WTNYDecember 02, 2004
Reading Into The Rule (5)
By Bryan Smith

Nothing is more confusing in Major League Baseball than the Rule 5 draft. Absolutely nothing. I've heard stories of front offices being confused on the rules, and it's seldom that analysts have a real handle before the draft. I have done some work trying to find the best, and most likely, drafted players.

Let me first say that this has come both through my own digging through 40-man rosters, and through the great assistance of these articles, one from Rotoworld and the other from Batter's Box. Before I start, let me solve a few misconceptions around the Internet:

- In Cubdom, Chadd Blasko is NOT eligible for the draft, because he signed a 2003 contract, making this only his second draft since signing. On the other hand, Andy Sisco IS eligible. Also, JK Ryu is not eligible either.
Update: I am told that Ryu is in fact eligible, making him one of the top 15 draft-eligible players available. His playing career began in 2001, making this upcoming draft his fourth. If teams can ignore his head issues, Ryu could be the most talented, yet Major League ready, player available.

- Manny Parra of the Brewers is NOT eligible...he was a draft-and-follow, signing in the spring rather than the fall.

That's all for now, if you have any other questions, drop it in the comments box below this article. Now, let's try to make a list that both has players that should be drafted, and players that will be drafted. To me, Rule 5 picks are often LOOGYs, or 5th OF types. There can be raw infielders and right-handers with good stuff as well. I would always be quick to draft a first-rounder if I was in a Major League front office, spending $50,000 to see how a player will respond to being the 25th man is a worthwhile risk for me.

Below, are the twelve players that I think should - and could - be drafted in Anaheim.

1. Andy Sisco- LHP- Chicago Cubs

Of every player on this list, Andy Sisco provides the largest question mark. First and most glaring to me, a Cubs fan, is why the Hell did Hendry/Fleita choose John Koronka over Sisco? Yikes. Other questions associated with Sisco are, can a pitching coach find the stuff that made this kid a second-round pick? Is this guy the next Ty Howington, destined for an arm problem? And lastly, how can you not risk $50,000 on a 6-9 southpaw?

To me, Sisco should be the top choice in the draft, no question. Arizona has the first overall selection, and I think the staff there knows how to handle tall southpaws. I mean, Sisco would be the second-tallest left-hander ever in the Majors, behind one Randy Johnson. Forget the poor year in high-A, and the rumored loss of stuff, spend 50k trying to turn Sisco into a power reliever and in the right direction.

2. Colt Griffin- RHP- Kansas City Royals

I put Colt second, mostly because he is very similar to Sisco. You know Griffin's name because he is a former top-ten overall choice out of a Texas high school, mostly because he once made radar guns extend their normal width. The knock on him in high school was that he had some control issues, possibly because that fastball was just a little too good. At every level he has spent ten or more innings at, Griffin's BB/9 has been under 5.00 all of ONCE.

But, what should be noticed, was that once was 2004 in the Texas League. Converted to relief by Royals brass, Griffin had a 4.02 ERA in over 31 innings. He allowed only two home runs, and while his K/9 was under 9.00 (and his fastball well under 100), he showed obvious signs of effectiveness. Will Carroll and I were wondering what Nolan Ryan could do spending a winter with him, but that probably isn't going to happen. Texas does not choose into well in the teens, and some have to wonder if going back home could put pressure on a guy that has had a bit too much of that. Milwaukee, with one of the best pitching coaches in the game, should be selecting him fifth.

3. Tyler Johnson (LHP) and 4. John Nelson (SS)- St. Louis Cardinals

To start off my description of these two, let me first totally agree with Matthew Pouliot's take on these players entrance on this list, "Hard to figure what the Cards were thinking adding Mike Mahoney and Scott Seabol but leaving Tyler Johnson and Nelson off their roster." This in my mind is as much a gaffe as Sisco, though I'm not sure either of these players had an immediate - or long-term even - future in this organization.

Johnson was one of my favorite Cardinals prospects a year ago, which wasn't saying much given the state of the system. He has not had a bad season yet, and his career peripherals are solid: K/9 over 10.00 and a 7.43 H/9. What is worrisome that is during 2003, Johnson spent the second half of his season dominating the Southern League, and then proceeded to worsen a bit there this year. Still, his numbers were good, he's a 23-year-old LOOGY, with one problem: 37 walks in 56.1 innings. Johnson is the first of three LOOGYs on this list, and let me tell you right now, he's my favorite.

