Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rule 5 Wrapup

The Rule 5 Draft included several talented players that could play contributing roles this coming season. The biggest news, of course, is the Padres selecting four players to fill in their major league team. It is unlikely that all four will be kept, but there is no harm in giving these players chances at cracking the roster. Here is a rundown of all players drafted in the major league phase:

OF Tyler Goeddel, Philadelphia Phillies (from Rays)
Goeddel is an athletic outfielder who can also play third base well. He has a highly-regarded combination of speed, power, and plate discipline that made him a worthy first pick in the Rule 5 Draft. It has taken Goeddel several seasons to develop his raw tools, but he had a nice season in AA for the Montgomery Biscuits when he put the whole package together, slashing .279/.350/.433. He will likely provide the Phillies with an alternative option in the outfield in addition to starters Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera, and if given regular playing time, expect him to hit around .250/.310/.405 with 7 home runs and 15 stolen bases with potential for much more in the future.

OF Jake Cave, Cincinnati Reds (from Yankees)
A defense-first outfielder with some offensive potential, Cave reminds many Yankees fans of Brett Gardner when he was coming through the system. He hit well in AA/AAA in 2015, but it wasn't quite the breakout that Yankees fans were hoping for coming off a solid showing in 2014. He will likely never be a star in the big leagues with his lack of big-time power, but his solid, all-around approach ensures that he is MLB ready and will probably stick on the Reds roster all year, with a floor around what Sam Fuld has produced over the course of his career. Cave could slash something like .245/.310/.340 this season while providing plus defensive production, which is good value for both the present and the future, especially in the Rule 5 Draft.

LHP Evan Rutckyj, Atlanta Braves (from Yankees)
Another player taken out of the Yankees system, Rutckyj is nowhere near as heralded as Cave coming through the system. That doesn't mean he's a bad ballplayer though, as he has been a solid left handed reliever throughout the Yankees system. He generates a very good strikeout rate with his low 90's fastball that has been described as plus by Baseball America's J.J. Cooper, as well as a slider that is fringy. His command has been wobbly before this year but he has sharpened it up with a lower walk rate in 2015. He should be a decent LOOGY out of the Braves pen if given the chance to succeed. Interesting stat to note: he struck out 41% of all lefty hitters he faced this season.

RHP Luis Perdomo, San Diego Padres (from Cardinals, through Rockies)
A live-armed Dominican from the Cardinals system, Perdomo has been ranked highly on prospect lists the last few years with his 93-97 mph fastball. His secondary offerings are still in the making, but his slider has flashed serious potential before. He topped out at A-ball this season, so the Cardinals took a risk leaving him unprotected because he was so far away. If he sticks on the major league roster all season, it could end up as a hurting loss, but with his relative rawness it will be difficult for the Padres to keep him all year. In his prime, he could be a #2 or 3 starter who posts good K-rates, but he has quite a bit of work to get there whether it's with the Cardinals system or the Padres.

2B/OF Colin Walsh, Milwaukee Brewers (from A's)
Walsh, a 25 year old infielder, broke out in a big way this season for the AA Midland RockHounds. The Stanford alum has shown solid plate discipline throughout his career, which has taken him through two organizations (Cardinals and A's) and reached AAA, in 2014, in which he struggled. Sent back down to AA, he built off his strong plate discipline with a walk rate north of 20% as well as flashing some power he hadn't shown since 2012 when he homered 16 times for low-A Quad Cities. He hit .302/.447/.470 with 39 doubles, 13 home runs and an insane 124 walks that led the Texas League by far. Walsh does have some strikeout issues, but given the right role in the new direction that the Brewers are headed under David Stearns, he could thrive in a utility spot and hit in the neighborhood of .245/.350/.375.

OF Jabari Blash, San Diego Padres (from Mariners, through A's)
Blash, a native of the Virgin Islands, flashes one serious tool: power. A true 70-grade, Blash is the only Rule-5 eligible player with true potential to top 35 HRs this year, given the proper circumstances and adjustments made. He has a bit of speed and can draw a walk, and he is surprisingly mobile with a 6'6'' frame and can play average-above average defense in right field. His only major concern is swinging and missing, as he racks up very high strikeout numbers over the course of his career before bashing 36 bombs between AA/AAA this season. If he receives full playing time in San Diego, expect a line around .215/.280/.440 with 19 HRs.

RHP Josh Martin, San Diego Padres (from Indians)
A former 10th round pick by the Cleveland Indians, the 25-year-old Martin dominated AA this season with a 2.27 ERA and a 10.7 K/9 to go with a solid 2.5 BB/9. The 6'6'' righty throws in the low-to-mid nineties with a curveball and changeup. He has produced a lot of strikeouts over the course of his minor-league career, and it is not unreasonable to expect him to do the same in the bigs. Given the light bullpen depth of the Padres, Martin will receive a fair chance to prove himself in Spring Training. He should be at least an average middle reliever, and a realistic expectation is around a 4.00 ERA with 8.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.

OF Joey Rickard, Baltimore Orioles (from Rays)
Rickard is a unique player, with a skill set that differs from your traditional corner outfielders. He lacks the conventional power, in fact he has barely any power at all (2 HRs this season), but he makes up for it with extreme plate discipline and good speed. He bats right-handed, unlike most slappy hitters who profile similarly, giving him a slight disadvantage getting out of the box. Interestingly, he throws with his left arm, which is decent but not a cannon. He does have good range, however, and his speed makes him an above average defender in both corner spots and could probably handle center field as well. He is very similar to teammate L.J. Hoes, who put up similar numbers but struggled in his brief time in the majors. Both players are very BABIP-reliant, and it is very likely that they will compete for the fourth/fifth outfielder job in Baltimore. Expect Rickard to hit around
.260/.330/.340 if given a spot on the Orioles roster. Here is a video of him making an incredible defensive play in the Venezuelan Winter League.

