Image credit: Colin Barber (3) Corpus Christi Hooks vs Frisco RoughRiders in a AA Texas League minor league baseball game at Riders Field in Frisco, Texas on Friday, September 1, 2023 (Photo by Eddie Kelly / ProLook Photos)
Dec. 6 Update: Today’s the day. Our preview below is approaching 50 players worth keeping an eye on and we’ve sorted more than a dozen of the most intriguing players at the top of the post. You can also follow along with the order and results here. We’ll keep adding to the list until 1 p.m. CT.
In the world of improv comedy, the first and most important rule is “Yes, and.” Whatever the premise, performers are expected to accept the idea another performer throws out and then try to add to it.
That’s also a good rule to follow when it comes to a MLB Rule 5 Draft Preview. It’s easy to find a plausible reason to explain why every player we write up for the Rule 5 draft shouldn’t be selected. Pretty much everyone included below has some sort of flaw to their game.
But when talking with people inside the industry about potential Rule 5 picks, it’s more important to focus on what a player can do that could lead to them being selected. While there are very few Joakim Sorias, Johan Santanas and Garrett Whitlocks available, there are a number of players who can help a team who has a specific need.
Check back here for results from the 2023 Rule 5 Draft.
The Rule 5 draft is the land of misfit toys. Every player left unprotected was left off the 40-man roster for a logical reason. In some cases, they are too far away from the majors to be big league ready. In other cases, they don’t fit the profile at their position. Some players are well-rounded enough, but just lack the impact to fit clearly on an MLB roster.
A MLB Rule 5 draft pick is most similar to an out-of-options player signed to a MiLB contract with an invite to spring training. The chance of the player sticking and contributing may sometimes be small, but the cost of taking a chance and adding them to the spring training competition is also small. The $100,000 cost of acquiring a Rule 5 pick is negligible, especially when almost everyone picked is set to receive an MLB minimum salary if they make an MLB roster. The opportunity cost of carrying a player on the 40-man roster all offseason is more significant, but for a team needing depth (or with a barren 40-man) that’s also a modest expense.
So our Rule 5 preview lays out the case for why a player could be selected. We also explain why another team may be leery of the same player.
Here’s the list of order teams will pick:
|1||Oakland As||11||Detroit Tigers||21||Seattle Mariners|
|2||Kansas City Royals||12||Boston Red Sox||22||Toronto Blue Jays|
|3||Colorado Rockies||13||San Francisco Giants||23||Texas Rangers|
|4||Chicago White Sox||14||Cincinnati Reds||24||Philadelphia Phillies|
|5||Washington Nationals||15||San Diego Padres||25||Houston Astros|
|6||St. Louis Cardinals||16||New York Yankees||26||Milwaukee Brewers|
|7||Los Angeles Angels||17||Chicago Cubs||27||Tampa Bay Rays|
|8||New York Mets||18||Miami Marlins||28||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|9||Pittsburgh Pirates||19||Arizona Diamondbacks||29||Baltimore Orioles|
|10||Cleveland Guardians||20||Minnesota Twins||30||Atlanta Braves|
In talking with multiple teams, this is viewed as a thinner Rule 5 crop than normal. The five-round 2020 MLB draft is the cause. This is the first year that college players drafted in 2020 are eligible. In comparison to last year, where players were becoming eligible from a 40-round draft, this year, there is a dramatically smaller pool of first-time eligible players.
We have broken the post down into the following categories.
- Power bats
- Contact/OBP-driven profiles
- Toolsy outfielders
- Glove-first specialists
- Back of the rotation types
- Reliever candidates
But before we do, a quick update on what we’re hearing.
The Most Likely To Be Picked
The name we’re hearing the most often is Rangers RHP Justin Slaten. A full writeup of him is included below in the relievers section. He’s been mentioned by so many different people that it would seem surprising to not hear his name called. Here are a dozen other names on Geoff Pontes’ personal preference list. You can find their full scouting reports below.
- Hudson Haskin, OF, Orioles
- Tanner Burns, RHP, Guardians
- Luarbert Arias, RHP, Marlins
- Shane Drohan, LHP, Red Sox
- Kameron Misner, OF, Rays
- Justin Dirden, OF, Astros
- Blaine Crim, 1B/3B, Rangers
- Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa, RHP, Rangers
- R.J. Dabovich, RHP, Giants
- Troy Johnston, 1B, Marlins
- Coleman Crow, RHP, Mets
- Tyler Owens, RHP, Braves
- Mitch Spence, RHP, Yankees
- Nasim Nunez, SS, Marlins
Stephen Scott, C/1B, Red Sox
This is the second consecutive season that Scott is eligible for the Rule 5 and it’s likely he goes unpicked again this year. That said, there’s some good traits on both sides of the ball that a team might value. Scott hit .235/.350/.462 across 100 games, primarily at Triple-A. He showed good plate skills, striking out in 20.1% of the time with Worcester compared to a 13.8% walk rate. His .228 batting average at Triple-A was largely the product of a .242 batting average on balls in play. Scott has power, on-base ability and an above-average 17.2% in-zone whiff rate. Scott has seen time at a variety of positions over the years but primarily is a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter. His work behind the plate is solid when it comes to receiving and blocking but his throwing arm leaves something to be desired. He threw out just 13 batters across 99 attempts. While Scott’s limitations likely take him out of the Rule 5 radar, he has been a productive hitter as a professional.
