Image credit: Jose Soriano (Photo by Travis Berg/Four Seam)
The 2020 MLB Rule 5 Draft is in the books. To see all the selections, click here. A full breakdown of each pick will arrive shortly below.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates — Jose Soriano, RHP (Angels)
Scouting Report: One of the top pitching prospects in the Angels system, Soriano had Tommy John surgery in February and will be out until mid-2021. Prior to surgery, Soriano showed plenty of promise with an ideal 6-foot-3, 210-pound pitcher’s frame and a loose, athletic delivery. His fastball averaged 96 mph and touched 100 and he backed it up advanced feel for a high-spin low-80s curveball and a swing-and-miss changeup. Soriano has huge stuff, but his control and inexperience are two big question marks in addition to his health. He has yet to pitch above low Class A and he has walked 5.1 batters per nine innings in his career. He still growing into his body after a blooming late physically, so the hope is his control will improve as he grows into his body and improves the timing and mechanics of his delivery. For now, the top priority is getting Soriano back to full health.
2. Texas Rangers — Brett de Geus, RHP (Dodgers)
Scouting Report: A 33rd-round pick out of Cabrillo (Calif.) JC in 2017, de Geus had a breakout 2019 season at the Class A levels on the strength of a 95-97 mph fastball and a plus curveball that drew tons of swings and misses. He followed up with 9.1 scoreless innings of relief in the Arizona Fall League and earned a spot in the Fall Stars Game. de Geus came back from the 2020 shutdown with decreased stuff, however, and sat in the low 90s at the alternate training site. de Geus throws plenty of strikes, so the hope is his stuff will come back with a more normal season in 2021.
3. Detroit Tigers — Akil Baddoo, OF (Twins)
Scouting Report: Baddoo was the 74th overall pick in the 2016 draft, but injuries have slowed his progress, including Tommy John surgery that ended his 2019 campaign after he hit .214/.290/.393 in 23 games for high Class A Fort Myers. Baddoo is an athletic outfielder with plus speed, though with mixed reviews on his reads and routes in center field, along with an average arm. His speed and defense give him some survival tools to perhaps stick around in 2021, but he has a 25% strikeout rate at the Class A level with a swing that gets too uphill, so he’s likely to be overmatched at the plate next year.
4. Boston Red Sox — Garrett Whitlock, RHP (Yankees)
Scouting Report: The Yankees’ 18th-rounder in 2017 out of Alabama-Birmingham, Whitlock had Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2019 season and would have missed much of the 2020 season had it not been shelved. In the 2019 season, Whitlock showed a fastball that had ticked into the mid 90s and generated plenty of grounders—he had a 2.20 groundball-to-flyball ratio before getting hurt. He coupled the fastball with a low-80s slider and a changeup in the same velo range as his breaking ball. He is back healthy and throwing now, and could be a weapon out of Boston’s bullpen.
5. Baltimore Orioles — Mac Sceroler, RHP (Reds)
Scouting Report: The Reds’ fifth-rounder out of Southeastern Louisiana in 2017, Sceroler raised a few eyebrows in 2019 with a combination of a low-90s fastball and a nice curveball he used to whiff 127 hitters against just 29 walks in high Class A. He has a potentially plus changeup as well and the fastball shows good carry through the zone.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks — Zach Pop, RHP (Orioles)
The Diamondbacks are trading Zach Pop to the Marlins in exchange for a player to be named later.
Scouting Report: Pop, who was originally acquired by the Orioles from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade, had Tommy John surgery in May 2019 and spent the 2020 season rehabbing and working out from home. He recently told MASN in September that he was a “full-go” and back up to 94 mph in bullpen seasons. Prior to surgery, Pop overwhelmed hitters with a heavy, heavy 92-96 mph sinker that broke bats and forced batters to hit the ball straight into the ground. His mid-80s slider was developing, but he was often able to dominate solely with his sinker and often did. He reached Double-A prior to surgery and should be ready to contribute to a big league bullpen immediately, provided he stays healthy and his stuff, movement and average control come all the way back.
8. Colorado Rockies — Jordan Sheffield, RHP (Dodgers)
Scouting Report: Sheffield, the older brother of Mariners lefthander Justus Sheffield, throws hard but often doesn’t know where it’s going. His fastball sits at 96 mph and reaches 98-99 mph in short spurts and he backs it up with a hard changeup that flashes plus but is very inconsistent. He mixes in an average slider. Sheffield has stretches of dominance when he’s on, but his fastball command will suddenly leave him and everything summarily falls apart. He walked 7.6 batters per nine innings at Double-A in 2019 and will have to throw more strikes to have any kind of sustained major league role.
9. Los Angeles Angels — Jose Alberto Rivera, RHP (Astros)
Scouting Report: The Astros signed Rivera signed for $10,000 at 19—relatively older for a Latin American signing—so he didn’t make his full-season debut until he was 22 in 2019. He has electric arm speed, producing a fastball that ranges from 97-102 mph with lively tailing action. He throws a split-change in the mid-80s, a pitch that progressed throughout the 2019 season to flash above-average by the end of that year. He has a hard slider in the mid-80s as well, but it’s not reliable in terms of the pure quality of the pitch or his ability to hit his target. He has an aggressive, high-energy delivery that he will need to corral to repeat more often and improve his strike-throwing ability. His control will probably lead to issues in 2021, but he should be able to stick around the Angels’ bullpen as a power reliever.
10. New York Mets — Luis Oviedo, RHP (Indians)
The Mets will reportedly trade Oviedo to the Pirates for cash considerations, according to Anthony DiComo.
Scouting Report: Oviedo was one of the best prospects in the short-season New York-Penn league in 2018, but he slipped in 2019, when he struggled to repeat his delivery before a back injury ended his season that year in July. He’s healthy now and pitching in relief in winter ball in Venezuela, with a fastball that’s been up to 98 mph and showing feel for a curveball and slider. There’s some good rebound potential here with Oviedo, who has a chance to stick around in a bullpen role this year for a non-competitive team, so this is a nice pickup by the Pirates.
12. Seattle Mariners — Will Vest, RHP (Tigers)
Scouting Report: Vest saw an uptick in his fastball velocity during the instructional league and sat at 96 mph, up from his former low-90s velo. He backs up the fastball with a mid-80s changeup and a slider that comes in a tick higher. If the velo bump sticks, he might earn a spot in the bullpen for the Mariners, who have proven quite adept at maximizing velocity.
13. Philadelphia Phillies — Kyle Holder, SS (Yankees)
Scouting Report: Holder has had the reputation of being the best defensive infielder in the Yankees system since being drafted out of the University of San Diego in 2015. The glove will allow him at the very least to stick as a glove-first back up. He peaked at Double-A with the Yankees, and in 2019 posted the best offensive year of his career. He started showing pull-side pop and has the bunting ability and gap power to fit toward the bottom of a lineup. Holder spent time this summer at the Yankees’ alternate training site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
14. San Francisco Giants — Dedniel Nunez, RHP (Mets)
Scouting Report: Dedniel Nuñez popped on the radar in 2019, when he climbed to high Class A as a 23-year-old after spending the previous two seasons in Rookie ball. He was sitting 95 mph at instructional league this year with pitch characteristics teams desire, including elite spin rate and riding life. His fastball command is at least average, but he lacks a consistent breaking pitch. Nuñez might be able to survive in the majors as a low-leverage reliever on velocity and fastball command alone.
17. Miami Marlins — Paul Campbell, RHP (Rays)
Scouting Report: Campbell, the Rays’ 21st-round pick in 2017 out of Clemson, has a 92-94 mph fastball with the types of high spin rates coveted by analytics departments. He complements the fastball with an above-average changeup and cutter and a fringy curveball. The whole package is enhanced by above-average control.
22. Chicago Cubs — Gray Fenter, RHP (Orioles)
Scouting Report: Fenter went 8-2, 1.81 at low Class A Delmarva in 2019, but he’s already 24 and has yet to pitch above low Class A in five years since being drafted. He has stuff with a 93-95 mph fastball as a starter and a mid-80s slider that has a chance to be an average pitch with more development. Both offerings have a chance to play up in the bullpen, which is where Fenter projects because of a bad delivery and well below-average control.
24. Cleveland Indians — Trevor Stephan, RHP (Yankees)
Scouting Report: Stephan had bounced between high Class A and Double-A in 2018 and 2019 and showed decent command of a fastball-slider combination. His fastball typically works in the low-to-mid 90s and the slider has sweeper break. He delivers both pitches from a funky, lower slot which adds deception to his arsenal. His combination of deception and stuff should give hitters interesting looks out of the bullpen.
26. Oakland A’s — Ka’ai Tom, OF (Indians)
Scouting Report: Tom is an undersized, 5-foot-9 outfielder who reached Triple-A in 2019 and was named MVP of the International League playoffs. He has a good lefthanded swing and drives the ball from line-to-line with surprising power for his size. He’s a fast runner who uses his legs to leg out doubles and triples more than steal bases, and he can adequately play all three outfield spots. Even Tom’s biggest champions don’t see him as an everyday player, but he does enough things well for scouts and coaches to see a potential fifth outfielder/pinch-hitter and runner type.
4. Baltimore Orioles — Tyler Wells, RHP (Twins)
Scouting Report: Wells is a massive pitcher. But unlike many long-levered pitchers, the 6-foot-8, 265-pound righthander has always shown average control to go with his average stuff. He sits 91-93 mph touching 94 with three fringe-average to average secondaries. Wells had Tommy John surgery in 2018 which means he hasn’t thrown in an official game in more than two seasons. He could fit with the Orioles as a bulk-innings reliever/spot starter who has a chance to develop into a back-of-the-rotation arm.
14. Oakland Athletics — Dany Jimenez, RHP (Blue Jays)
Scouting Report: Jimenez is the rare two-time Rule 5 draft pick, with the Giants popping him last year and returning him to the Blue Jays after he made two relief appearances for them in 2020. He turns 27 later this month and has touched the high-90s in the past, but he was more 92-95 mph last year with scattered strikes. He’s had success with high strikeout rates up through Double-A though, so he could stick around in a low-leverage role.