Rule 5 Preview: Part II

See Also: Rule 5 Preview, Part I

The Rule 5 draft takes place Thursday, Dec. 6, at 10 a.m. Eastern. Baseball America will have plenty of Rule 5 coverage after the deed is done, but as we turn to Part II of our preview, we present more scouting reports on eligible players, a few #personalcheeseballs whom we'd like to see taken, and a podcast where we try to cure our latent case of Rule 5 fever.

We broke this part of the preview down into categories of players who could get selected:

The Back-Of-The-Rotation Starters

Vidal Nuno, lhp, Yankees: An indy ball signee, Nuno is a bad-bodied lefthander who had a breakout season with the Yankees. At age 24, he threw a ton of strikes both in relief at high Class A and then as Double-A Trenton's top starter. He has had a strong winter as well for Zulia in the Venezuelan League, racking up 19 more strikeouts in 21 innings while going 3-3, 2.11 with a save. Nuno throws four pitches for strikes with a sinking 87-91 mph fastball, a good changeup and two breaking balls, a distinct curveball and slider. He's more of a back-of-the-rotation starter than a lefty reliever, though, and had more success against righthanded hitters (.662 OPS) than lefties (.692) in the Eastern League.  

Nick Struck, rhp, Cubs: Strong-bodied at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Struck has solid control of a three-pitch mix and Double-A experience and was the Cubs' minor league pitcher of the year after going 14-10, 3.18 at Tennessee. He's mostly a sinker-slider guy whose changeup gives him a solid third offering when he finishes the pitch and gets some sink on it. His slider gets up to 83 mph and has to be on to give him a separator pitch. He's a relatively safe bet to stick among Rule 5 possibilities but has a lower ceiling than others listed here. Terry Doyle went second overall in last year's draft, and Struck fits a similar profile. He threw more than 170 innings counting his unimpressive Arizona Fall League stint, so he should be able to handle a heavy workload.

T.J. McFarland, lhp, Indians: McFarland has slowly climbed through the Indians system as a lefty starter, but he could fit in the Rule 5 draft as a swingman/lefty reliever. His 87-90 mph sinking fastball may gain a tick of velocity pitching in shorter stints, and his crossfire delivery helps generate deception. He has an average slider and a tick below-average changeup that gives him at least a shot against righthanded hitters. He generally keeps the ball down in the zone, limiting the damage when someone squares him up.

Austin Hyatt, rhp, Phillies: Hyatt doesn't really fit the profile of a Rule 5 pick, as he's a righthander who relies more on command and feel for pitching than blazing stuff. But he is a durable, relatively polished pitcher with plenty of Double-A experience—he's made 48 starts at Double-A to go with 11 at Triple-A. Hyatt survived with an 87-92 mph fastball because of his plus changeup and useable breaking ball. He has a solid track record of missing bats as a pro, averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine over 501 pro innings, but his K-rate decreased significantly in 2012 as he got hammered in Triple-A.

Relievers, Power-Armed and Specialists

Jose Dominguez, rhp, Dodgers: Dominguez may have more upside than any pitcher available in the Rule 5. His fastball regularly sits at 96-98 mph and has touched 100. It's a live fastball as well, with above-average riding life. Just 22, Dominguez has a clean arm, has flashed a short slider with tilt and also has a mid-80s changeup with sink, and his arm speed aids the pitch's deception. Naturally, a pitcher with that combination would be expected to be protected, but Dominguez posted a 5.25 ERA in his first full-season work with low Class A Great Lakes, working primarily out of the bullpen. Promoted late to Chattanooga, he struck out seven in his final 3 2/3 innings of the season, against Double-A Birmingham.

Control was a problem as he walked nearly six per nine innings this season, and Dominguez also has a 25-game drug-related suspension that was issued in early November. Unlike other drug suspensions, Dominguez's was announced merely as a "violation of the program," as opposed to a specific mention of the drug for which he tested positive.

Kenny Faulk, lhp, Tigers: Faulk made 40 appearances at Double-A Erie during the season, and the nine earned runs he allowed in two of them blew up his ERA to 4.53; without those two, he'd had a 3.20 ERA. More importantly, Faulk limited lefthanded hitters to four extra-base hits and a .183/.264/.256 slash line in 82 at-bats. Righthanded hitters tattooed him to the tune of .303/.406/.465, so he's a lefty specialist if he's picked. Thick-bodied at 6-foot, 210 pounds, he has two average pitches with an 88-91 mph fastball that touches 93, an average, firm slider in the low 80s and a feel for his changeup.

Brian Moran, lhp, Mariners: The nephew of B.J. Surhoff starred at North Carolina and has a funky delivery that helps him hide the ball. That is crucial because he pitches with below-average stuff in his 84-88 mph fastball and short slider. Moran has guile and had success in 2012, reaching Triple-A and striking out 53 in 37 innings there. He didn't give up a home run to a lefthanded hitter in 118 plate appearances in 2012 and would fit best as a specialist.