Devin Mann, 1B/2B, Royals
Mann is a pure hitting-driven pick. He provides little in the way of defensive value. The Royals acquired Mann in the Ryan Yarborough trade at the deadline last July. He hit .276/.387/.502 with 20 home runs in 126 Triple-A games, though he did scuffle over the final 37 games after the trade. Mann provides average bat-to-ball skills with above-average approach and the ability to elevate the ball to his pull side. Positional versatility is a potential strength. Mann started at all four infield positions and left field in 2023. He’s not an average defender or better anywhere on the diamond, but is most experienced at second base. On the downside, Mann is now eligible for the Rule 5 draft for a third time and despite solid underlying skill metrics produced the highest strikeout rate of his career.
Ryan Ward, OF, Dodgers
You can look fairly smart betting on a Dodgers prospect getting selected. Several players were swiped from the Dodgers in recent years. While a majority were pitchers, Ward offers teams a power-hitting corner bat coming off three consecutive 20+ home run seasons in the minor leagues. Ward is older at 25 and is eligible for the second time, but he has a full Triple-A season under his belt entering this year’s draft. He performed below league average in Triple-A, however, hitting .234/.324/.424 with 21 home runs over 139 games. Ward does have plus raw power with a 90th percentile exit velocity of 105.1 mph. His bat-to-ball skills are below-average and he’s a fairly aggressive swinger. It’s a reach to see him selected but a team hurting for lefthanded power might take a shot.
Shay Whitcomb, SS, Astros
Whitcomb displayed a power outburst in 2023 and climbed to the highest level of the minors, starting 87 games for Triple-A Sugar Land. He hit 35 home runs total between Double-A and Triple-A and claimed a share of the minor league home run title. Whitcomb also showed improved defensive actions and play in the field in addition to better game power. He’s still unlikely to provide long-term average defense at shortstop, but he could handle multiple positions in the infield. Whitcomb’s plate skills are now the biggest question. He has fringe-average bat-to-ball skills with aggressive swing decisions. This leads to lower walk rates and higher strikeout rates, which could be a limiting factor. That said, Whitcomb has legitimate plus game power and infield versatility. He has also seen a large sample of upper-level pitching, even if his overall Triple-A line was underwhelming.
Deyvison De Los Santos, 1B/3B, D-Backs
De Los Santos has arguably the highest profile any prospect left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. He’s a classic power-over-everything prospect. His power, however, borders on double plus. De Los Santos’ 90th percentile exit velocity of 106.5 mph was top 10 among players 21 years old or younger. Despite his standout power, his lack of skills has limited his production over time. He’s a below-average contact hitter with aggressive swing decisions, which is a bad combination for any hitter. His lack of skill and ability in all other areas means De Los Santos is unlikely to be chosen in the Rule 5, even despite the standout power.
Justin Dirden, OF, Astros
Dirden was one of the breakout performers of 2022, going from a nondrafted free agent in 2020 to one of the 10 best prospects in the Astros system in 2022. But he struggled to a .231/.314/.396 line over 84 games in extended Triple-A action in 2023. Injuries may have played a factor. He hit .276/.345/.489 with 24 extra-base hits over his 58 games until a hamstring injury sent him to the injured list on June 23. Dirden returned on July 16, but hit just .126/.243/.179 over 26 games before returning to the IL on Aug. 30. While we don’t know how much the hamstring injury hampered Dirden, he clearly was not the same player upon returning. Dirden is an above-average athlete with the ability to play all three outfield positions. Prior to his injury Dirden was a .288/.380/.536 hitter with 48 home runs over 265 games.
Blaine Crim, 1B/3B, Rangers
Crim hit .289/.385/.506 at Triple-A Round Rock this year. He’s pretty much only playable at first base, but he may hit enough to make it work. Crim doesn’t chase, makes plenty of contact and has enough power to make a pitcher pay when he makes a mistake. He’s a .300/.373/.515 career hitter, and he’s playing winter ball this year in the Dominican, so scouts can get another look in advance of the Rule 5 draft. He has tried to play third base at times, but his third base glove should best be hidden away never to be found again. He’s a capable first baseman defensively, and any team picking him likely will view him as a first base-only player.
Troy Johnston, 1B, Marlins
Johnston turns 27 halfway through the 2024 season and he’s a 5-foot-11 first baseman who doesn’t really have other defensive options. That’s why he is unprotected. Here’s why he could get picked: Johnston hit .307/.399/.549 between Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Jacksonville. He chases more than teams would like, but he hits the ball relatively hard and makes a ton of contact when he swings at pitches in the zone. A team looking for an inexpensive first baseman/DH could pick him and let him compete for the job in spring training, where he would try to become next year’s version of Ryan Noda.
