2018 MLB Rule 5 Draft Preview (Updated 12/12)
TO SEE THE 2018 RULE 5 RESULTS, CLICK HERE.
The Rule 5 draft is the day where misfit toys can find new homes. By its design, everyone who is available to be picked in the Rule 5 draft has been snubbed. Players who have not been added to 40-man rosters by their current team will get a chance to try to make it to the majors with another team. They will get spring training invites, and even if they get offered back to their original team, they will have gotten a pay bump.
We will continue to add to our Rule 5 preview in the lead-up to 9 a.m. PT on Dec. 13 when the Baltimore Orioles will announce the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, but here is our third update.
Teams must have an open 40-man roster spot to pick a player in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 draft. As of Friday, Dec. 7 seven teams had full rosters (Braves, Dodgers, Marlins, Yankees, Pirates, Padres and Rays) although teams have until the morning of Dec. 13 to clear roster space for the Rule 5 draft.
The 2018 MLB Rule 5 draft order:
1. Baltimore (38)
2. Kansas City (38)
3. Chicago White Sox (38)
4. Miami (38)
5. Detroit (38)
6. San Diego (40, full roster)
7. Cincinnati (37)
8. Texas (35)
9. San Francisco (35)
10. Toronto (38)
11. New York Mets (36)
12. Minnesota (40, full roster)
13. Philadelphia (37)
14. Los Angeles Angels (37)
15. Arizona (37)
16. Washington (37)
17. Pittsburgh (39)
18. St. Louis (40, full roster)
19. Seattle (36)
20. Atlanta (39)
21. Tampa Bay (40, full roster)
22. Colorado (39)
23. Cleveland (39)
24. Los Angeles Dodgers (40, full roster)
25. Chicago Cubs (36)
26. Milwaukee (36)
27. Oakland (37)
28. New York Yankees (40, full roster)
29. Houston (39)
30. Boston (39)
*A previous version listed the Padres roster at 39.
Top 10 2018 MLB Rule 5 Draft Prospects To Watch
UPDATE: We've made a couple of tweaks to the Top 10, and we've added a ranking of players who we have heard mentioned by reliable MLB sources as likely picks near the top of the draft. As of midnight heading into Dec. 13, the buzz around the Mandalay Bay lobby is that Richie Martin will be the first pick, but that has not been confirmed by any Orioles officials. There are plenty of names we've heard confidently floated as picks in past years who don't get picked, but these players are more likely to hear their names called than others on this list.
1. Richie Martin, SS, Athletics
Martin has long faced questions about his bat, but he's shortstop with excellent hands and a plus arm. And in his third stint at Double-A Midland, he hit .302/.370/.442. As a shortstop with some success hitting in Double-A, he immediately becomes a very interesting Rule 5 candidate. Some scouts question his range, as they say he's less athletic than he used to be and his body is slowing down.
2. Sam McWilliams, RHP, Rays
McWIlliams has already been traded twice. A Phillies draft pick, he was shipped to Arizona in the Jeremy Hellickson trade and then was one of the players to be named acquired by the Rays in last offseason's three-team Steven Souza-Brandon Drury trade. McWilliams is a big (6-foot-7) righthander who has always had a firm fastball (90-94 mph) and a solid slider, but he's been improving his changeup to the point where it's a viable third pitch. His stats at Double-A Montgomery were hurt by a ballooning home run rate, but at his best he shows the traits of a back-of-the-rotation starter.
3. Riley Ferrell, RHP, Astros
Ferrell had a rocky return this season in his second year back from shoulder surgery, but he has the same swing-and-miss stuff he had when the Astros drafted him in the third round in 2015. What he doesn't have is the control to know where that stuff is going--he walked nearly six batters per nine innings this season. When they were rebuilding years ago, the Astros had success nabbing Josh Fields in the Rule 5 draft with a similar profile (big stuff, poor control). Now someone could try to do the same thing to the Astros.
