Rodriguez Leads Off Active Rule 5

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—Familiarity does not breed contempt in the Rule 5 draft. It breeds draft picks.

The Pirates held the No. 1 overall selection, and general manager Neal Huntington reached into his past employer’s farm system for the top selection. Pittsburgh took infielder Josh Rodriguez from the Indians farm system with the top pick.

Rodriguez, who starred at Rice in college, turns 26 next week and has plenty of upper-minors experience. In 2010, he helped Columbus win the Triple-A National Championship, batting .293/.372/.486 in 317 at-bats for the Clippers after starting the year at Double-A Akron. He’s been at Akron or higher since 2008 and is a career .266/.356/.426 hitter in 1,667 minor league at-bats.

Rodriguez has the arm strength to play shortstop, which helps him fit the utility infielder profile in the short term, and may have enough thump to be an everyday second baseman eventually. That, plus the history the Pirates have with the player, helped push him to the top of Pittsburgh’s board.

“We start with the pool of players,” Huntington said of having the No. 1 overall pick. “We look at upside, and then the likelihood the players have of reaching that upside. Then we start looking at where they fit with our ballclub.

“There were some pitchers we talked about at length, some hard throwers, but we had some questions about their secondary stuff. When we compared Josh and his fit for our club with some of the free-agent options out there, we thought he had a chance to make the club and contribute as a middle-utility kind of guy.”

Rodriguez was the first of 10 straight picks that kicked off the major league phase, in which 19 players were selected. He was one of only three position players; the others were also infielders, Brad Emaus of the Mets (from the Blue Jays) and Mike Martinez of the Phillies (from the Nationals).

Emaus is playing in the Dominican Republic for the Toros and hitting .267/.353/.476 with four home runs. He played his first game at second base, his preferred position, on Wednesday after playing every other winter game at third. He said he was surprised and disappointed when the Blue Jays left him off the 40-man roster in November but excited to get picked by the Mets.

“My agent (ACES’ Mike Zimmerman) told me this week that there was a 50-50 chance I’d be taken in the Rule 5, and right now I’m just very ecstatic, excited to be given another chance by the Mets,” Emaus said via phone from the Dominican. Asked to give Mets fans a scouting report, Emaus said, “I’m just a blue-collar guy, a solid guy who has to know the game, has to have some (baseball IQ) because I don’t have great tools. I’m not flashy but I bring my best every day and go out trying to find an edge.”

Another Rodriguez, Aneury Rodriguez of the Rays (no relation), was the odds-on favorite to be picked as a pitcher with upper-levels experience, pitchability and upside. The Astros selected him with the eighth selection and also took former Rice righthander Lance Pendleton from the Yankees in the second round of the major league phase. Both pitchers fit into the big league club’s mix at the fifth starter spot, where top prospect Jordan Lyles and 36-year-old journeyman Nelson Figueroa are also contenders.

“We’re optimistic he can come in and provide competition for our fifth starter role,” Astros assistant general manager Bobby Heck said.

Other Major League Phase notes:

• The Yankees remained active in recent Rule 5s, losing two players (Pendleton and George Kontos, to the Padres) and drafting two in lefthander Robert Fish (Angels) and righthander Dan Turpen (Red Sox). Fish continues the Yankees’ offseason focus on lefthanders (aside from Cliff Lee). Fish, who runs his fastball up to 95 mph, fits in a bullpen role competing with offseason minor league free agent acquisitions such as Neal Cotts, a former White Sox big leaguer, and former Rule 5 selection Andy Sisco.

• Power-armed righthander Elvin Ramirez of the Mets was the hot name the last week or so prior to the draft and went fifth overall to the Nationals. Ramirez has run his fastball into the upper 90s this winter while dominating the Dominican Winter League. Adrian Rosario went a pick ahead of him, to the Orioles, and was one of the more under-the-radar players picked. One scout said the Brewers farmhand threw harder in the past but now sits at 88-91 mph and has a solid slider.

“We took a player from Milwaukee,” Orioles executive Andy MacPhail joked, “and they took one from us (righthander Pat Egan). Maybe we can work something out.”

