With a 5 p.m. deadline to protect minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft, the Oakland Athletics have selected Daulton Jefferies for the 40-man roster, and designated Jharel Cotton for assignment.
The move allows the A’s to keep Jefferies, a right-hander picked 37th overall out of nearby Cal in 2016, who has made remarkable progress since undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Rule 5 draft aims to prevent teams from stockpiling talent in the minors, while other teams would be willing to have that talent play in the Major Leagues. Eligible players include those 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is their fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming, or they were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing, and this is their fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.
Jefferies — despite being undersized — has electric stuff and a mid-90s fastball, which is why he was the A’s second pick in 2016 behind A.J. Puk, who made his debut this season after missing 2018 due to Tommy John surgery. Jefferies hasn’t pitched above Double-A, however, because he lost most of 2017 — his first full pro season — and half of 2018 due to the same procedure.
Between being drafted and the end of 2018, he’d pitched a total of 20 1/3 competitive innings. Finally healthy to start the 2019 season, Jefferies, 24, dominated at High-A Stockton, going 1-0 in five games (three starts) with a 2.40 ERA and 21 strikeouts to two walks in 15 innings.
Promoted to Double-A Midland, he went 1-1 in 21 games (12 starts) with a 3.66 ERA in 64 innings, striking out 72 and walking seven, with his highest velocity coming in his final game for the Rock Hounds, striking out six on 45 pitches in three innings. It’s likely he’ll be a part of Oakland’s rotation in the latter half of the 2020 season.
Cotton was ranked as the A’s No. 14 prospect in 2016 after being acquired in the Rich Hill-Josh Reddick deal. He made his big league debut that season, going 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 29 1/3 innings and then joined the rotation in 2017, going 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA in 129 innings.
Cotton, 28, is going into his first year of arbitration eligibility. He underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2018, but has not bounced back as well as Jefferies. He made 18 appearances in the minors this year, including three starts. In 27.2 innings, he posted a 7.16 ERA, but struck out 33 to 12 walks.
If the A’s don’t trade Cotton, they could place him on waivers. If Cotton gets through waivers, Oakland could assign him to the minor leagues or release him. Since he has fewer than five yearrs of major league service, he would not be able to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues and become a free agent.