How Each 2018 MLB Rule 5 Draft Pick Fits With His New Team

Image credit: Richie Martin (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland A's/Getty Images)

Now the hard work begins for the 14 players taken in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft.

Being picked does ensure spring training invitations and pay bumps that come with being added to the 40-man roster, but the real payoff comes from sticking on the roster all year—a Rule 5 requirement teams must meet to avoid offering the player back to his original team.

With that in mind, we look at how each Rule 5 pick potentially fits on his new team’s roster and their chances of sticking. High means we estimate a player has a 75 percent chance to stick, moderate makes it’s a 50-50 proposition. Low is a 25 percent chance a player sticks and very low is a 10 percent shot.

1. Orioles — Richie Martin, SS (from Athletics)

How He Fits: The Orioles have no true shortstop on their 40-man roster, so the path is clear for Martin to at least fill a backup role. There are some questions about his bat and he has to watch his weight to keep his quickness, but getting a true shortstop with success at Double-A in the Rule 5 draft is a rare opportunity.

Chance He Sticks: High

2. Royals — Sam McWilliams, RHP (from Rays)

How He Fits: Numerous scouts from other organizations described McWilliams as arguably the best combination of stuff and MLB readiness available in this year’s Rule 5 draft. His fastball/slider combo may be helped by working out of the bullpen. He has battled control issues at times, but a rebuilding Royals team can likely find ways to keep him around and bet on him steadily improving as he gets acclimated to the big leagues.

Chance He Sticks: Moderate

3. White Sox — Jordan Romano, RHP (from Blue Jays)

How He Fits: The White Sox could use another quality arm in their bullpen, and Romano has the stuff and upper-level success to do that. In a best-possible scenario, Romano could even be a back-of-the-rotation starter. But as a Rule 5 pick, his best path to sticking is likely as a multi-inning reliever who can attack hitters with his heavy, mid-90s fastball and hard, nasty slider.

Chance He Sticks: High

4. Marlins — Riley Ferrell, RHP (from Astros)

How He Fits: Ferrell walked way too many batters in 2018, but he has the stuff to pitch in the back of a bullpen in late innings, much like he has throughout his career going back to his days at Texas Christian. With the Marlins looking to be the lone team in the NL East who isn’t all-in for the 2019 season, he fits as a developmental prospect who can pitch enough innings to not hamstring a bullpen.

Chance He Sticks: Moderate

5. Tigers — Reed Garrett, RHP (from Rangers)

How He Fits: Garrett follows in the same mold of Romano as a reasonably polished pitcher with success in the upper levels of the minors. He’s more big league ready than most of the pitchers on this list, and his stuff is good enough that he could work his way into a seventh-inning role.

Chance He Sticks: Moderate

6. Reds — Connor Joe, 1B/3B (from Dodgers)

How He Fits: Joe was primarily a first baseman/third baseman last season, but he has toyed with catching in the past. Being able to be even a semi-plausible emergency catcher would help his versatility and chances to stick. Joe has always gotten on base with average power potential. That may be enough to fill a bench role for the Reds, but it will likely come down to the rest of the roster composition.

Chance He Sticks: Moderate

7. Royals — Chris Ellis, RHP (from Cardinals)

How He Fits: Ellis is only 23, but he’s already bounced around from the Angels to the Braves to the Cardinals. He’s shown he can sit 93-95 mph and touch 97 mph out of the bullpen, and he can sit 92-94 mph if he’s working longer stints as a starter. His combination of solid fastball velocity and a decent breaking ball would fit for the Royals in a role much like Burch Smith filled last year—a swingman who can handle low-leverage relief roles and fill-in starts.

Chance He Sticks: High

8. Giants — Travis Bergen, LHP (from Blue Jays)

How He Fits: Statistically, Bergen was among the best available players for the Rule 5 draft. He allowed only two runs in 27 appearances with Double-A New Hampshire, he showed he can get both lefthanders and righthanders out, and he struck out more than 11.7 batters per nine innings. For a rebuilding Giants team, he has a pretty straightforward path to a big league role if he can simply pitch to his potential.