Major League Phase
FIRST ROUND
Selecting Team Player Previous
Team
Pirates SS
Josh Rodriguez
Indians
Offensive-minded utility type. Bench fodder, not a potential regular.
Mariners RHP
Jose Flores
Indians
Projectable Low-A reliever with plus fastball, good control.
Diamondbacks LHP
Joe Paterson
Giants
Crafty lefty specialists gets by
with curveball and guts.
Orioles RHP
Adrian Rosario
Brewers
Plus fastball and sinking change, but scatters zone in Low-A ball.
Royals RHP
Nathan Adcock
Pirates
If you dream a little, he could have three average to solid pitches and be a starter.
Nationals RHP
Elvin Ramirez
Mets
Improved his fastball and control in the Dominican this winter, hitting 98-99 mph on radar guns
Cubs RHP Mason Tobin Angels
Sold to Rangers. Has live arm but has pitched just three innings in two years because of injuries.
Astros RHP
Aneury Rodriguez
Rays
Three average pitches, pushes average fastball to 94 at times, possible starter, good winter.
Brewers RHP
Pat Egan
Orioles
Sinker/slider reliever has reached Triple-A but lacks a true go-to pitch
Mets 3B/2B
Brad Emaus
Blue Jays
Offensive-minded utility type, chance to be a regular maybe, can’t play SS though.
Padres RHP
George Kontos
Yankees
Has some arm strength but lack of consistency pushed him to bullpen this year.
Twins LHP
Scott Diamond
Braves
Average fastball and curve give him a chance to be a No. 5 starter/long reliever.
Yankees LHP
Robert Fish
Angels
Reliever can hit 95 mph, but he had an 8.93 ERA in Double-A.
Rays LHP
Cesar Cabral
Red Sox
Delivery a concern, but his fastball touches 93 out of pen and changeup is plus at times.
Phillies 2B
Michael Martinez
Nationals
Utility type with good glove, strong arm, average run—but light bat.
SECOND ROUND
Nationals RHP
Brian Broderick
Cardinals
Chance to start with four fringe
to avg pitches, very good control, fastball to 93 at times.
Astros RHP
Lance Pendleton
Yankees
Has a plus fastball in 89-93 mph sinker, secondary pitches are mostly fringy. Command is OK.
Mets RHP Pedro Beato Orioles
Former sandwich pick rejuvenated
after moving to pen this year, works mostly off solid sinker.
Yankees RHP
Dan Turpen
Red Sox
92-94 mph from low slot makes him tough on righties, but he hasn’t solved lefties yet.
Triple-A Phase
FIRST ROUND
Pirates OF
Brad Chalk
Padres
Diamondbacks OF
Jose Rivero
Mariners
Orioles 2B
Dale Mollenhauer
White Sox
Royals RHP
Heath Rollins
Rays
Nationals RHP
Michael Allen
Twins
Mets RHP
Ronny Morla
Cubs
Marlins 1B
Jaime Ortiz
Dodgers
Angels RHP
Dan Sattler
Athletics
Athletics RHP
Jeiler Castillo
Astros
Blue
Jays
2B Ivan Contreras Angels
Cardinals LHP
Jean Mijares
Twins
Padres 3B
Jake Blackwood
Giants
Rangers C
Jessie Mier
Dodgers
Braves RHP
Eliecer Cardenas
Twins
Giants LHP
Justin Dowdy
Rays
Phillies OF
Chris Frey
Rockies
SECOND ROUND
Pirates C
Travis Scott
Angels
Orioles LHP
Casey Lambert
Cubs
Mets RHP
Ricky Brooks
White Sox
Rangers LHP
Starling de la Rosa
Royals
Braves LHP
Rowdy Hardy
Royals
Giants C
Dashenko Ricardo
Orioles
Phillies RHP
Justin Friend
Athletics
THIRD ROUND
Giants RHP
Matt Sartor
Dodgers
Double-A Phase
Orioles RHP
Jake Rasner
White Sox
Mets OF
Quintin Berry
Padres
Marlins RHP
Brent Allar
Orioles
Blue
Jays
2B Roan Salas Rays

Minors | #2010 #Winter Baseball #Winter Wonders

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