Chris Williams, 1B/C, Twins
Williams hit 28 home runs in 2022 and 21 this year in just 376 plate appearances. He’s always drawn walks and hit for power despite fringy bat to ball skills. He has a 28.7% career strikeout rate. If he was only a right-right first baseman, that would be a disqualifying characteristic. But Williams is a good enough catcher to be a plausible third catcher option. He’s a fringy defender at best who can’t handle an everyday role back there, but he can provide righthanded power off the bench as a first baseman/DH backup. Williams’ ability to serve as a plausible emergency option at catcher might fit the right team. He can handle velocity. Louis Varland and Patrick Murphy’s 98+ mph velocity didn’t cause any issues for him behind the plate at St. Paul last year.
Matt Koperniak, OF, Cardinals
Koperniak is a Division III nondrafted free agent who has carved out a solid professional career over the last three seasons hitting .293/.375/.441. He represented Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic and spent a majority of his season with Triple-A Memphis. Over 96 games with the Redbirds, Kopeniak hit .275/.353/.431 with 14 home runs while striking out just 14.5% of the time. Koperniak’s profile is heavily driven by his hit tool. He’s a plus bat-to-ball hitter with below-average raw power. He hit 18 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A, but is more likely a 10-12 home run type hitter in the big leagues. Koperniak does possess excellent barrel control and shows the ability to hit his best-struck drives at his steepest exit velocities. He struggles to hit the ball in the air to his pull side with regularity, limiting his home run output. Defensively, he’s above-average in an outfield corner and saw some time in centerfield this season, but is unlikely to play there much in the big leagues. He could provide a solid bat as a platoon player for a team in need of outfielders.
Aaron Schunk, 3B, Rockies
This is the second time Schunz is available in the Rule 5 Draft since going in the second round out of Georgia in 2019. He doesn’t have exceptional power or on-base ability, but he aggressively attacks strikes and shows average or better bat-to-ball skills. Schunk’s approach is concerning as he chased at a rate of 40% this season. Schunk’s greatest skill is his ability to make contact at optimal launch angles, allowing him to get the most out of his contact. He made a majority of his starts at third base but saw 25 starts at second base. He’s never had a standout season in the minors but has been league average the last few seasons and can play multiple positions in the infield.
Trevor Hauver, 1B/OF, Rangers
Drafted in the third round out of Arizona State by the Yankees, Hauver has always possessed strong on-base skills. The Rangers acquired Hauver in the Joey Gallo trade days before the 2021 trade deadline. He’s produced above-average offensive showings in each of his last two seasons while seeing most of his time in the outfield corners. He walked 15.1% of the time at Double-A Frisco in 2023 and has enough power to reach mid-teen home run totals. He’s limited defensively, but can handle multiple spots in a pinch and offers the type of on-base ability that translates. He’s a fringe-average contact hitter, which is likely enough to work with his advanced approach. Hauver is a first-time eligible player with some pedigree and solid professional results.
Logan Davidson, 1B, Athletics
Once upon a time, Davidson was viewed as a potential everyday regular. He was always a divisive prospect dating back to his days at Clemson, but the switch hitting shortstop still went to the Athletics in the first round of the 2019 draft. Davidson saw a majority of his time defensively at first base in 2023, a drastic move from his drafted position of shortstop. He hit .297/.379/.484 in his third stint in Double-A before moving to Triple-A. He hit .264/.333/.375 over 61 games with Las Vegas and produced the lowest strikeout rate of his career. The switch-hitting Davidson’s numbers are deceiving. He was excellent against righthanded pitching, hitting .299/.367/.478 over 324 plate appearances. Unfortunately, Davidson is well below-average hitting righthanded, hitting .222/.319/.273. Davidson is unlikely to get selected even in a shallow Rule 5 year, but he did show some improvement in 2023.
Colin Barber, OF, Astros
Barber is in a unique position. He has never had a bad season in the minors, but he hasn’t played a full season, either. Barber has only played 189 professional games dating back to 2019 and his 79 games played in 2023 matches his career high. Over that time, he’s a career .263/.378/.430 hitter with a 23.5% strikeout out rate and a 13.5% walk rate. Barber hits the ball in the air with great frequency (41.6% flyball rate) despite not showing a ton of over-the-fence power. His exit velocity metrics are underwhelming, but he makes a fair amount of flush contact and has improved the quality of his contact to his pull side. He has solid-average plate skills with a good balance of patience and aggression. A fringe-average defender in the corner outfield, Barber has seen time in all three outfield spots over the last two seasons. His murky health track record might be enough to keep teams away. However, Barber is a prospect or some pedigree, with solid performance and potential growth coming this offseason.
Hudson Haskin, OF, Orioles
Despite the shortened nature of the 2020 draft, Baltimore still managed to nab three of its 10 best prospects in OF Heston Kjerstad, IF Jordan Westburg and 3B Coby Mayo. But the third-highest bonus of the class actually belonged to outfielder Hudson Haskin ($1,096,800). A draft-eligible sophomore, Haskin rode a standout freshman season and a strong summer wooden bat league performance in the NECBL to the second round. Haskin has been solid across parts of three professional seasons. He spent the entire 2022 season with Double-A Bowie, hitting .264/.367/.455 over 109 games while starting at all three outfield positions and spending a majority of his time in centerfield. Haskin was limited to just 33 total games in 2023, hitting .287/.394/.443. He began the season with Triple-A Norfolk before hitting the injured list on April 17, missing a month of play. He returned to Triple-A on June 8 but played just 10 games before going down with a hip injury that required surgery. Haskin has shown enough impact with the bat and defensive value that he could potentially stick on an MLB roster devoid of outfield depth and versatility.
