MLB’s deadline for protecting Rule 5 eligible prospects ended on Friday. The Rays added INF Jonathan Aranda, RHP Calvin Faucher, RHP Tommy Romero, and C/INF Ford Proctor to the 40-man roster, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft that will take place later this offseason.
One player many considered to be a lock for the Rays to protect, catcher Blake Hunt who was part of the Blake Snell trade last offseason, was left unprotected. So why would the Rays risk letting him go?
A key cog in understanding why Hunt was left unprotected is understanding the Rule 5 draft itself. If a player is selected in the draft, the team they go to is required to either keep that player on the 26-man active roster for the whole season or on the IL for the full season. If they cannot do this, the player is offered back to the team they were drafted from.
Blake Hunt played the majority of the 2021 season in High-A Bowling Green, slashing .225/.307/.427 in 57 games, but his production dipped when he was promoted to Double-A Montgomery. In 17 games with the Biscuits, he hit just .125/.210/.161.
Hunt’s defense needs to improve as well before the Rays really consider moving him up further through their minor league system.
So essentially, Hunt is *right now* a lower-level prospect coming off an underwhelming season. His potential to be the Rays’ catcher of the future is still there, but he has more developing to do before being considered for a 40-man spot.
There are very few teams that could stash him on their major league roster for a full season when he struggled to perform in Hi-A. He will draw interest and may even get taken, but there is a good chance he would’ve ended up with the Rays regardless.
Ford Proctor on the other hand had a higher likelihood of getting taken in the draft. An intriguing INF/C combo, he was taken by the Rays in the 3rd round of the 2018 MLB draft. Proctor has advanced steadily through his MiLB career, spending a full season in each of Low-A, High-A, and Double-A (2021).
Proctor has slashed .268/.374/.393 in his minor league career and shown he can get on base with consistency. His addition to the 40-man roster allows for that continuous progression through the minors, likely spending most of 2022 with Triple-A Durham. His versatility and steady improvements make him a desirable pickup if he was left unprotected.
In summary, both Proctor and Hunt are promising prospects. This decision likely came down to the Rays realizing Proctor was more likely to be taken in the draft and not returned than Hunt is.
Proctor’s ability to play multiple positions would have made it easier for an MLB team to hide him on their roster, as he could be designated a “bench utility guy”. I would not expect Hunt to be taken in the draft, however if he is, I would expect him to return to the Rays at some point.