SEE ALSO: Rule 5 Archive
SEE ALSO: 40-Man Roster Additions
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—At some point, it’s time to put together the list. There will be a few names added before Thursday’s Rule 5 draft begins at 9 a.m. ET. But here’s an attempt to put together a reasonably comprehensive list of the names to know for the Rule 5 draft.
The players are divided into different categories in part because teams picking in the Rule 5 draft are often looking for a fit. If you are set in the middle infield, teams aren’t going put a shortstop at the top of their Rule 5 list, no matter if he’s the best talent in their scouting reports. This list was compiled with the help of almost everyone on the Baseball America staff.
The cream of the crop
The following are players who should rank near the top of teams’ preference lists heading into the Rule 5 draft regardless of position.
Yimmi Brasoban, rhp, Padres: Brasoban ranked 19th in the Padres system a year ago. The Padres’ system is significantly deeper this year, but it is still a surprise that San Diego left the hard-throwing righthander unprotected as he has two major league pitches (a 95-98 mph fastball and an excellent slider) and he has Double-A experience. Brasoban’s control wavers at times, but with an ability to eat up righthanded hitters (who hit .190/.292/.238 against him in Double-A), he is a very intriguing potential pick.
Yonny Chirinos, rhp, Rays: While some of the players on this list have significant control issues, Chrinos will go weeks without walks at times. As a starter, he had a 43-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in May and June and for his career, Chirinos has walked 1.4 batters per nine innings. While Chirinos hits his spots, he’s not a soft-tosser. He sits in the low 90s as a starter and has touched 95 as a reliever. He’s always had a decent changeup and his slider has improved in 2016. Chirinos’ upside is more limited than some of the other Rule 5 candidates, but his combination of solid stuff and big-league ready control makes him more able to contribute immediately than the majority of candidates on Rule 5 unprotected lists.
Phillip Evans, 2b/ss/3b, Mets: Evans won the Eastern League batting title in 2016, hitting .335 for Binghamton. It was a surprising development as he was a career .236/.304/.310 hitter coming into the 2016 season. But Evans has a short, compact stroke with some pop, so his batting title didn’t look as flukish as one might believe. He’s also hitting .333/.418/.521 in the Puerto Rican winter league giving scouts another good look. Evans was a full-time shortstop early in his career. He’s slid to second and third base more regularly as he moved up the ladder (and in deference to Amed Rosario) but he did play shortstop frequently this season and while he’s not good enough defensively to be an everyday shortstop, he is capable enough to contribute as a utility infielder.
Julian Fernandez, rhp, Rockies: Asking Fernandez to pitch in the big leagues right now would be like tossing the keys to a new Ferrari to a 16-year-old and telling them take it for a spin around the Nurburgring. Fernandez walked 7.8 batters per nine innings in short-season Boise—he struck out 19 and walked 20 in 23 innings. He’s yet to throw a pitch in full season ball. But Fernandez has a truly special right arm. As a reliever, Fernandez sits at 98-100, touching 102-103 with outstanding life. He doesn’t really have a secondary pitch he can rely on yet and his fastball misses the zone almost as often as it finds it, but a rebuilding team could take a chance on one of the best arms in baseball, sit him on the bench in all but blowout games and hope that a few years from now, they have a dominant reliever.
Ismael Guillon, lhp, Reds: Because the Reds voided Guillon’s initial contract after a physical found a torn elbow ligament, Guillon was eligible for the Rule 5 draft before he ever threw an official pitch (he missed 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery to repair the elbow ligament). Eventually Cincinnati added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the 2012-2014 Rule 5 drafts, but removed him from the 40-man before the 2015 season. He ended up missing all of 2015 with a lat injury, but returned to put together his best season as a pro at high Class A Daytona this year. With a solid average fastball (90-93 mph as a starter) and one of the best changeups in the Reds’ system, Guillon misses bats and with his changeup, he’s not helpless against righthanders. But he held lefties to .133/.233/.222 averages in 2016. Guillon’s control is shaky. He also has one of the best pickoff moves in the minors. He only nabbed six baserunners in 2016, but his reputation now precedes him–only 7 of 16 attempted basestealers succeeded as baserunners stay glued to first.
Justin Haley, rhp, Red Sox: Haley is the owner of possibly the coolest pre-pitch setups in the minors. He sets up on the third-base side of the rubber, with his other foot straddling the rubber. With the ball in his glove raised in front of his face, he looks in for the sign with his pitching hand cocked at his waist, fingers dancing back and forth like Wyatt Earp ready to draw. He gets the sign for the pitch and then locks, loads and fires. As a starter, Haley’s velocity ticked up as the season warmed up. Late in the season he was sitting 90-92, but his fastball plays up because he locates it well. He also has an above-average slider as well as a useable curveball and changeup. He was dominant in Double-A this year and solid in Triple-A as a starter. Because he has Triple-A experience and feel, and he’s been impressive in the Dominican Republic this fall with Escogido (2-0, 0.38, 24 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 14 SO), Haley has made a pretty strong case to be picked.
