DALLAS—Every year's Rule 5 draft previews must mention the event's rich history. It's where the Twins acquired Johan Santana, where the Royals found Joakim Soria, and where Josh Hamilton's career hit the reset button.
But since changes in 2007 that added a year of protection for clubs before their players had to be added to the 40-man roster, the Rule 5 has shrunk in importance. Thursday's proceedings, where 37 players were selected overall—12 in the major league phase—showed that the new rules almost have rendered the Rule 5 obsolete.
"The rules changes have had a significant impact on the talent pool," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, whose team was active for the fifth straight year, selecting a player in the Rule 5's major league phase. "Going from three and four years to four and five years, you start to see a thinner talent pool."
Of the 12 players selected, eight were pitches and four were position players. Righthander Rhiner Cruz, who went to Houston, enters history as this year's top Rule 5 selection.
For rebuilding teams like the Pirates and Astros, who selected first overall, the Rule 5 is a chance to add players to the bottom of their 40-man roster for a nominal price of $50,000, half of which can be recouped if the player doesn't stick. Houston took an informed flier on Cruz, who reached Double-A with the Mets in 2011 and was originally signed by the Tigers. Interim general manager Dave Gottfried (about to be replaced by new GM Jeff Luhnow) said the Astros had two scouts see Cruz throw well this winter in the Dominican League, and Astros minor league coach Rick Aponte supplied additional info, as he's Cruz's pitching coach with Cibao.
"The velocity reports are very strong," Gottfried said when asked if Cruz had hit 100 mph this winter. "It's a very good arm, an above-average arm, and the breaking ball has improved this winter with Rick working with him. He's got a great chance to make our club if his command improves."
The first six teams made selections in the major league phase. Minnesota followed Houston and selected righthander Terry Doyle out of the White Sox organization. Doyle threw 200 innings in 2011, counting his stint in the Arizona Fall League, and his durable body and track record of throwing strikes helped attract him to the Twins. He has walked 2.07 batters per nine innings in his minor league career since the Sox drafted him in the 37th round out of Boston College in 2008.
"The separator for us was command," vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff said. "We saw him in the AFL thoroughly, and he kind of dominated out there (4-0, 1.98). We had a lot of history with him, good report from him in college. The durability was another strong point.
"We had some concerns in the past where his fastball velocity was marginal. It's hard to judge that in Arizona, for a variety of reasons, but we saw average velocity this year, which was important. His command is good, his makeup is good, and we think he's got the ability to be a fourth or fifth starter."
Doyle considers his durability a strength as well. He said he got a bit tired in mid-to-late August, but his Double-A Birmingham team got an extra couple of days off heading into the Southern League playoffs due to rain, and the extra rest rejuvenated him.
"Once I was in Arizona, I felt like I could throw nine innings every time out," he said. "(Twins general manager) Terry Ryan called me and welcomed me to the organization . . . and he asked if the White Sox had asked me about my innings pitched, because he said it was unusual for a minor leaguer to throw 165 or whatever I have back-to-back years. (Editor's note: it's 341 the last two regular seasons.) But I think I've been able to be more efficient than most guys."
Doyle said he throws his two-seam fastball more than his four-seamer and mixes in a curveball, slider and changeup. "The White Sox gave me a lot of opportunities to play pro ball, and I'm thankful to them," he said. "I know this is how the business is. I guess not getting protected was a blessing in disguise."
Righthander Brett Lorin fits a similar profile as a back-of-the-rotation starter, and was selected by the Diamondbacks, the 11th player selected. Lorin was sleeping at his parents' California home when he was picked; he said one of his parents woke him up to give him the news, and Arizona assistant GM Billy Ryan called him soon thereafter to welcome him to the organization.
"I thought I might get picked," said Lorin, a 6-foot-7, 245-pounder with three average pitches who went 7-6, 2.84 at high Class A Bradenton in the Pirates organization this year. "It's huge, it's really exciting to get a chance to go to major league camp and have a shot to make the major league club. I'm going to bring my work ethic and do everything I can mentally and physically to give myself that chance."
The position players picked fit the utility player profile rather than the everyday mold. The Orioles took Cubs infielder Ryan Flaherty with the fourth overall pick, and Flaherty has a chance to stick as he's reached Triple-A, bats lefthanded and can play several positions defensively. The 2008 supplemental first-round pick has mastered no defensive spot, though, and was caught in a logjam of corner infielders in the Cubs system.