Yonata Ortega, rhp, Rangers: Signed by Texas as a minor league free agent, Ortega has the kind of arm strength teams are looking to find in the Rule 5 draft. What he doesn't have is much upper-level success. The Diamondbacks added him to their 40-man roster after a solid 2011 season, but his control regressed in Double-A Mobile in 2012 as he walked 40 batters in 52 innings. After sitting 94-97 mph in 2011, Ortega was more consistently 92-93 in 2012. He also has a solid splitter and an average curveball, when he locates it. Ortega's command problems work against him getting selected, but if a team sees something in his delivery they think they could fix, there is a chance he could be popped.

Adam Reifer, rhp, Cardinals: Reifer has a pretty ugly injury history—he missed almost all of 2007 with elbow problems and almost all of 2011 with a knee injury—but he has one of the better arms available in the Rule 5. Reifer throws a 92-95 mph fastball and a biting slider. His fastball has some natural cutting action that generates weak contact. A rough stretch in July (10 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings over five appearances) made his ERA look ugly, but he pitched better in August and unlike most Rule 5 candidates, he had plenty of Triple-A time under his belt.

Utility Players

Josh Fellhauer, rf, Reds: Coming off of a year where he batted .314/.409/.420 for Double-A Pensacola, Fellhauer can play all three outfield positions and get on-base (54 walks vs. 54 strikeouts in 2012) while hitting from the left side. His lack of upside to be anything more than a backup outfielder is an argument against a team picking him, but the former Cal State Fullerton product could fill a backup role inexpensively. A similarly-skilled former Titan, Erik Komatsu, got picked last year by the Cardinals.

Cole Figueroa, 2b/3b, Rays: Figueroa has big league bloodlines, a lefthanded bat and a utility profile. In addition, he draws walks, with a 43-31 BB-K ratio in 2012 and more walks (246) than strikeouts (194) as a pro. He spent most of 2012 at Triple-A Durham and has a contact-oriented approach that fits better in a reserve role. The son of ex-big leaguer Bien Figueroa, Cole has the savvy you'd expect to go with sound hands. His lack of range is his biggest defensive impediment, but he can play any infield spot in a pinch and could help stretch a bench stressed by a 13-man pitching staffs.

Premium Position Value

Carlos Perez, c, Astros: In a Blue Jays system that had plenty of catching depth, Perez moved slowly. He finally made his high Class A debut after a midseason trade to the Astros in the 10-player deal that sent Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ to Toronto in mid-July, and he wasn't protected in part because he hasn't played above Class A. Perez has the tools to be an average defender behind the plate with an average arm. He also has more hitting ability than the average catching prospect with good hand-eye coordination. He has shown he can handle premium velocity defensively, but the jump from high Class A to the big leagues would be a steep one if Perez is selected.

Injury Wild Cards

Adrian Salcedo, rhp, Twins: In an organization that lacks for starting pitching prospects, Salcedo would be on the fast track to Minnesota if he could stay healthy. Instead, he's available in the Rule 5 draft in part because of his injury troubles. One of the most polished pitchers in the Twins system, Salcedo has generally shown excellent control and enough stuff with a 90-93 mph fastball that touched 95 with plenty of sink, a fringy changeup and a developing breaking ball. But he missed significant time in 2012 with an elbow injury and later a shoulder problem. He was shut down in early May, returned briefly in July and then was shut down for good. Salcedo's athleticism gives him a chance to be a back-end starter if he can stay healthy, and his injury history could allow a team to stash him on the 60-day disabled list for a time in order to keep him.

Personal Cheeseballs

Michael Almanzar, 3b/1b, Red Sox: Signed for a $1.5 million bonus in 2007, the son of ex-big leaguer Carlos had his best season in 2012 and played in the AFL. Still, he's a corner bat who hasn't played above Class A, explaining why he's available.

Pat Venditte, p, Yankees: The switch-pitching former Creighton All-American missed most of the season with a torn right labrum. He's available and obviously delivers a platoon advantage against any batter.

Julio Rodriguez, rhp, Phillies: The 22-year-old native of Puerto Rico has been a consistent winner in the minors and has 10.1 SO/9 ratio in 441 career innings despite modest stuff.

Rinku Singh, lhp, Pirates: Signed out of an Indian reality TV show, Singh has shown three pitches and is lefthanded. He showed 90 mph velocity previously but has pitched in the mid-80s most of his career. Teams that like long-toss programs like Singh, but the Pirates are not long-toss proponents.

 • Justin Fitzgerald, rhp, Giants: The Giants treat him as an organizational player, and the righty has been a workhorse for three seasons since becoming a starter. He's thrown more than 450 innings the last three years and gave up just eight homers in 165 innings at Double-A Richmond in 2012.