Grant McCray, OF, Giants
McCray hit .291/.385/.525 at Low-A San Jose in 2022, but he struggled to match those numbers at High-A Eugene in 2023. He’s one of the Giants’ best defensive outfielders and he stole 52 bags in 62 attempts. Asking him to jump from High-A to the majors is probably too big of a request, but his defense and basestealing prowess give him a shot to stick as the 13th position player on the roster.
Kameron Misner, OF, Rays
Misner struck out 35.8% of the time in Triple-A last year and hit .226. That in itself is enough to take him off of a lot of teams’ target lists. But if you dig a little deeper, there’s actually a path to Misner being a useful Rule 5 pick. He’s at least an above-average defender in center field who can play all three outfield spots. He hit 21 home runs and swiped 21 bases. And Misner can be useful at the plate if he never has to face lefties. He hit .140/.283/.260 with a 45.8% strikeout rate against lefties, but a much better .252/.387/.520 against righthanders with a 32.8% strikeout rate that is still high. Misner’s a plausible pick as a backup outfielder who provides value as a defender and baserunner.
Shane Sasaki, OF, Rays
Sasaki has yet to play above High-A, so asking him to jump to the majors is a big request. But if a team wants to take a flier on a productive center fielder who can run and has a track record of hitting, Sasaki wouldn’t be a crazy choice. He’s a career .302/.379/.463 hitter with 82 steals in 92 tries as a pro. Sasaki will likely continue to struggle to maintain his strength throughout a full 162-game season because of his slight stature, but he has a plan at the plate, can handle left and center field and can run.
Nasim Nunez, SS, Marlins
Nunez is not ready to hit MLB pitching. There is no assurance that he ever will. Nunez does possess excellent defensive skills with the ability to provide above-average to plus defense across the infield. He’s a quick-twitch athlete and a double-plus runner capable of wreaking havoc on the bases. Nunez stole 122 bases over the past two seasons. While he lacks impact in the bat, he shows above-average to plus contact and plate skills. Over 585 plate appearances in Double-A this season, Nunez ran an in-zone contact rate of 85.5% while rarely expanding the zone as shown by his 21% chase rate. While Nunez is never going to provide double digit home run totals, his combination of infield defense, speed and plate skills could fit on a major league roster next season if a team is looking to add a quality up-the-middle defender.
DaShawn Keirsey, OF, Twins
Keirsey an excellent center fielder defensively, which is the biggest reason he’s worth a look in the Rule 5 draft. He’s also coming off his best year offensively, as he hit .294/.366/.455 between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul. He also hit 15 home runs, more than doubling his previous single-season high of seven. He’s a plus-plus runner who swiped 39 bases in 44 attempts in 2023. Keirsey’s bat might not be ready for an everyday regular job, but he’s got a strong case for being picked in the Rule 5 draft. He fits with a team looking for a lefthanded-hitting backup outfielder who can provide plus-plus outfield defense, steal bases in a pinch-running role and fill-in when needed.
Daniel Schneemann, SS, Guardians
The 2018 33rd round pick is eligible for the third time, but after a strong showing with Triple-A Columbus this season he has a good shot to be selected in this year’s Rule 5. Schneemann hit .267/.360/.437 with 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases over 114 games. Beyond league-average offensive production at the highest level of the minors, Schneemann provides true positional versatility having made 28 starts at shortstop, 62 starts at third base, 14 starts at second base and three starts in center. Despite seeing time at a variety of valuable positions, Schneemann made just eight errors in 2023. He’s not the most exciting name available but Schneemann’s profile checks several boxes for successful Rule 5 picks. He can play a variety of valuable positions, has a sizeable sample of league-average production in the high minors and has the type of contact and approach to not get embarrassed by major league pitching.
Back Of The Rotation Types
Mitch Spence, RHP, Yankees
A 10th-round pick out of South Carolina, Spence made 29 starts for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre producing a 4.47 ERA, with a 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.9 walks per nine. He mixes a low-90s four-seam fastball with a low-to-mid-80s slider that missed bats in and out of the zone. It’s a high-quality slider that could interest a team enough to see him selected in the Rule 5.
Coleman Crow, RHP, Mets
While he may have benefited from the pre-tacked Southern League balls, Crow’s fastball displayed a significant jump in induced vertical break and overall shape early in the season. He had the biggest year-over-year jump in vertical break and looked like a potential breakout in the making. The Mets acquired Crow in late June in exchange for Eduardo Escobar. Prior to the trade, Crow hit the injured list with an elbow sprain in May and the club announced on Aug. 11 he underwent Tommy John surgery. That could actually make it easier for a team to pick and keep Crow in 2024. The righty would occupy a 40-man roster spot all offseason, but will spend all next season on the 60-man injured list. Any team that selects Crow would then be required to carry him on their active MLB roster in 90 days in 2025 to fulfill Rule 5 roster requirements before being allowed to option him to the minors.
