Tigers face roster decisions for Rule 5 Draft

Top prospect Fulmer expected to join 40-man by Friday deadline

Tigers face roster decisions for Rule 5 Draft

DETROIT -- While the Tigers continue their search for Major League pitching to add to their roster, they have some decisions to make on their pitching prospects ahead of next month's Rule 5 Draft.

The Rule 5 Draft allows teams to select players out of other farm systems who aren't on their Major League club's 40-man rosters by Friday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The Tigers used it during their rebuild a decade ago to bring in young players such as Chris Shelton and Wil Ledezma, and they added Kyle Lobstein a few years ago in similar fashion. Players who are drafted for $50,000 must either spend the entire season on a team's active roster (there are some exceptions for DL stints) or be offered back to their previous club for $25,000.

Only players who have spent five seasons in the Minors -- or four if the player was drafted out of college or similar age -- are eligible. That caveat greatly reduces the number of players the Tigers have to ponder protecting.

The vast majority of players on MLB.com's Tigers Top 30 Prospects list joined the organization within the last few years and aren't eligible yet. Then there's the basic thought process: Regardless of which Minor Leaguers the club doesn't want to lose, how many could actually stick on another Major League club next year?

Tigers Top 30 Prospects

Detroit has 35 players on its 40-man roster, including just-acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and arbitration-eligible relievers Neftali Feliz and Al Alburquerque. With the Tigers hoping to add two starting pitchers, another reliever and an outfielder this offseason, there isn't much wiggle room, even if the team non-tenders Feliz in a couple weeks.

Here's a short list of prospects who would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if the Tigers don't add them to the roster by Friday:

Michael Fulmer, RHP: This will be the easiest decision the Tigers face all offseason. Fulmer, acquired from the Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade, tops Detroit's prospect rankings after winning Eastern League Pitcher of the Year honors. The 22-year-old and his power fastball are expected to join big league camp and compete for either the fifth starter spot or a bullpen role.

Jairo Labourt, LHP: The third prospect from Toronto in the David Price trade, Labourt had a statistically rough season in the Class A Advanced Florida State League (3-12, 5.12 ERA) after dominating low Class A ball a year ago, but the 21-year-old pitched in the All-Star Futures Game a few weeks before he was traded. His struggles came in part from focusing on throwing strikes and lowering his walk total. The Tigers' No. 11 prospect has a sinking fastball and slider, as well as a big frame. He's the kind of lefty swingman a rebuilding team sometimes tries to hide at the back of its bullpen to get him into the organization.

Top Prospects: Labourt, DET

Endrys Briceno, RHP: The lanky 23-year-old is the Tigers' 15th-ranked prospect, but he just returned to action this summer after having Tommy John surgery in 2014. He has yet to pitch above the Class A Advanced level.

Edgar De La Rosa, RHP: The Tigers' No. 21 prospect was not taken in last year's Rule 5 Draft, and he seemingly would clear this year after pitching in just 16 games between Double-A Erie and the Rookie Gulf Coast League, walking 20 batters over 19 2/3 innings. At 6-foot-8 with a mid-90s fastball, he's an intriguing arm, but he is not near ready.

Josh Turley, LHP: Would a left-hander with a knuckleball get a look from a big league club? The 25-year-old pitched well enough in the Erie rotation to take the 25th spot on the Tigers' Top Prospects list and possibly warrant consideration as an insurance starter for Detroit. Still, it's a jump.

Montreal Robertson, RHP: He didn't make the Top Prospects list, but he did make the Arizona Fall League, where he pitched well for Scottsdale. The big 25-year-old had arguably his best season as a pro between Lakeland and Erie.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.