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March 13, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Rule 5 Lefties Find New Homes

by R.J. Anderson

The first wave of spring cuts means lower-level prospects and select organizational soldiers will no longer hang out with the varsity squad. For the average player, the destination is clear as they move to the backfields of the complex. For the Rule 5 selections in the crowd, this means an exposure to waivers and then –in most cases— a return to the player’s original organization. Two live-armed southpaws failed to clear waivers of the weekend, meaning they will report to organization number three of the offseason in the coming days.

At least Cesar Cabral is comfortable with the American League East. Originally from the Boston system (also home to his brother of the same name), the 22-year-old Cabral was plucked by the Rays in the late stages of the Rule 5 draft and will now call the Blue Jays his home organization. Cabral can dial his fastball into the mid-90s, but has zero experience above Advanced Class-A.

The Jays renovated their bullpen this offseason and there’s just no room for a project southpaw. Unsurprisingly, the reports from Dunedin suggest the Jays are looking into trading for Cabral’s rights, thus enabling the team to send him to the minors. Some general managers may hold reservations about trading a lottery ticket to a rival, but Theo Epstein left Cabral unprotected for a reason and hasn’t shied away from thoughts of inner-divisional trading before, so there’s a chance something gets done.

Robert Fish is a well-built 23-year-old who went from the Angels to the Yankees in the draft and was claimed by the Royals. Kevin Goldstein called his fastball “plus-plus” while saying it’s straight and that he lacks a secondary pitch. While this might not be the Fish who saves Kansas City, credit the Royals for filling their pen with upside players rather than signing hopeless retreads. Fish could become the team’s lefty in the bullpen if they are serious about keeping him. Tim Collins is the sweetheart option, however he’s not yet on the 40-man roster.

The Royals could theoretically keep Fish around just long enough for him to accumulate 90 days of service time and then shut him down with a crippling case of the hiccups or shoulder tendinitis. Those 90 days are the key to keeping Fish while adding the ability to option him to the minors next season without losing him. If Kansas City does keep Fish, he would be the second Rule 5 arm in as many years that they’ve claimed off waivers from the selection team, as last June they chose Kanekoa Texeira off waivers from the Mariners. The Royals still have their own Rule 5 pick in camp too, righty Nathan Adcock, formerly of the Pirates.

The odds are against either of these players making meaningful contributions this season, but if there’s a position in baseball where a Rule 5 pick can conceivably step right in, it would be a specialized job like left-handed specialist.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Prospectus Hit and Run... (03/11)
<< Previous Column
BP Unfiltered: Updated... (03/11)
Next Column >>
BP Unfiltered: Days 4 ... (03/13)
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The Week in Quotes: Ma... (03/14)

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