The next offseason deadline for both the Brewers and the rest of MLB teams arrives tomorrow. That is when teams must add any Rule 5 eligible players to the 40-man roster to protect them from being drafted by other teams.
Last offseason, Milwaukee protected three such players ahead of that deadline. Pitchers Alec Bettinger and Dylan File, as well as catcher Mario Feliciano, were each given 40-man roster spots for the upcoming MLB season. Two of them (Bettinger and Feliciano) made ultimately made their MLB debuts in 2021.
There are several Brewers minor leaguers who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft, a list of which you can find in our offseason preview piece. We will just be taking a look at the four Rule-5 eligible prospects who appear on MLB Pipeline’s list of Top 30 Brewers prospects.
Which, if any, Top 30 Brewers prospects might the team try to protect from the Rule 5 draft?
Slight chance: OF Korry Howell (No. 15)
A lot of the hype around Brewers prospects who made big improvements in 2021 surrounded fellow outfielders Joe Gray Jr (No. 9) and Joey Wiemer (No. 23). But Korry Howell certainly raised some eyebrows in the organization himself last season.
Howell was drafted by Milwaukee in the 12th round of the 2018 draft out of Kirkwood Community College in Iowa. He spent his first minor league season with then Low-A Wisconsin, slashing an ok .235/.329/.317 with a pair of home runs, but stealing 19 bags.
After the lost 2020 season, Howell started 2021 back at Wisconsin in their shift to High-A ball, eventually earning a promotion to Double-A Biloxi. Not only did he improve his slash line across the board (.244/.349/.455), he tapped into his power a bit, slugging 16 homers on the season. He also increased his stolen bases total to 24 in 30 attempts.
As it stands right now, the Brewers only have five outfielders on their 40-man roster, which in total stands at 36. The team will likely address that need some in free agency, so in terms of positional need, it might not be necessary to add Howell.
The questions are how bad the organization wants to continue developing him and whether they think another team is prepared to add him to their 26-man roster next season. At 23, Howell is still young and he only has 28 Double-A games under his belt. Teams have pulled off crazier moves, though.
Slim chance: OF Carlos Rodriguez (No. 22)
It’s hard to believe that at just 20 years old, outfielder Carlos Rodriguez is already Rule 5 eligible. But that is, in fact, the case after he was signed as an international free agent all the way back in 2017.
Rodriguez’s calling card has always been his hit tool and he showed that fact early and often in his minor league career. He was a .300 hitter across Rookie-level teams in both his debut year in 2018 (.325/.363/.414) and 2019 (.329/.346/.416).
In 2021, his first season above Rookie ball, he got off to a bit of a slow start for High-A Wisconsin. He eventually ramped things up, though, finishing with a .267/.336/.348 slash line over 94 games played.
Being an above average pure hitter, it’s hard to risk letting Rodriguez get snatched up by another team. But considering that he is still so young and hasn’t even reached the Double-A level yet, it’s doubtful the Brewers add him to the 40-man just knowing how extremely unlikely it would be that another team would be ready to add him to their active MLB roster.
Very slim chance: OF Tristen Lutz (No. 29), RHP Victor Castaneda (No. 30)
Not that long ago, outfielder Tristen Lutz was considered one of the top prospects in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Starting next season, he may not even end up making the team’s top 30 prospects list.
Lutz only played in 64 games last season, his first at the Double-A level. It saw his slash line drop all the way down to .217/.291/.363 for the season with 86 strikeouts compared to just 20 walks. His power potential has always been tempting, but he slugged just seven homers in 2021.
In 2019, Victor Castaneda followed a so-so regular season campaign at Low-A Wisconsin with a standout stretch at Arizona Fall League. There, he had a 1.99 ERA and a 0.838 WHIP over 22 2/3 innings on his way to being named an Arizona Fall League All-Star.
Castaneda’s numbers went back to being so-so in 2021. He spent most of the season at High-A Wisconsin with a quick three-game trip to Triple-A Nashville and ended the season with a combined 6-8 record, 5.04 ERA, and 1.321 WHIP over 23 games (22 starts).
Similar to Rodriguez based on their age, but also because of their general 2021 performance, there shouldn’t be any expectation of the two being added to the Brewers’ 40-man roster.
Ultimately, it would be surprising to see any of these four players get added to the 40-man roster. We’ll know by tomorrow whether it happens or not.