Rule 5 draftees are not the high-end prospects we know and love, but they’re not without their merits. The hope for each team that drafts a player is that he has one skill that is good enough to justify a roster spot on a major-league club for the entire 2014 season. If not, the player is returned to his original team. Because of this, many clubs elect to pass on selecting a player.
In this year’s Rule 5 draft, 13 players were selected, four more than last winter. Below is a brief scouting report on each player, followed by the likelihood that he’ll stick with his new club for the entire season. In draft order:
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Oscar Hernandez, C (from Tampa Bay)
Situation: Save for an incredible summer in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011 as a 17-year-old (when he hit .402/.503/.732!), Hernandez has never hit as a professional. His first taste of full-season ball this year saw just mixed results, as he broke the .400 mark in slugging percentage for the first time since that magical Venezuelan summer but had his aggressive approach exposed.
Roster Stickability: Low. With their trade of Miguel Montero, the Diamondbacks are looking for all of the possibilities behind the plate they can find, but there is virtually no chance that Hernandez, who struggled offensively in Low-A ball this season, is prepared to offer anything offensively at the major-league level. He would be an absolute zero at the plate this season.
2. Colorado Rockies: Mark Canha, 1B (from Miami)—traded to Oakland
Situation: Power is hard to come by in today’s game, but Canha has it. He has a strong track record of over-the-fence power in the minors and pairs it with strong on-base skills. He offers little other than his bat, but power and plate discipline give him a chance.
Roster Stickability: High, thanks to a combination of major-league readiness and being in the right situation. The A's have gone this route before, pairing Nate Freiman with Brandon Moss in a 1B platoon in 2013 after selecting Freiman in the Rule 5 draft. This year they’re prepared to go with Ike Davis at 1B, and Canha could easily stick as his platoon partner.
3. Texas Rangers: Delino Deshields, Jr., OF (from Houston)
Situation: It should be a telling sign that the Astros, who have spent the last half-decade collecting every young asset they could get their hands on, chose not to protect DeShields (once a highly ranked prospect by many, though never really by BP) despite making a Rule 5 selection of their own. No longer a second baseman, DeShields struggled to hit in Double-A this season and could use a return trip to the Texas League, making it a long shot that he can hit enough to see regular playing time in the majors this season.
Roster Stickability: Moderate. Because of his speed and athleticism, DeShields could offer enough value to stick on a major-league roster this season, even if he doesn’t hit at all. Much of that will come down to the makeup of the Rangers roster and how much they value his defense/baserunning abilities. If they can afford to sacrifice a roster spot for a defensive replacement/pinch-runner, then he has a chance.
4. Houston Astros: Jason Garcia, RHP (from Boston)—traded to Orioles
Situation: Relievers have the best chance to stick as Rule 5 picks, and while Garcia has pitched in both roles in the minors he’ll be a reliever in the majors, at least for this season. The jump from Low-A to the majors is huge, but he’s missed a fair number of bats in the minors, so that at least gives him a puncher’s chance.
Roster Stickability: Low. Most Rule 5 guys are back-end relievers at best, so it comes down to bullpen construction and how they pitch in spring training. The threat of losing him if he doesn’t make the team might be enough incentive if it comes down to Garcia vs. some similar player, but not if he’s a dead spot on the staff.
5. Minnesota Twins: J.R. Graham, RHP (from Atlanta)
Situation: Graham is one of the more talented players selected in this draft, but he has spent three years in Double-A and the lingering effects of a 2013 shoulder injury made him exposable. Two plus pitches and a lack of experience will shift him to a bullpen role, but that might help his two potential plus pitches play up.
Roster Stickability: Moderate. Graham is good enough to make the jump to the majors if his arm cooperates. Even if it doesn’t, the Twins can stash him on the DL without losing him, though he does eventually need to spend enough time on a major-league roster.
6. Boston Red Sox: Jandel Gustave, RHP (from Houston)—traded to Royals
Situation: Gustave throws extremely hard, consistently reaching the upper 90s, which gives him a chance to stick in the majors right now. Unfortunately, it’s quite straight, leaving it more susceptible to square contact than upper 90s should. The lack of a quality secondary pitch makes for an uphill battle.