Shane Drohan, LHP, Red Sox
Few pitchers performed as well as Drohan over the opening months of the season. He allowed just five earned runs while striking out 36 batters compared to nine walks over his first 34 innings with Double-A Portland. The lefty flashed more power on his four-seam fastball and an improved breaking ball in a reintroduced cutter. The wheels came off when he was promoted to Triple-A Worcester. Drohan produced a 6.47 ERA and 5.78 xFIP over 89 innings in 19 starts with the WooSox. Despite his late-season struggles, Drohan has improved each season as a professional and possesses an above-average changeup. In fact, his changeup ranked 19th best across the entire minor leagues in 2023 for accumulated run value. Could being a lefthander with a true major league quality changeup be enough to earn Drohan selection?
Tanner Burns, RHP, Guardians
Burns has one of the most significant profiles of any player left unprotected. He was a college star at Auburn based on the strength of his fastball and slider combination. He has found success as a professional with a career 3.31 ERA, a 25.3% strikeout rate and a .221 opponents batting average against over 251 innings. He’s been successful as a starter in the upper-minors and spent the last six weeks of 2023 coming out of the Akron bullpen. Burns pitched to a 1.35 ERA with 13 strikeouts to 7 walks over 13.1 innings as a reliever. His fastball sits 92-93 mph as a starter, but his average induced vertical break is one of the highest numbers in the minors, often exceeding 20 inches of IVB during starts. Burns’ 54% fastball usage is extremely high. His primary secondary is a mid-80s cut slider that he throws 25% of the time, but he mixes in an upper-70s curveball with two-plane break and a mid-80s changeup. Burns has no plus pitch, but all of his pitches produced positive run values this season. He shows the acumen to adapt to a variety of roles.
Cole Wilcox, RHP, Rays
Wilcox has long been a Rays Top 10 prospect. But he had Tommy John surgery and when he returned this year, his stuff didn’t immediately bounce back to what it was pre-injury. His fastball was more 92-93 mph this year rather than bumping the high-90s as he has in the past. Without an ability to blow hitters away, his control also backed up, but a team thinking he might have more still in the tank could take a chance.
Julio Robaina, LHP, Astros
Robaina signed with the Astros out of Cuba in 2017 and has split time as a starter and reliever for the organization in five minor league seasons. In his second season with Double-A Corpus Christi in 2023, Robaina posted a 3.18 ERA in 116 innings—16 games as a starter, 10 as a reliever—with a 23.2% strikeout rate and a 9.8% walk rate that was significantly better than the 15.6% mark he managed in 2022. He throws from a lower release point with 5-foot-11 frame and a a drop-and-drive delivery on the mound and showed feel for a four-pitch mix. He throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball and both versions sit in the low 90s. Robaina mixes in a low-80s slider with 12 inches of horizontal break, an upper-70s curveball with more depth and a mid-80s changeup that he breaks out against righthanded hitters.
Justin Slaten, RHP, Rangers
After a command-plagued season in 2022, Slaten straightened out his strike-throwing in 2023. He cut his walk rate from 19.5% in 2022 to 8.5% in 2023. The improved control resulted in much better results at Double-A Frisco and a late-season promotion to Triple-A. Slaten is a pure reliever who mixes four pitches with plenty of power across his arsenal. Slaten sits 95-97 mph on his four-seamer with ride and at times cut. He pairs his four-seam primarily with a mid-80s sweeping slider that generates heavy rates of swings and misses in and out of the zone. His cutter is his third pitch, but is an effective weapon as a bridge between his fastball and slider. The cutter sits 89-91 mph with true cutter shape. He’ll infrequently mix in a low-80s two-plane curveball. With the strike-throwing improvements, upper-level minors experience and major league quality stuff, Slaten could be a worthy choice.
Matt Sauer, RHP, Yankees
Sauer ranked as high as 10th in the Yankees’ system at one point. While he’s not nearly as prominent a prospect at this point, there are still reasons to be intrigued. Sauer’s fastball/slider combination is effective as a starter and could play up further if he’s moved to the bullpen. He was an effective starter at Double-A Somerset last year, giving him a profile of a swingman who could help a team in the bullpen for multiple innings with an ability to spot start.
Ethan Hankins, RHP, Guardians
A 2018 first-round pick, Hankins has thrown just 110 pro innings thanks to a delayed Tommy John surgery and the coronavirus pandemic. His 46 innings with High-A Lake County this year were the only official innings he’s thrown since 2019. While his experience is lacking, the stuff is still there. He sits 93-95 with an effective fastball and his curveball shows promise as well. The hope would be that Hankins’ stuff would tick up in shorter stints. It’s a long-shot, but worth mentioning.
Ian Seymour, LHP, Rays
Prior to having Tommy John surgery Seymour had reached Triple-A and was ranked 14th in the Rays system. He returned to action in August and reports early are he’s all the way back this offseason. Prior to the injury Seymour was sitting low-90s with ride and a plus changeup. Seymour lacks an average breaking ball but has performance and two solid pitches to back it. He could thrive in a full time move to the bullpen.
