MLB Teams Face Deadline to Protect Prospects
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As the November deadline for the 40-man roster approaches, Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are faced with the task of deciding which prospects to protect. This annual deadline forces teams to make tough decisions, as leaving a player unprotected means risking losing them to another team in the Rule 5 Draft.
This year, three notable first-round picks were left unprotected. The Minnesota Twins chose not to add Keoni Cavaco and Aaron Sabato to their 40-man roster, while the Kansas City Royals did not protect left-handed pitcher Asa Lacy.
Lacy, the fourth overall pick in the 2020 draft, has had a challenging start to his professional career. He spent the entire 2023 season on the injured list and has struggled with control, walking 83 batters in just 80 innings. Despite his potential, the Royals decided not to take the risk of losing him.
Cavaco, a pop-up prospect from the 2019 draft class, has not lived up to expectations. Although he had an impressive senior season, his performance in professional ball has been lackluster, with a batting average of .219 and reaching only High-A level.
Sabato, known for his hitting prowess in college, has also struggled to find success in the pros. With a batting average of .212 and reaching Double-A, his track record has not translated to professional success.
Leaving first-round picks unprotected is a clear indication that teams would not make the same decision if given a chance to redo it. Since the draft format began in 2012, only nine top-10 picks have been left off 40-man rosters in their first year of eligibility.
While most unprotected first-round picks never make it to the majors, there have been exceptions. Outfielder Will Benson, acquired by the Cincinnati Reds from the Guardians, had a solid performance. The Royals also found success with left-handed pitcher Cole Ragans, whom they acquired from the Rangers. Both Benson and Ragans were 2016 first-round picks.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, teams have adapted well to the protection rate for first-time eligible first-round picks. In 2020, only two out of 18 college first-round picks were left off 40-man rosters, and one high school first-rounder from 2019 remains unprotected.
With an 89.3% success rate, this year’s protection rate is the highest since the study began in 2012. On average, 81.5% of first-round picks have been protected in their first year of Rule 5 eligibility. High school first-rounders have a 73% protection rate, while college first-rounders have an 88% protection rate.
MLB teams face tough decisions as they navigate the 40-man roster deadline. The fate of these unprotected prospects remains uncertain, but history shows that the majority will not reach the majors. Only time will tell if this year’s exceptions can defy the odds and make an impact in the big leagues.
Success Rate of Protected First Rounders by Rule 5 Year:
|Year||Protected First Rounders|