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Analyzing Each MLB Rule 5 Pick

Rule-5

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—Now that the 2017 Rule 5 draft is over, here's a look at how each of the players taken could stick on their new rosters for the entire 2018 season. MLB Rule 5 draft rules require that any player picked must be offered back to his original team before being sent to the minors during the upcoming season, so chances to stick refers to the player's chance to remain on the big league roster through the full season.

MAJOR LEAGUE PHASE

ROUND 1

  1. DET: Victor Reyes, OF

How He Can Stick: The rebuilding Tigers like versatility in their outfield. Reyes is a pretty pure hitter who is especially good against righthanders. He’s stretched in center field, but he could make the roster if either he shows the Tigers he’s a better center fielder than most reports indicate or if his pure bat-to-ball skills make him useful enough as an above-average corner outfield defender.

Chance To Stick: 50 percent.

  1. SFG: Julian Fernandez, RHP Rockies

How He Can Stick: Fernandez is the hardest throwing pitcher in baseball not named Aroldis Chapman. He’s not really ready for the big leagues after pitching in low Class A last year, but a 99-102 mph fastball thrown in the strike zone can make up for a lot of issues. He got better and better as the season went along. In his last 22 outings he posted a 0.36 ERA with 31 strikeouts and six walks in 25.1 innings. Fernandez has less chance to stick than many other Rule 5 picks, but he also has some of the highest upside on this list.

Chance To Stick: 25 percent

  1. PIT: Nick Burdi, RHP, Twins

How He Can Stick: Burdi was nearly big league ready last year when he went down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. He will start the season on the disabled list. When he is healthy, the Pirates can send him out for a 30-day injury rehab assignment. At the end of that, they will have to add him to the active roster. If Burdi’s stuff has returned to its pre-injury form, he fits as a hard-throwing reliever who can be worked into lower-leverage situations.

Chance To Stick: 75 percent

  1. TEX: Carlos Tocci, OF, Phillies

How He Can Stick: Tocci’s acquisition is an example of a team finding a player who fills a need. Tocci is being brought in to serve as a backup outfielder. His excellent center field defense and solid hit tool give him a chance to fill that role, while his lack of power likely keeps him from ever playing a larger role.

Chance To Stick: 50 percent

  1. KCR: Brad Keller, RHP Diamondbacks

How He Can Stick: Keller fits in the mold of recent Blue Jays Rule 5 pick Joe Biagini or even former Royals Rule 5 pick Nate Adcock as a durable minor league starter with stuff that might play up further if he moves to the bullpen. He’s a sinkerballer with a 92-94 mph fastball and decent control.

Chance To Stick: 75 percent

  1. KCR: Burch Smith, RHP, Rays

How He Can Stick: Unless Smith shows up in spring training with vastly diminished stuff, it’s hard to see how he won’t make the rebuilding Royals club. The biggest concern for Smith is staying healthy—he missed all of 2015 and 2016 with an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. But even if he goes back on the DL, the Royals would likely still keep him as he could fit into their long-term plans. If healthy, he could help Kansas City right away either as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a power reliever.

"When we saw Burch in September, he was a major league pitcher. Obviously everybody saw him in the fall league and saw what he can do. It's an upper 90s fastball and it’s a plus changeup he'll use in any count with a solid breaking ball,” Royals pro scouting director Gene Watson said.

Chance To Stick: 90 percent

  1. ATL: Anyelo Gomez, RHP, Yankees

How He Can Stick: Gomez was one of the fastest risers in the Yankees system in 2017, as he went from low Class A to Triple-A, leaving hitters flailing at his changeup or blowing them away with a high 90s fastball. He keeps the ball in the park (two home runs allowed in 2017) and is crafty. Working against him is what could be a crowded Braves bullpen picture.

Chance To Stick: 50 percent

  1. PIT: Jordan Milbrath, RHP, Indians

How He Can Stick: Milbrath dropped his arm slot and lit up radar guns with a 95-99 mph fastball this year. His control also got better as the season progressed. He has a chance to fill a low-leverage role in Pittsburgh’s bullpen.

