As the clock struck midnight on November 20, the 40-man rosters assembled by each major league team were effectively crystallized for the time being: those on the roster were rendered immune from selection in next month's Rule 5 draft, while those left out in the cold can be snatched away, provided they have the minor league service time to be eligible for selection.
However, making a Rule 5 selection can be somewhat dicey for selecting teams. Not only must they keep the selected player on the 25-man roster for the entire season or risk returning him to his original club, but the nature of how teams protect their eligible minor leaguers means that there's a very high chance that in selecting a player and intending to keep him, a team will devote a roster spot for the season's entirety to a player who may not (yet) be able to cut it at the major league level.
The Braves have two advantages in this regard: first, they pick rather early (their poor 2015 showing entitles them to the third overall pick in the Rule 5 draft, as well as the amateur draft in June 2016); second, it is looking like the team will be somewhere between non-competitive and awful in 2016, meaning the cost of "wasting" a roster spot on a non-ready player is comparatively lower.
Jonathan Mayo and MLB.com assembled a list of all "prospects" eligible to be taken during the draft, which can be found here. The caveat here is that it uses MLB.com rankings (meh) and goes 30-deep for each team, meaning that many of those listed are hardly noteworthy players worthy of a major league roster spot, even on a poor team. With that said, below is a list of guys that caught my eye, but where I say "caught my eye," I mean, "well, they're potentially not as horrible as everyone else that didn't." None of the eligible players look like major league roster slam dunks at this point, and that's why it's up to the Braves and their scouting and analytics departments to try and find some value in the Rule 5 draft where it's not readily apparent that value exists. The Braves, at the moment, have two empty 40-man roster slots for selection. While teams rarely, if ever, make two different selections in the draft, the Braves are welcome to do so if they so desire.
My criteria below are based on the player not potentially being horrible at the major league level. While there are a few far-away guys oozing tools that have been left unprotected, I'm not sure how likely they are to be chosen given their distance. With that said, feel free to peruse the below and then yell at me in the comments about how I missed obvious choice X or Y.
- Teoscar Hernandez - Astros (OF) - An athletic guy that can currently handle center, Hernandez really struggled in a full season in AA in 2015. Still, you could probably do worse for a fourth or fifth outfielder right now (or at least the Braves could), and he has some power-speed potential as well if he develops. Excitement level: 2
- Mitch Haniger - Diamondbacks (OF) - Haniger hit for a 107 wRC+ in AA last year. He seems destined to be a fourth outfielder at best, though he was a supplemental first round pick back in 2012. Excitement level: 1.5
- Henry Ramos - Red Sox (OF) - A switch-hitting right fielder that might be able to play center in a pinch, he went unprotected and unchosen in last year's Rule 5 draft, and hit decently in a AA in a second go-around but only managed to play in 37 games (not sure why, injury, perhaps?). Excitement level: 1.5
- Travis Harrison - Twins (OF) - A pretty generic AA-level outfielder who doesn't hit super-well and won't be an asset in the outfield either, Harrison's biggest advantage is that he shows a penchant for walking. However, he doesn't hit for much power, so there's not much upside here. Excitement level: 1.5
- Taylor Lindsey - Padres (2B) - If Jacob Wilson was Dan Uggla-esque, then Taylor Lindsey is Tommy La Stella 2.0, except by 2.0 I mean the worse, prototype version. No power, but he walks a lot and can't field particularly well either. Excitement level: 1.5
- Tyler Goeddel - Rays (OF) - A toolsy and fast former supplemental first round pick. Goeddel hit pretty well in AA, and seems to be a better total package both at the plate and in the field than many of the other available players. He still has some development ahead of him, but I can definitely see him getting picked by some team, if not the Braves, this December. Excitement level: 1.5
- Patrick Leonard - Rays (1B) - Not all too different from Goeddel above based on their stat lines and development, Leonard was a piece in the James Shield trade. He might get some okay power at some point, but isn't very flexible defensively, though he should be able to play third in a pinch. Excitement level: 1.5
- Matt Skole - Nationals (3B/1B) - All-or-nothing type whose power has yet to fully develop in game situations. He'll likely feature a low batting average, decent OBP, and decent power, but it remains to be seen whether AAA or major league pitchers will be able to consistently exploit an approach that incorporates big swings and big misses. He's not the most athletic either, so might lose more value defensively at third than he'd garner with his bat. Excitement level: 1.5
- Balbino Fuenmayor - Royals (1B) - The Braves have no use for Balbino Fuenmayor on their roster, but that's their loss, because he looks exactly what you'd expect him to given his name. Excitement level: 27 Balbinos.