RHP Deolis Guerra, Los Angeles Angels (from Pirates)
The only player on this list with big-league experience, Guerra was a former top prospect in the Mets system, sent to Minnesota in the original Johan Santana trade. He scuffled, however, as he reached the upper levels in the minors, and the Twins eventually converted him to a relief role, where he still struggled, but posted better strikeout numbers. Before the 2015 season, the Pirates took a shot on Guerra's live arm and sent him to AAA Indianapolis, where he dominated to the tune of a 1.23 ERA and a 37/8 K/BB ratio. He was given a cup of coffee in the bigs but gave up 5 HRs in just 16.1 innings, leading to being DFA'd, clearing waivers, and picked in the Rule 5 Draft by the Angels. He will be given an opportunity to make a relatively weak bullpen and pick up some innings and strikeouts along the way.

RHP Joe Biagini, Toronto Blue Jays (from Giants)
Biagini, a 25-year-old right hander, had a nice season in AA Richmond in the Giants organization, posting a 2.42 ERA across 130.1 innings. He relies on a three-pitch mix, with a 87-92 mph fastball, a slurvy breaking ball, and a changeup. He doesn't strike out too many batters, as evidenced by his 5.8 K/9 ratio, but if the ERA is worth anything, he should be good at limiting batted ball damage, and the Blue Jays are hoping that skill will hold up in the major leagues. His best bet is to make it as the long man in the bullpen and hope his fastball ticks up in relief, but with his low strikeout rate and lack of success before 2015, it will be tough to crack a contending Blue Jays roster.

RHP Matt Bowman, St. Louis Cardinals (from Mets)
An alum of Princeton University, Bowman is a right-handed starter with a funky delivery. He has four pitches that he mixes well, a low-90s fastball, a slider, changeup, and curveball. Unlike Biagini, who had struggled over the course of his career before breaking out in 2015, Bowman had been a solid pitcher throughout the minors, posting good strikeout/walk rates at each level before struggling hard this year. His K/9 fell from 8.3 to 5.0, and his ERA rose from 3.32 to 5.53. But if there is any organization with a niche for finding hidden gem pitchers, its the Cardinals, and look for him to rebound this season in a long-relief role in the St. Louis bullpen.

LHP Daniel Stumpf, Philadelphia Phillies (from Royals)
In the second round of the Rule 5 Draft, the Phillies took a lefty from the Royals system, Stumpf, who can hit 94 mph with a good slider. In AA, left handed hitters managed to hit just .151 off of him and the Phillies are hoping he will be the LOOGY they are looking for to round out the bullpen.

LHP Chris O'Grady, Cincinnati Reds (from Angels)
Taken from an already thin Angels system, the pick of O'Grady will only hurt more. He profiles similarly to Daniel Stumpf, with the fastball-slider combo from the left side that has been effective against left handed hitters. He pitched well in AA and made it to AAA, striking out 8.9 per 9 innings across both levels. Expect him to compete for a LOOGY role in the shallow Reds bullpen as well.

RHP Zach Jones, Milwaukee Brewers (from Twins)
A righty relief prospect in the Twins system, Jones is a highly known commodity in baseball circles because of his ability to throw 100 mph. He also throws a power slider that plays well with his fastball and confounding for A-ball hitters to square up. However, his development has been slowed due to command/control issues and injuries. While he reached AA for the first time this season, he struggled with a 6.00 ERA and turned 25 years old already. Given proper coaching and refinement to his mechanics, Jones could become a valuable bullpen asset for the Brewers. His plus-plus stuff and potential to become a big-time set-up man was too much for Milwaukee to pass up, even for all the control problems. If he sticks, expect bouts of wildness every once in a while, but don't be surprised if he becomes a lockdown reliever.

RHP Blake Smith, San Diego Padres (from White Sox)
Yet another right handed reliever taken by the Padres, Smith is a converted outfielder with a big arm. He began his career as a second-round pick out of Cal, and he started hot, hitting lots of homers in the lower levels of the minors. What caused the switch was when he began to struggle against more advanced pitching in the higher levels of the system, and he has begun to harness his powerful right arm the last two seasons. He is already 27, but over the course of the past year he has improved his command and control, shaving his BB/9 from 8.7 his first year pitching in 2013 down to 4.6 in 2015, still high but a major improvement, especially considering the 10.9 K/9 and success at the AAA level. He will be a tough keep on the Padres roster all year, as hard-throwing righties with command issues are a dime a dozen, but the Padres obviously see something they like and will give him an opportunity to succeed and make the club in Spring Training.

1B/OF Ji-Man Choi, Los Angeles Angels (from Orioles)
When the Orioles signed Choi to a minor league contract early this winter, they certainly did not expect this coming. Choi was a minor league free agent, which made him Rule 5 eligible, and by signing him but not protecting him on the 40-man roster, the Orioles made a possible mistake. Choi, a former top prospect in the Mariners system, has missed most of the last two seasons due to PED suspension and multiple injuries. When healthy, he has produced power and solid defense in the minors, and the Angels are hoping he would do the same, filling their hole in left field and spelling an aging Albert Pujols at first. He is tough to project due to lost time, but it is possible for him to put ip a .240/.300/.390 slash this season with room to grow more.

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