Drew Muren, rhp, Diamondbacks: Muren was a two-way player in college who tried to make it to the big leagues as a hitter, but he flamed out in Double-A. After spending two years in indy ball as a hitter, the Diamondbacks took a chance on his arm, moved him to the mound and saw him make it to Triple-A briefly in his first pro season as a pitcher. Muren’s stuff has helped make up for lost time. He sits in the mid-to-high 90s and touched 100 mph this year. He struck out 61 in 41 innings between three stops although he also showed below-average control. Muren’s delivery is a little unconventional as might be expected for a converted hitter. His release point is nearly sidearm giving hitters a very odd look for a pitcher with a near-top-of-the-scale fastball. His secondary stuff is still primitive.
Joel Payamps, rhp, Diamondbacks: Payamps’ stats at high Class A were rather pedestrian (7-5, 4.75, 2.7 BB/9, 8.8 K/9), but Payamps showed plenty of arm strength, as he’ll sit 92-94 mph and touch 97 mph. And he has a slurve he’s confident in and a usable changeup. As a Rule 5 pick, he’d slide to the bullpen where everything would likely play up. Payamps has big league-caliber stuff and his control is reasonably advanced, which makes him worth investigating. He has not pitched well in the Dominican winter league, hurting his chances of being picked.
Wei-Chung Wang, lhp: In 2014, Wang become one of the unlikeliest Rule 5 picks to stick in recent history. The Pirates understandably left him unprotected, believing no one would take a lefthander whose entire pro career had been spent in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Forget jumping from a stadium with two decks to big league stadiums with three decks, Wang went from chain-link fences to the majors. And then when Wang fulfilled his Rule 5 eligibility requirements, the Brewers sent him back to Class A and eventually dropped him from the 40-man roster (he went unclaimed through waivers). Wang was not ready in 2014 to contribute to a big league club, but that’s no longer the case. Wang could get a chance to see if he can lower that career 10.90 big league ERA. Wang doesn’t throw as hard as he did a few years ago–his fastball is average at best and gets some fringe average grades, but his changeup is excellent and his slider is solid and he hits his spots. Pitching for Double-A Biloxi, Wang held lefties to a .220/.257/.280 stat line.
Tyler Webb, lhp, Yankees: Teams looking for a lefty specialist should take a good look at Webb. He has enough velocity (90-92 mph) with a slider and a changeup. Webb held lefties to a .559 OPS in 2016. It’s no fluke as he held lefties to a .525 OPS with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2015 as well.
Zack Weiss, rhp, Reds: Weiss ranked as the Reds’ No. 22 prospect after last season. If not for an elbow injury, Weiss would have likely spent much of 2016 in the big leagues, as he was expected to be big league ready. But the former UCLA star’s elbow injury lingered, even if it didn’t require surgery. Teams will have to be flying somewhat blind with Weiss as he didn’t pitch in an official game anywhere all season, but if he can return to his 2015 form (11.8 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 at Double-A Pensacola), he’s close to big league ready. Before his injuries he had a plus fastball and a pair of potentially plus breaking balls.
Eric Wood, 3b, Pirates: Wood creates an interesting debate for scouts and front offices. If you believe his 2016 season was a breakout, there’s a lot to like. Wood hit 16 home runs with plenty of walks in a .249/.339/.443 season with Double-A Altoona and he was even better in the Arizona Fall League (.330/.388/.489). But that season was dramatically better than anything he’d done before—he came into the season with 15 home runs in his first four pro seasons. Wood is headed to the Dominican Republic after his AFL stint, so scouts will get some further pre-Rule 5 looks.
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Want a near triple-digits reliever? That’s easy to find. They might not have much control or a solid secondary pitch, but there are plenty of pitchers with pure arm strength in this year’s Rule 5 draft, including at least nine that touched 100 mph at some point in 2016 (including Fernandez and Muren on the Cream of the Crop list). Every year, there are a few power arms who blossom into valuable big league relievers. One or two may be found in this year’s Rule 5 list as there is an overabundance of power.
Andury Acevedo, rhp, Cubs: Acevedo was added to the Cubs’ 40-man roster last offseason as he signed a major league contract as a minor league free agent. But Chicago dumped him from the 40-man roster after he torn an ACL in one of his knees and missed most of the season. When healthy, Acevedo had a 95-97 mph fastball and an interesting cutter, so a team looking for a cheap bullpen arm with Triple-A experience could take a chance.