Ray-Patrick Didder, SS/OF, Braves
Didder is a backup, but he's a very versatile backup. Everyone got to watch him play second, third and shortstop in the Arizona Fall League and he's shown in the past that he can be an above-average center fielder. Didder is a plus runner with a plus arm, excellent versatility and an ability to help as a pinch runner, utility infielder/outfielder and a low-impact pinch hitter who makes contact but doesn't have much power. He has a lower ceiling than what many teams look for in a Rule 5 pick, but he can help a big league team in 2019, which is something many Rule 5 candidates can't say.
Jairo Beras, RHP, Rangers
Beras converted from the outfield to the pitching mound and immediately showed exceptional arm speed. He's touched 100 mph and in his better outings he'll sit 95-98. His velocity does vary from outing to outing, but he showed surprisingly impressive feel for someone so new to the mound and he struck out 12.5 per nine innings in 54 innings with high Class A Down East while holding opponents to a .180 average.
Jackson McClelland, RHP, Blue Jays
McClelland spent most of 2018 in a return to high Class Dunedin before a late-season bump up to Double-A New Hampshire. He also pitched in the Arizona Fall League where he held righthanders to a .125 batting average and slugging percentage but a frightening .417 on-base percentage. McClelland throws harder now than he did in college at Pepperdine as he now sits 97-98 and touches 100. His delivery hides the ball well, but he does face control issues.
Nine Players Who Are Unlikely Opening Day Roster Additions
Baseball is filled with unique stories and unlikely big leaguers. Here are nine players J.J. Cooper is thrilled to see get their day in the sun, for a variety of reasons.
Kean Wong, 2B, Rays
Wong is a lefthanded-hitting second baseman who had two productive years at Triple-A Durham. He hit .282/.345/.406 this past season while playing second base, third base, left field and center field. What hurts Wong as a Rule 5 candidate is his below-average arm. For teams who like to shift, Wong struggled to make those throws from short right field when he was shifted at second. But he can hit and is big league ready and his hands work well at second base.
Jake Gatewood, 1B/3B, Brewers
A torn ACL that required surgery may actually make it easier for Gatewood to be a Rule 5 pick. Because of the injury, Gatewood could begin the year on the disabled list, head out in June for a injury rehab assignment in the minors and join the big league club in July. By doing so, he could still fulfill Rule 5 requirements by being on the active roster for 90 days. Outfielder/first baseman Anthony Santander followed a similar path for the Orioles as a Rule 5 pick in 2016 following shoulder surgery. Gatewood has some of the best power potential among eligible players, but his home runs have come with plenty of strikeouts and a .302 on-base percentage last season at Double-A Biloxi. A team picking him would be wise to view Gatewood as a four corners player (left, right, third and first) rather than the first baseman he's primarily been with Milwaukee. The former shortstop is a much better athlete than most first baseman and has a strong arm.
Reed Garrett, RHP, Rangers
Garrett took a nice step forward in 2018 as improved control paid off in excellent results as he both threw more strikes and did a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark. Garrett now has more than 200 innings of Double-A/Triple-A experience with a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider.
Zach Thompson, RHP, White Sox
Thompson spent the previous two seasons getting rocked around the Carolina League as a starter. But a move to the bullpen paid off as Thompson was much more effective and simply a better pitcher in 2018. He now can rely heavily on his 93-94 mph fastball and an at least average cutter. He proved hard to hit at high Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham and struck out more than a batter an inning.
Others To Watch
Power Hitting Corner Bats
Teams rarely look or find sluggers in the Rule 5 draft. For National League teams, the idea of carrying a bench power bat has become tougher and tougher unless they can provide some defensive versatility. The path is a little easier in the American League, but teams are often reluctant to turn over the DH role to a rookie.
Josh Ockimey, 1B, Red Sox
It's understandable that the Red Sox left Ockimey unprotected--the club's biggest strength in the minors is corner infield power bats, and two of the prospects ahead of him on the depth chart can play first and third base while Ockimey is stretched at first base. But Ockimey has a track record of hitting for reasonable power and he gets on base. A rebuilding team could decide that he's worth a look as a first baseman/DH with power and walks.
