Blue Jays have tough calls to make on Rule 5 eligible players


Blue Jays catching prospect Max Pentecost. (Icon Sportswire/AP)

You could look at Monday’s deadline for protecting Rule 5 eligible players a couple of different ways: No GM wants to lose quality minor-league players for nothing, but every club attempts to build a 40-man roster brimming with talent.

The Yankees are one such team, and might have to part with multiple fringe players in a consolidation deal before 8 p.m. ET on Monday. The Toronto Blue Jays, meanwhile, are steadily building their organizational depth and even if they aren’t facing a Yankees-level roster crunch, they have some tough calls to make before Monday night.

They now have 36 occupied roster spots, and could create more space for the four or five prospects they’re expected to protect by removing players such as Chris Rowley, Harold Ramirez or non-tender candidate Tom Koehler. Alternatively, they could package bubble players in a trade that addresses a need at the big-league level.

Regardless, they’ll have to expose some of the following Rule 5 eligible players…

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Max Pentecost, 22, C

2017 level: Class A Dunedin
2017 stats: .276/.332/.434 | 71 G | 9 HR | 14 2B
Pentecost, a first-round pick in 2014, is working his way back from multiple shoulder surgeries and was limited to 19 games and 162 innings behind the plate at single-A Dunedin before heading to the Arizona Fall League.

While his bat is advanced, the Blue Jays could gamble that no team will want to devote a major-league roster spot all season to a player whose future behind the plate is uncertain. The Reds did take two backstops in last year’s draft and one of them, Stuart Turner, remains on their roster.

Danny Jansen, 22, C

2017 levels: Class A Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire, triple-A Buffalo
2017 stats: .323/.400/.484 | 104 G | 10 HR | 25 2B | 41 BB | 40 K
A trip to the optometrist paid off in a big way for Jansen, who posted a .400 on-base percentage across three levels after getting his eyes tested. He walked more than he struck out and was even considered for a September call-up. The Blue Jays are sure to protect him.

Conner Greene, 22, RHP

2017 level: double-A New Hampshire
2017 stats: 5.29 ERA | 25 starts | 132.2 innings | 92 strikeouts | 83 walks | 7 HR
The right-hander struggled at double-A, walking nearly as many hitters as he struck out. Still, it’s easy to dream on a pitcher who can touch 100 m.p.h., especially when he’s just 22. If he’s exposed, rival teams could take a flier on his arm strength, potentially as a reliever.

Rowdy Tellez, 22, 1B

2017 level: triple-A Buffalo
2017 stats: .222/.295/.333 | 122 G | 6 HR | 29 2B
Back in spring training Tellez appeared to be close to big-league ready. Instead, he struggled in his first chance at triple-A and finished a difficult year with just six homers and a .628 OPS. The powerful left-handed hitter’s expected to start the 2018 season back at triple-A.

Thomas Pannone, 23, LHP

2017 levels: Class A Lynchburg, double-A Akron, double-A New Hampshire
2017 stats: 2.36 ERA | 25 starts | 144.2 innings | 149 strikeouts | 36 walks | 14 HR
One of two prospects acquired from Cleveland for Joe Smith this summer, Pannone profiles as a depth starter at the MLB level. He thrived at double-A this year and projects as a potential member of the Blue Jays’ triple-A rotation in 2018.

Jordan Romano, 24, RHP

2017 level: Class A Dunedin
2017 stats: 3.39 ERA | 26 starts | 138 innings | 138 strikeouts | 54 walks | 2 HR
Romano, a Markham, Ont., native, could intrigue teams as a live-armed reliever after a successful season with Dunedin. Even so, the Blue Jays might decide to expose him given the extent of their eligible prospects.

Reese McGuire, 22, C

2017 level: double-A New Hampshire
2017 stats: 2017 stats: .278/.366/.496 | 34 G | 6 HR | 5 2B
McGuire spent much of May, June and July recovering from and rehabbing a meniscus tear in his right knee. He produced when healthy, but given the lack of reps he joined the Aguilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Winter League for some additional seasoning.

Francisco Rios, 22, RHP

2017 level: double-A New Hampshire
2017 stats: 4.29 ERA | 17 starts | 86 innings | 63 strikeouts | 39 walks | 10 HR
Rios had a respectable season with New Hampshire, but looks likely to be exposed given the other eligible prospects in the Blue Jays organization.

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