Rule 5 Preview

A look at 25 players who could get picked at the Winter Meetings





Matt Eddy has broken down the last decade of the Rule 5 draft here, which shows well why the draft matters and why, sometimes, it really doesn't.

Keep that in mind as we preview this year's draft. With the official list of Rule 5 eligibles in hand, Baseball America has gone through the list and gone through our scouting reports to see which players should attract the most interest. Here are some Rule 5 draft candidates who fit the recent descriptions of players who have been picked high and have managed to stick in the majors, sorted by category:

PITCHERS

Luis Avilan and Scott Diamond, lhp, Braves: The Braves lost lefty Edgar Osuna in last year's Rule 5 to the Royals, and these two southpaws have more ability than Osuna. Avilan is a 21-year-old reliever who hasn't pitched above Class A. However, he has a live arm with an average fastball and curveball, and he was pitching for Lara in the Venezuelan League this winter, getting more exposure. Scouting reports indicate his delivery limits him to a bullpen role, while Diamond has a chance to be a fifth starter as well as a reliever. A nondrafted free agent success story, Diamond reached Triple-A Gwinnett in 2010 and gave up just six homers in 159 overall innings. His 123-54 strikeout-walk ratio was just OK but he has two solid-average pitches in an 86-91 mph fastball and a curve that at times is above-average.

Edgar Ibarra, lhp, Twins: Just 21, Ibarra hasn't pitched above low Class A, but he's got a couple of things going for him: being lefthanded and throwing hard. His fastball sits in the 88-92 mph range, and could push higher if he moves into a relief role. He has some feel for spinning a downer curveball, but it's inconsistent, as expected for a young, inexperienced arm.

Other lefty relievers to watch include Colt Hynes (Padres), who gets sinking life on an 88-91 mph fastball and pitched in the Arizona Fall League this year; 6-foot-10 Garrett Johnson (White Sox), who got a short look in Triple-A and creates tough angles for hitters with a lower, slingy arm slot; 2006 first-round pick Kasey Kiker (Rangers), who had a lost year in terms of command but was trying to regain his form in the Puerto Rican League; and Robert Fish (Angels), who's just 22 and has a fastball that reaches 95. Fish got rocked in Double-A (8.93 ERA in 42 innings) but overall struck out 73 in 58 innings in 2010.

Perhaps the most interesting lefty available is one very unlikely to get drafted. The Reds' Ismael Guillon is among the youngest players available at 18, as his original deal was voided; because he resigned with the same team that originally signed him, he must be protected on the 40-man roster or exposed to the Rule 5. The Reds decided to expose him even though his 90-93 mph fastball and advanced changeup make him one of their better prospects. He hardly throws his curveball at this stage and also has some rough edges to his delivery.

Danny Gutierrez, rhp, Rangers: Last year, Kiker ranked sixth on the Rangers' Top 10 while Gutierrez ranked ninth. Gutierrez's stuff has gotten him extra looks in his career, but his makeup has been at issue. The Royals traded him to Texas in 2009 after Gutierrez was arrested on an assault charge, and Gutierrez served a 50-game suspension for amphetamines in 2010, when he used adderall to treat attention deficit disorder. Gutierrez had a prescription for the drug but did not apply for a waiver from MLB. The 23-year-old wasn't quite as electric in 51 innings this season as he had been in the past, with some reports his velocity was down in the mid-80s. At his best, he's been in the 91-95 mph range with a good overhand curveball as well.

Adam Miller, rhp, Indians: He's no stranger to prospect lists, having ranked as the Indians' No. 1 prospect from 2005-2008. The hard-throwing Texan threw one inning in instructional league this year and hasn't pitched in a game since 2008 due to repeated finger tendon injuries that have required four surgeries. Miller still has arm strength—Indians GM Chris Antonetti has said Miller reached 90-91 mph in instructional league—and could be stashed on the disabled list if he got hurt. Then again, he hasn't pitched in two years.

Wynn Pelzer, rhp, Orioles: Pelzer is one of the more likely prospects to be selected. He has a power arm and could fit in a big league bullpen. His fastball sits in the 91-94 mph range and touches higher, and both his slider and split-finger fastball have earned average grades from scouts in the past while flashing above-average. The Padres had him as a starter prior to his trade to the Orioles, but most scouts believe he's a better fit in the bullpen.

Aneury Rodriguez, rhp, Rays: Rodriguez might be the most likely player to get picked, as he has the combination of success at upper levels, the possibility of upside and age on his side. Rodriguez pitched for Triple-A Durham at age 22 this season and was for several stretches the Bulls' No. 2 starter after Minor League Player of the Year Jeremy Hellickson. Rodriguez is a solid 6-foot-3, 180-pounder with three average pitches—an 88-92 mph fastball that can touch 94 complemented by a curveball and changeup. He also was pitching well in the Dominican Winter League with a 1.41 ERA through six starter. While Rodriguez has a projectable frame, his stuff hasn't really gotten any better over the last two seasons, and he may be maxed out as a fourth or fifth starter. That's not a bad find for a Rule 5 pick, though.

