MINNEAPOLIS -- With eight of their Top 30 prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if not added to the 40-man roster by Friday's deadline, the Twins have difficult decisions to make with four open spots on their roster.
Right-hander Fernando Romero, the club's No. 6 prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, highlights the list of Minnesota prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft if not added. The others include lefty Lewis Thorpe (No. 11), shortstop Engelb Vielma (No. 16), outfielder Daniel Palka (No. 20), right-hander Felix Jorge (No. 22), catcher Mitch Garver (No. 24), outfielder Travis Harrison (No. 25) and right-hander Aaron Slegers (No. 29).
According to Major League rules, players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. So this year, it means high school or amateur players signed in 2012 and college players signed in '13 are eligible.
Here's a look at all eight Top 30 Twins prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft and the likeliness that Minnesota will addthem to its 40-man roster.
RHP Fernando Romero
The hard-throwing Romero is considered a lock to be added to the roster after a breakout 2016 season. Romero, 21, missed nearly two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery and knee surgery, but he returned this year with impressive velocity and dominated at both Class A Cedar Rapids and Class A Advanced Fort Myers, with a combined 1.89 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings.
LHP Lewis Thorpe
The Twins still have high hopes for Thorpe, who shot up prospect boards after a strong 2014 season, but he hasn't pitched since then because of Tommy John surgery. The Australia native has plenty of upside, but considering he hasn't pitched in the Minors in two years, it's unlikely that Minnesota will protect the 20-year-old.
SS Engelb Vielma
Vielma is regarded as the club's top defensive infield prospect, but he has struggled to hit in his five years in the Minors, especially for power. He batted .271/.345/.318 with seven doubles, four triples and 10 stolen bases in 90 games at Double-A Chattanooga this past season. Vielma, 22, is intriguing because of his defense, but given his offensive limitations, he could be left off the roster.
OF Daniel Palka
Palka is a safe bet to be added, considering his immense power, as he smacked a combined 34 homers between Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester in 2016. Acquired in the trade that sent catcher Chris Herrmann to Arizona before last year, Palka is expected to make his Major League debut next season.
RHP Felix Jorge
Jorge was left unprotected a year ago, but he is more likely to be added this year after a strong season split between Fort Myers and Chattanooga. The 22-year-old is a hard thrower who posted a combined 2.69 ERA in 25 starts, but he struck out only 109 in 167 1/3 innings.
C Mitch Garver
Garver, who is currently participating in the Arizona Fall League, is considered extremely likely to be added, especially with the offense he provides as a catcher. Garver, 25, hit .270/.342/.422 with 12 homers, 30 doubles and 74 RBIs in 117 games between Double-A and Triple-A last year. He could be the club's catcher of the future, and he has passed Stuart Turner among the club's top catching prospects close to reaching the Majors.
OF Travis Harrison
Harrison, a first-round pick in 2011, has yet to reach his potential, and he hit .230 in 120 games at Double-A last year. The 24-year-old outfielder won't be added to the roster. Among outfielders, the speedy Zach Granite, who was the club's Minor League Player of the Year, has a better chance to be protected.
RHP Aaron Slegers
At 6-foot-10, Slegers is the organization's tallest player, and he posted a solid 3.41 ERA in 25 starts at Chattanooga. But Slegers isn't a hard thrower and he struck out only 104 in 145 1/3 innings last year, and the 24-year-old isn't expected to be added.