Early Rule 5 Draft Preview

Keep an eye on these players next week

The annual Rule 5 draft, first held in 1959, essentially wraps up the Winter Meetings every year. It's a popular event for BA readers because it's yet another way for teams to procure talent, and yet another opportunity to put their evaluating chops to the test.

The Rule 5 has its star products, from its yesteryear poster boys such as Roberto Clemente and George Bell to standard bearers such as Johan Santana, Josh Hamilton, Joakim Soria and Dan Uggla.

Just last year, the Rule 5 produced Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, who started 2008 playing second base in the low Class A South Atlantic League. He wound up posting a .342 on-base percentage with 25 stolen bases, which tied for fourth among major league rookies.

However, Cabrera was the only pick from last December's Rule 5 who contributed with the team that drafted him. Pitchers Donald Veal (Pirates) and Darren O'Day (Rangers) both could still pay off, but the misses far outnumber the hits in the Rule 5 draft, even more so than in the Rule 4 (better known as the first-year player draft in June).

"People love to talk about Santana," one veteran scout said, "but for every Santana, there are 200 Rule 5 picks who are never heard from again."

The basics of the Rule 5 remain unchanged. Players who signed at age 19 and older in 2006 (i.e., most college 2006 draft picks) or 18 and younger in 2005 (most 2005 high school picks and international signees), had to be protected on 40-man rosters or be subject to the draft. Selected players cost $50,000 and have to stick on a major league 25-man roster (or disabled list) for the entire 2010 season or be offered back to the original organization at half the price.  

After checking the official list of eligible players and discussing it with scouts, here are 10 players whom teams could find a reason to draft (listed alphabetically):

Aaron Breit, rhp, Padres

Regime change in San Diego prompted Breit to be exposed despite a solid season and at times two plus pitches. His fastball reaches 91-94 mph, touching higher in short stints out of the bullpen, and he has a strikeout pitch in a good, hard curveball. He doesn't throw enough strikes to start despite clean, repeatable mechanics. One Padres official called Breit an "enigma with million-dollar stuff (who has) performed like a 40th-round idiot" due to struggles with focus and pitch execution.

Arquimedes Caminero, rhp, Marlins

The No. 8 prospect this summer in the New York-Penn League, Caminero has one of the best arms available with premium arm strength, producing fastballs in the 95-98 mph range with explosive life up in the strike zone. Caminero's slider was a second plus pitch at times, with mid-80s velocity and inconsistent depth. He has issues holding runners, but the biggest issue is that he's pitched parts of two seasons in the U.S. after two years in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, and the 22-year-old still has made just 13 appearances out of short-season ball. However, Jorge Sosa made a similar leap with even less pitching experience, going from the short-season Northwest League in 2001 to the big leagues in 2002 as a Rule 5 pick.

Robinson Chirinos, c/2b, Cubs

A 25-year-old Venezuelan, Chirinos only has been a catcher since 2008. His best tools are his hands, which work behind the plate and with the bat, and his plus arm. He was hitting well in the Venezuelan League, showing improved power with six homers in 105 at-bats, after hitting a career-best 11 in 2009 while finishing in Double-A. He spent three years in low Class A before his conversion to catcher and is athletic enough to be a utility infielder, even at shortstop.  

Colin Curtis, of, Yankees

Curtis' career has stalled the last two years, as he started 2009 in Triple-A but was sent back to Double-A Trenton. The testicular cancer survivor improved his stock greatly in the Arizona Fall League, though, by adjusting his stance and finally driving the ball. A career .264/.334/.375 hitter in 1,611 minor league at-bats, Curtis hit .397/.472/.731 in 78 at-bats in the AFL, leading the league in OPS. He's a lefthanded hitter with average speed who can play all three outfield spots adequately, though he's best suited for left.

Edgar Garcia, rhp, and Henry Garcia, 2b, Phillies

The Garcias are not related, but both are good targets and signs of the improved depth of the Phillies' system. The pitching Garcia was in the AFL and averaged 90.77 mph on his fastball, topping out at 92.5 according to MLB's Pitch f/x data. That squares with scouting sources who had him at 88-91 mph this season, though he still flashes a plus slider. In the past, Garcia has reached 96 mph, including at the Florida State League all-star game in 2008. However, he missed time due to visa issues in '09, and he's been inconsistent with stuff and performance throughout his career.

The hitting Garcia was an engine for low Class A Lakewood's South Atlantic League championship team, and has plus speed. He has enough arm strength to play the left side of the infield in a pinch but fits better at second or in the outfield. He has surprising pop and draws some Chone Figgins comparisons for his energy and offensive game, where he uses his speed well. The 23-year-old was hitting .274/.295/.370 for Zulia in the Venezuelan League this offseason.

Mike McBryde, cf, Giants

More Names To Watch
Yeliar Castro, rhp, Braves: Raw Panamanian has excellent arm strength
Brian Dinkelman, 2b/of, Twins: Lefty bat, some defensive versatility
Grant Duff, rhp, Yankees: Almost 27, fastball touched 96 in AFL
Brennan Garr, rhp, Rangers: Hard-throwing reliever touched 94 in AFL
Ben Jukich, lhp, Reds: Fringe fastball, but at times has plus curve
Matt McBride, of/c, Indians: Similar to Tracy with less power
Edgar Osuna, lhp, Braves: Locates fringe fastball to set up curve, plus change
Carlos Peguero, 1b, Mariners: Premium raw power, when he makes contact
Paul Phillips, rhp, Rays: Velocity was down in AFL; finished in Triple-A
John Raynor, of, Marlins: Premium speed, was better in '08
One of the toolsiest players available, McBryde was a fifth-round pick in 2006 out of Florida Atlantic who pitched as much as he hit in college. He had his best offensive season in 2009, reaching Triple-A after batting .308/.347/.434 at Double-A Connecticut. His value as a Rule 5 pick would come as a reserve outfielder, as he's a 70 runner with premium defensive tools. Some scouts give him 70 grades for his arm and defense as well as his speed. McBryde's offensive approach is too contact-oriented for him to take enough walks or hit for enough power, but if he ever tempers his aggressiveness, he could be an everyday player.

Yohan Pino, rhp, Indians

Pino, 25, pitches like the Twins farmhand he was prior to the Carl Pavano trade. He fills up the strike zone wherever he goes, including three walks in 32 winter innings in his native Venezuela this year, and just 125 in 513 professional innings (2.2 BB/9 IP). As Pino has matured physically (he's now listed at 190 pounds, up from 158), he's added some velocity, sitting in the upper 80s and touching 92. He commands four pitches and has poise and mound presence to go with 65 innings of Triple-A experience.

Chad Tracy, of/1b/c, Rangers

Tracy has some traits in common with Jake Fox, who had a strong rookie season with the Cubs in 2009. Like Fox, Tracy was a college catcher and played the position at short-season Spokane after being drafted in 2006. However, he's been primarily a DH, left fielder or first baseman the last three seasons, giving up catching completely in 2009. Not coincidentally, he had his best offensive season, batting .279/.333/.488 with 26 home runs, tops in the Texas League. If he can catch in a reserve/emergency role, the son of Rockies manager Jim Tracy could be a valuable reserve bat.

Kevin Whelan, rhp, Yankees

New York's big league bullpen was homegrown in 2009, and it would be tough for Whelan to find a spot there with his spotty command (41 walks in 67 innings). Another team could give him more leeway to work in his 92-94 mph fastball and plus-plus split-finger pitch, however. After injuries slowed him in 2008, he bounced back with 85 strikeouts in 44 appearances between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he allowed only one home run.

Contributing: Ben Badler, Jim Callis, Matt Eddy