Chance To Stick: 50 percent

  1. BAL: Nestor Cortes, LHP, Yankees

How He Can Stick: Wherever Cortes has gone, he’s racked up plenty of outs. His stuff is only OK (88-93 mph) but he mixes pitches, attacks the strike zone and dominates because of that. The lefty has a career 2.08 minor league ERA and was 2-4, 1.49 with 10 K/9 and 2 BB/9 in Triple-A last season. He heads to spring training with a chance to earn a spot in the back of the Orioles rotation with a fallback option as a reliever who can work longer stints a la T.J. McFarland. Cortes' chances to stick take a little hit because the Orioles have three Rule 5 picks competing for spots on the 25-man roster.

Chance To Stick: 50 percent.

  1. MIA: Elieser Hernandez, RHP, Astros

How He Can Stick: The rebuilding Marlins are going to have a lot of spots available for promising pitchers. Hernandez has enough feel and stuff to make it work as a crafty lefty with an average fastball, a quality changeup and a decent curveball. He’s yet to pitch above Class A, but with the Marlins needing to bulk up their depth, he has a better chance of making this team than most.

Chance To Stick: 50 percent

  1. SEA: Mike Ford, 1B Yankees

How He Can Stick: As a first baseman/DH, Ford is going to have to really hit in spring training and then continue to do so throughout the season. With Ryon Healy setup to be the Mariners’ regular first baseman and Nelson Cruz likely to spend much of the year at DH (with Dan Vogelbach ticketed for Triple-A), Ford looks to be a backup bat, which is a tough role to stick at, barring injury or someone else’s ineffectiveness.

Chance To Stick: 10 percent

  1. LAA: Luke Bard, RHP, Twins

How He Can Stick: Bard had a breakthrough last year as the hard-throwing righthander went from ineffective to dominant, striking out nearly 14 batters per nine innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Not coincidentally, his control improved as well. If Bard can just pitch like he did last year, he can make a pretty solid case for a relief role.

Chance To Stick: 50 percent

  1. MIN: Tyler Kinley, RHP, Marlins

How He Can Stick: Kinley can blow hitters away with a 100 mph fastball at his best, but he couldn’t keep it in the strike zone enough to get Double-A hitters out last year. When he arrives in spring training, the Twins will have to help him improve his control to get him into counts where he can just blow away hitters.

Chance To Stick: 10 percent

  1. ARI: Albert Suarez, RHP, Giants

How He Can Stick: Suarez doesn’t have a lot of upside, but he already has big league experience and was on the Giants’ 40-man roster until just a few weeks ago. He could fit as the 11th or 12th man in the D-Backs’ bullpen at a modest cost, but his lack of roster flexibility works against him.

Chance To Stick: 25 percent

  1. HOU: Anthony Gose, LHP, Tigers

How He Can Stick: For Gose to stick with the world champs, he’s going to have to pick up about three years of pitching in a good month of spring training. For the first time since high school, Gose moved to the mound mid-season last year, and quickly showed he could touch 100 mph and snap off a good breaking ball. But he was shut down with a minor elbow injury after just 10.2 innings (and a 7.59 ERA) with high Class A Lakeland. If he can make it as a pitcher, he also potentially adds value as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement in the outfield.

Chances To Stick: 10 percent

Bobby_Witt_AllSport.jpg

Now An Agent, Bobby Witt Remains On The Players' Side

Witt will represent his son, Bobby Witt Jr., who is expected to be one of the top picks in the 2019 MLB Draft.

ROUND 2

BAL: Pedro Araujo, RHP, Cubs

How He Can Stick: The slow-developing Araujo spent four years in the Dominican Summer League before coming to the States. He has only one inning above Class A, but he dominated the Carolina League and was excellent in the Arizona Fall League. It’s a big jump for Araujo, but as a reliever with a quality fastball/slider combo, he doesn’t need to do anything different, he just has to do what he does at a more advanced level.

Chances To Stick: 50 percent

MIA: Brett Graves, RHP, Athletics

How He Can Stick: Graves could use his fastball/slider combo to work in the Marlins rebuilding bullpen. He missed the second half of the season with a leg injury, but was back on the mound for instructs.

Chances To Stick: 50 percent

ROUND 3

BAL: Jose Mesa Jr., RHP, Yankees

How He Can Stick: Mesa was much better in 2017 than he had ever been before. His velocity has ticked up as he got further and further away from Tommy John surgery. His 92-95 mph fastball is solid enough and his secondaries are noted for how he can use a variety of them. He lacks a true plus pitch, but he’s crafty enough to make it work.

Chances To Stick: 25 percent

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