• Daniel Turpen, rhp, Red Sox: Boston got Turpen from the Giants for Ramon Ramirez, a deal the Giants are quite pleased about right now. Turpen was a swingman on Oregon State's back-to-back College World Series champions in 2006-2007 and has worked as a reliever in pro ball, reaching Double-A in 2010. He's more notable for throwing 92-94 mph from a low, almost sidearm slot than for his performance (69 IP, 28-60 BB-S0, 7-6, 4.30 overall mark). Lefthanded hitters batted .299 against him in 2010, including a .417 clip in the AFL.

Kyle Waldrop, rhp, Twins: Minnesota has plenty of upper-level righthanders already on the 40-man roster, such as Alex Burnett, Rob Delaney, Pat Neshek and Anthony Slama. Waldrop, a 2004 first-round pick, doesn't have great stuff, but he's a groundball pitcher in the David Herndon mold. At 6-foot-4, he pitches downhill and generated a 3.73 groundout-airout ratio with Triple-A Rochester last season. He also showed durability by logging 88 innings and gave up just five home runs. His long arm action keeps his secondary stuff below-average, but when he's on his fastball sinks at up to 92 mph.

Among other righthanders: The Phillies have lost patience with Brazilian Heitor Correa, who in the past touched 96 mph but who just lost it at high Class A Clearwater this season (8-14, 6.62). However, he still flashes an 89-93 mph fastball with life and a plus changeup in the low 80s. If Phillies pitching coordinator Gorman Heimuller can't bring it out of him, will anyone? Converted catcher Casey Mulligan (Cardinals) puts up strong numbers (70 strikeouts in 48 IP) with average velocity (88-92 mph) and various arm angles for all his pitches.

Position Players To Watch

Ryan Adams, 2b, Orioles: The Orioles left their 40-man roster at 35 and didn't protect either Adams, their No. 8 prospect, or Pelzer, their No. 6 and the player they acquired from the Padres in last summer's Miguel Tejada trade. Adams has some power and a nice, compact swing, helping him tie another Rule 5-eligible second baseman, the Twins' Steve Singleton, for the Eastern League lead with 43 doubles. He's a below-average defender at second or third for many scouts, and hasn't endeared himself to scouts with a lackadaisical approach.

Brad Emaus, 2b/3b, Blue Jays: The closest thing to Dan Uggla in this year's Rule 5 is probably Emaus, who doesn't have Uggla's raw power but is an offensive second baseman/third baseman. He posted a career-best 15 homers in 2010, but nine came at Triple-A Las Vegas' Cashman Field. Emaus controls the strike zone (81 walks and just 69 strikeouts in '10) and his .290/.397/.476 line looks pretty tempting for a 24-year-old. However, he's a well below-average runner (despite his 13 steals in 15 tries this season) and his defense at both second and third is below-average.

• Marquez Smith, 3b, Cubs: At 25, Smith isn't going to get much better, but he's a useful reserve infielder with some thump in his bat. He had a huge second half at Triple-A Iowa (.347/.406/.682) and has bat speed, which gives him acceptable power. Defensively, he fits best at third but has some experience at second base as well. His profile would be helped greatly if he ran better or batted lefthanded, but his winter showing in Venezuela—he hit five home runs in his first 76 at-bats—could get him popped.

Ramon Morla, 3b, Mariners: Morla ranked sixth on our Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects, and if we were ranking Rule 5 eligible players just on talent and long-term potential, he'd rank first or in the top five at least. He has the defensive tools to be at least average at third base, and his raw power played well in the Rookie-level Appy League, which he led with 17 home runs while slugging .610. But it's a long, long way from Pulaski to the major leagues.

Brandon Waring, 3b/1b, Orioles: It's odd that a farm system that's quite thin, such as Baltimore's, has some intriguing talent available. It almost seems as if the O's are cleaning house, or they're in for a repeat of Pittsburgh's 2003 Rule 5 experience, when the Pirates lost five of the first six players selected, including Jose Bautista (whom they traded to get back). Waring doesn't have great tools and fits better defensively at first base than third, but he has excellent power and has produced at the Double-A level. The 24-year-old hit .242/.338/.458 with 22 homers, 32 doubles and 179 strikeouts at Bowie in 2010. He led the EL in strikeouts.

Other position players who may get a look: Outfielder Paulo Orlando (Royals), a Brazilian, is a rangy athlete who's not as toolsy as he looks, but he hit .305/.366/.480 for Double-A Northwest Arkansas; Canadian catcher Lars Davis (Rockies), who has good catch-and-throw skills and raw power; and lefthanded-hitting Stephen Vogt (Rays), a 25-year-old who can catch, play left or first base and flat-out hits. Vogt batted .345/.399/.511 in the high Class A Florida State League, and he was a two-time NAIA all-American who hit .448 at Azusa Pacific in his career. In other words, he's hit for a while now. Another Rays farmhand that can hit, corner infielder Matt Sweeney, has had injury issues the last two seasons, and didn't do much in his first stab at Double-A this season. But he has a feel for the barrel and definite lefthanded power, and in the Rule 5, that's noteworthy.

Contributing: Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy.