The extra year of protection added in 2006 has made the Rule 5 draft even more of a dart toss than previous years, with one team official commenting, “What were once thin pickings is now downright anorexic.” Still, with most people betting on maybe 10-12 selections getting made, once again, people were happy to make some cheap $25,000 bets on possibly viable big-league talent, most of them bullpen arms. Here’s a quick look at the 17, and their chances to stick.
A curious pick at number one overall, which has usually been a slot used to pick a pitcher lighting up radar guns in winter ball. Hoffman is a surprisingly good athlete for his size, and he consistently hits left-handers, but his range is a bit short in center, and with the Curtis Granderson acquisition moving Brett Gardner to excellent fourth outfielder status (though there are rumors of teams asking about him in trade talk), do the Yankees really need an extra outfielder like this? Odds to Stick: 5-1.
Last week, I was talking to Chuck Carree, who does an outstanding job covering UNC-Wilmington baseball among other things for the Wilmington Star News. We were discussion the chances of Raynor, a UNC-Wilmington alum, of getting selected today, and I think in the end we kind of talked each other out of his chances. Raynor entered the year with an honest shot at a big-league job with the Marlins, but he had a rough spring and even rougher regular season, with some scouts pointing to a bulkier frame being the main culprit. He’s still a plus runner who can play all three outfield spots, and Pittsburgh could be a perfect fit for him. Odds to Stick: 3-1.
This name rarely came up during conversations in Indy, and that’s surprising. In discussions with a scout (who’s not with the Orioles, Giants, or Rangers) last week about the list, Snyder was his number one target, as he already has one definite big-league skill. A beefy lefty with good fastball and an even better breaker, Snyder is absolute murder of lefties, limiting them to a .146/.198/.197 mark during the regular season. He would have been my Giants sleeper for their Top 11, now he just might be the Rangers’ version. This is my number-one choice to stay with his new team. Odds to Stick: 2-1.
If the Royals were looking for a good LOOGY candidate, say, someone like the one the Rangers found, they went knocking at the wrong door, as Osuna is actually better against right-handers. He pounds the strike zone, but his velocity is only in the 85-88 mph range, and he’s also a fly-ball pitcher. That’s a nightmare combination in the big leagues. Odds to Stick: 12-1.
If the Pacific Coast League hit .312 against Ambriz last year, what makes you think he can get big leaguers out? Scouts like the power pitcher’s frame, and his stuff is solid, but it’s never generated much in the way of results; in his 22 starts for Reno, only four where of the quality variety, even allowing for the fact that it was the toughest park on pitchers in a tough circuit to pitch in. A curious selection. Odds to Stick: 18-1.
6. Diamondbacks select: Zach Kroenke, LHP, Yankees.
During one of the loud nights in the lobby this week, I brought up the name Kroenke to one team official who misheard me and said, “Sure, we all wish Zack Greinke was available.” So now while maybe I should take the misinformation even one step future and say something about how some in the game have confused Kroenke with the defending Cy Young winner, I’ll keep it real. Kroenke actually had an excellent year at Triple-A this year, has solid velo, and the ability to get lefties out, so this might just work out. Odds to Stick: 4-1.
This is your annual winter ball blow-up, as Monasterios has been one of the best starters in Venezuela while pitching for Margarita. He’s a fastball/curve type with good movement and plus command, but he’s also made a grand total of two appearances above A-ball. This is a combination of low upside and little chance of making the team. Odds to Stick: 25-1.
Jimenez has solid skills across the board, as his .289/.366/.422 showing at Double-A Portland in 2009 reflects a solid approach, excellent contact skills, and a bit of power. He’s also already 25 years old, thick and slow, and a below-average defender. Still, this is the Marlins we are talking about, which helps his chances. Odds to Stick: 12-1.
Cassevah’s name was bandied about all week, so it was almost surprising to see him go this low. While his ground-ball ratio bordered on unfathomable at Double-A this year, with a mark over four, he also had a strikeout-to-walk ratio barely over one, and left-handers reached base against him at nearly a 40 percent clip. This is Brad Ziegler‘s skill set, only he’s not as good. Odds to Stick: 10-1.
11. Blue Jays select: Zechry Zinicola, RHP, Nationals.
A sixth-round pick in 2006, Zinicola looked like he could move quickly through the Washington system after an outstanding pro debut, but he’s put up a 5.17 ERA since, including a 7.54 mark in 50 Triple-A games. His fastball is borderline plus, but also straight as an arrow, while his breaking ball has regressed. This is just an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle. Odds to Stick: 20-1.
Once among the top pitchers in the Tribe’s system, Lofgren has never built upon his breakout 2006 campaign, when he went 17-5 with a 2.32 ERA in High-A Kinston. His stuff is down, and there have been plenty of questions about his work ethic, but a great eight-game run to start the 2009 season may have offered a glimmer of hope, and he is left-handed with solid stuff. On a team desperate for arms, he’ll be given a very long look. Odds to Stick: 8-1.
After reaching the big leagues in 2008, Parisi missed nearly all of the 2009 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. When healthy, his low-90s sinker generates plenty of ground balls, but for a guy with fringy stuff, he’s hardly a control freak, and the risk is far greater than the upside. Odds to Stick: 18-1.
15. Rays select: Armando Zerpa, LHP, Red Sox.
If you want a lefty-killing lefty, Zerpa is your man, as he limited batters from that side to a .097 (7-for-72) batting average last year. And undersized lefty who is nearly (but not quite) a true sidearmer, Zerpa lives off angles and movement, but like Snyder, this one skill could be his ticket to a big-league role. Odds to Stick: 6-1.
Texeira came over to the Bombers from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal, and after a solid showing in Double-A, he now has a career ERA of 2.49 in four pro seasons. A bit on the short and stocky side, Texeira is, like many Rule 5 selections, a ground-ball specialist with a good sinker and average slider who doesn’t have much upside, but might have enough “now skills” to survive. Odds to Stick: 9-1.
19. Giants select: Steven Johnson, RHP, Orioles.
Traded by the Dodgers to the O’s in July, along with top prospect Josh Bell, for George Sherrill, this Baltimore native’s time as a potential hometown hero may have been limited to just seven starts for Double-A Bowie. Nothing about Johnson’s game stands out, but there aren’t many weaknesses either, as he has an effective three-pitch mix. He’s not a bad prospect by any means, but he doesn’t seem ready yet, either. Odds to Stick: 15-1.
Jukich bounced between the bullpen and the rotation in 2009, and he was much better in the latter role, with a 3.15 ERA in 17 starts for Triple-A Louisville. He depends far more on guile than stuff, but sometimes left-handedness and guile is enough. Odds To Stick: 12-1.
22. Phillies select: David Herndon, RHP, Angels.
It was a very busy day for the father/son agent team of Howard and Josh Kusnick, as Herndon was their fourth client to be selected on Thursday morning, joining Kroenke, Monasterios, and Cassevah. Maybe the most surprising selection of the day, Herndon is a big (six-foot-five) strike-thrower, but his raw stuff is pedestrian, and it’s hard to see how a guy who struck out just 4.8 per nine innings at Double-A is going to make the Phillies bullpen. Odds to Stick: 35-1.