Roberto Ramos, 1B, Rockies
Ramos' power will play in the big leagues He hit 32 home runs last season between high Class A Lancaster and Double-A Hartford. Ramos posts consistently excellent exit velocities and draws plenty of walks to go with his power. Working against him getting picked is his lack of upper-level minor league experience (only 199 at-bats at Double-A) and his lack of versatility. It's very hard for teams to carry a backup who is limited to playing first base only.
Drew Ward, 3B, Nationals
Ward was unprotected and unpicked last year and the same will likely be true this season. He returned to Double-A Harrisburg for a second consecutive season. He did show some modest improvement, but he isn't showing the power production that would be expected from his raw power. He has timing issues and strikes out too much. Also, he played more first base than third base this year as he faces more questions about his glove at third.
Ibandel Isabel, 1B, Reds
Isabel tied Peter Alonso for the minor league home run lead last year with 36 home runs last season. He has 64 home runs over the past two seasons. No one doubts Isabel's power, but his strikeout rate means he'd likely threaten the MLB strikeout record if given a full season of at-bats.
Lewin Diaz, 1B, Twins
A year ago, Diaz named bounced around the lobby at the Winter Meetings as a potential pick who could be stashed by a rebuilding team even though he'd yet to play above low Class A. In the end no one decided to take that chance. A year later, it's harder to make a case for him to be picked. Diaz missed the final two months of the season with a thumb injury, but he posted a .224/.255/.344 line with high Class A Fort Myers before his injury.
Around baseball in general there is less demand for left-on-left specialists and trying to find such a player in the Rule 5 draft has generally been an exercise in futility--they best recent success story is Tigers lefty Daniel Stumpf, a two-time Rule 5 pick who failed to stick. Because he was a two-time Rule 5 pick, by rule he could opt for free agency, which he did and then re-signed with the Tigers. Most of the lefty specialists on this list have at least some ability to handle righthanded hitters as well.
Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Indians
Kaminsky has had trouble staying healthy recently. He sprained his elbow ligament in 2017, although he was able to rehab it without surgery. He then missed the first half of the 2018 season with an abdomen strain. But he was back on the mound to pitch effectively at high Class A Lynchburg, Double-A Akron and in the Arizona Fall League after he shook off some initial rust (he walked seven of 11 batters he faced over two late-June outings and then allowed only 13 walks over his next 35 innings. The Cardinals' 2013 first-round pick now throws from a low slot that makes his low 90s fastball and mid-80s slider effective in same-side matchups. He held lefties to a .188/.250/.271 line at Akron.
D.J. Snelten, LHP, Orioles
Snelten had a brief and unsuccessful stint with the Giants last season before being waived and claimed by the Orioles. Snelten's stuff is fringy, but he was quite effective in 2017 when he held lefties to a .158 average. Snelten depends on deception and funkiness.
Ryan Sherriff, LHP, Rays
Sherriff will miss at least half the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, which led to the Cardinals waiving him off the 40-man roster. The Rays signed him to a minor league contract. The injury makes it unlikely he'll get picked, but he's a lefty with some MLB experience (20 innings between 2017 and 2018).
Chris Lee, LHP, Orioles
Lee was considered one of the better pitching prospects in the Orioles system not that long ago, but his 2018 season got off to a late start because of a shoulder injury. He's battled injuries throughout his stint with the Orioles, making him a risky pick, but if he's healthy his fastball has plenty of sink.
Luis Gonzalez, LHP, Orioles
Gonzales above-average fastball-cutter combo was effective at Double-A Bowie where he struck out 58 in 45.2 innings. It was less effective in a late-season bump to Triple-A.
Josh Smoker, LHP, Dodgers
Smoker threw 56 innings for the Mets in 2017 and had brief stints with the Pirates and Tigers last season. He has more value as a reliever who can be brought up as needed than one to be carried all season on the big league roster, but it only takes one team who thinks differently.
Anderson Severino, LHP, Yankees
Severino has MLB-caliber stuff with a hard mid-90s fastball and an above-average curveball But his command and control has kept him from having much success with it yet and he has yet to pitch above Class A.
Phil Pfeifer, LHP, Braves
Pfeifer is coming off a season where he posted a 6.86 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP at Triple-A Gwinnett, so he didn’t exactly pitch like a big leaguer. But Pfeifer’s fastball/curve combo is major league caliber if he can remember how to throw strikes consistently.
Travis Bergen, LHP, Blue Jays
Bergen's high spin rate fastball baffled hitters, especially as he matches it with a solid curveball. He's able to handle righthanders and lefthanders and could be more than a matchup lefty. Statistically he's one of the best pitchers available in this year's class.
Max Schrock, 2B, Cardinals
Schrock is well-traveled (he's been traded twice) and he's coming off of his worst year in pro ball, but until last season he'd hit wherever he'd played. He's a fringy defender at second base and doesn't have much defensive versatility (he can't play shortstop) which hurts his case as a Rule 5 pick, but a team who believe he's a plus hitter could be enticed.
Jake Cronenworth, 2B/SS, Rays
Cronenworth has gone from being a starter/reliever at Michigan who also played first base to become an even more versatile shortstop/second baseman/third baseman in pro ball. His plus arm is still apparent in the infield and he has some survival skills at the plate, although his lack of power makes him a backup option at best.
Drew Jackson, 2B/SS, Dodgers
Jackson has power and speed and plays and can play both middle infield spots and is a passable center fielder. His speed, fringe-average power and arm could be alluring to a team willing to live with a questionable hit tool.
Chris Torres, SS, Marlins
Torres has better tools and upside than most of the middle infielders on this list, but he’s also yet to play above low Class A. Torres can handle the job of playing second base and shortstop in the big leagues defensively, but it’s much harder to believe he’s ready to handle the job offensively.
Humberto Arteaga, SS, Royals
Arteaga has a very light bat, but he's one of the best defensive shortstops in the Rule 5 draft, which means he could be taken by someone looking for a backup middle infielder.
Kyle Holder, SS, Yankees
Holder's reputation is very similar to Arteaga's. He can field but no one is confident he can hit. But Arteaga has the advantage of more upper level experience.
Nowadays almost all relievers are hard-throwing relievers, but the allure of drafting a 100-mph fireballer is less than it used to be. Nowadays every team has numerous relievers with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and sometimes a second pitch. That said, teams still will at least consider the chance to land a power arm.
Junior Fernandez, RHP, Cardinals
Fernandez didn't throw as consistently hard in 2018 as he has in the past. He's also had a long list of injuries and has yet to develop the secondary pitches to give him survival skills in the major leagues. All of that makes it unlikely he'll get picked and less likely he'll stick, but he does have a very good arm.
Roel Ramirez, RHP, Cardinals
Ramirez was sent to the Cardinals in last season's Tommy Pham trade. He has had modest Double-A success (2.95 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 9.8 K/9) to go with massive stuff that includes a high-90s mph fastball.
Ronald Pena, RHP, Nationals
Pena has been a late-bloomer, but he made significant strides in 2018 as he pitched in the high Class A Carolina League all-star game and was promoted to Double-A for the second half of the season. He's touched 100 mph and generally works in the high 90s with a power slider that earns average and above-average grades. Pena's control suffered after his bump to Double-A, but he continued to strike out more than a batter an inning, so the 27-year-old might entice a team, although his still fringy control will urge caution.
Jose Moreno, RHP, Mets
Moreno missed all of 2016, so his development has been slowed, which explains why he's Rule 5 eligible before he's ever reached full season ball. He has an excellent arm and a good frame, but pitchers don't jump from the Appalachian League to the big leagues, even in the Rule 5 draft.
Jordan Guerrero, RHP, Padres
There are two Rule 5 eligible Jordan Guerrero's which will make for some significant confusion. The righthanded Guerrero is a 22-year-old righthander who was a sixth-round pick of the Padres in 2015 out of Polk State (Fla.) JC. Guerrero has long had a high-octane fastball, but he has zero upper-level experience. Guerrero struggled with his control in a return to low Class A Fort Wayne (and was suspended for a national anthem staredown). He's massive (close to 300 pounds), but he finished the season by throwing 22 scoreless outings for short-season Tri-City as he allowed only nine hits in 22.1 innings. He sits in the upper 90s and has touched 100 mph while trying to blow hitters away.
Diogenes Almengo, RHP, Orioles
Almengo was released by the Astros last winter after four seasons in rookie ball and short-season. The Orioles picked him up, held him back in extended spring training but then watched him graduate from the New York-Penn League to the South Atlantic League, where he finished the season by striking out 19 in 14.1 innings. He has a big high-90s fastball and a quality changeup but he's far, far away and doesn't have a usable breaking ball.
Aneurys Zabala, RHP, Reds
Acquired from the Dodgers in last July's Dylan Floro trade, Zabala has long lit up radar guns but he hasn't had results to match the velocity. He's yet to pitch above low Class A and he has control issues (5.7 BB/9 and only 7.3 K/9 in 2018).
Johan Quezada, RHP, Twins
Quezada has 9.2 innings of experience in full season ball, so he's a reasonable risk to leave unprotected. But Quezada has a big arm and is showing signs of figuring out his control. It's hard to see him being picked or sticking on an MLB roster even as a stashed player, but he's a promising arm.
Stetson Allie, RHP, Dodgers
A 2010 first-round pick of the Pirates, Allie switched from pitching to hitting in 2012, leaving a trail of dented backstops in his wake. But when being a power hitter didn't work out, he moved back to the mound in 2017. He still has near bottom-of-the-scale control, but Allie does have one of the best arms in baseball. He can sit 98-99 mph with his fastball and mixes in a hard slider. He actually has some feel too, as he'll mess with hitter's timing, but his best weapon is the fear batters have because his scattershot control means any pitch could accidentally be heading right at them.
Hector Lujan, RHP, Twins
Lujan hasn't pitched above high Class A, but he has had success (5-5, 2.65 with 8.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9) and he showed a 94-96 mph fastball and a hard slider in the Arizona Fall League.
Connor Walsh, RHP, White Sox
Walsh took a step backward in 2018. After reaching Triple-A Charlotte in 2017, Walsh's control abandoned him in 2018 and he ended up being demoted back to high Class A. But Walsh has a plus fastball and a high spin rate (3,000 rpm) curveball.
Jake Reed, RHP, Twins
Reed was part of a wave of relief prospects the Twins picked in 2014 and 2015. That approach hasn't worked out well, but Reed had a solid 2018 season with Triple-A Rochester, where he posted a 1.89 ERA and proved tough to hit (34 hits in 47.2 innings). He's always had an impressive fastball, but he's also continued to battle wildness (4 BB/9 in 2018).
Michael Matuella, RHP, Rangers
Matuella’s career has been ruined by injuries so far, which may be enough of a concern for teams to stay away--if you draft a player in the Rule 5 draft, you also assume responsibility for medical bills going forward. After an awful 2018 season, Matuella reminded everyone of his promise with a strong instructional league where he was 95-96 with a promising slider in shorter stints.
Art Warren, RHP, Mariners
When healthy Warren has shown two plus pitches--a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider. But he’s coming off of a very injury-filled season. He battled shoulder problems--but nothing that has required surgery. Warren’s control was completely absent in 2018, but that can partly be explained by the shoulder issues.
Josh Graham, RHP, Braves
Graham, a converted catcher, has hit a wall when he reaches Double-A as his control has fallen apart. But he has had success in Class A and he has an above-average fastball and a promising changeup.
Luis Mora, RHP, Braves
Mora can touch 100 mph but he's had injury issues and his control is frighteningly wild.
Brett Eibner, RHP, Rangers
Eibner was a second round pick of the Royals as an outfielder. He moved to the mound in 2017 and almost immediately blew out his elbow. But he got back on the mound late in the 2018 season and showed a mid-90s fastball again. He's raw as a pitcher (although he also pitched at Arkansas), but he could be a 25th man who can play outfield and pitch.
Elvis Luciano, RHP, Royals
Luciano is in no way ready for a big league job and the lost development time would hurt him. But he is one of the more promising prospects available because a renegotiated contract has made him eligible as an 18-year-old with no experience about short-season ball.
Starters/Relievers With Length And Feel
Cy Sneed, RHP, Astros
Sneed has long been a productive pitcher, but he's developed into a slightly harder-throwing, well-rounded pitcher who profiles as a Rule 5 pick as a multi-inning reliever who can fill in as a spot starter. He mixes a fastball, curve, split and change while touching 93-94 mph. His control and command waver, but he has a track record of getting outs.
Matt Blackham, RHP, Mets
Blackham has a lengthy medical history (ulnar transposition surgery and an elbow fracture), but he's been healthy for the past two seasons and he's been extremely effective. He held hitters to a .170 average last season between high Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton with an effective fastball-knuckle curve-changeup combination.while striking out 11.7 batters per nine innings.
Chris Ellis, RHP, Cardinals
Acquired by the Cardinals in 2016's Jaime Garcia trade, Ellis has bounced between starting and relieving and he's bounced between being a finesse pitcher and more of a power arm. His velocity has spiked into the mid-90s when working out of then bullpen but his slider is not the swing-and-miss pitch scouts expected it to develop into. Ellis is durable and he's tamed some of the control problems he faced earlier in his career. He went 10-4, 3.93 with a 1.17 WHIP in 2018.
Casey Meisner, RHP, Cardinals
Meisner was once a key part of the A's haul when they sent Tyler Clippard to the Mets. His career has somewhat stagnated since then and he was traded again last spring. Meisner has a plus changeup to go with an average fastball, but he has yet to develop a quality breaking ball. A team picking Meisner would likely be betting on their ability to get a little more from a lanky 23-year-old who still has potential to grow.
Brandon Waddell, LHP, Pirates
Waddell is a back-of-the-rotation starter/long reliever. The former Virginia star mixes a fringe-average fastball and an above-average changeup with a fearlessness that makes it work. He doesn't have a lot of margin for error, but he has upper-level minor league experience and has generally been durable.
Spencer Adams, RHP, White Sox
Adams survives by mixing three fringe-average to average pitches. He has plenty of upper-level minor league experience (more than 350 innings at Double-A and Triple-A). But he also struck out only four batters per nine innings last season. He's a back-of-the-rotation option for a rebuilding team.
Jon Olczak, RHP, Brewers
Olczak uses a quality curveball to help make a modest fastball work. He struck out 60 in 56 innings with a 1.44 ERA for Double-A Biloxi.
Erick Leal, RHP, Cubs
Leal has a fastball-changeup combo that gives him some ability to turn over a lineup a time or two. But his fastball is only average at best (89-92 mph with some movement). His changeup is a plus pitch, so a team who believes they can improve his curveball could be interested.
Andrew Kittredge, RHP, Rays
Kittredge lost a little off his fastball, as he sat more 92-93 rather than the 93-95 he showed in 2017. That also made his slider a little less effective, but Kittredge has 53.2 big league innings over the past two seasons, so he’s a low-ceiling, high floor possibility.
Kieran Lovegrove, RHP, Giants
Lovegrove was great at high Class A Lynchburg last season and pitched in the Futures Game. But his mid-90s fastball wasn’t as effective after he jumped to Double-A because his control deserted him.
Ryan Merritt, LHP, Rays
Merritt pitched effectively if briefly with Cleveland in 2017. In 2018 he was extremely precise with his location. He had an incredible 52-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 71.1 innings. Nothing Merritt throws is overpowering, but he has control and craftiness.
Wes Benjamin, LHP, Rangers
The Rangers drafted Benjamin in the fifth round right after he went down with an elbow injury. He missed all of the 2014 season and almost all of 2015 recovering. He's been durable since then and has shown he can survive by throwing strikes and mixes pitches with average stuff.