Chance He Sticks: High

9. Blue Jays — Elvis Luciano, RHP (from Royals)

How He Fits: This is the wild card of the Rule 5 draft. Luciano won’t turn 19 until just before spring training, but he was available because he had his contract renegotiated (his first contract was voided). Scouts lauded Luciano as one of the best true prospects available in this year’s Rule 5 draft, but he’s yet to pitch in low Class A, so the jump to the big leagues is going to be a massive one. If he makes the Blue Jays roster, it will be expected that he will be buried on the bench to be used in blowouts, much like Brewers lefthander Wei-Chung Wang, who Milwaukee plucked from the Gulf Coast League to the majors in the 2013 Rule 5 draft. That gamble didn’t pay off for Wang or the Brewers, but the Blue Jays are getting a pitcher with upside.

Chance He Sticks: Very Low

10. Mets — Kyle Dowdy, RHP (from Indians)

How He Fits: Dowdy has gotten significantly better since the Tigers picked him in the 12th round of the 2015 draft out of Houston. As a Cougar, Dowdy learned how to handle a big step up in responsibility as he took over as the Houston ace when injuries decimated the team’s rotation. He was a high-effort, 92-93 mph starter then, but now he can touch 97 mph with a high spin-rate breaking ball. The results haven’t matched the stuff so far. He had a 5.15 ERA in 2018 while posting a 1.48 WHIP. And his trend lines weren’t great either, as he walked 18 in his final 28 innings with Double-A Akron after being traded to the Indians. He has a four-pitch mix, but he’ll need to pitch better than he did in 2018 to have a chance to stick.

Chance He Sticks: Low


11. Orioles — Drew Jackson, SS (from Dodgers)

How He Fits: Between Martin and Jackson, it is highly likely the Orioles have found at least one rosterable middle infielder. Jackson actually has louder tools than Martin as he’s a plus runner with a plus arm and his average power is better than Martin’s. Martin has been viewed as a better shortstop and has a better hit tool. Jackson fits the versatile, play-anywhere mold that teams look for in backups as he can play shortstop, second base and center field, and he wouldn’t be out of place if he was asked to add the outfield corners to that list.

Chance He Sticks: Moderate

12. Diamondbacks — Nick Green, RHP (from Yankees)

How He Fits: Green has primarily been a starter before, but he fits as a Rule 5 pick because there’s a logical path to him becoming a useful reliever. He can go right at hitters with a 92-95 mph fastball that he cuts. He’s shown flashes with his changeup too, but in a bullpen role, it will be interesting to see if he can just rely on hard cutters to get a lot of weak contact and ground balls.

Chance He Sticks: Moderate

13. Mariners — Brandon Brennan, RHP (from Rockies)

How He Fits: Brennan went unpicked in last year’s Rule 5 draft, but after attracting some interest on the minor league free agent market, he now gets a chance to show he can fit in a big league bullpen. The Mariners are playing for 2020 and beyond, so if Brennan shows potential, he’s got a shot to stick around. Brennan has an average fastball and slider. He’s coming off a solid season with Double-A Birmingham, but the 27-year-old has very little Triple-A time.

Chance He Sticks: Low

14. Giants — Drew Ferguson, OF (from Astros)

How He Fits: Ferguson fits the profile of a fourth outfielder. He can play all three outfield positions plausibly, and he puts the bat on the ball enough to be a useful pinch hitter/fill-in starter. He hit .304/.432/.443 last season largely at Triple-A Fresno. A wrist injury cost him time, but he finished the season healthy. Ferguson has a chance to be the next in a long line of outfielders the Astros keep producing for other teams. Teoscar Hernandez, Ramon Laureano and Jason Martin have all had to go elsewhere in recent years because the Astros keep producing a seemingly never-ending supply of useful outfielders.

Chance He Sticks: Moderate

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