Ruling on the Rule V
Sadly, we saw the very end of the Winter Meetings yesterday, which finished with one of my favorite yearly events, the Rule V draft. Johan Santana is probably the best player to come through the draft, and there were numerous pitchers who made a difference last season. Here is a look at every player drafted, their stats, and whether they will stick with their brand new team.
Detroit- Chris Shelton (C/1B)
Info: Shelton is a former 33rd-round pick of the Pirates, an example of the 'bad body, big bat' type player that some teams love. Shelton supposedly plays catcher, but he doesn't do it very well. The obvious comparison is Matt LeCroy, although LeCroy didn't even approach those numbers in the minor leagues.
Chance of Staying: The Tigers will give every chance for Shelton to make their team as a 3rd catcher, right-handed bat off the bench, and likely the 13th or 14th hitter Alan Trammell picks. His staying will largely depend on how well he can his left-handers, which will allow Trammell to bench Carlos Pena on those days. Shelton may not be Major League-caliber quite yet, but a year learning Major League southpaws likely wouldn't deter his career.
Kansas City- Rich Thompson (OF)- TRADE
Info: Kansas City traded cash to move up and choose Thompson, a high-OBP, high speed outfielder whom is very good defensively. Thompson relies on speed, and has nearly stolen 100 bases the last two seasons. His walk numbers and very close to his strikeout rates, and he's nearly ready for the Majors.
Chance of Staying: Thompson has a relatively good chance of staying as prospects David DeJesus and Alexis Gomez need more refining at AAA. If so, Thompson will be the 5th outfielder, and come into games for defensive purposes, as well as for pinch running. If used effectively, Thomspon could be better than Jason Tyner, although I see them heading down the same path.
Tampa Bay- Alec Zumwalt (RHP)
Info: While Zumwalt's career started with a bat, he is learning the art of pitching very well, and his Arizona Fall League performance impressed Tampa Bay scouts. Zumwalt throws in the low-90s, and isn't considered to have a 2nd real pitch. I don't think he's the best Atlanta choice, but he does have the highest upside.
Chance of Staying: With the Devil Rays, Zumwalt will try to become the 5th right-handed reliever, a job he may be handed by Lou Pinella. I don't think he's ready for the Majors quite yet, so I fully expect the Braves to get his arm back at some point during the season. But, there is an outside chance that Zumwalt produces, and has a season a la Aquilino Lopez in Toronto.
Oakland- Frank Brooks (LHP)- TRADE
Info: Probably the safest choice in the draft, Brooks was traded to the Pirates last trade deadline, as the Phillies acquired Mike Williams from the Bucs. Brooks was the first southpaw drafted, and his claim to fame is a slurvy breaking ball that is a killer on lefties. He won't be the first to break 90 mph, but he'll change speeds, and has been more effective in each season.
Chance of Staying: As good as anyone in the draft. Brooks has proven himself at every level, and is ready to be a LOOGY, and second leftie in a bullpen. The A's are working to sign Ricardo Rincon, but they will then use Brooks as their second southpaw out of the bullpen. Brooks should succeed more than anyone else next season, and Billy Beane scores two points on this trade.
Milwaukee- Jeff Bennett (RHP)
Info: I really question this pick, but it was supposedly made under the notion that Bennett's newly found 95 mph heater wouldn't desert him anytime soon. Baseball America says there are rumors about a sore shoulder, leading explanations of a significant drop off at the AAA level.
Chance of Staying: He won't. Milwaukee really wasted this pick, and was a lot better off giving the money to me. What do they have to gain from choosing this player that they won't from a Buddy Hernandez or Ty Howington? Doug Melvin has done some nice work in the minor league department this offseason, landing gems like Travis Phelps and Trent Durrington, but I'm less than impressed with this pick.
Baltimore- Jose Bautista (3B)
Info: High upside, but hardly ready for the Major Leagues. Baustista was a top-ten prospect a year ago, but after breaking his hand in frustration, was limited to 165 AB this year.
Chance of Staying: There is no way that Bautista stays. He should be getting pushed back to high-A next season, but definitely not back to Lynchburg. The Orioles may try at acquiring the rights for Bautista, but otherwise, this is a wasted pick. Next...
