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December 7, 2006

Future Shock

Rule 5 Draft

by Kevin Goldstein

The major league portion of the Rule Five draft was expected to be a disappointment. Instead, it featured some excitement, with a few big names getting selected and some significant buzz being generated by the picks at the top, with 19 players selected over the span of seven minutes. Keeping in mind that all of these guys have to make the Opening Day roster (or get hidden away on the DL) in order to stick with their new teams, or otherwise have to be offered back to their parent organization, here's a look at what happened in the major league phase.

1. Devil Rays select outfielder Ryan Goleski from Cleveland

First off, this pick was going to Oakland. It should be no surprise that the A's selected the player with the best statistics of anyone available, as the 2003 sixth-round pick hit .306/.391/.557 in 523 plate appearances split between High-A Kinston and Double-A Akron. He turns 25 in March, so he was a little old for the levels, but the power is real, he has a plus arm in right field, and the A's are pretty short on right-handed hitters who can hit balls over the fence. The knock against him is that athletically he's a bit of a stiff, but he'll almost definitely stick--the A's wouldn't have paid $100,000 for the pick otherwise.

2. Royals select righthander Joakin Soria from the Padres

The 22-year-old native of Mexico has just 16.2 innings of pro experience here in the States, but he's been the talk of the Mexican Pacific League this winter, with a 2.02 ERA in 10 starts for Obregon. Tall and lanky, Soria has been dialing it up to 95 in recent outings, and could fit into the Royals bullpen.

3. Cubs select outfielder Josh Hamilton from the Devil Rays

The Cubs made this selection for the Reds. The trials and tribulations of the 1999 first overall pick have been well documented, as Hamilton played organized baseball for the first time since 2002 this season, hitting .260/.327/.360 in 50 New York-Penn League at-bats. Physically, he's still a monster, but to come back after that kind of layoff and do it at the big league level just seems like a near impossibility to me. That said, the Reds outfield picture does have an opening, with only Griffey and Dunn guaranteed with jobs. The Devil Rays have mixed feelings about the pick--they fear the Reds could try to hide Hamilton on the disabled list (he had minor knee surgery this fall) in an attempt to keep him, but at the same time they're almost happy to have the troubled progeny out of their hair.

4. Pirates select righthander Sean White from the Braves

The Pirates made this pick for Seattle, and it's hard to see him making any sort of real impact in the majors, though he could at least maybe be a serviceable arm. He's one of those guys where there's nothing special, but nothing awful either; maybe a scout saw him on the right day or something in the Arizona Fall League. Which brings me to a point a pro scout made to me here last night: If you are going to expose a guy in the Rule Five draft, why expose him to scouts in the Arizona Fall League? The fact that White is from Washington and played his college ball there might have also played into this.

5. Orioles take righthander Alfredo Simon from the Rangers

Simon is a big power arm who was highly regarded while coming up with the Phillies, but has done absolutely nothing since moving over to the Giants at the 2004 trade deadline for Felix Rodriguez. Arm troubles have plagued him over the last few years, and he was recently shut down in the Dominican by the Rangers, who signed him off the scrapheap just a few weeks ago. Maybe Baltimore thinks they can hide him on the disabled list.

6. Nationals take catcher Jesus Flores from the Mets

Flores hit 21 home runs in the Florida State League (not an easy feat) while finishing third in the circuit with a .487 slugging. He also has some decent catch-and-throw skills. He was one of the better overall prospects available, but the Mets were convinced that nobody would think he's ready. Playing into this selection is the fact that new manager Manny Acta has familiarity with Flores and obviously likes him, and the fact that the Nationals roster is... well, let's just go with "not good."

7. Brewers select lefthander Edward Campusano from the Cubs

Lefthanded relievers are often the easiest Rule five picks to keep, and the fact the Campusano is a pretty decent prospect only makes the pick look even better. The 24-year-old Dominican logged 81 strikeouts in 55.1 innings this year thanks to a decent fastball and plus slider. He should be immediately effective as a LOOGY, and should have further value in the future.