Bryce Bonnin, RHP, Reds
Bonnin hasn’t pitched in an official game since June 1, 2022, and his list of injuries, especially shoulder issues, are long enough to potentially scare off teams with skittish medical departments. But when he’s pitched, he’s dominated and he has been throwing off a mound recently. Bonnin’s fastball has combined excellent velocity (touching 99 at its best) with the kind of shape teams covet–flat approach angle and exceptional carry. He also has shown a plus slider. Stuff-wise, he’s a slam dunk, but there’s a ton of risk as well.
Anthony Hoopii-Tuionetoa, RHP, Rangers
Among Rule 5 eligible pitchers, Hoopii-Tuionetoa sticks out for his excellent stuff. Hoopii-Tuionetoa sits 96-97 mph on his four-seam fastball with a high-spin and flatter plane of approach to the plate. His primary secondary is a mid-80s gyro slider. He shows good command of his fastball and slider and those two pitches dominate his usage. A native of Hawaii, Hoopii-Tuionetoa had a dominant showing in the Arizona Fall League this year, allowing no runs over nine outings. He missed the first half of 2023 due to an arm injury, but his stuff looked all the way back in the second half and in AFL.
Eduarniel Nunez, RHP, Cubs
Nunez might have some of the best pure stuff in the Cubs system over the last few seasons. He sits 97-99 mph and touches 100 mph on his four-seam fastball, though the shape of the pitch is below-average. He pairs it with a demon curveball sitting 85 mph with heavy two-plane break and spin rates in the 3,000 rpm neighborhood. The issue is Nunez’s fastball doesn’t miss bats due to its poor shape and his curveball is rarely, if ever, in the strike zone. Nunez did show improvements in his strike-throwing over the first half of the season in High-A, but the move to Double-A over the final two months saw his walk per nine innings spike back to 9.47. If a team believes they can coax more strike-throwing out of Nunez he has the quality of stuff expected from high-leverage major league relievers.
Natanael Garabitos, RHP, Mariners
Garabitos has big stuff and performed fairly well during his second stint at Low-A. That being said, Garabitos repeated Low-A and still walked 17.3% of the batters he faced. He ranks highly for Stuff+ scores among Rule 5 eligible pitchers on the strength of his high-90s four-seam fastball that touches 100 mph with heavy bore. His primary secondary is a slider but it lacks the power and quality of his fastball. Garabitos is unlikely to be selected but is an interesting name with a premium fastball. His lack of high minors track record and below-average command make him likely a no-go.
Braxton Roxby, RHP, Reds
A member of the Reds nondrafted free agent class after the 2020 draft, Roxby found success early in 2021, performing well across 25 appearances for High-A Dayton. Despite this, he returned to High-A in 2022 where his underlying numbers improved but his ERA jumped by nearly two and a half runs. He again returned to High-A to begin 2023 and produced his best season to date earning a late season callup to Double-A. Roxby lacks high minors experience and he is a three-time level repeater, which gives some pause, but he ranks in the top 10 in Stuff+ score among Rule 5 eligible pitchers. Roxby’s primary pitch is a sweeper at 82-84 mph with well over a foot of horizontal break on average. His fastball is thrown less than his slider and is a two-seam fastball that sits 93-95 mph.
Luarbert Arias, RHP, Marlins
Arias had an excellent season in 2023 splitting time between the Marlins High-A and Double-A affiliates. Over 39 appearances spanning 58.2 innings Arias walked just 6.5% of batters he faced while striking out 33.8% of opposing hitters. He mixes four pitches, but Arias’ primary offerings are his four-seam fastball sitting 93-94 mph with ride and armside run and a low-80s slider with cut. He commands each of these pitches well and generates whiffs in and out of the zone. With excellent command, good stuff and high minors success Arias is a potential Rule 5 pick.
Nelson L. Alvarez, RHP, Rays
The 25-year-old Alvarez spent a majority of his season at Double-A after two consecutive seasons at the High-A level. Alvarez mixes a mid-80s slider with some ride and between 8-9 inches of sweep on average with a mid-90s two-seam fastball and a cutter that sits 89-90 mph. Alvarez has the ability to miss bats in and out of the zone with his slider and cutter, using the fastball to get ahead in the count to set up his two swing and miss pitches. Alvarez lacks the requisite amount of high minors experience to find himself selected in this year’s Rule 5, but he does have some interesting traits.
Andrew Bash, RHP, Blue Jays
A soft-tossing righthander isn’t exactly the type of player teams break down doors to add. Bash’s plus slider might allow him to carve out a role as an effective reliever, though. Bash’s slider is by far his most used and most effective pitch. The slider sits 84-86 mph with over a foot of sweep on average. It didn’t drive a heavy amount of swings and misses (28.3% whiff rate), but it did generate weak contact against it, posting a .229 expected WOBA against this season. He mixes the slider off of two distinct fastball shapes in a four-seam at 92-94 mph and a two-seam fastball at 90-91 mph. Neither pitch is overpowering but they keep hitters off balance. Bash shows a changeup and a curveball, but neither is used with great frequency. Bash’s command is a question mark as he walked 12.6% of batters this season.
