ORLANDO—Thursday's Rule 5 draft may not start with Rays righthander Aneurys Rodriguez, but the former Rockies righthander appears to be the most likely player to be selected.
Rodriguez already fit the profile as a somewhat prospecty pitcher with four full seasons of full-season experience, solid stuff, durability and three pitches he throws for strikes. Now Rodriguez, 22, has added a strong performance in the Dominican League. One report had Rodriguez throwing in the 90-93 mph in winter ball and he was 3-2, 1.22, leading the league in ERA and WHIP (0.95).
Many of the names we've heard tied to the Rule 5 were the names we listed in the original preview last week (subscribers-only link). Here are some other prospects—almost all pitchers—whose names have popped up this week during regular strolls through the lobby:
• Elvin Ramirez, rhp, Mets: Ramirez has pushed his fastball up to 98-99 mph according to several scouts who have seen him in the Dominican. A starter all the way through 2009, Ramirez moved full-time to the bullpen in 2010, going 4-4, 4.16 and reaching Double-A Binghamton. He throws a changeup, curve and slider as well but has impressed most with his improved fastball velocity and control in the Dominican, where he was averaging 11.32 strikeouts per nine innings and just 1.74 walks per nine. He's posted a 2.18 ERA in 21 innings.
• Pedro Beato, rhp, Orioles: We may have had the wrong Orioles farmhands in our original preview. Beato was big news in the 2006 draft, as the Mets held his rights as a 2005 draft-and-follow. He didn't sign and the Orioles drafted him in the supplemental first round. He received a $1 million bonus but never emerged as a consistent starter. Beato moved to the bullpen in 2010 at Double-A Bowie and had his best season, posting 16 saves and allowing just four home runs in 60 innings. Beato's fastball has average velocity and peaks at 93 mph with sink and tail, and he has a decent sinking changeup and slurvy breaking ball. He gets a decent amount of breaking balls and has a durable 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame. He profiles as a middle reliever.
• Ed Lucas, util, Braves: Lucas is an interesting case, in that he was a minor league free agent who played for the Royals for six seasons. The Braves quickly signed him but didn't protect him, and the 28-year-old Lucas fits the utility profile well. He hit .307/.398/.480 at Triple-A Omaha this season while playing left field, second base, shortstop and third base. Lucas, a righty-hitting player from Dartmouth, has a plus arm, hits for average, controls the strike zone and plays with energy.
• Brock Bond, 2b/3b, Giants: Bond fits a similar profile as Lucas, though he has less arm strength and less ability to play shortstop. But he runs well, switch-hits, draws walks and plays with energy, helping him fit the utility profile. His lack of power makes it unlikely for him to earn an everyday role.
• Joseph Ortiz, lhp, Rangers: Ortiz stands just 5-foot-7 but might be more likely to go than the other low Class A lefties under consideration, such as Minnesota's Edgar Ibarra and Atlanta's Luis Avilan. Ortiz has shown an average fastball, at times at 88-91 mph, and a nasty curveball that helped him dominate the low Class A South Atlantic League—the 20-year-old Venezuelan went 4-1, 1.50 at Hickory with 59 strikeouts and just five walks in 42 innings. He was pitching in a lefty-specialist role in the Venezuelan League, having made 18 appearances and having pitched fewer than seven innings.
• Zach Simons, rhp, Tigers: Two Pacific Northwest righthanders that might get popped are Simons and Mason Tobin of the Angels. Tobin has had Tommy John surgery that cost him all but three outings in 2009 and setbacks this year in his recovery that kept him out for all of 2010. When healthy, Tobin has showed a mid-90s fastball that pushes higher. Simons, 25, was the Rockies' second-round pick back in 2005 and became a Tiger in the 2008 Jason Grilli trade. Simons was once on the 40-man roster but was removed and spent most of the season at Double-A Erie with a spell at Triple-A Toledo. His velocity has diminished and he pitches more frequently in the upper 80s with sink rather than in the low-to-mid 90s as he once did, but he keeps the ball down, cuts his fastball and gets swings and misses with some deception and his sinking change. He struck out 72 in 70 innings overall in 2010.
• Jason Rice, rhp, Red Sox: Rice fits the description again as a power righthander with some success at higher levels. He pitched at Double-A Portland, where he used a 90-93 mph fastball to attack hitters and the 24-year-old struck out 71 in 60 innings.
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