Nelson is really someone the Cardinals should have protected, because they need to see what Southern League OPS fits him as a player better: 615 or 920. That is a massive difference, and to undergo that type of a change in one season screams fluke. But Nelson will turn 26 during Spring Training, and one has to wonder if his .301/.396/.524 line up the middle is for real. He played so little that it might be the case of too small a sample size, but I think his old Midwest League OPS of .802 represents his possible peak as a Major Leaguer. Of course, it could be .550 too. Dan O'Dowd is holding the seventh pick in the draft, and if Bill Bavasi doesn't trump him, the Rockies should try taking Nelson. Also fits: Cincinnati, Minnesota.

5. Jason Cooper- OF- Cleveland Indians

It's really hard for me not to endorse someone if Dave Cameron does, because I respect him as much as anyone in the prospect-evaluating market. Over at U.S.S. Mariner, this is what Cameron said of Cooper:


With most of the 40 man rosters being finalized already, it appears to me that this years potential rule 5 steal is Moses Lakes own Jason Cooper. He had a disappointing season for Double-A Akron, but theres still life in his bat. For those who trumpet the cause of Ryan Howard, Id suggest that Cooper is actually a comparable talent. Hes a 1B/LF with some serious power who can be pitched to and will have to make adjustments against good breaking balls. Hes not a star in the making, but could be a nifty bat off the bench.

Cameron, an avid Carolina League attendee, probably has confidence in Cooper due to seeing him in 2003, where his OPS was .908 in 67 games. This is a guy that strikes out in 20-25% of his at-bats, but also takes a good share of walks. I don't like the ballpark in Akron that Cooper spent his 2004, and think he could make a Major League team quite happy. I think the Mariners and Mets are two examples of teams that could use this.

6. Blake McGinley- LHP- New York Mets

The first of two left-handers that the Mets left available, I think McGinley is one of the safest bets on this list. Look at his 2001 NYPL, his 2002 SAL, and his 2003 FSL numbers, all have ERAs under 2.00. And the story with Blake is this is a guy that strikes out more than nine per game, and will only walk two guys during the same contest. His HR/9 problem in AA this year is quite alarming, but McGinley reminds me of the southpaw version of Cardinal reliever Kiko Calero. He is going to be able to be both a LOOGY and a middle reliever, and will make the Toronto Blue Jays quite happy.

7. Royce Ring- LHP- New York Mets

If nothing else, Ring will be one of the many things that White Sox fans can hold against Ken Williams, especially if Joe Blanton contends for Rookie of the Year and the Sox still have fifth starter problems. Williams choice of Ring in the Moneyball draft has became as notorious as it was stupid, and looks even worse since Ring isn't even the player we saw as a shutdown reliever in college. He's not fantastic, but he's Major League ready, and comes at little to no cost. Jim Bowden should be considering him in Washington, allowing him to non-tender some of the overrated LOOGYs in the organization.

8. Dan Denham- RHP- Cleveland Indians

I like ex-first rounders, and Denham is that. I like pitchers that do not allow a lot of home runs, and before reaching the Eastern League in the second half of this season, Denham provided that. His stuff right now is 'fringy', and he's running very close to simply being labeled a 'bust'. But I would spend $50,000 seeing if Denham's stuff improves in one or two-inning stints, as I think it might. This is a risk that the Pirates, Orioles or Rangers should be taking.

9. Corey Myers- C/3B- Arizona Diamondbacks

If you think that it's embarassing for the Kansas City Royals to possibly lose Colt Griffin, think about this, Corey Myers was the FOURTH player selected in the 1999 draft. After struggling his first few seasons, Myers has allowed some nice Arizona minor league ballparks to boost his numbers. But don't let me make him sound too bad, he was one of the AFL's seven best hitters, and he's making a nice transition to the catching position. He'll probably slip until the second-round of the Rule 5 draft, where J.P. should consider taking him. Others are calling for Mike Napoli, who put up some big numbers thanks to the good ol' California League.

10. Kevin Barry- RHP- Atlanta Braves

I'm not sold on Barry, and not sure I would take the risk on him. His BB/9 constant fluctuates between the mid-3.00s and the mid-5.00s, and at each, he's a completely different player. He can be valuable, though he's probably not as good of a choice as organization-mate Buddy Hernandez, who has virtually no chance of being drafted...again. Barry has an 11.94 K/9 since entering professional baseball, and that alone should get him drafted by some organization.

Finally, I really still like two players that have experience in this process, but still are not convincing organizations of their worth:

11. Colter Bean- RHP- New York Yankees

Chosen by Theo Epstein a year ago, you have to wonder if that will be a selling point to GMs this time around. But on the other hand, you have to wonder if his selection was purely to piss Brian Cashman, and whoever runs the Columbus Clippers off. Bean did not stick in Boston, and went back to Columbus, where he put up some crazy, crazy numbers. 109 strikeouts in 82.2 innings, against only 61 hits and 23 walks. I've talked to an unimpressed viewer of Bean, but I remain rather confident that he should get another chance with a different organization. Maybe Theo can talk Mark Shapiro into it.

