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December 11, 2008

Future Shock

The 2008 Rule 5 Draft

by Kevin Goldstein

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Luckily, the business of yesterday at the big-league level took some attention away from this afternoon's Rule 5, which is probably a good thing, as the amount of work put out by people writing about the annual minor league thrift sale has an inverse relationship to the amount of actual talent that is not exceeded by any other event in the entire baseball industry. Look, I'm as fascinated by some of these guys as anyone else, but when more people wanted to talk to me last night about Jamie Skelton than the recently completed 12-man, three-team blockbuster, something just doesn't make sense.

So with that caveat, and in the interest of getting something out quickly (and selfishly making an afternoon flight), here's a quick profile of who got taken, why, and how they might/or might not fit into their new team's plans. As someone at the bar said last night, for most of these guys, "their projected 2009 role is returning to their original team for $25,000."

Nationals: Terrell Young, RHP, Reds
By the time you read this, chances are good that Young has already been sold for as much as $200,000. It's easy to argue that he's the best pure arm in the draft, with a plus-plus fastball, but he's also a guy with a very long injury history, command problems, and no real second pitch. He offers plenty to dream on, but it's a rather distant dream and no sure thing.

Mariners: Reegie Corona, SS, Yankees
First off, yes, it's "Reegie" as in ree-gee. Corona was not a name that was being bandied about much in the Bellagio lobbies, so this was a bit of a surprise. It also set off a trend that continued with later picks, as it seems many teams ignored ceiling this year and looked for players with a better chance of making the team, even if their upside ends there. Corona is definitely one of those guys: he runs well, makes contact and works the count, and can even play shortstop in a pinch. There's some value there. It's possible he makes it as that last man on the bench, but it's not like he'll ever start.

Padres: Everth Cabrera, SS, Rockies
In the days leading up to the draft, Cabrera was the player that everyone was talking about as moving up. He's small but athletic with plus-plus speed, as evidenced by 73 stolen bases this year, and he also has a solid arm. He has a decent approach and a contact-oriented swing, and should be easy to hide this year on a decimated San Diego roster. I think this is a really good pick for the Padres if he can recover from the one missed year of development time.

Pirates: Donald Veal, LHP, Cubs
Veal was another player who was expected to go all along. He's had two consecutive bad years, but it's hard to walk away from big left-handers who throw hard (or have thrown hard in the past). More importantly, his splits give the Pirates hope that they'll be able to use him at least as a situational reliever, as despite his 4.52 ERA at Double-A, lefties hit just .216 against him without a home run in 116 at-bats. You can use him now, and hope he can recover what was once easy Top 100 talent.

Orioles: Lou Palmisano, C, Brewers
Catching is often a hot commodity in the Rule 5, but the catchers picked rarely stick. While Palmisano has a decent offensive track record with a career batting line of .277/.356/.404, he's also missed considerable time in each of his years as a pro, including a 2008 knee surgery. He might be some kind of Matt Wieters insurance, but it's hard to see him as a backup, as one would expect the O's to pair their young phenom with a veteran who can show him the ropes.

Giants: Luis Perdomo, RHP, Cardinals
Perdomo seemed to be on everyone's list; after the draft, multiple teams with picks after this one told me that Perdomo was the guy they wanted. He's a little undersized and, while neither pitch is overpowering, both his fastball and slider are above average, and with better command he could survive in the big leagues this year in a junk role, with the future potential to pitch in the seventh inning of games.

Reds: David Patton, RHP, Rockies
Patton is another reliever with a solid chance to stick. More of an organizational player entering the season, Patton's stuff significantly improved with a move to the bullpen, as his fastball consistently sat in the low 90s in shorter stints, and he also uses a sharp slider that projects as at least average. If there's a word of warning, it's that he got torched in the Arizona Fall League and then struggled with his command in Hawaii.

Tigers: Kyle Bloom, LHP, Pirates
Bloom has never been seen as much of a prospect as a starter, as he has just average stuff and not enough command to be a successful finesse pitcher. Nonetheless, that combination has been good enough to get lefties out, and that was enough for the Tigers to give him a shot.

Royals (sold to Seattle): Jose Lugo, LHP, Twins
Lugo was also on several teams' lists, and was one of the few players nearly guaranteed to be popped at some point this morning. While Terrell Young certainly had the best fastball available, Lugo has the best sinker, a low-90s bowling ball that misses bats and generates ground balls. He has trouble controlling his below-average breaking ball, but the Royals hope to get some value from him as a reliever who can get the occasional double play in a key situation. Check that, he just got sold to Seattle.