Jose Adames, rhp, Marlins: Adames didn’t have a very good 2016 season, and he’s likely to go unpicked as he’s now recovering from Tommy John surgery, but it’s worth noting that he’s a pitcher who is available who touched 100 mph this season.
Yhonathan Barrios, rhp, Brewers: Barrios pitched in the big leagues for Milwaukee in 2015, striking out seven in 6.2 innings. But he missed all of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. That shoulder injury is why Milwaukee felt comfortable leaving him unprotected and will likely keep Barrios from hearing his name called, but pre-injury his 95-100 mph fastball impressed.
Andy Beltre, rhp, Marlins: He’s not ready for the big leagues (he pitched in low Class A and high Class A), but Beltre’s pure velocity (he’s touched 100 mph) and his ability to overpower hitters (he struck out 10.4 batters per nine innings this year) could get him noticed.
Mitch Brown, rhp, Indians: The Indians’ 2012 second-round pick, Brown has ranked in the Indians’ Top 30 in each of the past four seasons. That said, his career has stalled at high Class A because of extreme control issues (7 BB/9 this year). But Brown has premium stuff with a 93-95 mph fastball and an excellent curveball.
Jamie Callahan, rhp, Red Sox: Callahan has struggled with his control at times, but after some mechanical tweaks and refining his slider, he put together an impressive Arizona Fall League campaign, going 0-2, 0.75 with 12 strikeouts (and three walks) in 12 innings. Callahan’s 95-96 mph fastball sets up an improved hard (88-90 mph) slider. His lack of upper-level minor league experience (he’s yet to pitch above Class A) would make it harder for him to stick as a Rule 5 pick.
Jose Castillo, lhp, Padres: Castillo throws harder than most lefties (92-95 mph) with an improved changeup and a pretty mediocre breaking ball. One of the players San Diego acquired in the Wil Myers/Trea Turner trade, he’s a power lefty who has yet to pitch above high Class A.
Miguel Diaz, rhp, Brewers: Diaz missed a lot of time in 2015 with an avulsion fracture in his pitching elbow, but he returned to action before the season ended and his stuff was every bit as good as before–a lively 93-95 mph fastball and solid secondaries.
Anyelo Gomez, rhp, Yankees: Gomez’s statistics offer no real reason why he would be picked. It’s hard to sell to teams that a pitcher who was 4-3, 4.36 with 4 BB/9 and 9 K/9 in low Class A is ready for the big leagues, but like the rest of the guys in this category, he does throw really hard——up to 100 mph.
Zack Jones, rhp, Twins: A Rule 5 pick a year ago, Jones never really had a chance to make the Brewers’ roster because he was limited in spring training by a shoulder injury that led to a stint on the 60-day DL. When he returned, he was immediately sent back to Minnesota. Jones was his normal self with Double-A Chattanooga in the second half: wild, missing bats and still doing it with an effortful delivery. Jones has a long medical history at this point, but he’s also a reliever with a plus fastball (he’s touched 100 mph in the past) and a long track record of getting strikeouts.
Jordy Lara, rhp, Braves: If Muren is a success story as a converted position player who took to the mound, the jury is still out on Lara. He has only eight appearances as a pitcher, and the first one was as a position player helping out the bullpen in a blowout. But in those few outings he showed a 92-95 mph fastball and a very inconsistent but at times promising slider.
Tyler Kinley, rhp, Marlins: Kinley’s Double-A season wasn’t spectacular, but he was effective despite some wildness, and he had plenty of arm strength (he touched 100 mph). But he was a disaster in eight outings with Triple-A New Orleans as his control fell apart. Kinley is pitching sporadically in the Dominican this winter, and he’s been solid so far, so he is getting a second look from scouts.
Branden Kline, rhp, Orioles: Kline’s velocity spiked in 2015 as he started touching 95-97 mph as a starter. But he blew out his elbow in the process and had to be shut down in May 2015. He tried to rehab the elbow with platelet-rich plasma injections, but eventually he had Tommy John surgery in October 2015 and missed all of 2016. It’s unlikely a team will take a chance on such a wild card, but Kline is a starter with stuff that could play well in a bullpen.
Joey Krehbiel, rhp, Diamondbacks: Krehbiel has long mixed velocity with volatile control. The control has gotten a little better and the fastball is still impressive. He sits 93-95 mph out of the bullpen but he’ll touch 97 or better and his slider has helped him rack up 10-plus strikeouts per nine innings pretty much everywhere he’s pitched. Krehbiel was very good in the Arizona Fall League (20 strikeouts, 6 walks and a .136 average against in 13 innings) which helps his chances.
Trey McNutt, rhp, Padres: McNutt was once a significant Cubs prospect. But injuries sapped his stuff to the point where he was released in 2015. He worked with Driveline Bases while looking for a team, managed to get back his 93-97 mph fastball and was impressive in eight brief appearances at the end of the season. It’s hard to see a team picking him based on such a short look, but the stuff is once again impressive.
Evan Mitchell, rhp, Reds: When he was drafted out of Mississippi State, Mitchell was seen as a hard-throwing reliever whose control and command weren’t good enough to let his fastball play, which explains why he slid to the 13th round. To his credit, he’s made significant strides with his control. He didn’t show a swing-and-miss pitch in Double-A this year, but he does throw hard (95-96 mph, touching 98).
Miguel Nunez, rhp, Phillies: Nunez is a big (6-foot-6) righthander with good stuff (95-98 mph fastball) and iffy control. He’s pitched in the AFL and Double-A, so a team that saw him good in Arizona might roll the dice.
Braulio Ortiz, rhp, Reds: Ortiz was released by the White Sox this past spring, was picked up by the Reds and continued to struggle to come close to the strike zone, much less hit the mitt. But he did show some improvement late in the season at low Class A Dayton and he throws extremely hard (up to 101 mph).
Mark Peterson, rhp, Royals: Peterson has solid stuff (he’ll touch 96 mph) and struck out 10 per nine innings and walked two per nine in an excellent stint in Double-A this year. But he also had a rough stint in Triple-A in May and June.
Julio Perez, rhp, Diamondbacks: Perez was released by the Orioles after 2012 season and didn’t end up back in affiliated ball until 2016. The stuff didn’t suffer from rust. He pitches at 96-98 mph and has a high-80s slider. The stuff is big league caliber, the polish in low Class A.
Jeff Soptic, rhp, Giants: Soptic did not have a good season (1-3, 6.75), mainly because he can’t throw enough strikes (6.8 BB/9 for his career), but he has touched 100 mph this season and has plenty of arm strength. He’s unlikely to be picked, but velocity like his is still somewhat uncommon.
Lou Trivino, rhp, Athletics: He’ll sit 94-96 mph with his fastball but he’s touched 98 and he mixes in a cutter and change. He also throws a slurvy breaking ball that needs to tighten up.
Daris Vargas, rhp, Yankees: Vargas touched 100 mph this past year and has plenty of velocity, but so far his control has been shaky and he doesn’t have a second pitch to get swings and misses.
Good Glove Infielders
Malquin Canelo, ss, Phillies: A year ago, it looked like Canelo was starting to put everything together. Long one of the better defenders in the Phillies’ system, the ball started jumping off Canelo’s bat with more authority in 2015, giving him a chance to potentially be a well-rounded middle infielder. But in 2016, Canelo struggled through a very middling season in the Florida State League. He’s still very young (he just turned 22) and he’s an above-average defender at shortstop with good hands, instincts and an above-average arm.
Calten Daal, ss, Reds: Because he hit in the Arizona Fall League, Reds teammate Zach Vincej understandably is getting some Rule 5 attention, but a pretty strong case could be made that Daal is more likely to get picked. Daal is more athletic than Vincej, is a better defender and hit .310/.365/.379 in his limited action at Double-A Pensacola this year. Daal had a very injury-plagued 2016 that included a concussion and shoulder problems.
Zach Vincej, ss, Reds: There are a number of reasons why Vincej won’t be picked. His bat is a question, as he has very little power and is a bottom-of-the-order hitter at best. His range is solid but unspectacular. But a team that saw him good in the Arizona Fall League (where he hit a robust .352 with four home runs) might bite on a shortstop with excellent reliability and feel for the game. Vincej committed only four errors in 115 defensive games.
Betting On The Bat
There aren’t that many corner outfielder/first basemen taken in the Rule 5 draft, but there have been success stories, including minor league Rule 5 pick Justin Bour.
Nick Delmonico, 1b/3b, White Sox: Delmonico has already been traded once (Orioles to Brewers for Francisco Rodriguez), released once (by the Brewers) and suspended once (50 games for testing positive for amphetamines). But he also just put together the best season of his career. Delmonico has long been considered a solid hitting prospect—he signed for $1.525 million out of high school but he’s also faced defensive questions. When he was an amateur, some teams talked about him becoming a catcher. He’s played first, second, third and right field as a pro, but he’s best at first base. Delmonico has some pop, but his 2016 statistics were boosted by an unsustainable hot streak at Double-A Birmingham.