Raynel Espinal, RHP, Yankees
Espinal has been around for quite a while, but in his sixth season he reached Triple-A and put together one of the best statistical seasons of anyone available. He struck out 12.8 batters per nine innings between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
It's unrealistic to think that any outfielder picked in the Rule 5 draft is going to step in and be a regular (although it has happened in the cases of Odubel Herrera and Josh Hamilton). So usually Rule 5 outfielders are versatile outfielders who can play a variety of positions as a backup.
Alec Keller, OF, Nationals
Keller hit .337/.393/.446 between high Class A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg last season. He's primarily a corner outfielder, although a team picking him is likely going to want to try to see if he can play center well enough to be a true outfielder. Keller's tools are a little limited compared to some of the other guys on this list, but he has 400 Double-A at-bats and has consistently gotten on-base, albeit with very little power.
Michael Gettys, OF, Padres
Gettys still has the power and speed that enamored the Padres when they took him in the second round in 2014. But those positives have been buried under an avalanche of strikeouts. Gettys can play an excellent center field and his plus arm holds baserunners at bay. When he connects he can also drive the ball. But he has never connected enough to let his outstanding tools play. A team in need of a backup center fielder could sniff around, but there are players with similar profiles on the edges of 40-man rosters at the end of spring training.
Drew Ferguson, OF, Astros
A fractured wrist cost Ferguson two months last year, but when he was on the field he did what he usually does by hitting for average and getting on-base. Ferguson doesn't match the upside of some other players on this list, but he does a lot of little things well. He can play all three outfield spots, does an excellent job of working counts and generally fits the profile of a fourth outfielder. The 26-year-old has nearly 700 at-bats at Double-A and Triple-A.
Rafael Bautista, OF, Nationals
If not for a significant knee injury, Bautista would have a decent case for a team looking for a backup outfielder to play defense and pinch run. Bautista has actually filled that role briefly in D.C. before in 2016 and 2017. His talents are less useful to a Nationals team that already has Victor Robles, and Bautista has plenty of injury issues on his resume. But when healthy, he's been an outstanding basestealing threat with three seasons of more than 40 steals and he covers plenty of ground in center field.
Michael Beltre, OF, Reds
Beltre didn’t play as much center field in 2018, but a team picking him would need to believe he could handle center as well as both corner outfield spots. He’s yet to play above high Class A, but he draws walks with a contact-oriented approach that may fit as a fourth outfielder.
It's always hard to carry a catcher as a Rule 5 pick because the player picked either has to be the team's primary backup, which is a tough assignment for any Rule 5 pick, or he has to be carried as a third catcher, which ruins roster flexibility. Neither approach has worked all that well in recent years. The Reds carried Stuart Turner primarily as a No. 3 catcher before designating his for assignment at the end of the season. Oscar Hernandez and Luis Torrens are examples of team's taking a developmental catcher. It didn't work with Hernandez, but the jury is still out on Torrens.
Jhonny Pereda, C, Cubs
The track record for RUle 5 catchers without upper level minor league experience is an ugly one, and Pereda has yet to play above high Class A. But he has a future backup catcher profile with some strength and athleticism to go with the drive and determination teams like in their catchers. He has some solid power potential although his bat speed may limit his ability to hit for average.
Brett Sullivan, C, Rays
Sullivan was caught in a little bit of a numbers game with the Rays. They had a full 40-man roster and they also had a couple of Triple-A catchers in Michael Perez and Nick Ciuffo who are already on the 40-man roster with similar skill sets. A former shortstop who the Rays converted to catcher, Sullivan has made excellent strides to develop into a solid defender. The lefthanded hitter has a light bat, which is the biggest question he faces as to whether he fits a backup catcher profile.
David Rodriguez, C, Rays
Rodriguez is not ready for the big leagues, but he's more ready than Oscar Hernandez did when the D-Backs picked the then-Rays catcher in 2014. Rodriguez is a solid defender with some offensive potential. But he hit .230/.286/.337 at Double-A Mongtomery and the 22-year-old could use some more seasoning.
