So let me just start by saying this is my first Fan Post so hopefully this isn't terrible to read. I always get nervous about Expansion drafts and I wanted to put my thoughts somewhere and this seemed like a good idea to try. I also knew this would make a stupid long comment so it's better here.
Note: I wont include the 8(ish) guys that are automatically protected. I may bring up their name in reference to other players status with the team.
To start out I want to split the roster into three groups: protect, pass, and depends
Savarion (I), Rusnak, Kreilach (I), Everton (I), Glad, Onuoha.
These guys are the current spine of the team and the biggest difference makers. These guys are integral to the success of the team and if the new GM decides to move on from them we could get a decent amount in a trade/ sale.
I'll add Johnson (I) to this group because of his TAM salary, though I wouldn't put him as one of the biggest difference makers. He could be if given the chance. He could have 15 to 20 goals a season. It also gives the required 4 internationals to protect.
Horwath, Ruiz (I), Portillo.
These are guys that are at the bottom of the pecking order. Some of them got some minutes this year but didn't really shine. I would be surprised if they are protected and likely won't be picked anyway.
This will also have two categories.
Depends on them
Saucedo, Plata, Silva, Rowe, Mulholland.
These guys could potentially be looking to move anyway. Saucedo appears to be on his way out though I hope he stays. Plata and Silva may be looking for more playing time or just a new environment. Rowe is (I believe) out of contract. For Mulholland it all depends on his health, I could see him go or stay but i doubt either team would pick him up with his current medical standing.
I would also add Jordan Allen to this group too if he's still on the roster after season ending injury number 2.
Depends between two players
Beckerman - Besler
Beckerman is an RSL legend an I hope the organization always makes a place for him, but it does sound like other players are not sure if he'll be around next year. See Rusnak exit interview. If we have seen the last of KB5 in the claret and cobalt then Besler is the obvious choice. He did break is foot but that should be easily mended before preseason. Side note, if Rowe decides to re-up his contract with RSL that could make things interesting here.
Putna - (Ochoa)
Is RSL ready to go all in on Ochoa? I don't know. If yes then Putna may be exposed. If no then they protect Putna. He has been solid when he stepped in for Rimando. and create some solid competition for the starting spot.
This could all change too, if the new GM decides to bring in another keeper more in their prime then all bets are off.
Toia - (Acosta or other LB)
Left back is a tricky spot. Toia has been decent there, i think better than he gets credit for but that's because fans compare him to Herrera who has been really great. He's not an all-star but hes solid. If Acosta come back to RSL that could create solid competition. Or one could have a decent claim to the spot before the first game next year. I'm also still not sure if Acosta still qualifies as HGP/ autmatic protection after his loan. MLS rules are fuzzy.
And of course the new GM could go out and mix things up in this spot too. Most fans agree this is the spot RSL should upgrade next.
Martinez - (other striker option)
We haven't seen much of Martinez yet but he's got some potential, I wouldnt be surprised to see him protected.
In summary here is the list of the 12 players i think RSL should protect.
Savarion (I), Rusnak, Kreilach (I), Everton (I), Glad, Onuoha, Johnson (I), Beckerman, Saucedo, Putna, Besler, Toia,
And just to be thorough, my prediction is that Nashville will pick Marcelo Silva. He's been decent for the club but i think even he wants something new. Nashville could be a good fit, and all new teams need quality center backs.