Update: Sorry everyone, I am reporting incorrectly listing Bean as Rule 5 eligible. I don't want to add any more misconceptions to an already clouded world, so I can promise you won't be hearing Bean change hands anytime soon.

12. Marshall McDougall- IF- Texas Rangers

Let's get over selling McDougall because he once hit four home runs in a game when he was a collegiate, and focus that as a super utility man, Marshall actually has some value. While playing a host of different positions, McDougall hit well in the hitter-friendly parks in the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues. He has Rob Mackowiak potential, though he still strikes out too much, doesn't walk enough, and could become a bit better defensively. Still, this should be the ideal choice for the Nats, who should be filling up bench spots cheaply.

Finally, in conclusion, let me give you 5 other names you might hear:

- David Espinosa (Tigers)- Ex-First Rounder has moved to the outfield, and had a good season in AA. I like Espinosa, but if all he is playing is the outfield, I'm not sure he's worth the selection.

- Drew Meyer (Rangers)- Can I just say ditto?

- Alex Romero (Twins)- I've talked about Romero on this site before as a potential breakout player for 2005. A switch-hitter, Romero put up solid numbers in the difficult FSL, while still playing a modest centerfield. I think you have to give this guy time to develop, but someone might not be willing to pass.

- Mike Stodolka (Royals)- Another old first-rounder, with a left arm that's been through surgery. He started the recovery well last year, but it's probably worth waiting it out on him if you are another organization.

- Javier Guzman (Pirates)- Hector Luna, Jose Morban, Felix Escalona, Luis Ugueto. You know the names, those real raw shortstops that have no real reason sitting on a roster for six months. They always attract someone...always.

Hope that was helpful, drop any questions or comments below.

Comments

Are there any teams that don't have space on their 40's to pick?

And is the draft order the same it will be next June (ie. Cubs pick 20th)?

I'm with you on the Koronka over Sisco decision, an appalling piece of roster management.

I'd really like Blake McGinley in the Cubs bullpen.

Colter Bean:
2001 (High-A, age 24): 49.1 IP, 77/18 K/BB with 27 H of which 0 HR, 1.46 ERA
2002 (High-A, age 25): 54.2 IP, 78/21 K/BB with 34 H of which 2 HR, 1.98 ERA
2003 (Triple-A, age 26): 69 IP, 70/27 K/BB with 53 H of which 5 HR, 2.87 ERA
2004 (Triple-A, age 27): 82.2 IP, 109/23 K/BB with 61 H of which 3 HR, 2.29 ERA

So what he's ancient for his league, those numbers are breathtaking. Why on earth wasn't he in the Yankees' bullpen? I bet he'd do a better job than any Yankees reliever not named Gordon, Rivera or Pre-August Quantrill. Is it what he throws that's holding him back?

I think the Twins are at the maximum of 40 on the roster with the signing of Juan Castro and Mike Redmond. Don't tell me what Castro and Redmond do that John Nelson and Corky Miller couldn't do for 1/4 the cost.

I was surprised to see Alex Romero left unprotected, I would have thought at least Terry Ryan would have traded him for someone that's not eligible to be taken yet but I think he may make it through. It would be hard for a team to hold Romero on the 25 man roster all season in my opinion.

Yeah, as a Yankees fan, Colter Bean is the most interesting name on that list. Stat-wise (meaning, yeah, I've never seen him pitch) Bean was pretty dominant all season for the Clippers... why he was never given a chance in the bullpen really didn't make any sense. Although I guess it's a moot point, since they won the division anyway, I'd bet that the team would have been better off with both Colter and Andy Phillips on the big league roster.

Plus, Colter Bean is an amazing name. Just think of the diamond-vision possibilities for his intro sequence.

Bean didn't get a shot because he doesn't throw hard. He's kind of a soft tossing Jeff Nelson in that he succeeds with being side armed and a good slider. Also, he's fat. Oh yeah, he's on the 40 man now, IIRC, so I don't see how he is going to get drafted.

Indeed, Fabian's right, Bean was added to the Yankees' 40-man roster on November 19th, along with Robinson Cano. He's therefore not available in the draft.

http://www.rotoworld.com/content/playerpages/player_main.asp?sport=MLB&ID=7271

Matt, you're right too, Colter Bean is a truly magnificent name.

I don't pay that much attention to the minors, so maybe it's just me, but I found this post a little strange. Given the way you describe all the players, it gives the impression that using just Rule 5-eligible players, a team could put together a decent bench and back end of the bullpen. Could Bowden really do it?

