Rosters across MLB are in flux with free agency underway. However, Tuesday's Rule 5 Draft protection deadline will also shake up each organization, as they'll see a number of prospects become eligible to be stolen by another team at December's event.
Top Cleveland Guardians prospect Daniel Espino should be a shoo-in to receive protection, yet he's on uneven ground ahead of the deadline.
As of writing at 11:30 a.m. ET, Espino has not been moved to the Guardians' 40-man roster. That leaves him unprotected, and it'd make him eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if his status doesn't change.
Obviously there's still a ton of time for Cleveland to make that move ahead of the 6 p.m. ET cutoff, but the fact the front office is taking until the last second is notable. Espino is just one of five top-100 prospects who haven't been elevated to their team's 40-man rosters yet.
Considering Espino is the Guardians' No. 3-ranked youngster, fans would assume he'd already be locked into sticking with the team. Yet, his uncertain status right now opens the door for a number of possibilities.
That includes a potential trade, as MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported late Monday night that talks are "picking up across the industry" in regards to prospects.
Espino should have no shortage of suitors despite missing the entire 2023 season due to shoulder surgery. His fastball has been clocked over 100 MPH, and he's got a slider, a changeup and a curveball in his arsenal as well. He's also just 22 years old, and since he's never played about Double-A, there's plenty of unearthed potential waiting to be tapped.
Whatever Cleveland's hesitancy is, whether it's health-related or due to trade interest, the team will have to make a decision on the talented flamethrower fast.
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