Ali Sanchez, C, Mets
Sanchez was voted the best defensive catcher in the Mets system last year. He calls a good game and is an excellent pitch presenter who can steal strikes. He's in no way ready to hit in the major leagues (he posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage in Class A) but if a team is looking for a glove-only backup, he could be enticing.
Deivi Grullon, C, Phillies
Grullon hit 21 home runs last season for Double-A Reading. He has all-fields power and is a competent defender. Power and defense is the normal profile of a backup catcher, so there are some reasons to be intrigued.
Austin Rei, C, Red Sox
Rei has long carried an excellent defensive reputation, but he’s equally carried worries about his bat. He is coming off his best season at the plate, but that was still a modest .249/.355/.392 line at Double-A Portland.
Joe Hudson, C, Cardinals
Hudson has always been all-glove, no-hit, but it's a very solid glove and last year he hit at Triple-A for the first time. He has some brief big league experience and is a plausible backup catcher candidate.
Russell Wilson, 2B/QB, Yankees
Wilson has been picked in a previous minor league Rule 5 draft and also traded. It's actually a semi-useful gambit. Wilson shows up during spring training and provides an interesting fan boost for a spring training home game. In essence, the $24,000 minor league Rule 5 price is an appearance fee. And then, when someone else picks him in a year or two, you get your $24,000 back.
Jeff Driskel, QB/OF, Red Sox
Driskel has never played a game for the Red Sox, but he did sign a contract, so the Bengals current starting quarterback is also Rule 5 eligible.
Minor League Rule 5 Picks
Predicting Minor League Rule 5 picks is very difficult, but we actually have a couple of names that make some sense. There's actually a lot of interest among scouts in scouring through the eligible lists to find a useful player in the minor league phase. There have even been rumors bouncing around that teams have contacted the Orioles trying to trade for the No. 1 pick in the minor league phase of the draft.
Players in the minor league phase do not have any further roster requirements. As soon as they are picked, they are part of their new organizations and do not have any situations where they are offered back.
Taylor Grover, RHP, Reds
Grover recently signed with the Reds after an excellent season pitching in independent ball in the American Association and Atlantic League. Grover can touch 100+ (he's touched 102). He's a little wild, but he has an intriguing fastball-slider combination.
Sam Moll, LHP, Blue Jays
Moll pitched in the big leagues for the Athletics in 2017. It was a brief stint and an ineffective one, but it's not often a team can pick up a recent big leaguer in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Last winter Moll was waived and claimed on three separate occasions. He's since had an elbow injury, but he's back on the mound and throwing this winter, making him a potentially useful MiLB Rule 5 pick.
Nate Smith, LHP, Angels
Smith was not far away from a big league job coming into the 2017 season, but he went down with a shoulder injury that required surgery. He barely pitched in 2017 and missed the entire 2018 season. But a team looking to see if Smith can regain his pre-injury form could take a low-cost flier.
Take My Contract, Please
Any player picked in the Rule 5 draft has his contract assumed by his new team, so players on long-term deals that teams may regret are left exposed (and always unpicked) in the Rule 5 draft.
Rusney Castillo, OF, Red Sox
Castillo is a regular in this category. He’s signed through 2020 and because of a quirk in how the luxury tax is calculated, he is stuck in Triple-A Pawtucket with virtually no chance of a promotion despite the fact that he’s has back-to-back productive seasons for the PawSox.
Yasmany Tomas, OF, D-Backs
Like Castillo, Tomas is signed through 2020. He posted a .280 on-base percentage with Triple-A Reno last season. No one else who had 300 at-bats in Reno had less than a .345 on-base percentage.
Former Top Picks
It's not likely any of these players will be picked, but they once were considered top prospects, so it's worth keeping an eye on them.
Forrest Wall, OF, Blue Jays
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Marlins
Derek Hill, OF, Tigers
Foster Griffin, LHP, Royals
Braxton Davidson, OF/1B, Braves
Tyler Jay, LHP, Twins
Phil Bickford, RHP, Brewers
Jon Harris, RHP, Blue Jays
Nathan Kirby, LHP, Brewers
Chase Vallot, C/1B, Royals