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A’s add five prospects to 40-man roster ahead of Rule 5 draft

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Led by shortstop Nick Allen

Milwaukee Brewers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Rule 5 draft is coming soon, and Friday brought the deadline for MLB teams to choose which prospects to protect. A prospect becomes eligible for Rule 5 if they spend a few years in the minors without reaching the 40-man roster, and they can be protected by adding them to that roster. If left exposed, they can be stolen away by another team when the draft is held on Dec. 8.

This is one of the key milestones of the early offseason, and it was busy as usual with almost every team making some sort of transaction. The Oakland A’s were especially active, adding five prospects to their roster:

  • SS Nick Allen
  • IF Jonah Bride
  • IF Jordan Diaz
  • RHP Jorge Juan
  • OF Cody Thomas

Being on the 40-man roster protects these prospects from Rule 5 next month, and moving forward it means they can be called up to the majors next season if desired. However, it also starts a new clock, as spending more time in the minors will now cost them one of their three option years. After those three years are up they’ll be out of options and can’t be sent down anymore.

For this group, that sets a new deadline at the start of 2025. They can spend as much of 2022-24 in the minors as necessary, but by the end of spring 2025 they must move up or move out.

Accordingly, getting added to the roster this week doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see any of these players in Oakland next April. Some are close to reaching the majors right away, but others get added before they’re ready simply because another team might be willing to burn a roster spot just to steal a talented prospect for free.

Among the A’s contingent, Thomas played in Triple-A last season and Allen eventually joined him there, while Bride spent the year in Double-A and then impressed at the Arizona Fall League. Diaz and Juan both topped out in High-A, with Juan getting most of his work in Low-A.

The most highly rated prospect of the bunch is Allen by far, as he’s one of Oakland’s top overall prospects and could take over as the shortstop of the future next summer. Diaz and Thomas both made our Community Prospect List last winter and then had productive seasons in 2021, while Bride and Juan are relatively new sleepers who have recently jumped onto the radar.

On the other hand, some other eligible names were not added to the roster and will now be exposed to Rule 5. A few notables include outfielders Austin Beck, Mickey McDonald, and Buddy Reed, infielder Jeremy Eierman, and pitchers Brady Feigl and Aiden McIntyre. They won’t necessarily be taken away in the draft, and perhaps none will, but they’re at risk if another team wants them.

Here’s a closer look at the five new members of the 40-man roster.

Nick Allen | SS

  • 2021, AA: .319/.374/.471, 126 wRC+, 6 HR, 7.9% BB, 20.1% Ks
  • 2021, AAA: .243/.302/.301, 54 wRC+, 0 HR, 7.3% BB, 19.9% Ks

If all goes well, Allen will be playing in the majors sometime in 2022. His glove is already legendary, between being the top defensive shortstop in the entire minors and also winning the Best Defensive Player award at the Olympics this year to go with a Team USA silver medal. The only question is getting his bat ready to face MLB pitching.

He’s made good progress on that front, earning his way up to Triple-A last summer and then overcoming a slow start there to finish on a 20-for-53 run. He just turned 23 so there’s no rush, but his addition to the roster is another exciting step toward seeing him in Oakland soon.

Cody Thomas | OF

  • 2021, AAA: .289/.363/.665, 143 wRC+, 18 HR, 10.2% BB, 31.8% Ks

Acquired last winter from the Dodgers in the trade that swapped infielder Sheldon Neuse for reliever Adam Kolarek, Thomas posted an intriguing stat line in Triple-A. He flashed his monster power in the slugger-friendly environment of Las Vegas, but also continued to strike out at an alarming rate.

The former University of Oklahoma quarterback is on the older side for a prospect, having just turned 27, but the A’s will keep him around for a longer look. If he can make enough contact to use his power in games then there could be plenty of opportunity in the rebuilding club’s outfield next summer, and on the other side of the ball he’s billed as an adequate defender on the corners who has also seen time in center.

Jonah Bride | IF

  • 2021, AA: .265/.407/.424, 130 wRC+, 9 HR, 17.1% BB, 17.1% Ks
  • 2021, AFL: 13-for-52, .250/.451/.462, 3 HR, 22.5% BB, 16.9% Ks

Chosen in the 23rd round of the 2018 draft, Bride is finally getting attention after a quiet climb up the ladder. His strong plate discipline was on full display last season in Double-A, with an impressive OBP and a walk for every strikeout, and he kept reaching base against top competition in the Arizona Fall League while also popping a few dingers.

On defense, his calling card is versatility. He played mostly third base in his first couple pro seasons, but this year he spent the bulk of his time at first base with a smattering of second base, and during the fall he’s logged some time behind the plate as a catcher. That kind of super-sub flexibility has become a hot commodity lately, and it boosts his stock with his 26th birthday approaching.

Melissa Lockard of The Athletic said the following of Bride last month: “He’s the kind of prospect that no one really notices and then suddenly he’s a valuable big leaguer and everyone is like, ‘where’d he come from?’” (Click here for video of a few swings.)

Jordan Diaz | 3B

  • 2021, A+: .288/.337/.483, 121 wRC+, 13 HR, 6.8% BB, 15.9% Ks

We won’t see him in the majors next season, but Diaz had made too much progress to remain exposed to Rule 5. He didn’t turn 21 until August but still performed well in High-A, maintaining his trademark contact skills and beginning to tap into his raw power. For context, he’s the age of a 2022 college draft pick.

Due to an early start to his pro career, he’s eligible for Rule 5 a bit before he’s ready for the majors, so he’ll need to take up a roster spot while he finishes his development. But that’s a price worth paying because he’s become one of the better prospects in the A’s system, with a promising bat that for now overshadows defensive question marks on the infield corners.

Jorge Juan | RHP

  • 2021, A-: 3.86 ERA, 21 ip, 31 Ks, 7 BB, 2 HR, 3.66 FIP
  • 2021, A+: 5⅔ ip, 9 Ks, 6 BB, 2 HR, 7 hits

This one is a bit of a surprise, as Juan has barely any pro experience and just got his first taste of full-season ball this year. He was promoted to High-A in August and got knocked around in two games. Here’s a scouting report from Lockard last month:

The 22-year-old hit 98 mph on the radar gun several times before an injury ended his season in mid August. Juan is an imposing figure on the mound at 6-8 and has a curveball that is a plus pitch at times. He is very raw, but it is possible a team could grab him in the Rule 5 draft and develop him at the end of their bullpen.

And video from Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler:

Add it all up, and here’s where these prospects stand. Allen has the best chance of reaching the majors in 2022, Thomas and Bride are interesting sleepers who could possibly battle their way up next year, and Diaz and Juan figure to be longer-term projects whose talents are too tantalizing to risk losing.

Roster update

In addition to protecting their own players on Friday, the A’s also took advantage of another club’s roster crunch. The Tampa Bay Rays needed space to protect the prospects they wanted, so they traded pitcher Brent Honeywell to Oakland for cash. Click here for more details on that acquisition.

Since the end of the season, the A’s lost a dozen players to free agency, plus infielder Pete Kozma who was outrighted to the minors and elected free agency. Friday’s additions take their 40-man roster up to 34 players for now, though it will likely continue to change dramatically as the winter progresses. Players listed in —italics have not yet debuted in the majors.

Oakland A's 40-man roster (34)
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Chris Bassitt (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Sean Manaea (L)
Cole Irvin (L)
James Kaprielian (R)
Daulton Jefferies (R)
Brent Honeywell (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)

Relievers

Lou Trivino (R)
Deolis Guerra (R)
A.J. Puk (L)
Domingo Acevedo (R)
Adam Kolarek (L)
Sam Moll (L)
—Wandisson Charles (R)
—Grant Holmes (R)
—Jorge Juan (R)
—Miguel Romero (R)
Catchers

Sean Murphy (R)
Austin Allen (L)

Infielders

1B: Matt Olson (L)
2B: Tony Kemp (L)
SS: Elvis Andrus (R)
3B: Matt Chapman (R)
UT: Vimael Machin (L)
—Nick Allen (R)
—Jonah Bride (R)
—Jordan Diaz (R)


Outfielders

Chad Pinder (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Seth Brown (L)
Skye Bolt (S)
Luis Barrera (L)
—Cody Thomas (L)