Athletics: Ben Copeland, CF, Giants
Copeland is the outfield version of Corona; he could certainly stick as a fifth outfielder, but he doesn't project as ever being anything more than a fourth. The best thing about him is that he can do a bit of everything. He can hit a little bit, he understands the strike zone well, and he's an above-average runner who can play all three outfield positions. Is there anything special about him? No, but this is the Rule 5.

Diamondbacks, James Skelton, C, Tigers
Skelton was another player who was surely going to be picked, and there were some rumors that he could go as high as first overall, or at least to the Padres. At 5'11" and 165 pounds, he's one of the slightest catchers many scouts have ever seen, and it's hard to imagine him holding up to catching every day in the big leagues. In the end however, his career on-base percentage of .416 and his plus arm were just too much to pass up. What does Arizona do with him? Good question, but they've been spending a lot of time here in Vegas trying to drum up interest in Miguel Montero.

Marlins: Zach Kroenke, LHP, Yankees
Kroenke took a big step forward this year, limiting Double-A hitters to a .187 batting average and more than holding his own at Triple-A. His low-90s fastball has solid sink, and he also features a solid slider and a delivery that has a bit of deception. His control comes and goes, but he's got a shot, especially with a team like Florida.

Astros: Gilbert De La Vera, LHP, Royals
A smallish left-hander with a solid sinker/curve combination, De La Vera has a chance to be a situational reliever, but few think he's ready for the challenges of the big-league level, and this one seems to be something of a reach.

Twins: Jason Jones, RHP, Yankees
It's hard to figure what the Twins saw in Jones; while he's big, his sub-standard stuff generated just 91 strikeouts in 148 2/3 Double-A innings. At 26, it's not like there is any projection in him, nor much of a big-league role, according to scouts who saw him at Trenton.

Mets: Darren O'Day, RHP, Angels
O'Day basically becomes an instant $50,000 replacement for Joe Smith, who was included in the 12-player deal that netted them J.J. Putz. Like Smith, O'Day is a sidearmer who struggles against lefties but is effective against righties and gets ground-ball outs. A nice find this late.

Brewers: Eduardo Morlan, RHP, Devil Rays
Many thought Morlan would go earlier. A key component to last year's Delmon Young/Matt Garza trade, Morlan's velocity slipped significantly last season, as what was once a 92-94 mph fastball that touched 96 turned into 87-90 while scouts debated his conditioning and effort. This is basically a cheap bet in the hope that he'll bounce back.

Phillies: Bobby Mosebach, RHP, Angels
This was a curious pick, to put it kindly. Sure, he gets ground balls, a quality that may have gone from underrated to overrated in the past few years, but at the same time he's coming off of a year in which the Texas League hit .305 against him while he struck out less than one batter for every two innings pitched. I have no idea what the logic is that he even might be able to succeed in the majors, and I don't want to know it.

Red Sox: Miguel Gonzalez, RHP, Angels
After missing the entire year with a knee injury, Gonzalez was all but off the radar before he began pitching this winter in his native Mexico and putting up a 0.99 ERA in 36 1/3 innings. The scouting reports are not as impressive but still solid, with a slightly above-average fastball and decent breaking ball brought up a grade due to his pinpoint command.

Devil Rays: Derek Rodriguez, RHP, White Sox
Rodriguez is another good sidearmer, or at lest semi-sidearmer, as he pitches with both a classic three-quarters delivery while also dropping down about half the time to give batters a different look. This gives me the opportunity to note that teams are suddenly seeing that there is value in such a pitcher when used correctly. Remember, Brad Ziegler was available in last year's Rule 5, meaning that kind of production could have been anyone's for a mere $50,000.

Padres: Ivan Nova, RHP, Yankees
Nova has frustrated Yankees officials for two years now, as his statistics in A-ball come nowhere close to matching his scouting reports. He has low-90s heat and a very good changeup. Everything would have to suddenly click for him in every way to make the big-league team, and that rarely happens.

Mets: Rocky Cherry, RHP, Orioles
The oldest of the Rule 5 selections, Cherry has been an up-and-down guy for some time now due to his plus velocity, and this pick is basically designed to add to the competition this spring, as the Metropolitans' two Rule 5 selections compete with newly acquired Sean Green for what might be just one spot in the Mets' revamped bullpen.

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

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