Miguel Rodriguez, RHP, Twins
Rodriguez makes up for a lack of upper-minors experience (13 career appearances above High-A) with considerable production. His FIP of 2.55 is the lowest of any pitcher eligible for the Rule 5 Draft who threw 50 or more innings in 2023. He struck out 28.7% of batters he faced while only walking 6.52% over 54.2 innings. He mixes two fastball variations that sit 93-96 mph, with his two-seamer seeing the bulk of the action. His primary secondary is an upper-80s cut-slider that produced a 35.3% called+swinging strike rate. The pitch generates a high rate of chase swings making it an effective putaway pitch. He will flash an upper-80s changeup but it’s a limited part of his arsenal. Rodriguez likely lacks the upper-level track record for a team to take a shot on him but he meets several of the criteria of successful Rule 5 picks.
Christian Chamberlain, RHP, Royals
Chamberlain would be high on a lot of preference lists if stuff is a driving factor for a Rule 5 selection. Unfortunately, his strike-throwing has been well below-average for the majority of his career. Chamberlain earned a promotion to Triple-A on the strength of strong Double-A performance even despite a 16.2% walk rate. He continued to struggle to find the zone with Triple-A Omaha, walking 22.4% of batters. Command is clearly the reason Chamberlain is likely not selected. On the other hand, he does present interesting upside as a lefty with big stuff. His fastball sits with above-average vertical break from a low release that creates an outlier vertical approach angle. His best secondary is a low-80s curveball with good depth. He throws his mid-80s gyro slider at a high rate, but struggled to get it in the zone consistently. If a confident organization believes they can fix Chamberlain’s strike-throwing they might be intrigued by his plus raw stuff.
CJ Van Eyk, RHP, Blue Jays
Van Eyk had an excellent college career at Florida State, but a rough stretch of health as a professional. He underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2021 season and missed all of 2022. Van Eyk returned in May and made three appearances for Low-A Dunedin, but was taken out of play for roughly six ensuing weeks. He returned fully in late July and made nine appearances across three levels, finishing with four truncated starts with Double-A New Hampshire, then made five appearances in the Arizona Fall League. Throughout it all, Van Eyk’s hallmark 12-6 power curveball has remained a weapon and may allow him to get out in a big league bullpen right now. He mixes the 81-83 mph power curve with a cut-slider at 84-86 mph and a 92-93 mph four-seam fastball. Van Eyk’s heater has dead zone shape, but he could mitigate that if he finds added power in a relief role.
Brendan Cellucci, LHP, Red Sox
A soft-tossing lefthanded reliever isn’t the most exciting type of Rule 5 pick, but Cellucci has some unusual characteristics that could catch the attention of an analytically-minded team. His primary pitch mix is a slider that sits 85-86 mph with eight inches of horizontal break on average, a cutter at 87-90 mph and a low-90s sinker. He throws his slider as his primary pitch and it has a unique combination of velocity and sweep. His cutter is fringy, but gives him a solid secondary swing and miss pitch behind his slider. Cellucci’s cutter generates a 40% whiff rate and a 23% in-zone whiff rate. His two-seam fastball is also an interesting pitch, sitting 90-91 mph with sink. The sinker performed particularly well on contact with a .260 wOBAcon this season. While Cellucci might not look like your typical reliever, his combination of two pitches that miss bats and a sinker that can mitigate hard contact could make him a viable option out of the bullpen for a major league team next season.
Grant Wolfram, LHP, Rangers
Drafted in the 18th round out of Division II Davenport University in 2018, Wolfram is a 6-foot-6 lefthander that earned a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock in mid-May after showing improved commany early in the season. But he was demoted back to Double-A after pitching poorly across 10 appearances. Wolfram locked in following the demotion and was one of the best relievers in the Texas League over the final three months of the season. Wolfram didn’t allow a run over nine appearances spanning 14.1 innings between July 23 and Aug. 17. He struck out 13 batters to just one walk while allowing just nine hits over the scoreless streak. Wolfram’s overall line after his demotion makes a strong case for Rule 5 consideration. He allowed just eight total earned runs over 20 appearances while striking out 34.6% of the batters he faced to just a 6.2% walk rate. Wolfram sits 94-95 mph on a cut four-seam fastball, using his mid-80s gyro slider as his primary pitch. He shows the ability to land the slider in and out of the zone, generating an average rate of whiffs in the zone and an above-average chase rate. He’s primarily fastball and slider, but will mix in a low-80s curveball with some depth. Wolfram’s bad turn in Triple-A likely makes him a tough pick, but he does meet a variety of benchmarks for Rule 5 picks who have stuck.
Juan Sanchez, LHP, Giants
Sanchez is an undersized lefthanded reliever that experienced success across the two highest levels of the minor leagues in 2023. His primary pitch is a mid-80s changeup with heavy tumble and fade. Sanchez does a tremendous job killing lift on the pitch and it has an eight mph velocity separation and vertical separation. He mixes four pitches, showing fringe-average command across his arsenal. His primary fastball is a two-seam fastball sitting 92-93 mph mixing in a four-seam variation in the same velocity band. His changeup and two-seam variation grade out highly on run value models and performed well throughout the season. Sanchez meets the benchmarks for previous Rule 5 picks that stuck across ERA, FIP, K%, BB% and innings. He handled Triple-A Sacramento and the PCL fairly well and has solid Triple-A experience with 18 appearances out of the River Cats pen. While Sanchez’s stuff doesn’t wow you, he gets outs and has shown the ability to neutralize both lefthanded and righthanded hitters.
