By Will Lingo
December 14, 2004
ANAHEIM–Teams took their usual array of power arms and speedy outfielders in the major league Rule 5 draft Monday, with the Devil Rays getting the first player selected in 6-foot-7 righthander Angel Garcia.
Clubs took just 12 players in the major league phase of the draft this year after taking 20 last year. Selections in the major league Rule 5 draft cost teams $50,000 each, and teams have to keep the players on their major league roster for the entire 2005 season or offer them back to their original team for $25,000.
Garcia emerged as the hot commodity in this year’s proceedings after drawing attention this winter in his native Puerto Rico. The Twins selected the 21-year-old in the fourth round out of high school there in 2001, and he had Tommy John surgery in September 2003.
The Diamondbacks had the first overall pick in the draft because they had the worst record in baseball in 2004, but they entertained offers from other clubs that wanted the pick. The Devil Rays paid $100,000 (plus the $50,000 drafting price) to Arizona to essentially move up from eighth in the draft order, and the Diamondbacks selected Garcia for the Rays and immediately sent him to Tampa Bay.
The Devil Rays had good reports on Garcia from Mako Oliveras, who is managing Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican League this winter. They sent scouts to watch Garcia in Puerto Rico as well as an all-star game between teams from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and the scouts recommended drafting him.
The question is whether Garcia will be able to stick in the big leagues. He was in extended spring training until June and pitched in just seven games for low Class A Quad Cities late in the season before going to Puerto Rico, where he has a 1-1, 4.76 record in seven games.
According to reports, Garcia is like many pitchers in the Tommy John recovery process because his velocity has returned but his command lags behind. He was reported to be throwing in the low 90s and touching 95 mph with a good changeup.
Cam Bonifay, the Devil Rays’ farm and scouting director, said the organization had good reports on Garcia as an amateur and discussed taking him out of high school. Bonifay said he expects Garcia to contribute in the big leagues in 2005.
“It was a tough decision, but our philosophy is we don’t take players unless they can be in a meaningful role,” he said.
The Rockies grabbed two players from the Dodgers organization in the major league draft, taking lefthander Matt Merricks with their own pick, then buying righthander Marco Carvajal from the Brewers after the draft for $25,000 (plus the $50,000 drafting price).
Carvajal, who allowed just 50 hits and had 72 strikeouts in 72 innings as the closer at low Class A Columbus in 2004, might have the best arm in this year’s Rule 5 class. He throws three pitches for strikes, but his 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame is too slight to handle a starting load, according to scouts who saw him in the South Atlantic League. The native of Venezuela reached 96 mph with his fastball during the season and finished the year with a short stint in Double-A.
The Dodgers also lost outfielder Shane Victorino in the major league phase of the draft, marking the second time in four years that Victorino was a Rule 5 selection. Dodgers farm director Terry Collins said the organization wasn’t surprised Carvajal and Victorino were selected, but Merricks was more unexpected.
The Cubs also lost two power arms in the draft in lefthanders Andy Sisco, taken second overall by the Royals, and Luke Hagerty, who was taken sixth by the Orioles. The Orioles subsequently traded Hagerty to the Marlins for a player to be named.
Both players were targeted as Rule 5 possibilities when they weren’t protected on the Cubs’ 40-man roster, but both players also come with significant risks. The 6-foot-9 Sisco has thrown in the mid-90s in the past, but his stuff was not as good this season and scouts have questions about his makeup. The 6-foot-7 Hagerty had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and is still in the recovery process.
“You can’t protect everyone,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. “You’ve got to understand that one of these guys pitched nine innings in Boise (Hagerty) and one guy went 4-10 in A-ball.”
The Washington Nationals used the Rule 5 draft to restock a thin organization, taking two players in the major league phase and seven players in the minor league phases of the draft.
Washington took outfielder Tyrell Godwin with the third pick in the major league draft. His tools have intrigued teams since he was in high school in North Carolina. He was a first-round pick of the Yankees out of high school in 1997, then a supplemental first-rounder of the Rangers in 2000 out of North Carolina.
He didn’t return to college but went back into the draft in 2001 after failing a physical with the Rangers, and the Blue Jays drafted him in the third round that year. He reached Double-A New Hampshire in 2004, batting .253-6-40 with 42 stolen bases. Godwin’s best tool is his speed, but his plate discipline (.326 OBP, 52 walks) has held him back.
The Nationals took third baseman Tony Blanco in the second round of the major league phase. Blanco was a top prospect who washed out with the Red Sox but got his career going again with the Reds. He batted .275-29-78 in 120 games between Class A Potomac and Double-A Chattanooga.
While Washington took seven players in the minor league phases of the draft, they sold righthander Victor Prieto to the Red Sox. They took position players with five of their six remaining picks.
“We really needed some offensive players,” farm director Adam Wogan said. “We saw this as a good chance to add depth.”
RULE 5 TAKES
• Making up for the lack of action in the major league phase, teams took 51 players in the Triple-A phase of the draft, when selections cost $12,000 each. Twelve more players went in the Double-A portion, at $4,000 each, for a total of 75 in the entire draft. Teams drafted 81 players last year.
• Rick Asadoorian, the Red Sox 2000 first-round pick,
was selected by the Reds from the Rangers organization. Asadoorian is a strong athlete with outstanding defensive skills who has never come around with the bat. He hit .288-3-27 for Double-A Frisco in 2004, but just .190 in 42 Triple-A at-bats.
• Looking for familiar names? The Mariners selected Aaron Herr, son of former Cardinals star Tom, from the Braves, while Washington selected Edgar Gonzalez, the brother of Rangers prospect Adrian, from Texas. Three picks later, infielder John Raburn, the brother of Tigers prospect Ryan, was selected by Tampa Bay from Milwaukee.
• Another notable name in the Triple-A phase was righthander Rodrigo Rosario, a former premium pitching prospect who was selected by the Marlins. Rosario’s career has been derailed by shoulder injuries.
• The Twins’ selection of lefthander Ryan Rowland-Smith from the Mariners in the major league phase was not much of a surprise, considering the Twins’ heavy scouting in Australia. Smith was one of two 2004 Olympians drafted in the major league phase, along with outfielder Adam Stern (Canada) who went to the Red Sox from the Braves.