Brandon Dixon, 2b, Reds: Dixon has played everywhere except shortstop and catcher, but it’s hard to say that he has a true home defensively. He’s fringy defensively almost everywhere, and his best position is in a corner outfield spot. But scouts do consistently like Dixon’s bat. He has average power to go with some natural athleticism.
Jon Kemmer, of, Astros: Kemmer looked to be an Astros’ late-round find after an impressive 2015 season at Double-A Corpus Christi. Kemmer hit for similar power, but with a much lower batting average and a higher strikeout rate in a 2016 jump to Triple-A. He’s a corner outfielder/first base bat, and usually those get picked off of bigger seasons than the .265/.334/.477 one Kemmer just posted. But he is a hitter with a track record of production and plus power.
Chris Marrero, 1b, Giants: Marrero would be an unconventional Rule 5 pick. He’s a 28-year-old who is very well traveled—he’s played for the Nationals, White Sox, Orioles and Red Sox and was just signed by the Giants as a minor league free agent. But he’s coming off a 23-home run season in Pawtucket, a promising power spike. It’s hard to see a team taking Marrero with Rule 5 roster restrictions when he could have been signed as a minor league free agent just a month ago, but similar picks have happened before.
Yermin Mercedes, c, Orioles: Mercedes hit .353/.411/.579 at low Class A Delmarva and followed it up by hitting .318/.381/.542 after a promotion to high Class A Frederick. He was old (23) for the leagues and has been released once, but Mercedes’ offensive production in 2016 was impressive. His defensive struggles behind the plate are his biggest obstacle. He is catching in the Dominican this winter.
Andrew Pullin, of, Phillies: Pullin began the 2016 season on the voluntarily retired list and ended it as one of the more interesting available bats in the Rule 5 draft. Pullin retired from the game at the end of spring training and went home. But a month later, he returned, hit well at high Class A Clearwater and then torched Double-A Reading after a promotion. He hit .346/.393/.559 with Reading. While Reading is a great place to hit, Pullin actually hit better on the road in Double-A than he did at home. The Phillies tried Pullin at second base early in his pro career, but he’s slid back to left field. It’s hard to stick in the Rule 5 draft as a corner bat, but Pullin is one of the better lefty bats available.
Bijan Rademacher, of, Cubs: Rademacher is coming off his best year as a pro, as he hit .307/.385/.466 between Double-A and Triple-A. Rademacher would be a better Rule 5 fit if he could capably play center field, but he’s a lefty bat who can play left, first and right field in a pinch.
Luke Voit, 1b, Cardinals: Voit produced an out of nowhere breakout season in the Texas League. He hit .297/.372/.477 in a league where only one player slugged .500. But he’s also a righthanded hitting, righthanded throwing first baseman. Scouts are generally skeptical of right-right first basemen unless they have exceptional power, and Voit doesn’t.
Talented, But Not Ready
Every year there are a number of young players, usually Latino, who are left off protection lists because they are so far away from the big leagues that it would be hard to keep them on a roster, no matter how talented they are. Notable players in recent years who have fit this category include then-Cubs shortstop Marco Hernandez (eligible in 2014), Rangers outfielder/first baseman Ronald Guzman (eligible in 2015) and Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (multiple years).
Allen Cordoba, ss, Cardinals: The Cardinals are taking an understandable gamble in leaving Cordoba unprotected. Few unprotected players have more tools than Cordoba—he’s a shortstop with an above-average arm who will probably be able to stay at the position. And so far, Cordoba has hit everywhere he’s gone. Cordoba was MVP of the Gulf Coast League in 2015 and followed that up by hitting .362/.427/.495 in the Appy League this season. Cordoba’s one of the more intriguing.
Seranthony Dominguez, rhp, Phillies: Dominguez has only 10 starts in low Class A on his resume, so the majors are a long ways away. But he does pitch more like a veteran than his experience would indicate. Dominguez’s low to mid 90s fastball is effective because he can locate it and manipulate it. His slider is erratic but promising as well. Dominguez isn’t ready, but he’s one of those promising pitchers who could develop into something. He’s just unlikely to get picked when he’s this far away.
Jose Pujols, of, Phillies: Pujols has plenty of power—he led the South Atlantic League with 24 home runs. But he also strikes out at a frightening rate. It’s hard to see an outfielder who whiffed 179 times in low Class A handling a jump to the big leagues.
Anthony Santander, 1b, Indians: Santander would rank among the best available players in this year’s Rule 5 draft if not for the surgery on his throwing shoulder he’s undergone this fall. Santander has played both the outfield and first base, but he fits better at first. He has plus power potential and some feel for hitting as well, but as a rehabbing hitter with no experience above Class A, the risk profile likely will keep him from hearing his name called.
