NASHVILLE–Earlier today, Indians outfielder Brian Barton was the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 in the Rule 5 draft Thursday. But hold the phone.
One source close to the Rays says Tampa Bay will not take Barton, and if they don’t sell their pick like they did last year, it will likely be for a piece to boost their bullpen and not a position player.
"They’re not hot on Barton at all," said a scout from a National League club. "And while he might be the best talent out there this year, there are a lot of questions about his (knee) surgery that he’s kind of taken a backseat."
So who’s hot and who’s not? Let’s take a look in the rumors floating out there in this sprawling venue that is the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center . . .
• Royals outfielder Chris Lubanski to the Marlins with the fourth overall selection. Lubanski, the fifth overall pick in 2003, was touted for his speed and developing power early in his career. He’s still just 22, and a lot of teams have him on their Rule 5 radar for that reason more than anything else, but the fact is that Lubanski isn’t a plus runner anymore as he’s grown into his frame. He’s not even above-average. "This is a fringe-average runner for me," said one AL scouting director. And Lubanski didn’t do himself any favors in the Arizona Fall League, often making weak contact and wound up hitting .200/.266/.412 in 85 at-bats.
• Evan Meek, rhp, Rays: Meek’s name came up in the last 12 hours after several scouting directors were on him for his Fall League performance, where his fastball was up to 94 mph and he showed the ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes. The 24-year-old went 2-1, 4.30 with 67 strikeouts in 69 innings for Double-A Montgomery, then finished with 1-0, 0.93 numbers in the AFL.
• Jeff Allison, rhp, Marlins: Think of him as Josh Hamilton with a rap sheet. Yes, Allison is a ghost. Yes, he is probably at least 10 times the risk the Reds took on Hamilton last year. But several scouts have thrown around his name in the last 24 hours. Allison, the 16th overall pick in 2003, has a storied history of battling drug addiction and added jail time since he returned to the mound in 2005. He hasn’t pitched in two years, but clubs certainly saw him good in his time back with low Class A Greensboro. "No question the tools and the ability to pitch were still there," said one NL scout. "His velocity was upwards of 95 (mph) with big depth to his curveball and he showed the ability to throw a changeup. His pitches faded after three or four innings because of the layoff, but if there’s one thing last year’s Rule 5 stated, it’s that anything could happen. And it wouldn’t surprised me if somebody popped him. That’s a lot of baggage, but the stuff still has plus potential and he just turned 23."