Last year, Oscar Hernandez was snatched away from the Rays organization with the first selection in the draft. Hernandez then broke his hambate bone during spring training so he was lost for three months, then made his major league debut in July. He rose to fame after a tremendous season in the Venezuelan Leagues during 2011, but had been mediocre since then so he was left of the Rays' 40-man roster allowing Arizona to swoop in and snag the catcher and through some manipulation were able to keep him on the major league roster for the duration of the season meaning the Diamondbacks now have full control of Hernandez.
Hernandez wasn't the first the player the team has lost to the draft (I.E. Josh Hamilton) and he probably won't be the last, especially with the talent that may possibly become available this year.
First, a quick explanation of how the Rule-5 draft works.
Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years are eligible, as are players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.
All players on a Major League Baseball team's 40-man roster, regardless of other eligibility factors, are "protected" and ineligible for the Rule 5 Draft. - MLB.com
The draft order is decided the same way as the the June draft, in reverse order for how they finished the regular season. That means the Rays will have the 14th pick in the draft. Once a player is selected, the team who made the selection pays the draftee's former team $50,000. The player must then remain on the team that selected him's major league roster for the entirety of the regular season, while allowing a minimum of a 90-day stay on the disabled list.
The team that also selected the player, could then trade the player to another team, or if they decide not to keep the player, they can offer him back to his original team for $25,000.
Here are some of the team's prospects that are eligible to be drafted
Blake Snell - LHP
A lock to be added as he soared from Port Charlotte to Durham by the end of the season, propelled by a scoreless streak that lasted over a month and half. Next year he'll enter spring training and under the right circumstances could actually make the rotation.
Taylor Guerreri - RHP
His rise through the organization has been painfully slow as he has dealt with injuries that have caused the Rays to be very cautious with the young righty. Guerreri has been very impressive though during his short stints on the mound and will likely start the 2016 season with Durham.
Tyler Goeddel - 3B
He had a rough go of it during his first three years with the organization, however in 2015, he turned a corner as he displayed some nice pop during the second half of the season and set numerous new career highs. Goeddel may start 2016 in Montgomery like Shaffer did in 2015 to see if his power was for real, but a team may be willing to take him.
Jake Hager - SS
He was in line to make the jump up to Durham at some point in 2015, however his knees have bothered him throughout his career and he required surgery in April that cost him the entire season. A team may be willing to take the chance on him this off-season, as he did show strong promise in 2014.
Patrick Leonard - 1B/3B
He has been a disapointment since being thrown into the
James Shields/Wil Myers Wade Davis trade after decimating the Appalachian League. Leonard hasn't been able to replicate the power he showed during his first year, which will probably lead to him to being placed on the 40-man roster. However, he'll likely start with Durham next season if he remains with the club.
Jacob Faria - RHP
He spent three years in the rookie leagues from 2011-2013, but then he emerged a solid pitching prospect. At the beginning of the year, he was overshadowed by Snell's dominance, but Faria was a nice roll of his own with Charlotte and earned a promotion to Montgomery mid-season where he continued his success. He looks primed to a spot in Durham's rotation in 2016 if he isn't taken by another team.
German Marquez - RHP
He had a couple of difficult seasons to begin his career, but had a nice turnaround in 2014, and carried the success in 2015, spending the full year with Charlotte. A team could take a chance on the 20 year old righty. If the Rays hold onto him, he'll likely start the year with Montgomery, making him one of the youngest pitchers in Double-A.
Chris Kirsch - LHP
After a dreadful start to his pro-career, Kirsch would go on an excellent run from 2013 to mid-2015, until he hit a road bump after his promotion to Montgomery, although a couple of poor outings skew his numbers negatively. Kirsch is unlikely to be taken in the draft and should be in the middle of Montgomery's rotation at the beginning of 2015.
Dylan Floro - RHP
Back during the first two months of the season, fans were calling for Floro's promotion; however, a dreadful June halted the praise and Floro's declined continued throughout the rest of the year. Floro spent the entire year with Durham though and could certainly try and compete in a major league rotation, but may not find the opportunity with the Rays.
Jonny Venters - LHP
Venters spent three seasons in the majors from 2010-2012 as a high leverage arm for the Atlanta Braves, blowing hitters away with a high octane fastball and this was after enduring Tommy John Surgery in 2005. However, in 2013, Venters would have to undergo the knife for a 2nd time, and eventually had to do it a third time after once again suffering an injury during his rehab. The Rays signed him during spring training to a two year deal, but another team could potentially swoop in and take the lefty.
Joey Rickard - OF
He is basically Boog Powell, as he possesses solid speed, excellent on-base prowls, but has limited power although he already has four home runs in the winter leagues which is more than has he combined in his two seasons of affiliated ball. A team could take a chance on Rickard, but if not, Rickard will be a starting outfielder for Durham next season with a possible September call-up in store.
Maxx Tissenbaum - C
One of the five players to come from San Diego in the deal that landed the Rays Logan Forsythe, Maxx was assigned to Bowling Green and showed good on-base skills, but little to no power. He hasn't really climbed through the ranks as he has spent the past two years with Charlotte and he'll turn 25 years old next July. However, a team desperately seeking a backup catcher could possibly take the blogging catcher.
Taylor Motter - UTL
After slowly climbing up the organization ladder and having some success at each level along the way, Motter had a breakout year in 2015 and was named the Durham Bulls MVP. Motter could have been selected last year, but the Rays were able to hang on to him, but they might not be so lucky this go around.
Jeff Ames - RHP
One of the many picks from the 2011 first round, Ames has been of the many disappointments from the draft. However, he was converted into a reliever during 2015 and seemed to thrive in the new role and earned a promotion to Montgomery where he enjoyed a solid finish to the season giving up just two runs over 25 innings of relief.
Mark Sappington - RHP
This one was brought to our attention by the great Neil Solondz, who mentioned Sappington as a possible player to protect. Sappington came to the team last off-season in the Cesar Ramos trade and had a decent year pitching of the Montgomery bullpen and should start 2016 in Triple-A, making him an option for a team seeking a right-handed reliever.
Armando Araiza - C
Another addition to the list courtesy of Solondz, thanks to the attention he received at last year's Rule 5 draft, Araiza may be the least known name on here. He was signed by the Rays back in February of 2010 at the ripe age of 16 years old. Since then, he has spent more than three seasons at the rookie level, and then has climbed a level in each of the past two seasons, finishing 2015 with Charlotte. Araiza he solid defense and almost not bat with a career line of .235/.323/.328 during his career, however a team may be willing to take a chance for his defense.
Neil Wagner - RHP
A very late addition, Wagner is in the same boat as Venters as he was signed to a two year deal last September with the hopes he'd be ready by 2016. He may not be worth giving a 40-man spot to, but another team could plausibly swoop in and snag him.
The Rays will not have room to add all of these players, but they probably won't have to as the majority of them won't be selected. In fact, Lee was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster in August making his future with the Rays organization in jeopardy. However, there's always the possibility that one of these prospects could be snatched away, so at least some of them have to be protected.
If you can think of any other prospects worthy of consideration, please say so in the comments. The deadline to add prospects to the 40-man roster is on November 20th and the Rule-5 draft will take place on December 10th.