Rule 5 Draft: The Dodgers Should Protect Chris O’Brien

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The Rule 5 Draft is approaching (December 11th), and the Dodgers must protect vulnerable prospects by this Thursday. The players eligible for the Draft are those 18-years old and older who have played for five years and players who were signed when they were 19-years old or older and have played professional baseball for four years. All players on a Major League Baseball team’s 40-man roster are protected.

The Dodgers will most likely protect Zach Lee, Chris Reed and Scott Schebler (*The Dodgers did in fact add Lee, Reed and Schebler to the 40-man roster on Thursday). These three players were drafted in 2010 and 2011 for Reed. They would be scooped up and drafted immediately by the competition. The Dodgers will add Lee, Reed and Schebler by Thursday to their 40-man roster.

By adding these three players, the 40-man roster would be filled. If the Dodgers wanted to add anyone else before the impending December Draft, a roster move

Seth Rosin was the Dodgers Rule 5 Draft experiment last season. Photo: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

would have to be made. The Dodgers could still shift Chris Withrow to the 60-day disabled list to free up a spot. The Dodgers could also non-tender a player like Darwin Barney or Drew Butera to open a slot. They could also designate a player for assignment.

If the Dodgers were to add anyone else eligible for the draft, I’d have to protect a catcher like Chris O’Brien. I’ve worried about the Dodgers catching depth already this offseason. Andrew Friedman passed on Russell Martin (a wise decision in hindsight). A.J. Ellis does not have a contract yet. Drew Butera for another year sounds depressing. Without any changes to the catching crew, Tim Federowicz could see a lot of playing time in 2015.

Pratt Maynard and Chris O’Brien are eligible to be drafted. Protecting their catching corps, even throughout the farm system, seems like a high priority to me. I’m glad I’m not the General Manager, because situations like this would give me gray hairs. All the Miguel Olivos, Rod Barajas, Brad Ausmus, Jason Phillips, Dioner Navarros make me want to coddle and protect what few catching prospects the Dodgers have. Anyone remember Hector Gimenez?

Chris O’Brien , the 25-year old switch-hitting catcher, was drafted by the Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2011 Draft out of Wichita State University. O’Brien had a solid 116-game season with the Double-A Lookouts in 2014. He hit .266/.341/.438 with 7 homeruns and 53 RBIs. He walked 53 times-which reminds me of another Dodger catcher who draws a lot of walks. His caught stealing percentage dipped slightly in Double-A from a minor league career high of 40% with Ogden in 2011 during his rookie year to 29% in 2014 for Chattanooga.

If O’Brien was selected by another team in the draft, he would have to stay on their Major League roster for the entire season or be offered back to his original team. O’Brien most likely won’t be selected, but I don’t think it would hurt to protect a catcher. Another team would have to be desperate for catching to draft O’Brien, but stranger things have happened.

Do you remember Seth Rosin? He made his MLB debut with the Rangers this past season, but he was purchased from the Mets by the Dodgers last December during the Rule 5 Draft. Rosin made the 25-man Opening Day Roster, but by March, he was selected off waivers by Texas. The Rangers then returned Rosin to the Phillies in April. The Rosin experiment didn’t pan out, but the Rule 5 Draft sometimes produces interesting career paths for some players.

With increased resources both financially and through new executive management in player scouting and development, the Dodgers farm system should be shaped for long-term success. With the need for catchers not only during Spring Training (to help work with all the pitchers invited), the lack of options on the free agent market, and a offensively last place current duo of A.J. Ellis and Drew Butera behind the plate, the Dodgers should bolster their catching situation at the Major League level and at the minor league level. Perhaps the first course of action is to always hold on to what you already have.

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