Cincinnati- David Mattox (RHP)
Info: Could end up being special, as Mattox is still learning the art to his trade after converting from the infield during college. He was the first starter taken, which makes a lot of sense when considering how bad the Reds' staff is. Josh Boyd of Baseball America says that he "operates with four quality pitches," the best of which is a change up.
Chance of Staying: I think the Reds will keep onto Mattox, likely handing him a long relief job out of Spring Training. This choice could really prove to pay off, and my guess is that Mattox is being tried in the rotation as early as Matt Ford and Wil Ledezma were a year ago.
Texas- Chris Mabeus (RHP)
Info: Grady Fuson once again looked back into his old franchise for this pick, Mabeus helped his case showcasing a good fastball in the AFL. He may not be ready for the Major Leagues, but the Rangers are banking that a mid-90s fastball supercedes that.
Chance of Staying: Little, but when considering how bad the Rangers bullpen is, possible. Mabeus must really pitch well in Spring Training to make the team, but my guess is that Texas gives Oakland a player or money for his rights.
Colorado- Matt White (LHP)
Info: The Red Sox chose White in the Rule V draft a year ago, and actually preferred him to fellow choice Javier Lopez, whom they shipped to Colorado. Lopez went on to have a great season with the Rockies, while injuries seriously hampered White's development, who gave up 14 earned runs in about five innings. He was then traded to the Mariners, and finally given back to the Indians. A nice fastball/curveball combo makes him an attractive option.
Chance of Staying: Doubtful. White will either have to outperform Brian Fuentes and/or Javy Lopez (again) to stay, or convince Clint Hurdle to keep three southpaws. He may be a player, but I don't think the Rockies were the right team to make this choice.
San Diego- Jason Szuminski (RHP)
Info: A former MIT graduate, Szuminski finally saw the light after years of struggling in the Cubs' organization. Szuminski flew through three levels last season, and is arguably ready for the Major Leagues. A high-90s sinking fastball makes him a groundball pitcher, and the Padres traded the rights of Rich Thompson for Szuminski.
Chance of Staying: Very possible. The Padres will surely give Hoffman, Beck, Otsuka, and Linebrink jobs in the bullpen, but Szuminski will likely battle with Brandon Villafuerte for the team's 25th slot. Szuminski is a very likely choice to be the next Luis Ayala, but he'll need to have a very good March.
Montreal- Andy Fox (IF)
Info: Fox has a long Major League career, mostly used as a utility infielder with the Rangers and Marlins. He re-signed a minor league contract, but the Expos found a way to get a cheap infielder, finding a nice loophole. Andy had a full-time job in 2002 when Alex Gonzalez got hurt, and didn't disappoint stealing 31 bases during the season.
Chance of Staying: Almost 100%. The Expos have found their middle infield bench option, and Fox isn't the worst choice they could have come up with. His veteran influence will surely be appreciated.
Toronto- Talley Haines (RHP)
Info: Haines name will never come up in prospect lists, and he wasn't mentioned in possible Rule V choices. He's always had good control, but other than a good splitter, he lacks great pitch selections.
Chance of Staying: Plausible. The team likes Rule V choices, but Haines doesn't bring much to the table. If his splitter proves to be great and his fastball improves, he's a lock. If not, Carlos Tosca will look in another direction.
Chicago (AL)- Jason Grilli (RHP)
Info: Grilli was the 4th overall selection in the 1997 Amateur Draft, but a trade and arm injuries have led to a downfall. Last year was his first season back from injury, and reports have it that his stuff is back. If so, why such low K ratings?
Chance of Staying: Ozzie Guillen likely saw Grilli in Florida, and he'll give him a long look in Spring Training this season. He won't win the 5th starting spot for sure, but I see him as an equal option to Matt Ginter, with a considerable amount of upside. Spending the year as a long reliever really couldn't hurt.
St. Louis- Hector Luna (SS)
Info: This is the second straight year Luna gets drafted, but he failed to make the Devil Rays a year ago. He lacks skills defensively, but has speed and a little bit of power in his bat. He really isn't Major League caliber, but has just enough skills to tempt the guys that make these decisions.
