The Rule 5 draft clock is quickly ticking, and the KC Royals have some moves to make. Nov. 14 marks the deadline for MLB teams to add any prospect they want protected from the Rule 5 draft to their 40-man rosters. The Royals roster currently sits at 40 precisely, but there are some key prospects the team needs to protect.
The Rule 5 Draft is approaching. What will the KC Royals do ahead of Nov. 14?
The Royals' opening set of offseason moves did nothing regarding the Rule 5 draft, but rather cleared roster spots for players coming off the 60-day IL. Outfielder Nate Eaton was the only player designated for assignment, a disappointing but not surprising move. The Royals have a promising outfield prospect to replace him in Tyler Gentry. MLB.com ranks Gentry as the Royals' eighth-best prospect for good reason.
The 24-year-old made his Triple-A debut this season and played 129 games for the Omaha Storm Chasers. He had 46 extra-base hits, including 16 home runs. A .370 on-base percentage buoyed his .791 OPS, but there is plenty to like about Gentry's gap-to-gap power. His glove in left field should keep him in the outfield picture as well, in case any Royals falter next season.
The offseason's opening moves also saw utility player Matt Duffy become a free agent. Duffy played all over the field for Kansas City in 2023, albeit uninspiring down the stretch. That defensive versatility is still valuable in a bench role, and the Royals should protect Devin Mann for that exact reason. Mann joined the organization at the trade deadline in the Ryan Yarbrough trade. The 26-year-old is Kansas City's 27th-best prospect, according to MLB.com.
He has playing experience at every position except pitcher and catcher across his minor-league career. MLB evaluators appropriately describe his defense as "more steady than spectacular," but that is acceptable in a utilityman. His bat is also a big asset, as evident by his 20 home runs and .889 OPS in 2023. He has plenty of experience at the Triple-A level and would, at worst, be a quality substitute for the Royals. Fans could see Mann insert himself into the Opening Day roster conversation with a strong spring training.
Kansas City should look to round out the Rule 5-protected players with two late-inning relievers to bolster the bullpen. First, lefty Christian Chamberlain is a player fans need to watch to appreciate. His fastball comfortably sits at 95+ MPH, topping out at 97. That pitch and his arm slot pair well with a devastating curveball, Chamberlain's best offspeed offering. The Royals drafted Chamberlain in the 2020 MLB Draft, and he has slowly risen through the family system thanks to that combo. At 24 years old, Chamberlain is not a sure thing to contribute next season. But two wicked pitches and his upside make Chamberlain a favorite to join the Royals' 40-man roster.
From left to right, right-hander Will Klein had a big bounce-back season in Omaha. Kansas City's Future Game representative did not perform great during the All-Star festivities but regained his dominant form in Triple-A. MLB.com has Klein as Kansas City's 25th-best prospect, thanks to an elite fastball. At 100 MPH, Klein added a curveball and slider to keep opposing batters off balance. Klein still has time to develop his control and finesse, as he is only 23 years old. The Royals would be fools to leave Klein unprotected from this winter's Rule 5 draft.
But, the Royals cannot protect every player eligible for the draft.