Rule 5 Proves Surprisingly Active
Nationals take RHP Terrell Young first overall
See also: Complete list of Rule 5 picks
LAS VEGAS—For days at the Bellagio, the Rule 5 draft buzz was hardly a buzz, drowned out by the nearby slot machines and overshadowed by more pressing storylines playing out in the majors.
On Thursday, however, all eyes turned to what became an interesting and somewhat surprising Rule 5, with 21 players absorbed in the Major League phase alone, including 16 pitchers.
The Nationals came through as previously reported by selecting Reds righthander Terrell Young first overall. Among the other big names scooped up were Cubs lefthander Donnie Veal, by the Pirates at No. 4; Pirates lefthander Kyle Bloom, by the Tigers at No. 9; righthander Eduardo Morlan, a 2008 Futures Gamer, at No. 25 to the Brewers; and former Cubs farmhand and now former Orioles farmhand Rocky Cherry, taken by the Mets in the second round.
Six Yankees were taken in the Major League and Triple-A phases, the most that any organization lost.
Young, a 24-year-old reliever, went 2-5, 2.88 in 59 innings between low Class A Dayton and high Class A Sarasota last season. He is the first Rule 5 No. 1 pick not to have reached Double-A since Fabio Castro, taken by the Royals from the White Sox in 2005.
"I saw him twice and knew he had injury history. He had a labrum issue in 2006, and they treated it with rehab instead of surgery," said Bill Singer, special-assignment scout and coordinator of Pacific Rim operations for the Nationals. "In 2007, he was better and threw, but he had command issues. In 2008, he let it go, and the walk trends were better. We didn't see the 98 (BA) reported but we saw a lot of mid-90s. The first time I saw him, the breaking ball wasn't what it needed to be, and the changeup was just OK. When I saw him later, the breaking ball—it's a slider—had made improvements, and the changeup was much further along. It was a legitimate second pitch for him."
Makeup issues had chased Young in recent years, but the Nationals are satisfied with his growing maturity.
"We've heard that he's had those concerns, but he's street-smart and he got better, which shows me that he can absorb instruction," Singer said. "He has shown some aptitude. Our scouts who went into the home when he was in high school told us there were questions but that he's a good kid, and he's grown up some."
Meanwhile, the Mariners, already having made headlines on Wednesday in the three-team trade that sent Seattle closer J.J. Putz to the New Mets, took a flyer on Reegie Corona. Corona is a middle infielder who hit .274/.345/.365 with 24 steals, 27 doubles and 39 RBIs last season at Double-A Trenton (Yankees). The Mariners also obtained from the Royals lefthander Jose Lugo in a pre-arranged deal in which Kansas City, picking 10th, drafted Lugo from the Twins.
Corona will be a utilityman capable of playing second, short and third for the rebuilding Mariners, now under the direction of new general manager and former Brewers scouting director Jack Zdurienick.
"He's got plenty of range and can run, so we're excited," Zduriencik said. "You always need someone like that on your big league roster. Offensively, he's a classic two-hole hitter if it comes together. For the price you pay ($50,000) in the Rule 5, it's a low-risk move."
Lugo, who turns 25 next April, has a 95 mph heater with good sink and struck out 9.91 per nine innings as a reliever at high Class A Fort Myers.
"He's a far-away kid," Zdurienick said. "It's an unproven talent, more of a longshot because he is so far away from the big leagues. But in this kind of draft, getting a lefthanded pitcher with a pretty good arm gives you something."
A pair of pitchers routinely bandied about by media during the days leading up to the Rule 5 were Veal and Bloom, with some speculating whether anyone would take a Josh Hamilton-like gamble on Jeff Allison, the 2003 Marlins first-round pick who got his career back on track this year at low Class A Jupiter. Like Hamilton, Allison had serious drug problems that sidetracked his career. Allison, however, remained with the Marlins on Thursday.
But Veal and Bloom were early picks. Veal, rated No. 2 among Cubs prospects two years ago, has seen his career spiral much like the guy he is most compared to, Dontrelle Wills. Veal was 5-10, 4.52 with 123 strikeouts and a whopping 81 walks in 145 innings, speaking to the command and mechanical issues that plagued him through most of the summer. His command remained an issue in the Arizona Fall League. At his best, though, he still hits 94 mph with sink on the fastball.
Bloom, meanwhile, joins a Tigers staff that no longer has lefthander Kenny Rogers (not re-signed) and retains erratic lefty Nate Robertson, positioning Bloom as a possible No. 4 or 5 starter in the rotation. Bloom, 25, made strides in the second half at Double-A Altoona (Pirates), finishing 5-8, 4.19 with 93 strikeouts in almost 110 innings. He also received favorable reviews while pitching in Hawaii Winter Baseball.
Lou Palmisano, a catcher in the Brewers system, was taken by the Orioles at No. 5 but then traded to the Astros. He hit .297/.372/.416 with two home runs in 101 at-bats, most at high Class A Brevard County. He spent the two previous seasons at Double-A Huntsville and battled a knee injury in '08.
Another noteworthy pickup was righthander Luis Perdomo, taken sixth overall by the Giants. Perdomo was acquired by St. Louis in the late July trade that sent one-time World Series hero Anthony Reyes to the Indians. Perdomo was 7-3, 2.36 with 82 strikeouts and 30 walks in 72 innings combined at high Class A Kinston, Double-A Akron and Double-A Springfield.
The major league phase featured one more trade, as the Reds drafted righthander David Patton from the Rockies organization and traded him to the Cubs. All three trades were for cash considerations.
In the Triple-A phase, the Nationals made Ricardo Nanita, an outfielder in the White Sox chain, the top pick. The White Sox also lost shortstop Robert Valido to the Orioles, who are hurting at shortstop throughout the organization.
The Blue Jays selecting Cardinals outfielder Cody Haerther, the second time in as many years he has joined Toronto. It'll be interesting to see if he sticks. Toronto claimed the lefthanded hitting outfielder off waivers from the Cardinals in November 2007, then placed him back on waivers within days in order to make room for lefthander and former first-rounder David Purcey on their 40-man roster. The Cardinals then re-claimed Haerther immediately and kept him on the 40-man until July 2.
Haerther, a 6-foot, 190-pound lefthanded batter, was a career .303/.364/.474 hitter with 42 home runs since being a sixth-round pick out of California's Chaminade Prep Academy in 2002. But he struggled in 2008, hitting .258/.331/.353 with three home runs and just 29 RBIs in 326 at-bats combined at Triple-A Memphis and Double-A Springfield.