Another question, has any team ever carried two Rule 5 picks? Or at least tried?

I'm surprised that Luke Hagerty (Cubs) doesn't get a mention here. If memory serves me correctly, wasn't he one of the pitchers on the A's list in "Moneyball"? I know he had Tommy John surgery, but was a hard thrower before that. Or did he just have an awful season last year?

Any chance Jake Gautreau (2B/3B, San Diego) gets drafted? He was eligible last year and I thought a team would take a flier on him then. He improved his numbers so I'm wondering if he has any value left (re: Rule 5 draft)?

Hagerty was indeed one of the eight pitchers on Beane's list. An interesting list too...

________

Jeff Francis, Rockies (9th pick)

BA Prospect of the Year 2004 after 154.2 IP, 198/29 K/BB, 108 H, 12 HR, 2.21 ERA season between Double-A and Triple-A

Received September call-up, 36.2 IP, 32/13 K/BB, 42 H, 8 HR, 5.15 ERA

Great minor league numbers, but can he survive Coors? I'd have thought he'd be in their rotation on Opening Day.
________

Bobby Brownlie, Cubs (21st pick)

147.1 IP, 114/36 K/BB, 127 H, 15 HR, 3.36 ERA at Double-A in 2004

Solid, but he's lost velocity on his fastball since drafted, and those home runs aren't at all great, especially in the pitcher friendly Southern League. Not eligible for the Rule 5 draft as he signed late.
________

Jeremy Guthrie, Indians (22nd pick)

149.2 IP, 104/60 K/BB, 168 H, 16 HR, 4.69 ERA in 2004 between Double-A and Triple-A

11.2 IP, 7/6 K/BB ratio, 9 H, 1 HR, 4.63 ERA in the Majors in 2004.

Didn't look like a bad prospect, until he hit Triple-A in 2003 and absolutely floundered. He's not yet recovered. The home runs are big problem, the strikeouts were never that great, the control's weakened. Might be able to turn things around, might not. Protected on the Indians' 40-man roster.
________

Joe Blanton, A's (24th pick)

176.1 IP, 143/34 K/BB, 199 H, 13 HR, 4.19 ERA at Triple-A in 2004

Received September call-up, 8 IP, 6/2 K/BB, 6 H, 1 HR, 5.62 ERA

Numbers not breath-taking, but he has good upside, and will probably contend for fifth starting spot in Oakland next year.
________

Ben Fritz, A's (30th pick)

104 IP, 77/50 K/BB, 118 H, 5 HR, 5.62 ERA in 2004 at Double-A

Available in the Rule 5 draft, there's not much to like in those numbers except the home runs.
________

Luke Hagerty, Cubs (32nd pick)

22.2 IP, 12/14 K/BB, 38 H, 0 HR, 6.35 ERA between Rookie and Short-Season ball in 2004. Coming off Tommy John surgery, I think he re-injured something. Available in the Rule 5 draft as you say. Has never even pitched at Low-A ball yet, but that's more to do with injury than talent.
________

Stephen Obenchain, A's (37th pick)

64.1 IP, 53/29 K/BB, 74 H, 5 HR, 4.76 ERA at High-A in 2004

Unimpressive, though reportedly he occasionally hints at the why the A's originally drafted him. Probably won't ever contribute at the Major League level. Available in the Rule 5 draft.
________

Bill Murphy, drafted by A's (98th pick), now with Diamondbacks

134.2 IP, 137/76 K/BB, 121 H, 23 HR, 4.68 ERA between Double-A affiliates in 2004

Butchered by the gopher ball in 2004, but he's proven himself a nice piece of trade bait. He was first part of the A's deal to acquire Mark Redman from the Marlins, the Marlins then sent him to the Dodgers along with Penny and Choi for Lo Duca, Mota and Encarnacion, and the Dodgers immediately sent him to the Diamondbacks to as part of the deal to acquire Steve Finley and Brent Mayne.

You must not have seen sisco this year he was nearly 300lbs and his velo was down 3-5 mphs.

Yes, I think there is a very good chance Gautreau gets chosen, and I thought about including him on my list. For Cub or A fans, he reminds me of Adam Morrissey, a 2B prospect of the past. Gautreau probably needs to be able to play 3 positions (not just 2B/3B) to be a real usefful player. But his ISO was over .200 in both the Southern and PCL, so he could be useful regardless. He's a .260/.340/.450 type player at best, but his batting average could make things a lot worse.

I think a sleeper pick could be Twins outfielder Kevin West. He had over 70 extra-base hits last year with a solid batting average and some walks. With some AAA and AFL experience, he could probably contribute right away off the bench.