"I think I can play anywhere," Flaherty said in a phone interview. "Wherever they need me to go, I'm excited to go. I'm not really too familiar with the Rule 5 but I'm definitely excited for the opportunity."
On a day when they lost Albert Pujols to the Angels in free agency, the Cardinals took outfielder Erik Komatsu from the Nationals system; Washington had just acquired him in July from the Brewers for Jerry Hairston Jr. Cardinals farm director John Vuch said the club's scouts saw Komatsu enough to slot him as a fourth outfielder with a solid lefthanded bat. Komatsu has a .302/.389/.434 career slash line in the minors and spent 2011 in Double-A.
"He's not an everyday option in center field, but we feel he can play there and can play all three spots," Vuch said. "We had two different pro scouts come back with good reports on him."
Reached later Thursday, Komatsu noted that he's played more center field the last two seasons (156 games) than on the corners and said he's more comfortable there.
"I don't consider myself the top prospect or guy with over-exciting tools," he said. "I don't have 80 speed, but I can run some, and I make up for it with good jumps and good routes. I prefer center field. You can see the pitch, the location, and anticipate where it's going to be hit. I can shift my weight and get an extra step. In left or right, you can't see location, just the speed the of the pitch."
Komatsu was dealt at midseason and said he wound up crashing on the air mattress of a teammate's living room while playing for Double-A Harrisburg. Suffice it to say being on the major league 40-man roster will be a step up.
"Getting traded to the Nationals, it was like the first day of school; I just didn't know anybody and was trying to get to know my teammates," he said. "Now with the Cardinals I actually know some guys in that system. Getting Rule 5'd, I'm very excited."
The Pirates took a player for the fifth straight year in the major league phase, and for the second straight year they selected a shortstop. They didn't have much luck with last year's No. 1 Rule 5 pick, Josh Rodriguez, and hope for more from Gustavo Nunez, formerly of the Tigers. Unlike Rodriguez, Nunez is a defense-first player, and the 23-year-old was limited to 96 games in 2011 by an ankle injury. Nunez posted a .541 OPS in 121 at-bats at Double-A Erie, but Huntington and the Pirates weren't attracted by his bat.
"He fits the classic shortstop tools profile with his fielding, his arm and his speed," Huntington said. "He had success in A-ball this year (.304/.368/.431), and then we haven't really seen him since the ankle injury. If he's healthy, we feel like he's a guy with a chance to make our roster."
Two of the players taken are already on the move. The Yankees were paying cash considerations to the Royals for lefthander Cesar Cabral, the fifth overall pick, who was selected from the Red Sox system. The hard-throwing Cabral, whose fastball has touched 93, was selected in last year's Rule 5 as well, so he does not have to be offered back to Boston if he fails to make New York's bullpen.
The Astros trading minor league phase selection Marco Duarte, a righthander, to the Red Sox for their major league phase selection, Marwin Gonzalez, a utility infielder out of the Cubs organization. If so, it will be the second year in a row the Astros will try to carry two Rule 5 picks on their big league roster. Gonzalez, 22, is an average middle infield defender who hit .288/.343/.400 between Double-A Tennessee and Triple-A Iowa in 2011. He could factor into the Astros' shortstop mix after Houston lost Clint Barmes to free agency.
The Triple-A phase saw 23 players selected, including some names with history. Pirates Triple-A selection Aaron Poreda was a first-round pick in 2007 and was once traded for Jake Peavy, but his velocity has plummeted from his amateur days, when he hit 97-98 mph from the left side. He went 4-3, 5.43 at Triple-A Tucson in 2011 and walked 63 in 70 innings while striking out 79.
The Cardinals selected Twins righthander Shooter Hunt in the second round of the Triple-A phase. He was the 31st overall pick in 2008 out of Tulane, but Hunt has never thrown strikes as a pro. Now 25, Hunt has 236 walks and 219 strikeouts in 193 professional innings, with a 4-14, 6.85 record as a result. He pitched 43 innings at high Class A Fort Myers in 2011, walking 61 and striking out 46.
Just two players were selected in the Double-A phase: first baseman Matt Sweeeney (Rays) by the Orioles, and righthander Matt Buschmann (Padres) by the Nationals.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog