LAKE BUENA VISTA (620 WDAE) - The Rule 5 Draft will close out activity in baseball's Winter Meetings Thursday, and the Tampa Bay Rays are in danger of possibly losing a number of players from their system. Here's a look at three that could end up on another team's big-league roster Thursday
1. RHP Burch Smith: Smith is labeled by J.J. Cooper of Baseball America as the top Rule 5 candidate. Smith posted a 5-3 record with a 2.40 ERA in 2017 between stops in High-A Charlotte and Triple-A Durham (along with a three-inning Gulf Coast League start). He missed all of 2015 and 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but does have ten appearances in the big leagues, all coming in 2013 with the Padres. He was part of the deal that sent outfielder Wil Myers to San Diego, and helped net the Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr. and first baseman Jake Bauers among others.
2. C Nick Ciuffo: Ciuffo is ranked fifth on Cooper's list. After being the Rays' first-round draft pick out of high school in 2013, the soon-to-be 23-year-old has trudged through Tampa Bay's farm system. He spent all of 2017 at Double-A Montgomery, where he hit .245 / .319 / .385 with seven homers and 42 RBI in 102 games.
3. LHP Travis Ott: Also a part of the Wil Myers trade, Ott spent 2017 between Low-A Bowling Green and High-A Charlotte, going a combined 10-3 with a 2.06 ERA. The 22-year-old's numbers in the Midwest and Florida State League are impressive (He struck out 132 batters in 118 IP and held opponents to a .191 batting average and .577 OPS), but any team willing to take a chance will have to contend with his lack of size. He's listed as being 6'4" tall but weighing only 175 pounds. That being said, a left-handed pitcher that has shown promise of getting guys out can usually find a spot on a roster. The question is could he stay there.