8. Reds select righthander Jared Burton from the Athletics

Another fairly safe pick. Burton has pitched well as a reliever since returning from shoulder surgery, striking out 133 in 129.1 innings over the last two seasons. He's not a future closer by any means, but his sinker/slider combination could get him a long look for a big league relief job this spring.

9. Astros select righthander Lincoln Holdzkom from the Cubs

Looks like my Cubs sleeper was someone else's sleeper as well. Holdzkom has plus raw arm strength and generated some buzz with his Arizona Fall League performance, but his makeup turned many teams off.

10. Phillies select catcher Adam Donachie from the Royals.

Rule Five catchers rarely stick, but Donachie is not without skills. He's a plus defender with an excellent arm, and he knows how to supplement his below-average hitting skills by talking a good share of walks. He has an outside chance.

11. Red Sox select righthander Nick DeBarr from the Devil Rays

DeBarr is a big (6-4/220), arm-strength kind of guy who thrived in High-A Visalia's bullpen this year, posting a 2.74 ERA in 40 games. His fastball is a good pitch, but his secondary stuff is a little shaky, and the Red Sox aren't looking to waste a roster spot on an arm like this. He's likely to be offered back.

12. Blue Jays select shortstop Jason Smith from the Cubs

Smith hit well at Triple-A Colorado Springs last year (who doesn't?) and had five home runs in 99 big league at-bats for Colorado. He turns 30 this summer, but he can play every infield position and hits from the left side. As alternatives go, there have been worse ideas, and when the competition includes Royce Clayton and John McDonald, neither of whom hit lefty, why not?

13. Padres select righthander Kevin Cameron from the Twins

Cameron has been a solid reliever in the Twins system for the last three years, and scouts like his ability to generate tons of groundballs with a low-90s sinker that produced a groundball/flyball ratio of better than 2-to-1 at Triple-A Rochester.

14. Athletics select lefthander Jay Marshall from the White Sox

Again, the statistics just really stand out here for the Athletics' pick. As crazy as the 1.02 ERA in 58 games and just eight walks in 62 innings at High-A Winston-Salem looks, how about 107 groundballs against just 29 flyballs? He's a sidearmer, and lefthanders went 10-for-104 (.096) against him with 26 strikeouts and 61 groundballs. Sure, those are Carolina League lefties, but still...

15. Twins select infielder Alejandro Machado from the Nationals

Machado was once a midly interesting middle infielder with some decent on-base percentages in the lower minors, but opposing pitchers challenged the powerless Venezuelan more at the upper levels, leaving him as a fringy utility man. He'll get a decent chance to become the Twins' fringy utility man this spring.

16. Yankees select first baseman Josh Phelps from the Orioles

As Joe Sheehan already mentioned in Unfiltered, this is a pretty inspired pick. The Yankees are looking for a righty power source at first base, and guys like Richie Sexson have proven to be far too expensive on the trade market, so why not give Phelps a look? He's certainly a better option than Andy Phillips.

17. Nationals take righthander Levale Speigner from the Twins

Again, it's the Nationals, and if you look at their 40-man roster, it seems like anybody has a chance there. That said, the undersized Speigner has maginal stuff and an uninspiring statistical record.

18. Phillies take righthander Jim Ed Warden from the Indians

Another sidearmer, so maybe they're coming back into fashion (if they ever went out). Warden allowed just 35 hits in 59 innings this year at Double-A Akron, and the fact that he's six-foot-seven makes his pitches' angles all the more difficult on hitters. This could be a tough loss for the Tribe, who groomed him into picking up the new delivery at the suggestion of farm director John Farrell.

19. Phillies select catcher Ryan Budde from the Angels

The second catcher taken by the Phillies, and the final selection of the major league phase, it's obvious that only one of them can stick, and Donachie has the advantages in age and defense. This is really just a backup selection who will likely return to the Angels in short order.

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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