INDIANAPOLIS—This is a familiar tune with the Rule 5 draft. Teams say there’s not much buzz, the list of talent is down . . . and then come Thursday morning’s draft, all kinds of stuff starts happening.
It’s not clear if this year’s Rule 5 will follow last year’s, where little was anticipated but 21 players got selected. Of those 21 players, just three have stuck in any significant fashion—Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Rangers righthander Darren O’Day (whom the Rangers picked up on waivers, after the Mets didn’t keep him in the Rule 5), and Pirates lefthander Donald Veal.
Several new names are circulating around regarding the Rule 5, though we’ve also had some names quoted back to us from our Rule 5 preview from last week, such as Giants outfielder Mike McBryde and catcher/infielder Robinson Chirinos of the Cubs.
Perhaps most disappointing is that one of those names is the last name we cut out of our early preview, righthander Craig Baker of the Rockies.Baker was an ace at Cal State Northridge and a third-round pick in 2006, and he’s had shoulder injuries since college that limited him in his first two pro seasons. However, he proved durable as the high Class A California League’s top closer this season, saving 33 games, posting a 2.39 ERA and striking out 75 in a career-best 63 innings. His manager at Modesto, Jerry Weinstein, told BA this fall that Baker needs a bit more fastball command and perhaps a two-seam fastball or other pitch to help combat lefthanded hitters, but added, "All of his intangibles are tremendous. He has a real good work ethic and real good makeup."
Of course it’s more important to have real good stuff, and Baker does, with a 90-93 mph fastball and his signature power curveball, a plus low-80s breaker. He also throws a a slider for strikes.
A few other names getting play include 6-foot righthander Jason Rice of the Red Sox, a hard-thrower who tops out at 96 mph with his fastball. Rice, 23, dominated the high Class A Carolina League, striking out 94 and limiting hitters to a .160 average in 70 innings while going 1-3, 2.44. He also walked 41 and never has pitched above A-ball, but his name has some helium.
Yankees lefthander Zack Kroenke was selected last year by the Marlins but quickly was returned to the Yankees system. Kroenke may be selected again this year, as the 25-year-old had a tremendous season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, going 7-1, 1.99 in a relief role. He struck out 55 and walked 30 in 72 innings, then threw better in the Arizona Fall League, topping out at 93 and sitting at 90 mph with his fastball after sitting 86-88 this spring.
Righthander Bobby Cassevah of the Angels is yet another reliever with some traction, thanks to his long track record—the Pace High (Pensacola, Fla.) product was once part of the same LSU recruiting class as Reid Brignac and Anthony Swarzak. He also has established himself a niche as a groundball pitcher. He had a 4.03 groundout/airout ratio in 2009 at Double-A Arkansas while going 3-7, 3.68 overall, thanks to an excellent sinker with average velocity.
Expect the Rule 5 rumors to pick up much more steam tomorrow and Thursday morning. Who knows, you might have to start following BA’s Twitter feed to see the updates.
• No doubt the biggest story in Indianapolis was, along with Peter Gammons’ move to MLB Network, the big three-way trade, which most observers seemed to like from Detroit and New York’s standpoints but not as much for the Diamondbacks. The key to the deal for Arizona could be righthander Ian Kennedy, who is something of a polarizing figure as a prospect. I never quite figured out why the Yankees drafted him 21st overall and paid him an above-slot $2.1 million bonus, as no other club was going to pay him close to that much. And since his boffo 2007 debut, Kennedy hasn’t gotten many breaks or helped himself a great deal with some public comments.
But I saw him pitch in September in a Triple-A rehab start for Scranton against Durham, in the International League playoffs. If that is the Kennedy the Diamondbacks got, he’ll help Arizona. His fastball command was outstanding, as he pitched to both sides of the plate at 90 mph, and he knows how to use his secondary stuff. If he’s a four-pitch strikethrower, he’ll bring value to the Diamondbacks.
• For more on the Winter Meetings vibe, check out Garrett Broshuis’ latest edition of the Suitcase Chronicles, straight from Indy. I got to meet Garrett and show him around yesterday, which was my treat. We were both impressed when A’s player personnel maven Billy Owens quoted his scouting report back to Garrett and remembered seeing him at the Big 12 tournament. Broshuis on the Giants’ Double-A roster, so he’s eligible for the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5.
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