SEE ALSO: Full Rule 5 Draft list
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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—It’s tough to get a consensus on whether Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez was the best pitcher the White Sox acquired in the Adam Eaton deal (more scouts we talked to say Lopez than Giolito, but there’s definitely an argument to be had either way).
If that’s the case, there’s no way that there will be a true consensus on which Rule 5 picks were great ones and which ones will likely be forgotten and sent back by the end of March. But a number of scouts did have opinions on some of the picks they liked.
Twins righthander Justin Haley (selected from Red Sox by Angels, then traded to Padres and then traded to Twins): Haley is the pitcher brought up by multiple scouts as the most big league-ready arm picked on Thursday. Haley’s ultimate ceiling is not as high as several other pitchers who were picked, but he’s a well-rounded pitcher. “He’s a safe pick to back end a rotation,” said one scout.
Indians lefthander Hoby Milner (taken from the Phillies) turned himself into a prospect with a pretty dramatic change. Milner was a fringy pitcher from a very conventional delivery, but by dropping down sidearm he actually gained a tick on his fastball (it’s now 88-91 mph) and his sweepy slider is now a much tougher look against lefthanded hitters. He’s a specialist, but one who now has a plausible big league future, according to two scouts.
Cubs lefthander Caleb Smith (taken from the Yankees) had looked like an organization arm for much of his pro career. He’d generally sat at 87-90 mph with his fastball, which meant his plus changeup wasn’t enough to make him a significant prospect. But this year Smith’s velocity took a big step forward. He now sits 91-93 mph and will touch 95-96 with that still-excellent changeup.
“He’s an underrated one to me,” one pro scout said. “He’s a competitor with a solid fastball and changeup.”
Riskiest, Highest Reward
Multiple scouts were impressed by Cardinals’ shortstop/second baseman Allen Cordoba, but that didn’t mean that they saw Cordoba as a good pick. Considering that Cordoba has yet to play full-season ball, most scouts consulted said they saw little chance he would end up sticking in San Diego.
“He’s the best prospect, but that’s a huge leap,” said one scout.
“I think he’s a nice player, but it’s pretty much impossible for him to stick,” added a second scout.
Plenty Of Rust
Speaking of Padres picks, a scout who saw Luis Torrens—chosen by Cincinnati but traded to San Diego–late this season was not necessarily sold on his pick. Torrens has been one of the Yankees’ better catching prospects since signing in July 2012, but the scout said Torrens didn’t look 100 percent of the way back from the shoulder injury that cost him all of the 2015 season. The scout said it wasn’t a good look at Torrens as he didn’t throw all that well and he looked rusty behind the plate.
Love The Glove
A scout said that catcher Stuart Turner, whom the Reds picked from the Twins, might have the best survival skills to stick on a big league roster. As the scout explained, Turner’s above-average catch-and-throw skills and a good arm might allow him to make the Reds’ roster despite a very light bat.
It’s worth noting that the Reds might have picked Turner to serve as a backup plan. If Devin Mesoraco is healthy, Cincinnati has a pair of big league catchers in Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart. But if Mesoraco struggles to make it back from his hip injury, Turner (and Reds minor league Joe Hudson) can competently handle the defensive responsibilities, even if they won’t hit enough.
Rays righthander Kevin Gadea (selected from the Mariners) doesn’t have any one pitch that is makes scouts stop and stare, but his three-pitch reliability did impress. With a 91-94 mph fastball, low 80s changeup and mid-70s curveball, Gadea was seen as having survival skills, particularly after pitching well in the Venezuelan League this winter.
Last Pick, Best Prognosis?
Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander (selected from the Indians) was the last player taken in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft. But a scout who saw him in the Carolina League thought he might have been the best pick of the Rule 5.
“He showed pop from both sides and barreled up everything that I saw. It was a quality approach for sure. He just looked comfortable in the box and had a plan. He didn’t panic when he was down in the count. He caught up to plus velocity on the inside part of the plate. The defense is kind of scary. He’s not Manny Ramirez in left but he covers about as much ground as you or I. The main thing that stood out though was the approach and feel for the strike zone. He’s a big leaguer,” said a scout.