Chance of Staying: Luna will battle with Brent Butler for the middle infield bench spot next Spring Training, and he probably isn't ready for another Major League job.
Boston- Lenny Dinardo (LHP)
Info: Dinardo throws as slow as anyone in this draft, but he still manages to show nice strikeout rates during his career. He's yet to relieve consistently, but the Red Sox think his cutter might be good enough to handle the role.
Chance of Staying: Dinardo has a chance, but it appears to be a slim one. Theo Epstein appears content to giving the second leftie to some mix of Tim Hamulack, Dinardo, and recent waiver claim Mark Malaska. The latter is the favorite to win the job, and don't be shocked if Epstein throws another name into the list.
Houston- Willy Tavares (OF)
Info: Tavares has as much potential as anyone in the draft, and these types of players usually flame out quickly in the Majors. He has speed and defense on his side, but riding the bench surely won't help him develop as a hitter.
Chance of Staying: I think that Tavares will make the team out of Spring Training, he won't spend the year with Houston. Expect Tavares to be spending time as an Akron Aero next year.
Detroit- Mike Bumatay (LHP)
Info: I thought the Tigers would pick Ty Howington with this choice, but they went with the more Major League-ready Bumatay. Left-handers hit a disastrous .136 off Bumatay last year, thanks to a three-quarters breaking ball.
Chance of Staying: Pretty good. With Jamie Walker and Bumatay, it's very possible the Tigers best asset next year will be their left-handed relief. With Shelton and Bumatay, Dambrowski hasn't done badly for himself.
Colorado- Luis Gonzalez (UT)
Info: Couldn't get any info past this season about Gonzalez, a super-utility player that walks more than he strikes out. He will be a nice 14th man, but that's really the only choice.
Chance of Staying: As I said, it will probably between keeping Gonzalez, and carrying 7 pitchers. If you play in Coors, the choice usually tends to be to carry seven pitchers. We'll see what Hurdle does, but don't bank on Gonzalez.
Boston- Colter Bean (RHP)
Info: Theo Epstein likely added insult to injury stealing the hefty Bean away from the Yankees in the second round. I wonder, do the Yankees even know a Rule V draft exists? Anyway, Bean is an effective right-handed reliever that uses a submarine type delivery to drive right-handers crazy.
Chance of Staying: Will get his chance to beat Ramiro Mendoza, and if he can't do that, he really doesn't deserve a spot. But it's not like these two teams will come together to get the Red Sox Bean's rights.
Detroit- Lino Urdaneta (RHP)
Info: This is really when the Tigers should have chosen Howington, the Reds 10th prospect, and very similar to last year's selection Wil Ledezma. Instead they go the fire-thrower Urdaneta that only relies on high-90s heat. Hell, the Tigers can have that with Matt Anderson and Franklyn German.
Chance of Staying: None.
Quickly, addressing 8 moves made today:
- Scott Spiezio signs with Mariners for 3 years, $9M: Wow, overpaid! Spiezio will likely be the team's third basemen next season, and also allowed Bavasi to do the following trade...
- Greg Colbrunn traded to Arizona for Quinton McCracken: McCracken will probably play left against southpaws, allowing Randy Winn to play everyday in centerfield.
- Carl Everett to Expos for two years, $7.5M: With Vidro, Cabrera, Everett, Wilkerson, and Nick Johnson, the Expos should have quite the offense next year.
- Roberto Hernandez to Phillies for nothing: Well, is he better than Turk?
- Jeff Suppan and Reggie Sanders to Cardinals: Really makes the Cardinals better, as J.D. Drew couldn't match the numbers of Sanders. Suppan might completely flunk out, or he may continue putting up the stats he did in Pittsburgh.
- Michael Barrett to A's for P2NL: The A's either get Barrett to play well, or try playing Adam Melhuse everyday. What Billy Beane sees as a can't lose situation, other GMs would cringe at.
- Dustan Mohr to Giants for P2NL: Nice move for the Giants, giving the team five very good outfielders.
Come back tomorrow for looks at last seasons division winners...