2014 Rule 5 Draft Preview

UPDATED 9:16 p.m.: Added note that the Diamondbacks are expected to take Rays’ catcher Oscar Hernandez with the first pick.

The Rule 5 draft is usually like a tiny dog. It makes a lot of noise, but in the end, it’s usually not a big deal.

There have been a number of Rule 5 players who have stuck with teams in recent years, but very few who have gone on to make significant big league impacts.

But when teams survey this year’s Rule 5 draft list, they think there might be a better class of talent than usual. In talks with the Rule 5 decision-makers for multiple teams, they see this year as one of the best classes since the rules on Rule 5 eligibility were tweaked before the 2006 draft to add an extra year of protection for clubs.

A lot of teams really start bearing down on the Rule 5 Draft on Wednesday. Lining up big league trades, free agent signings and other tweaks takes precedence. But there are some names who keep popping up.

Here’s a look at names that are popping up the most frequently along with a case for why they could get picked and why they might go unpicked. The Rule 5 draft is always about the eye of the beholder–a player doesn’t need a consensus of teams to like him, he just needs one.

Multiple sources outside of the Diamondbacks organization believe that Arizona will take Rays catcher Oscar Hernandez with the first pick. The Twins are expected to take Braves righthander J.R. Graham with the fifth pick if Graham makes it that far.

For a more in-depth look at Thursday’s Rule 5 draft, check out our expansive and ever-expanding preview, which has writeups on more than 75 players.

Andrew McKirahan, lhp, Cubs

Why He Could Be Picked

He has a plus fastball (92-96 mph) and was pitching extremely well at the end of the season. He has Double-A time so the jump to the big leagues won’t be as steep as some other, less-experienced power arms. His control has been excellent (less than 2 walks per nine innings in 2014). He’s a pitcher with further upside because he’s missed so much time with Tommy John surgery–he has only 120 pro innings in four seasons.

Why He Wouldn’t Be Picked

McKirahan’s breaking balls is inconsistent, which explains why he’s had more trouble with lefthanded hitters than righthanded bats. His injury history is somewhat of a concern.

J.R. Graham, rhp, Braves

Why He Could Be Picked

Graham was the Braves’ No. 2 prospect after the 2012 season and No. 3 after the 2013 season. At his best, Graham showed a 93-97 mph fastball and an average slider. A team willing to take a chance that he can regain his best stuff could snag a premium talent at a very inexpensive price. Graham’s recent shoulder problems could also make it easier for him to stick on the roster. A player needs to spend 90 days on the active big league roster to meet Rule 5 eligibilty rules. So if he needed to, Graham could spend nearly half of the season on the disabled list as long as he’s on the active roster for two months between April and August. Keeping him active in September with the expanded rosters would be easy.

Why He Wouldn’t Be Picked

Graham’s stuff was not nearly as good in 2014 as its been in the past and he especially trailed off in the second half, which explains why he was left unprotected. Graham could regain much of his previous plus stuff, but its at least as likely that his shoulder problems mean that 95-plus mph fastball is a distant memory.

Gregory Infante, rhp, Blue Jays

Why He Could Be Picked

If you saw him at the right time, Infante was extremely impressive. He has always had a plus to plus-plus fastball (96-97 mph on his best nights) and he’s improved his slider to the point where it is average. Control has always been Infante’s problem, but it was somewhat improved this year. He’s been impressive recently in the Venezuelan winter league so scouts have gotten a good look at him right before the draft. Infante has previous big league experience and is coming off of a season where he went 2-2, 1.94 with 44 strikeouts in 46 innings between Double-A and Triple-A so he’s about as big league ready as anyone available.

Why He Wouldn’t Be Picked

Infante’s control has kept him from putting together a significant big league career and there is no sign that the 27-year-old has truly turned a corner. He has below-average control, which is the kind of issue that can quickly frustrate a big league manager and make it harder for him to stick on the roster.

Roberto Pena, c, Astros

Why He Could Be Picked

Pena is an excellent defender who has an extremely accurate arm. If a team is looking for an inexpensive backup catcher, Pena has the defensive polish to make the jump all the way from high Class A to the big leagues.

Why He Wouldn’t Be Picked

To stick as a Rule 5 catcher, a player has to prove he can be a quality No. 2 catcher who can start at least 20-30 games. Pena’s bat would be overtaxed for those 100-150 at-bats right now.

Jandel Gustave, rhp, Astros

Why He Could Be Picked

Power arms are always in demand, so when a team can land a pitcher who will touch 100 mph on a pretty regular basis, understandably a lot of scouts will be interested.

Why He Wouldn’t Be Picked

Gustave posted a 5.01 ERA in low Class A last year so he’s a long ways away from being big league ready. Besides his 100 mph fastball, he doesn’t really have the assortment or control to help a big league club out now. He’d be a stash pick, much like the Brewers did with Wei-Chung Wang last year, in hopes that down the road he could help out in a much more significant way.

Delino DeShields, of, Astros

Why He Could Be Picked

DeShields is the best combination of speed and power you will find in this year’s Rule 5 class. He stole 101 bases back in 2012 and has stolen 50+ bases each of the past two seasons while also reach double digits in home runs twice in the past three years. He’s still raw in center field but his speed allows him to make up for some poor reads. He also played second base in the past so he could also fill in there. DeShields has always shown on-base skills that could allow him to become a leadoff hitter.

Why He Wouldn’t Be Picked

Multiple scouts are turned off by DeShields’ lack of effort at times. He’s made it to Double-A, but he’s coming off of a poor season statistically. His defensive issues make it harder to to keep him on an active roster as a backup outfielder.

Oscar Hernandez, c, Rays

Why He Could Be Picked

Hernandez is an extremely toosly catcher with a big arm and equally big power. He put together one of the greatest Venezuelan Summer League seasons one will ever see in 2011, hitting .402/.503/.732 with 21 home runs. He led the league in batting average by 38 points, home runs by 13, slugging percentage by .238 points, total bases by 37 and on-base percentage by 39 points. If he develops, Hernandez could be a catcher who limits running games while hitting 15-20 home runs. Athletic for a catcher, he’s an average runner.

Why He Wouldn’t Be Picked

Hernandez isn’t a fully polished catcher defensively yet. He’s actually not even the most presently accomplished defensive catcher on his own team–Armando Araiza was more advanced, although Hernandez does have quick feet behind the plate. Even more importantly, he’s struggled to hit for average throughout his career with the exception of that one year in 2011. He projects as a below-average hitter, albeit with above-average power potential.

Comments are closed.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone