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Rule 5 Draft Preview

By Josh Boyd
December 15, 2002

NASHVILLE—Occasionally a gem is unearthed in the major league Rule 5 draft—Matt Mantei, Johan Santana or even Roberto Clemente—but for the most part success in the annual winter draft is scattershot.

"I think of it more as just buzz," Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said Saturday at the Winter Meetings. "If you look back over the years, not much has come out of it."

But Philadelphia lost a pair of righthanders in Derrick Turnbow (to the Angels in 1999) and Miguel Asencio (to the Royals last year) they'd love to have back. And Phillies third-base prospect Travis Chapman is one of the hottest names generating that buzz for this year's Rule 5 crop.

With Philadelphia's 40-man roster already full, Arbuckle admits the organization is in a good position when they have too much talent to protect. It's a Catch-22 situation, though, because the Phillies obviously don't want to lose anyone.

"It's a good sign for us," Arbuckle said, "when other clubs like our players enough to look at drafting them in the Rule 5."

The Rule 5 draft has seemed to pick up some momentum in recent years and isn't just an afterthought anymore. Organizations with a small budget realize they can steal a longshot prospect at a bare minimum—the Devil Rays snuck a record three Rule 5 draftees onto their roster last season—and contenders can use a pick on a 25th man/role player (like the Mariners did with Marlins shortstop Luis Ugueto last season) or a live bullpen arm.

Here are some of the top potential selections in the big league phase of Monday's draft:

Travis Chapman, 3b, Phillies

Not a prototypical Rule 5 candidate, Chapman made an amazing transition from an organization player into a legitimate prospect last season. The 24-year-old was drafted in the 17th round out of Mississippi State in 2000, but entered 2002 as a corner infielder lacking in the power department. An offseason conditioning program bulked him up and the power developed resulting in a career-best 15 home runs and 35 doubles in Double-A. Chapman displays a solid understanding of the strike zone and could be a fit for the Red Sox' new organizational philosophies, especially if they trade Shea Hillenbrand. "He's going to have to do it with the bat," one National League scouting director said. "He's not the type of guy who can be used late in a game as a pinch-runner." Chapman played six games at first base last year but has spent his entire career as a third baseman. "It's a thin year for bats," one crosschecker said. "Everybody hoards the bats."

Jason Stumm, rhp, White Sox

It would be a real gamble for a team to take a chance on Stumm, who had Tommy John surgery in 2000 and has been riddled with setbacks over the last two years. The 15th overall pick in 1999, Stumm returned to the mound in low Class A after pitching all of 12 innings in 2001. The White Sox limited him to a strict pitch count and no more than two-inning stints, and still Stumm was shut down with soreness. He had minor shoulder surgery following the season. Stumm, 21, was healthy long enough to show 93-97 mph velocity, though his palm-up arm action and medical history are concerns. "You could potentially have a true power setup guy," one American League scouting director said.

Will McCrotty, rhp, Dodgers

A converted catcher who posted a .227 average in four minor league seasons for the Dodgers, McCrotty is now a power reliever with a 95-96 mph fastball. In just his second year on the mound, the 23-year-old went 1-4, 2.39 with 57 strikeouts in 53 Double-A innings. He struggled in the Arizona Fall League but showcased his arm strength for many top scouts.

Derek Thompson, lhp, Indians

Drafted in the supplemental first round (37th overall) in 2000, Thompson was easily forgotten after his first two pro seasons were ravaged by knee injuries. But he returned at full strength last spring and compiled a career-high 148 innings in Class A. The 21-year-old finished with a strong effort in the Carolina League playoffs, where he touched 95 mph. He saws off a lot of bats with his aggressive approach and hard fastball. He limited lefties a .225 average, which could improve his chances of spending 2003 as a situational lefty in the majors. His breaking ball needs work, but his changeup is a potential plus pitch.

Mike Brunet, rhp, Angels

Brunet has been plagued with varying injuries throughout his career. Back surgery and elbow problems limited him to 14 innings between 1998-2001. Finally healthy in 2002, the 25-year-old Brunet displayed 92-96 mph velocity out of the bullpen in high Class A. He has a lightning-quick arm with a nasty slider/splitter combo.

Matt Ford, lhp, Blue Jays

Ford, 21, led the high Class A Florida State League with a 2.37 ERA. Minor league instructors discovered he was tipping some of his pitches, and once he corrected that he he flourished after a disappointing 2001 campaign. He has the feel for a good changeup and reaches the low 90s with his fastball. His breaking ball needs work, but he's effective against lefthanders and operates with good command.

Mark Malaska, lhp, Devil Rays

Another southpaw, Malaska spent most of time in college at Akron as a center fielder but has been used exclusively as a starting pitcher since the Rays signed him as an eighth-rounder in 2000. He split last season between high Class A and Double-A, going 11-9, 3.27 in 162 innings. His cut fastball and breaking ball are solid and enabled him to strike out 30 in as many innings in the Arizona Fall League.

Jermaine Clark, 2b/of, Rangers

The Rule 5 draft is nothing new to Clark, who was selected by the Tigers in December 2000 before being returned to the Mariners in April 2001. He was sent to the Rangers with lefthander Derrick Van Dusen for veteran righthander Ismael Valdes in August. The Rangers shifted the 26-year-old speedster to the outfield to increase his versatility and he responded with solid defensive play. Clark is a plus runner who always has demonstrated the ability to work counts and get on base via walks.

In addition to those prime candidates, here are candidates from each of the 30 clubs:
Tommy Murphy, ssPremium athlete with shortstop actions, plus speed
Javier Lopez, lhpDropped down to sidearm angle and is tough on lefties
Jose Capellan, rhpComing off Tommy John surgery but has live fastball
Keith Reed, ofOrioles surprised many by not protecting him in 2001
Red Sox
Wil Ledezma, lhpOft-injured but can touch the mid-90s when healthy
Aaron Krawiec, lhp6-foot-6 southpaw with arm strength
White Sox
Kyle Kane, rhpLike Stumm, a former first-rounder dealing with injuries
Ryan Freel, of/2bSpeedster offers similar skills to Jermaine Clark
Matt White, lhpLance Caraccioli is a third lefty the Tribe could lose
Chris Buglovsky, rhpUsed his heavy fastball to go 9-9, 3.12 in high Class A
Maxim St. Pierre, cOutstanding catch-and-throw skills
Jason Grilli, rhpFormer Giants first-rounder missed 2002 with elbow woes
Fernando Nieve, rhpRaw thrower has been clocked as high as 95 mph
Brian Shackelford, lhpTwo-way collegian moved from outfield to mound in 2002
Ruddy Lugo, rhpJulio Lugo's brother has a 92-95 mph fastball
Roberto Giron, rhpReaches low 90s with maximum-effort delivery
Travis Bowyer, rhpBulked up and increased his velocity in 2002
Rich Rundles, lhpFinesse pitcher battled injuries for much of 2002
Wayne Lydon, ofSwitch-hitters has top-of-the-line speed
Adrian Hernandez, rhpMade progress in Arizona Fall League
Darvin Withers, rhpOverlooked but has solid four-pitch mix
Cary Hiles, rhpNot overpowering, but resilient and crafty
Roberto Novoa, rhpHas size and a 96-mph fastball, lacks feel and command
John Gall, 1bOne of the few quality bats available but has no position
Brad Baker, rhpFormer Bosox first-rounder has lost some velocity
Josue Matos, rhpHas plenty of arm strength, but little life on fastball
Jeff Clark, rhpThrives on ability to locate pitches and change speeds
Devil Rays
Juan Salas, 3bOutstanding arm strength could lead him to mound
Jose Morban, ssPotential five-tooler could be this year's Luis Ugueto
Blue Jays
Neomar Flores, rhpHard-throwing reliever hits mid-90s consistently

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