Depending on where you land on the spectrum, the Rule 5 draft is either the most overrated or underrated event that occurs in the offseason. Yes, there are the occasional stars, but because of the rules that require teams carry the player on the 25-man roster all season, you typically don’t see a ton of high-ceiling, low-floor players carried. That being said, there are always serviceable players available due to roster constraints, and 2015 was no exception.
Here’s a look at the 16 players who were selected in today’s draft, and how they have a chance to make an impact in their new respective organizations. Skipped numbers indicate that teams passed.
1. Phillies: Tyler Goeddel, OF (Rays) —This was rumored for the past couple of days, and ultimately makes a lot of sense. Goeddel offers athleticism and versatility as a right-handed hitter who has played both third base and the outfield, and his above-average speed and throwing arm make him an asset at both spots. He’s a smart hitter who has seen his approach improve each year, and there’s enough bat speed to project an average hit tool, with fringe-average pop. He isn’t a future star, but he could be a regular corner outfielder, with utility player as a realistic floor.
2. Reds: Jake Cave, OF (Yankees) — We often see fourth-outfielder profiles selected in these drafts, and that’s exactly what Cave is, for better or worse. Like Goeddel, he’s an above-average runner, but his solid instincts make him a better fit for center field, and of course he can handle both corners. The hit and power tools haven’t developed much—the latter is closer to a 40 grade right now—but he is a weapon on the bases, so he could be an option off the bench as a pinch-runner. Scouts rave about his mental acumen, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Cave is the Reds' fourth or fifth outfielder for the next couple of seasons.
3. Braves: Evan Rutckyj, LHP (Yankees) — If there was an early “surprise” in this year’s draft, it was the selection of Rutckyj, though in hindsight it shouldn’t have surprised anyone. He’s a left-handed reliever who boasts a 92-94 mph fastball with life from a three-quarter arm slot that creates deception. He’ll also show a solid-average slider with some tilt. The issue is that neither of these pitches lands in the strike zone on a consistent basis, and the command is a ways behind, even for a LOOGY-type player.
4. Rockies: Luis Perdomo, RHP (Cardinals) — If you’re looking for the guy who could become the next Johan Santana or Trevor Hoffman from this draft, you’re insane. But Perdomo has the most upside of any player taken today. He’ll touch 97 from a four-seam fastball with movement, and his slider has loads of hard vertical movement. He repeats his delivery well, and his feel for pitching has improved significantly over the past year. He could be a high-leverage reliever, and was a very nice addition at pick four for the Rockies, who then traded him to the Padres, so, good for the Padres.
5. Brewers: Colin Walsh, 2B (A's) — Walsh doesn’t offer a ton of upside, but he might be the most realistic contributor selected today. His approach at the plate is outstanding, and his compact swing also possesses a little pop. He’s played all over the field, and he’s looked competent at third and in the corner outfield. It’s not sexy at all, but Milwaukee may have just found themselves a very nice bench option for 2016 and beyond.
6. Athletics: Jabari Blash, OF (Mariners) — If you throw anything straight to Blash, you’re going to have a bad time, as the athletic outfielder oozes raw power. He’ll draw his fair share of walks, too, but there’s a lot of swing and miss here, which limits the hit tool to fringe-average at best. He’s limited to right field, but his above-average throwing arm plays fine in that corner. Ultimately, Blash likely ends up a bench bat who can mash left-handed pitching.
8. Padres: Josh Martin, RHP (Cleveland) — Martin was dominant in Double-A, holding hitters to a .192 average and 80 strikeouts in just over 67 innings. You shouldn’t expect those kind of results as a big leaguer, but there’s reason to believe he can be a competent middle reliever. His go-to pitch is a plus curveball, but he’s started throwing a cutter to help keep hitters off that pitch and his above-average fastball, which features good plane. If the cutter keeps improving, he could be a high-leverage reliever, but middle-innings guy is a much more likely landing spot.
10. Orioles: Joey Rickard, OF (Rays) — Hey, another fourth outfielder. Rickard’s skillset is one that is easy to like—he works counts into his favor and draws more than his fair share of walks—and once on base, he’s a pest on the bases who can steal 20 to 30 bags a year. There’s no power here, and it’s hard to imagine these on-base skills carrying over to the big leagues because of the lack of pop and overall bat speed. Still, he’s a competent defender, and his ability to pester at the plate and on the bases could make him valuable.
13. Angels: Deolis Guerra, RHP (Pirates) — You may or may not remember that Guerra was one of the prospects acquired in the deal for Johan Santana, so he’s been around for a little while. He’ll touch 96 on the gun, show a fringe-average curveball, and an above-average change. The command is below-average and he doesn’t do a great job of repeating the delivery, so this is very much a swing-man profile, at best.
19. Blue Jays: Joseph Biagini, RHP (Giants) — When you hear the term crafty used to describe a pitcher, they’re talking about Biagini. There’s not a single pitch here that’s plus, and it’s very unlikely he’ll able to miss bats at the big league level. That being said, he throws four pitches for strikes, and his ability to keep the ball in the park makes him a candidate to pitch multiple innings as a 12th man on a pitching staff.
23. Cardinals: Matt Bowman, RHP (Mets) — Everything written about Biagini applies to Bowman, with the only difference being that that Bowman got crushed in the hitting paradise that is Las Vegas. Still, there are three average offerings in his right arm, and he also has some deception from his delivery, so he might be better suited to pitch in higher-leverage situations than Biagini.
24. Phillies: Daniel Stumpf, LHP (Royals) — If there’s such thing as a steal in the Rule 5 draft, I’d say it’s Stumpf, as I thought he’d go in the top five selections. He’s death to left-handed hitters as seen in their .151 average against him, and the quality of his stuff lends credence to the idea that he can replicate this success—to a degree—in the majors. His 91-93 mph fastball benefits from the deception from his arm slot, and his slider offers the kind of break and tilt you see from LOOGYs that make left-handed batters look silly. His command is only average and I wouldn’t let him face a right-handed hitter, but there’s still a place in the world for the lefty only guy.
25. Reds: Chris O’Grady, LHP (Angels)— The LOOGY run begins! O’Grady doesn’t have the same type of stuff as Stumpf, but he does have better control (evidenced by his 57-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2015). His low-90s fastball and solid average slider should be good enough to get all but the best left-handed hitters out on a consistent basis.
26. Brewers: Zachary Jones, RHP (Twins) — Jones is similar to Perdomo, but a more finished product and without the upside. So maybe not that similar. His fastball sits 94-96, and he complements it with an above-average slider that has hard, downward tilt. Throwing strikes has been an issue throughout his time in the Twins system, so unless his control/command sees a major uptick it’s unlikely he ever achieves his set-up man upside.
28. Padres: Blake Smith, RHP (White Sox) — Smith is the oldest player selected today (27) but might be the most interesting, as he was just converted to pitching two years ago. He hovers around the low 90s with the occasional tick up to 95 mph, and his curveball flashes above-average as well.
29. Angels: Ji-Man Choi, 1B (Orioles) — When Choi has been healthy, he’s shown very intriguing potential as a left-handed hitter with plus raw power and a solid understanding of the strike zone. "When" is the operative term, however, as Choi has been plagued by injuries his entire career. Assuming he can stay healthy, he could be a platoon player, but more likely just a bench bat/organizational fodder.
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