Outfielders who can play center field always end up in demand come Rule 5 time.
Jake Cave, of, Yankees: The second pick in last year’s Rule 5 draft is by most measures a more appealing Rule 5 candidate this year than last. Last year when the Reds picked him, he was coming off of a solid but unspectacular season in Double-A. Cave’s tools are the same as they were last year, but now he has a successful year (.268/.330/.437 between Double-A and Triple-A) under his belt. If you liked Cave last year, there’s as much to like this year.
Johnny Field, of, Rays: Field has long intrigued scouts with his useful bat, but he’s also frustrated them because it’s hard to find where he fits on a team. There was plenty of talk of moving him to second base earlier in his career, but he’s stayed in the outfield, where his lack of speed stretches him in center field. Field gets the most out of his modest tools and is a better defender in the outfield than a below-average runner should be, but it would take a team who was willing to see him as a useful backup at all three outfield spots to make him a viable pick.
Roemon Fields, of, Blue Jays: Fields is coming off a very poor season offensively in the Eastern League (.227/.295/.296), but he could fit on the right team in a specialized role. He is a top-of-the-scale runner, an above-average defender in center or left field and unlike some speedsters, he knows how to swipe a bag (he has a 78 percent career success rate).
Carlos Tocci, of, Phillies: Tocci has long impressed with his outfield defense. He’s not a pure speedster, but he reads the ball off the bat well and has a good sense of how to take off for the spot where the ball will end up. He also has a solid contact-oriented swing. That being said, Tocci has very little power (9 home runs in five pro seasons) and doesn’t run well enough to impact a game on the bases. Tocci will play almost all of next year as a 21-year-old so there’s still plenty of room for development, but it’s hard to see a team taking a chance on an outfielder without time in the high minors (Double-A or Triple-A) who isn’t a speedster or a bopper.
Max White, of, Rockies: White was unable to build on an excellent 2015 in a promotion to high Class A Modesto in 2016. He’s long impressed with a pretty varied toolset. White is a speedster who can steal a bag (36 steals last year) and is comfortable in center field and there’s a little power potential thanks to his natural strength. But his strikeouts and below-average hit tool argue against a Rule 5 pick.
Kyle Wren, of, Brewers: Wren fits the speedy backup outfielder profile that has been a popular pick of teams in the Rule 5 draft in recent years. Wren has very little power, but he gets on-base and can steal a bag once he reaches with plus speed. And he’s an asset defensively in center.
Enough Stuff, Good Control
A lot of recent Rule 5 success stories, including Matt Bowman and Joe Biagini in 2016 are pitchers with solid stuff and big league-ready control. If they have been minor league starters, their stuff often ticks up in moves to the bullpen as well.
D.J. Baxendale, rhp, Twins: Baxendale’s fastball by modern standards has to be considered below average. He’ll sit 89-91 mph but he locates it well, and hitters can never really sit fastball as Baxendale mixes in cutters, sliders, changeups and curveballs. After beginning the season as a starter, Baxendale really took off after he was promoted to Triple-A and moved to the bullpen. He went 2-1, 1.29 with 10.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in Triple-A, giving teams another reason to take a closer look at him.
Alejandro Chacin, rhp, Reds: Chacin doesn’t blow hitters away with velocity, but he’s been extremely effective at almost every step in his now seven-year minor league career. Thanks to deception and an effective changeup, Chacin has struck out nearly 11 batters per nine innings for his minor league career while posting a career 2.44 ERA. This will be the third time Chacin is Rule 5 eligible, but he success in Double-A for the first time this year, so he is more attractive as a Rule 5 candidate.
Ricky Knapp, rhp, Mets: Knapp is a control specialist who saw some improvements in his fastball velocity this year, which gave him an average fastball for the first time as a pro. Knapp tries to stay a pitch ahead of hitters with a very varied assortment and he’ll change his arm angle as needed. He keeps the ball in the park (20 home runs in 425 pro innings) but needs to prove that his excellent changeup gives him enough of an out pitch against advanced hitters.
Jordan Guerrero, lhp, White Sox: Guerrero’s control actually backed up in his jump to Double-A Birmingham, which is a concern for a pitcher with fringy velocity and an excellent changeup.
Francisco Rios, rhp, Blue Jays: Rios would be a pitcher to stash and develop at this point in his career, but Toronto was willing to leave him unprotected. He has a promising fastball/curveball and a usable changeup and he keeps all three around the strike zone. But he’s a 21-year-old who has yet to pitch in Double-A, so he’d have trouble earning his keep in a big league bullpen.
Pedro Payano, rhp, Rangers: Payano spent three years in the Dominican Summer League before coming to the States, so he’s yet to pitch above low Class A. And he has a below-average 88-90 mph fastball. But he’ll bump a 92-93 every now and then and gets hitters out with an above-average changeup and solid average control.
Angel Perdomo, lhp, Blue Jays: Perdomo doesn’t really fit any of these categories. He’s a tall (6-foot-6) lefty with the potential to have above-average stuff down the road and he already racks up strikeouts, but right now he’s too far away to likely entice any team. He can best be described right now as a pitcher who in a few years it may be notable to remember that he was once Rule 5 eligible.
Paul Sewald, rhp, Mets: A $1,000 senior sign out of San Diego, Sewald survived the hellscape that is pitching in Las Vegas, which by itself is an endorsement that he’s ready for the big leagues. Sewald’s 3.29 ERA was easily the best on the team for any Las Vegas pitcher with 40 or more innings. There’s nothing flashy about Sewald’s generally average arsenal, but he locates it well (2.0 BB/9 for his career) and he misses bats (10.7 career K/9). He’s also pitched effectively in Mexico in winter ball.
Aaron Slegers, rhp, Twins: A massive (6-foot-10) righthander who was a college teammate of Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis at Indiana, Slegers gets every bit of the extension scouts hope to see from someone that tall. That helps his low-90s fastball play up a little and his slider has improved to give him a usable second pitch. Unlike many of the tallest pitchers in baseball, Slegers’ control is generally impeccable–he’s walked two batters per nine innings for his pro career. His stuff could get a bump from a move to the bullpen, but he may fit best as multi-inning reliever who slides into the rotation as a fill-in when needed.
Catching is one of the toughest positions to find in the Rule 5 draft as teams won’t take a player they can’t conceive as the primary backup—no one carries three catchers all year anymore in the days of expanded bullpens.
Joe Hudson, c, Reds: Hudson’s inability to hit will almost assuredly mean his name won’t be called on Thursday, but Hudson’s defensive acumen could get him to the big leagues someday. He’s an excellent defender who can throw (40 percent caught stealing rate this year). What he can’t do is hit—.203/.315/.290.
Beau Taylor, c, Athletics: Taylor has always been known as a defense-first catcher with a light bat, but he started to turn that report on its head in 2016 as he hit .280/.383/.398 with Double-A Midland. Taylor has always handled a staff well, is a solid receiver and he threw out 36 percent of baserunners this year. His ability to draw a walk gives him some value at the plate as well. Taylor will turn 27 before the 2017 season begins, so he’s best thought off as an inexpensive backup rather than a young catcher whose best days are ahead of him.
Stuart Turner, c, Twins: It wasn’t all that long ago that Turner was battling with Mitch Garver for the title of best catching prospect in the Twins system, which makes sense since both college catchers were drafted in 2013. But while Garver hit at Double-A and Triple-A, Turner’s bat has stalled at Double-A. Turner is solid enough defensively to be a big league backup, but he hasn’t shown the pop teams usually look for in their backup catcher.
Chad Wallach, c, Reds: Wallach, the son of former big leaguer Tim Wallach, has missed time with a variety of injuries, including a stint on the DL this year with a hand injury. But when he’s healthy, he’s held his own at the plate, although he’s been fringy behind it. Wallach has the tools to be a big league catcher, but it’s less certain that he’s ready to handle that job right now.
There are always a number of lefties who are best positioned to get one out in the big leagues. Many get picked in the Rule 5 draft with that profile (most notably Patrick Schuster at 1-1 in 2013). But few have been success stories this decade.
Caleb Frare, lhp, Yankees: Frare’s velocity jumped from the low 90s to 94-95 mph late in the season, putting an impressive cap on a solid season at high Class A Tampa. Frare’s fastball/cutter/slider approach has given lefthanded hitters issues, as they hit only .152/.241/.217 against him, but righthanders didn’t have much fun either. He posted a 0.92 ERA and didn’t allow a home run all season.
Nick Routt, lhp, Reds: Routt had one of the best changeups in the Southeastern Conference when he was at Mississippi State and he seemed to respond to a move to the bullpen this year. Routt’s stuff is average at best (low 90s fastball, slider and changeup), but he was very good in Double-A (2-0, 0.89 with a .166 average against) and he was effective in the Arizona Fall League in front of a lot of scouts.
D.J. Snelten, lhp, Giants: Snelten’s overall stats are inflated by a poor stint as a starter. He was much better as a reliever–he was 1-0, 1.08 in 25 innings as a reliever with a .193 average against. As a starter, hitters hit .336 against him. That’s understandable as Snelten erases lefties but doesn’t really have a weapon to defeat righthanded hitters.