Roster Stickability: Moderate. There are a lot of obstacles for Gustave to stick in the majors all season, including that lack of a secondary pitch, command issues, and the huge jump to the majors from Low-A. Still, as we saw with Tommy Kahnle with the Rockies last season, premium velocity makes up for a lot of other deficiencies.
8. Chicago Cubs: Taylor Featherston, 2B/UTIL (from Colorado)—traded to Angels
Situation: Featherston has good pop for a middle infielder, despite a flawed approach that has produced low on-base percentages and high strikeout totals. At 25 and having already reached Double-A, he might be able to handle a jump to the majors.
Roster Stickability: High. Featherston has his flaws, as do most 25-year-olds who are still in Double-A, but he has good pop and can play up the middle with infield versatility. That gives him a chance to stick in a bench role.
9. Philadelphia Phillies: Odubel Herrera, 2B (from Texas)
Situation: Herrera has strong bat-to-ball skills, but most of it ends up being relatively empty. Without much pop or great speed, there’s not a ton of value to be had, though his contact skills could allow him to make the jump from Double-A. Being able to handle up-the-middle positions always gives a Rule 5 pick a chance to stick in the majors, so Herrera has a chance.
Roster Stickability: Moderate. Herrera didn’t play shortstop at all in 2014, which is a shame for the Phillies given their new opening at the position. Additionally, while they’d like to have a backup plan in place for the aging Chase Utley, they’d probably prefer one who doesn’t also hit left-handed. Still, with Freddy Galvis now in line to be a starter, the Phillies will need a backup infield option and Herrera should be able to handle all three spots.
11. Miami Marlins: Andrew McKirahan, LHP (from Cubs)
Situation: Lefty relievers have the best chance of sticking in the majors, and ones who throw a ton of strikes always have a fighting chance. McKirahan has a strong track record of throwing strikes, a college background, and will be 25 before the season begins, all of which play into his favor.
Roster Stickability: High. McKirahan will get every chance to win the spot of the second lefty in the Marlins bullpen this spring.
14. New York Mets: Sean Gilmartin, LHP (from Minnesota)
Situation: Gilmartin has bounced from the Braves to the Twins and now returns to the NL East with a chance to see the majors. He’s not overwhelming, but the former first rounder is virtually a finished product and should finally make the transition from minor-league starter to big-league situational lefty.
Roster Stickability: High. Gilmartin has nothing left to prove in the minors and the Mets have some question marks in their bullpen, so Gilmartin has a good chance to stick.
15. Atlanta: Daniel Winkler, RHP (from Colorado)
Situation: Winkler has repeatedly overachieved compared to the scouting reports on him, missing more bats than would be expected with upper-80s stuff. He throws a ton of strikes too, which helps his stuff play up. He’s been a starter his entire career, and perhaps could get a chance at a back-end rotation spot, though for most Rule 5 pitchers it’s bullpen or bust.
Roster Stickability: Low. Low-velocity guys don’t tend to do too well in relief roles, so unless he can gain a few ticks in short stints, there’s not much upside despite his track record.
20. Seattle Mariners: David Rollins, LHP (from Houston)
Situation: A former Blue Jays farmhand, Rollins has a strong track record of throwing strikes and missing a decent amount of bats as a minor-league starter. He’ll be a reliever long term, which could be a nice role for him and his above-average slider.
Roster Stickability: Moderate. He’ll get a chance to be a second lefty in the Mariners pen, in a good park for a left-handed pitcher.
28. Baltimore Orioles: Logan Verrett, RHP (from Mets)
Situation: Verrett doesn’t have much upside, but he throws a ton of strikes and held his own in hitter-crazy Las Vegas in 2014 despite pitching to contact. He doesn’t project to be much more than a middle reliever down the road and probably won’t be better than the last man in a major-league bullpen this season, but it’s tough to rule out any reliever who pitches in a Buck Showalter bullpen.
Roster Stickability: Low. He might make the team out of spring training, but he’ll have to have early success in order to make it through the entire season.
Thank you for reading
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A few interesting players got taken in the minor league phase, like Kentrail Davis and Rock Shoulders.
These articles tend to focus on the short-term team perspective: i'd like to see some commentary on how a player's selection impacts his short- and long-term development as well.