The SF Giants protected a trio of pitching prospects from the Rule 5 draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. They left a couple of position players in Grant McCray and Aeverson Arteaga unprotected. How likely is it that they lose either prospect?
Could the SF Giants lose a prospect in the Rule 5 draft?
The short answer is it is certainly possible. The Giants traded Blake Sabol after last year's Rule 5 draft. He had been selected by the Cincinnati Reds from the Pittsburgh Pirates but he was shipped to the Giants on draft day.
Sabol was still considered a Rule 5 pick, meaning that he would need to remain on the active roster or be offered back to his original team. The left-handed bat put up respectable numbers, including a .695 OPS with 13 home runs while learning to play catcher.
Since the Giants kept him on the active roster all season, they now control his roster rights. He can be optioned to Triple-A next season without being exposed to waivers first. The fact that they kept him is more of the exception rather than the rule.
McCray is coming off of a solid season in High-A, registering a .255/.360/.417 line (114 wRC+) with 14 home runs, 66 RBI, and 101 runs in 584 plate appearances. This includes a 12.3 percent walk rate, 29.3 percent strikeout rate, .162 ISO, and 52 stolen bases in 62 opportunities. He filled up the stat sheet while providing excellent defense in center field.
On the other hand, Arteaga posted a .235/.299/.410 line (89 wRC+) with 17 home runs, 73 RBI, and 66 runs in 546 plate appearances. This includes a 7.3 percent walk rate, 24.2 percent strikeout rate, and a .174 ISO. These numbers do not jump off of the page but he was on the younger side (20) for High-A, so he did a nice job treading water.
It should be noted that the right-handed bat did show modest improvements in terms of strikeout rate and power output compared to 2022. These are encouraging signs for a young prospect. Plus. Arteaga plays a quality shortstop with an arm to be able to stick on the left side of the infield.
Both McCray and Arteaga are considered some of the better prospects in the Giants farm system. So, why did the Giants leave them unprotected? It really comes down to risk management. What are the odds that a team loses a prospect through the Rule 5 draft?
Last year, 15 players were selected in the Rule 5 draft and 13 of those players were pitchers. The Rule 5 draft tends to lean heavily in favor of pitchers because it is easier to keep a pitcher on the active roster for a year compared to a position player. Every team needs about 1,500 innings a year, so the opportunities will pop up.
Of the 15 players who were selected, only six players remained with their new team. So, teams had a 40 percent hit rate last year in the Rule 5 draft. The odds of even making the team out of spring training are not great, but it certainly happens.
Interestingly, both of the position players selected remained on the active roster for the entire season. Sabol was one and Ryan Noda of the Oakland A's was the other. Both Sabol and Noda had a bit of Triple-A experience prior to this season.
This last detail relates to both McCray and Arteaga. If they were plucked in the Rule 5 draft, they would be making the jump from High-A to major league pitching. Both put up solid numbers in High-A, but that would be a steep development curve for either one. In the case of McCray, his offensive production was about 14 percent better than league average in the Northwest League. This comes with close to a 30 percent strikeout rate.
How do those numbers translate to the majors? How many times have you seen a hitter tear it up in Triple-A only to struggle against major-league pitching? Now, we are talking about a hitter who was two levels below Triple-A last year.
At the end of the day, it is possible that a rebuilding team could use McCray as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, but he will still need to hit. Could he provide value on defense and running the bases? Absolutely, but will he hit enough to make those qualities worth it?
It is possible, but at the end of the day, teams only have about five players on the bench, including a catcher. The catcher is not often used as a pinch hitter and if another player is a defensive specialist, it thins out the bench even more in terms of pinch-hitting matchups.
It is possible that someone like McCray will get selected. Perhaps, it is less likely with Arteaga. Though, McCray would still need to stick, which includes making the team out of camp and remaining on the active roster for an entire season. Players do it every year, but the odds are typically against them.