Royals Return To The Rule 5 Well

For the third straight year the Royals ventured into the Rule 5 draft, this time choosing righthander Stephen Woods from the Rays’ organization.

The former University at Albany product went 9-3, 1.88 in 18 games, 12 of them starts, at high Class A Charlotte last season.

In 86.1 innings, Woods allowed 71 hits, walked 33 and struck out 79. He walked just 16 in his final 60.2 innings.

“He can really spin the breaking ball,” assistant general manager Scott Sharp said.  “We think he can generate a lot of swing and misses on that pitch. It’s a true curveball.”

Woods, who is 24 and is listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, throws a 90-95 mph fastball and the Royals are optimistic his plus curveball will allow him to be a serviceable big league reliever and spot starter this season.

The Giants drafted Woods in the eighth round in 2016 but shipped him to Tampa Bay in 2017 as part of the package for Evan Longoria. He sat out the 2018 season after shoulder surgery to repair torn cartilage.

Sharp acknowledged Woods’ control had been a concern early in his career. He walked 64 in 110 innings with low Class A Augusta in 2017, but the way he finished last year he “is more dialed in.”

The Royals mined gold in the 2017 Rule 5 draft when they selected Brad Keller and Burch Smith. Keller was the Royals’ pitcher of the year in 2018, going 9-6, 3.08 and moving into the rotation, making 20 starts. He was the club’s Opening Day starter in 2019. 

The Royals picked righthanders Sam McWilliams and Chris Ellis in the 2018 Rule 5 draft. McWilliams did not make it out of spring training after allowing 10 runs in 4.2 innings. Ellis made the Opening Day roster but appeared in only one game before being returned to the Cardinals.

The 2018 Rule 5 draft, however, may be remembered best for what the Royals lost. The Blue Jays picked 18-year-old righty Elvis Luciano, who had never pitched above Rookie ball, but were able to stash him on the major league roster all season.


— The Royals re-signed Humberto Arteaga and Erick Mejia to minor league contracts after non-tendering both. They made their major league debuts last season, Arteaga hitting .197 in 135 plate appearances and Mejia .227 in 27 PA.

Tyler Zuber, a 2017 sixth-rounder out of Arkansas State, recorded a 1.20 ERA, allowing seven hits and striking out 18 in 15 innings over 17 relief appearances in the winter Dominican League.


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