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It’s graduation day for some Rays prospects

Teams have until 8 p.m. Wednesday to decide which prospects are added to 40-man roster and protected from Rule 5 draft.
Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, shown at the 2019 All-Star Futures Game, is one of the Rays top prospects. [MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Catcher Ronaldo Hernandez, shown at the 2019 All-Star Futures Game, is one of the Rays top prospects. [MARC TOPKIN | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 20
Updated Nov. 20

Having what is widely considered the best farm system in baseball is obviously a major benefit for the Rays.

But it can make for some good-problems-to-have this week, as they have to decided which prospects to add to the 40-man roster to protect them from being taken in the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

With three open spots on the roster, the Rays will have some major decisions to make before the 8 p.m. Wednesday deadline, as they have at least four prospects that seem legit candidates to be added: infielder Vidal Brujan, infielder Jake Cronenworth, catcher Roberto Hernandez, infielder Kevin Padlo. Other possible candidates include infielder Lucius Fox, outfielder Moises Gomez, pitchers Kenny Rosenberg and Cristopher Sanchez.

That also creates the potential for them to trade or release a player on the 40-man roster to make room.

Last year, in adding five prospects, the Rays DFA’d leading home run hitter C.J. Cron to create space when they couldn’t work out a trade and were looking at a $5.2 million arbitration projection , and then ended up putting him on waivers and losing him to the Twins.

Of the five prospects they added, only one, Ian Gibaut, played for them in the majors in 2019, and Gibaut and the other four (Kyle Bird, Brock Burke, Joe McCarthy and Jesus Sanchez) all ended up getting traded.

The Rays could be in a similar position this year with arbitration eligible veterans such as Jesus Aguilar (a projected $2.5 million), Matt Duffy ($2.9 million) and Mike Zunino ($4.9 million).

The decision making is slightly different this year, given MLB’s plans to increase regular-season roster size to 26, which should put a premium on having more majors-ready players on the 40-man roster.

Only prospects signed for four or five years (depending on their age when signed) are Rule 5 eligible, so the Rays don’t have to be concerned yet with protecting consensus No. 1 overall prospect Wander Franco or promising pitchers such as Matt Liberatore, Shane McClanahan or Joe Ryan.

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