- Alex Yarbough - Angels (2B) - A switch-hitting second baseman in the bereft Angels' system, he struggled mightily in AAA last season and doesn't show as much bat-to-ball potential as you'd like to see in a guy that likely won't hit for power either. Excitement level: 1 (or 0 Balbinos)
- TJ Rivera - Mets (SS) - Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Rivera has hit fairly well through his entire minors career, and seems to have a BABIP-friendly swing given that he's apparently not super-fast. He might top out as a second-rung utility player, but he's hit at every level including AAA so far. The Braves may not be interested in him given the existence of Daniel Castro, however. Excitement level: 1
- Jayce Boyd - Mets (1B) - Hit really well throughout the minors until a midseason promotion to AAA left him scuffling a bit. Could probably play left field in a pinch. At his best he's probably a really, really-lite Freddie Freeman. Excitement level: 1
- Jake Cave - Yankees (OF) - Cave can play center and runs pretty well, and seems to have a line drive-ish swing as well. Still, there's not that much power there and he possibly strikes out more than you'd like. Still, a backup center fielder is something the Braves might be interested in vis-a-vis using Eury Perez. Excitement level: 1
- Bruce Maxwell - Athletics (C) - Maxwell really struggled in AAA for the first time last season, but he has great plate discipline and is improving defensively despite not being the most athletic or agile player on the field. If the Braves wanted to carry a backup catcher they poached from another organization, Maxwell might be the guy. Excitement level: 1
- Jacob Wilson - Cardinals (2B/3B) - Wilson draws comparisons to Dan Uggla, given that they come from the same Memphis program, are kind of similar players (big power, inconsistent plate discipline, infielders), and are both potentially going to be selections in the Rule 5 draft. The seemingly-requisite struggles in AAA are here as well, given why Wilson was left unprotected by the Cardinals. Excitement level: 1
- Breyvic Valera - Cardinals (all over the place) - A switch hitter that can play all over the diamond, Breyvic Valera is in fact not a character from A Song of Ice and Fire. He also hasn't hit well in AA, so he's probably even less likely to get drafted than a bunch of other names on this list. Excitement level: 1
- Dwight Smith - Blue Jays (OF) - Showed a decent hit tool and good plate discipline through his minor league career and also in AA, but features a weak arm that might limit him to LF or CF. Excitement level: 1
- Andy Burns - Blue Jays (3B) - If I'm the Braves, I actually consider taking this guy, even though he's not super-exciting. Hit pretty well with decent plate discipline in AAA last season, has shown power in lower levels, is defensively flexible while third is his main position, and is pretty fast as well. For a team with little at third base, he makes sense, even if the tools don't suggest he's going to break out into a first-division regular. Excitement level: 1
- Brady Rodgers - Astros (RHP) - One of the few relatively advanced eligible guys that hasn't been moved off being a starter yet, Rodgers is probably closer to a control specialist than to a guy who is going to overpower hitters. Still, unlike most eligible Rule 5 draftees, he's actually reached AAA and did okay there. Excitement level: 1.5
- Matt Bowman - Mets (RHP) - Struggled for the first time in his pro career in 2015 upon hitting AAA, the Princeton product seems to be more cerebral than arm-gifted. Excitement level: 1.5
- Justin Hancock - Padres (RHP) - A sinkerballer who seems to get by without much feel for strikeouts and has diligently moved through the rungs of the minor league ladder. I find his stats and stuff at least mildly more interesting than other players on this list: Excitement level: 1.5
- Christian Binford - Royals (RHP) - Binford has also reached AAA, but hasn't figured much out there, though he was decent in AA. Feels like a #5 starter at best right now to me. Excitement level: 1
- Ivan Pineyro - Marlins (RHP) - A pretty generic AA/AAA starter who came to the Marlins in the midseason Dan Haren trade, A safe choice, but the Braves probably aren't looking for safe and generically-below average middle relievers here. Excitement level: 1
