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Two Texas Rangers prospects whose futures were uncertain last spring now facing unknowns of Rule 5 draft

(Texas Rangers/Ben Ludeman)


As minor-league camps open across baseball, they aren’t opening to the public and, more the most part, aren’t opening to scouts.

The reason is that teams don’t want any information getting out on players who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft, which in turn is keeping teams from scouting players who could become part of a trade once the MLB lockout ends.

There is also a movement within the game to have the Rule 5 draft canceled for one season. That decision, though, must be part of the new collective bargaining agreement, and probably isn’t a front-burner issue considering the current state of those negotiations.

The indecision has two Texas Rangers Rule 5-eligibles wondering the same thing.

“Is there even going one?” left-hander Cole Ragans said.

The Rangers haven’t received any information about the status of the Rule 5 draft and are hoping for an update soon.

Ragans and outfielder Bubba Thompson are two of the more attractive Rangers who would be available in the Rule 5 draft, which usually takes place on the final day of the winter meetings. Those were canceled this year because of the lockout

The purpose of the draft is to give players who haven’t been added to the 40-man roster within four or five years, depending on the age when they signed, a chance to be added by another team.

Any player selected in the Rule 5 draft must be carried on the active roster all season and can’t be optioned to the minor leagues. If he is taken off the roster, he is put on waivers. If he clears, he is then offered back to his original team.

Teams can add their Rule 5-eligibles to the 40-man roster in November, and the Rangers added infielder Ezequiel Duran and right-handers Ricky Vanasco and Ronny Henriquez.

The left Ragans and Thompson unprotected, along with left-hander Jake Latz and outfielder Steele Walker.

Neither Ragans nor Thompson wants to leave the Rangers, the team that drafted them in 2016 (Ragans) and 2017. Neither would have been thought to be a potential Rule 5 target a year ago.

Both realize that being on the radar is far better than where they were a year ago.

“Anything beats that,” Ragans said. “Anything.”

He was coming off two Tommy John surgeries that cost him three seasons. Thompson was coming off a lousy 2019 season and didn’t play in 2020 because the COVID pandemic led to the cancellation of the minor-league season.

Thompson, though, was the leadoff man at Double A Frisco all season and showed significant gains by batting .275 with an .808 OPS and 25 steals while playing a terrific outfield defense.

His speed and defense could make him attractive to a team as an extra outfielder.

“I have thought about it, but I can’t let that weigh on me,” Thompson said. “The Rule 5, if it comes it comes. It’s a win-win situation.”

Ragans fatigued at the end of the season, pushing his ERA to 4.35, but a solid first half resulted in a selection to the Futures Game. He got through the season healthy, which was his main goal.

But he would be harder to keep on an active roster as a pitcher who finished at Double A and has a lengthy history of arm problems. A team might consider trying to stash in him in the bullpen, but that would stunt his development and potentially add injury risk.

Unlike Thompson, Ragans said he hasn’t put much thought into being selected.

“It’s all kind of up in the air what’s going on,” he said. “It’s one of those things when if the time comes if it happens, go from there. If not I go back to Frisco or wherever they send me and go from there.”

Thompson learned last season at Frisco, when the Rangers traded teammate Hans Crouse, that baseball is a business but the game is still the same no matter the organization.

And he still has to produce.

“I’ve still got to keep that consistency and keep doing my thing,” Thompson said. “I know what I’ve got to do and be ready, if I do go or if I stay. We’ve got to do it again this year.”

Jeff Wilson, jeff@rangerstoday.com

Jeff Wilson

Sports reporter for two decades. Sports fan for life. Covers the Texas Rangers. Graduate of TCU. Colorado native. Author of Purple Passion: TCU Football Legends (https://t.co/2fmXLyympx). Follow me on Twitter at @JeffWilsonTXR

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