Daniel Stumpf, lhp, Royals: Stumpf was a Rule 5 pick last year, but his stint with the Phillies was not exactly one to remember. Stumpf allowed three runs without recording an out in his MLB debut. After two more outings, he was suspended 80 games for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug—Stumpf says he does not know how the drug got into his system. Upon his return, he made four more appearances, allowing at least one hit in each, and was returned to the Royals after another three-run outing left him with a 10.80 ERA. As ugly as Stumpf’s year was, he was very effective with Double-A Northwest Arkansas after he returned to the Royals and he’s pitched well in Venezuela in winter ball. Stumpf is the same guy he was last year—a matchup lefty with an average fastball and a fringy but usable slider and changeup.
Big Names Available
In addition to some high-priced international signees, there are eight 2012 and 2013 first-round picks who were left unprotected in the first year they were eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Chris Anderson, rhp, Dodgers: Control troubles have kept Anderson from living up to the promise the Dodgers saw when they drafted him in the first round in 2013. Anderson has never had consistent success in multiple tries at Double-A and higher.
Jairo Beras, of, Rangers: Beras was one of the stars of the 2012 international signing class, and gained even more notoriety when MLB suspended him after it determined he’d altered his age to become eligible to sign. His development since has been slow. He’s yet to reach Double-A, but he did hit in the friendly confines of High Desert this season.
Rusney Castillo, of, Red Sox: Castillo was the Red Sox’s big-money bust on the Cuban market. Since a team drafting him assumes his contract, it’s safe to say that Castillo is unlikely to hear his name called, much like the way he passed through waivers unclaimed when the Red Sox dropped him from the 40-man roster.
Clint Coulter, of, Brewers: A catcher earlier in his career, Coulter moved to right field in 2015. Briefly it looks like he might hit enough to fit at a corner outfield spot, but his struggles with a long swing and contact issues have hampered him for much of the past two seasons.
Jonathon Crawford, rhp, Reds: The Tigers’ first-round pick in 2013, Crawford’s career has been derailed by shoulder problems. He returned to the mound in 2016, but his stuff is yet to return to what was when he was at Florida.
D.J. Davis, of, Blue Jays: Toronto: A 2012 first-rounder (17th overall pick), Davis was quickly passed by fellow Mississippi prep product Anthony Alford, even though Alford missed two seasons playing football. Davis’ bat has never allowed his speed to play—he hit .197/.295/.263 this year.
Courtney Hawkins, of, White Sox: The 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Hawkins moved very quickly early in his career, but his pace has slowed dramatically since. After spending two years at high Class A, he’s spent back to back years at Double-A Birmingham. A .256 on-base percentage this season is disturbing, but equally worrisome is the fact that Hawkins, a potential power hitter, has yet to reach 20 home runs in a season. He hit 12 in 2016.
Ty Hensley, rhp, Yankees: Hensley, the Yankees’ first-round pick in 2012, has missed three full seasons in the past five years because of injuries. He’s thrown a total of 30.2 innings in the past four seasons.
Eric Jagielo, 3b/1b, Reds: Jagielo was one of the prospects the Reds acquired for lefthander Aroldis Chapman in their ill-timed trade of the closer to the Yankees. With the possibility of a suspension hanging over Chapman’s head, Cincinnati sent him away for a modest return. New York then traded Chapman to Chicago and received one of the top prospects in baseball—Gleyber Torres. Scouts wondered how much Jagielo’s knees bothered him in 2016 as he lacked impact at the plate and was moved from third to first base. Jagielo hit .205/.305/.310 in a return to Double-A and will likely fall out of the Reds’ Top 30 this offseason.
Yaisel Sierra, rhp, Dodgers: On pure talent, Sierra deserves to be on this list. He still has the same stuff (up to 96 mph although with shaky control) that enticed the Dodgers to sign him to a six-year, $30 million major league deal. But in reality, Sierra’s contract almost ensures no one will pick him in the Rule 5 draft because while Sierra has a good arm, he pretty much proved in 2016 that he doesn’t fit as a starter and as a reliever, there’s too much risk to assume such a big contract.
Lewis Thorpe, rhp, Twins: Thorpe was a significant signing for the Twins out of Australia and he dominated the Gulf Coast League in his pro debut in 2013. When healthy, he showed the makings of three to four average pitches, but he’s missed the last two seasons with Tommy John surgery.
Stryker Trahan, of, Diamondbacks: Like Coulter in the same 2012 draft class, Trahan was a catcher who eventually moved to the outfield. His bat has not gotten a boost from the move and he’s carrying a career .220 batting average. He’s yet to play a game above high Class A.