- Jason Wheeler - Twins (LHP) - A lefty starter that was outrighted by the Twins off their 40-man roster, he might be stuck in the AA/AAA gulf for now. Excitement level: 1
- Zach Petrick - Cardinals (RHP) - A very control-oriented starter with some success in his second stint in AAA. Another potentially safe and unexciting choice. Excitement level: 1
- Joe Biagini - Giants (RHP) - Another finesse starter, Biagini can reportedly throw fairly hard in short stints. Might make sense as a swingman and had good stats in AA, but hasn't pitched in AAA yet. Excitement level: 1
- Branden Kline - Orioles (RHP) - Kline has had Tommy John Surgery (which makes him a lock to eventually be picked up by the Braves) and has had trouble figuring out AA hitters in two straight seasons. He's also potentially not fully healthy as he's needed a PRP injection 2015 as well. Still, he has a big arm when he's able to pitch, and his bugbears are the usual: command and quality of secondary pitches. He's athletic and has had success at the college level (Virginia), and I can see him potentially being a pick in line with the team's recent strategy of grabbing raw-ish hurlers with arm cannons. Excitement level 2 or 2.5
- Rafael de Paula - Padres (RHP) - Big arm with some neat potential, but wasn't very good in High-A ball in 2015. A risk-reward draftee to keep on the roster the entire year at this point for the Braves, but could also pay dividends. Needs some refinement and experience but I can see the potential. Excitement level: 2
- Corey Black - Cubs (RHP) - Another big-armed righty, Black moved to the bullpen in 2015. He strikes out and walks a lot of guys and he's a lot smaller than your usual high-heat type relievers (5'11", 175 lbs). Still, it's not as hard to string together some good outings as a reliever with a good arm, but the size and control issues are real. Excitement level: 1.5
- Aaron Kurcz - Athletics (RHP) - An old friend we're somewhat familiar with, Kurcz throws hard and invitesApocalypse Now references. If the Braves want him back, he's there for the taking. Excitement level: 1.5
- Onelki Garcia - White Sox (LHP) - A Cuban defector who's had some decent success closing games in AAA, he's potentially a "safer" choice than some other guys on this list. He, like others on this list, strikes out and walks a fair bit of guys. Excitement level: 1
- Myles Jaye - White Sox (RHP) - Jaye had some success as a starter in AA in his second go-round and is more contact-oriented than some of the bigger arms on this list. Potentially not a horrible swing-type guy to have on the roster, though you'd really ideally like to see him pitch in AAA first. Excitement level: 1
- Josh Turley - Tigers (LHP) - The Braves probably could have had him in the Maybin trade if they wanted to, so this isn't particularly likely, but Turley has a bunch of relatively soft, decent-ish pitches for an AA starter and could potentially be an effective junkballing middle reliever at the major level level. Excitement level: 1
- Chris Devenski - Astros (RHP) - Another name in a list of guys that are all fairly similar in this category, he doesn't throw particularly hard but also had success in his second year in AA. Someone else to consider in a swing-ish role. Excitement level: 1
- Sam Selman - Royals (LHP) - Yet another hard-throwing lefty with strikeout potential but command/control issues. Also kind of old for his level. Excitement level: 1
- Matt Milroy - Marlins (RHP) - A real live arm who throws from a low arm slot, he hasn't gone past High-A ball yet. Still, he could be an okay ROOGY if he can find a way to resolve his control issues, and the Braves might see some potential in his arm. Excitement level: 1
- Chris Reed - Marlins (LHP) - I know someone with this name, but this guy is not him. What he is, rather, is a lefty who's pretty familiar with AA and AAA at this point, and even gut a cup of coffee with the Marlins last year. Despite being a mid-first round pick in 2011, there's probably not much there there anymore. Excitement level: 1
- Chris Perry - Cardinals (RHP) - Another hard-throwing righty who could be of value if he threw more strikes, but as it is, he's had trouble getting acclimated to AA, and isn't a young prospect as well. Excitement level: 1
Given all that, who ya got? Or, perhaps more interestingly, what do you think the Braves will do at the draft in December?