Austin Pope, RHP, D-Backs
Pope is another upper minors performer who meets the standard benchmarks of previous Rule 5 picks that stuck on rosters. He began his season by making 29 appearances with Double-A Amarillo, striking out 29.3% of batters he faced while walking just 7.9%. He handled his home run happy home park in Amarillo and the treacherous Texas League, allowing five home runs over 44.2 innings. Pope locked into gear following an Aug. 1 promotion to Reno and performed well down the stretch. Over 19 Pacific Coast League appearances, Pope pitched to a 2.45 ERA, with a 29.2% K rate, a 8.3% walk rate while allowing just one home run over 22 innings in the home run happy PCL. Pope’s primary pitch is a cut four-seam fastball at 94-96 mph. The pitch generates an above-average amount of whiffs in and out of the zone and he shows the ability to command it consistently. He mixes in a mid-80s slider with gyro and a two-plane curveball in the low-80s. Pope’s stuff is solid average, but he’s shown an ability to control contact and command his arsenal. A former starter, Pope might fit as a mop up and long relief option.
Tyler Owens, RHP, Braves
A 13th round pick out of Trinity Catholic (Fla.) back in 2019, Owens is eligible for the Rule 5 draft for the first time. The undersized righty has worked in a variety of roles, but primarily as a reliever, collecting a trio of saves late in the season for Double-A Mississippi. Owens mixes an interesting trio of pitches in a mid-90s cut four-seam fastball, a mid-80s slider with sweep and a cutter in the low-90s. At 5-foot-10, Owens creates unique characteristics due to his height which allows his cut four-seam fastball to play up. He misses bats with his fastball and slider combination and has the power to handle middle relief innings. Based on performance, stuff and age, Owens is an interesting potential target.
Alec Gamboa, LHP, Dodgers
The Dodgers leave a few relievers available that settle at the top of Rule 5 preference lists every year. Lefty Jose Hernández and righty Gus Varland were both selected in the Rule 5 last year, marking the second consecutive Rule 5 draft with two Dodgers pitchers selected. Gamboa has loud stuff mixing a cut-ride four-seam fastball that sits 94-95 mph and touches 96 with a mid-80s gyro slider and a mid-80s changeup. He doesn’t miss as many bats as his stuff might suggest, but he does generate an above-average rate of groundballs. Gamboa struggles to consistently throw strikes and that likely makes him an unlikely selection, but he has the loudest stuff of any available Dodgers pitcher.
R.J. Dabovich, RHP, Giants
Not long ago, Dabovich was considered one of the best relief prospects in the minor leagues. But he pitched just 2.2 innings for Triple-A Sacramento in 2023 before a right hip impingement ended his season and required surgery. Dabovich made 24 appearances for the River Cats in 2022 and sat 94-96 mph, touching 98-99 mph at peak with above-average ride. He paired his fastball with a plus mid-80s power curveball that missed a ton of bats. Dabovich could stick in a major league pen because of his premium and stuff and upper minors experience if a team believes he can return to full strength by midsummer.
Ryan Fernandez, RHP, Red Sox
Few available Rule 5 pitchers can match Fernandez’s stuff. The righthander pairs a four-seam fastball at 94-96 mph touching 97 mph at peak with a cutter at 89-91 mph, a gyro slider in the upper-80s and a power curveball. Fernandez became more reliant on his cutter and fastball combination as 2023 progressed and the cutter became his primary pitch. Despite an inflated ERA, he struck out 25.2% of batters faced over 26 appearances in Triple-A. Fernandez has a checkered medical history that might scare some teams, but his outlier combination of velocity and feel for spin could be successful in a major league pen next season.
Asa Lacy, LHP, Royals
This would take a rebuilding team willing to take a risk. Lacy did not pitch in an official game in 2023, and his last month of the 2022 season saw him walk 11 in just 4.2 innings while posting a 23.14 ERA. He’s battled back and shoulder issues, and it would be hard to believe he’s ready to help an MLB team. But with all of that said, Lacy was the fourth pick in the 2020 draft. And while he didn’t pitch in an official game this year, he looked good in a brief instructional league appearance.
Beck Way, RHP, Royals
Way’s fastball and slider both looked like they could be above-average a year ago when he was dominating High Class A at Hudson Valley and with Quad Cities after the Yankees traded him to the Royals. A year later, everything seemed to back up a tick, but a team who believes they can get him back to his 2022 form could take a chance on a righthander with a 95-97 mph two-seam fastball and a sometimes promising slider.
Tobias Myers, RHP, Brewers
Myers was once traded for Junior Caminero, so there are definitely pitches here that can tickle a team’s fancy. His 92-94 mph fastball has near top-of-the-scale carry to go with a very flat approach angle and his mid-80s slider is a pitch that he can command that generates swings and misses. Myers also has shown plenty of durability–he threw 140 innings last year. He could work as a back-end starter or middle innings reliever.