Rule 5 Eve Rundown

NASHVILLE–Word on the street in Music City in advance of Thursday’s Rule 5 draft came fast and furious late Wednesday night.

According to several sources, the Padres are planning on moving up to Tampa Bay’s No. 1 spot to take Indians outfielder Brian Barton.

Barton is a different breed of player–there is little question about that. After transferring from Loyola-Marymount to Miami to pursue baseball and an aerospace engineering degree, Barton climbed the ranks of Cleveland’s system, ranking as high as the No. 5 prospect in the system heading into the 2007 season.

Barton injured his right knee coming out of the batter’s box in 2006, and after playing through the injury,  he required surgery this offseason. But Barton, who had the surgery in Miami while finishing up his degree, is perhaps even more eccentric than even we at Baseball America knew. The 25-year-old outfielder apparently traveled all season with a pet turtle (name unavailable).

Tigers’ righthander Randor Bierd is expected to go with the next pick to either Houston, who would move up into Pittsburgh’s spot, or the Pirates would use the pick on either Bierd or possibly Rays righthander Evan Meek.

Kansas City was reportedly targeting Astros catcher Lou Santangelo, who missed a large chunk of 2007 after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, with the third pick overall. Santangelo has two power tools though in his bat and throwing arm.

MORE BUZZ

• The only significant name to pop up on the radar Wednesday–aside from Santangelo–was Orioles righthander Nick McCurdy, who is garnering interest among at least three clubs. McCurdy, 27, went a combined 3-6, 3.20 in 76 innings between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in 2007.

• Rockies righthander Shane Lindsay was also generating more buzz the day before the draft, but like a lot of players in this year’s crop, Lindsay comes with some medical baggage.

Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Australia in 2003, Lindsay ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League in 2005. He also ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the NWL in 2006 after recovering from a partially torn rotator cuff that season. After the Rockies shut him down in Hawaii Winter Baseball at the end of the 2006 season, Lindsay eventually needed labrum surgery and missed the entire 2007 season.

Colorado sent the 22-year-old back to Hawaii in October, where he struggled with command issues, walking 16 in 18 innings. When he was healthy and at his best, Lindsay threw a plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touched 97. He added an above-average curveball and had some feel for a changeup.

• The Reds officially became Rule 5 players Wednesday after they outrighted infielder Jorge Cantu off the 40-man roster. The club reportedly has more interest in arms than position players, though it seems Cincinnati–which blew out the 2006 Rule 5 draft by selecting Josh Hamilton–won’t likely take a chance on a pitcher with a similarly troubled background.

Marlins righthander Jeff Allison’s name has been all over the board in recent days, but don’t expect the Reds to bite.

“I seriously doubt that,” said one scouting director from a National League club. “That’s just Hamilton hype, and we’re talking about a completely different animal under a completely different set of circumstances.”

However, at least Allison’s name was on peoples’ minds. That’s more than can be said about the handful of Allison’s fellow 2003 first-round picks who were not protected. That list of players includes No. 3 overall pick Kyle Sleeth (Tigers), No. 5 overall pick Chris Lubanski (Royals), No. 6 overall pick Ryan Harvey (Cubs), No. 21 pick Matt Moses (Twins) and No. 27 pick Eric Duncan (Yankees).

• The Cubs will be Rule 5 players, with more than one front-office official saying that the club is focused on “arms, arms and more arms.” Chicago picks at No. 19 in the first round of the major league phase.

As you might have guessed, we’ll have full coverage of the Rule 5 here on the blog and after it’s all over with a special podcast.

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