson Paulino (No. 21)
Allan Castro (No. 30)

Six of the Red Sox top 30 prospects are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, and four of them are pitching prospects in a pipeline which is just about a wasteland in terms of pitching talent. In August, MLB.com ranked the Red Sox farm system 16th, noting Boston's lack of pitching as a reason for its bottom half ranking.

Which Red Sox prospects will be protected from the Rule 5 draft?

Wikelman Gonzalez, Luis Perales, and Angel Bastardo are all right-handed pitchers, three of only four pitchers in the top 20 of the Red Sox pipeline. The Red Sox currently have three spots open on their 40-man roster, and while it's unlikely that they would use all of them to protect Gonzalez, Perales, and Bastardo, they should heavily consider protecting at least one of them unless they have solid plans to pick up more pitching prospects from other teams during the Rule 5 draft.

Gonzalez was promoted to Double-A midseason this year, started 10 games, and finished with an impressive 2.42 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings pitched, a vast improvement from the 5.14 ERA he posted in High-A. Seeing as he was named Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year, the Red Sox should make protecting Gonzalez a priority before the deadline to move prospects to the 40-man tomorrow.

It's important to remember that the majority of prospects who remain unprotected will not be taken by another team in the Rule 5 draft. Choosing to protect a prospect adds a layer of security and demonstrates investment in the player's future.