9 Minor League Rule 5 Picks That Caught Our Attention

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Image credit: Nick Starr (Photo by Eddie Kelly)

The MLB picks of the Rule 5 Draft aren’t the only ones worth keeping an eye on. There is also a minor league phase of the event. While most teams often view these players as useful minor league organizational depth, every once in a while a big league contributor emerges. Notable examples include Alexi OgandoJustin BourOmar Narvaez and Alejandro De Aza from recent years.

Below, we dive into nine players selected in the minor league phase of the 2023 Rule 5 Draft worth keeping an eye on.

Ryan Fitzgerald, 2B, Royals (from Red Sox) 

A cult-hero with Triple-A Worcester, Fitzgerald is a late bloomer that has played all over the field the last few seasons. He hit .261/.345/.484 with 12 home runs for the WooSox. Fitzgerald has just fringe-average raw power but he gets the most of his contact with good launch angles. He consistently hits the ball in the air to his pull side on his best contact. He’s a little aggressive and will get drawn into chases out of the zone but looks like a nice get in the minor league portion for the Royals. 

Ryan Miller, RHP, Angels (from Red Sox) 

Miller sits 94-95 mph on his four-seam fastball with heavy bore, mixing in a slider with ride and sweep between 83-84 mph. He’ll flash a cutter as well and showed the ability to miss bats with his fastball. He’s a solid selection by the Angels. 

Joe Gray, OF, Royals (from Brewers)

Gray was a highly-regarded high school prospect, and early in his Brewers’ career, he showed power in an impressive stretch at Low-A Carolina. But his power has dissipated against higher-level pitching as he’s made too much weak contact. A change of scenery could be useful. He will turn 24 just before the season begins.

T.J. Sikkema, LHP, Reds (from Royals)

Sikkema was a dominant starter at High-A Hudson Valley. But he struggled from the moment he was acquired by the Royals in July 2022 in the Andrew Benintendi trade. His ERA, WHIP and opponents batting average all effectively doubled after the trade. His 2023 season was better, but not nearly where he was as a Yankees’ prospect. The Reds can now take a look at whether they can get Sikkema back to the funky, bat-missing form he once showed.

Brendan Hardy, RHP, Rockies (from Mets)

Hardy sits 92-93 mph in his four-seam fastball and the pitch really performed in 2023 with a 26% in-zone whiff rate, a 33% called+swinging strike rate and an xWOBA against of .223. His primary secondary is a low-80s sweeper that generates lots of chase swings out of the zone. Hardy shows a sweeper in the high-70s marked as a curveball and a cutter in the mid-to-high-80s as well. 

Fineas Del Bonta-Smith, RHP, Pirates (from Rockies) 

Del Bonta-Smith has a really interesting four-seam fastball with 17-18 inches of induced vertical break, 10-11 inches of armside run from a flat vertical approach angle (4.2). He’s older at 26 years old but has some interesting analytical traits with command for his three primary pitches in his fastball, changeup and slider. Del Bonta-Smith’s changeup didn’t perform particularly well this season, but it’s a really interesting pitch with only 1-2 inches of IVB and 15-16 inches of armside run. 

Eric Wagaman, 1B, Angels (from Yankees)

Wagaman hit .320/.382/.500 with five home runs over 35 games with Double-A Somerset. He shows good underlying skills with a good balance of patience and aggression with strong underlying power. Wagaman’s 90th percentile exit velocity of 105 mph is above the major league average. While not the most exciting profile, Wagaman has shown he can hit with a good balance of power and plate skills. 

Nick Starr, RHP, Tigers (from Rangers) 

Starr has big velocity sitting 95-96 mph on his fastball touching 97-98 mph. Despite good stuff, he shows strong command of the four-seam fastball with a strike rate above 70% this season on the pitch. His primary secondaries are two different breaking balls in a low-80s curveball with heavy two-plane break and a slider in the mid 80s with gyro shape. He throws lots of strikes across his arsenal but doesn’t miss many bats in-zone with any pitch outside his fastball. 

Moises Gallardo, OF, Nationals (from Athletics)

The toolsy 20-year-old outfielder posted an .828 OPS in 31 Arizona Complex League games. He already has above-average raw power and a strong throwing arm, but needs to develop a feel for hitting and cut down on the swing-and-miss. Gallardo moves well enough to have a chance to stick in center field. He’s a long ways away, but he’s the type of low-risk, intriguing MiLB Rule 5 pick that could pop onto radars down the line if he makes more contact. 

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