Rule 5 Draft Review
While the Rule 5 draft had been drawing more and more attention the last few years, this year's crop was decidedly weak. we knew the draft turnout wouldn't be great, and in the end, it was even less than that, with only 10 teams making 12 selections.
Each year, only about 25% of the players drafted in the Rule 5 make it through the year. What separates them from the rest of the pack varies, but it's definitely helpful to be on a team that has nothing to lose, and about 70 wins to gain. Here's a quick look at the 12 players drafted, along with the percent shot that they stay with their new organization for all of the 2006 season...
1. Texas Rangers -- Fabio Castro (CHW/A+) -- LHP: 2.28, 58/79, 75/37
This pick originally belonged to the Kansas City Royals, who opted out of the selection despite such success last year. Instead, they traded their pick to the Rangers in exchange for future bench player Esteban German. The Rangers got Fabio Castro, who I should have noted on my Rule 5 preview.
In Castro, the Rangers landed someone who best fits in the Buddy Hernandez Group. It would be a waste to limit Castro to left-handed pitching, but he likely does not have the stuff or endurance to belong in Johan Santana category. So, Fabio should end up pitching in middle relief for the Rangers, where pitching from the left side will only help. What's interesting is that I've heard conflicting reports on Castro's stuff. What's confirmed is a low-90s fastball with good movement that is his bread and butter.
What's debated, and will determine whether Castro returns to the World Champs or not, is the secondary offerings that Castro possesses. Baseball America noted in their Rule 5 review that Castro had a good changeup. What they didn't mention, however, was the fantastic curveball that futuresox.com noted before the 2005 season. If Castro has both pitches in his arsenal, he should last on a Major League roster. If not, it's more of a stretch.
Chance of Lasting: 40%. His strikeout numbers weren't great in high-A, and some high home run numbers won't improve in Dallas. He will likely have to beat out Erasmo Ramirez in Spring Training before even talking about his Major League stats. Not especially likely, but the Rangers certainly saw something here.
2. Colorado Rockies -- Luis Gonzalez (LAD/AA,AAA) -- LHP: 3.18, 48/70.2, 56/45
On a day in which the Rockies traded last year's Rule 5 pick, Marcos Carvajal, they made their second straight attempt at acquiring a LOOGY. This time around they went back to the Dodgers, and got Gonzalez, who like Castro, had far better H/9 numbers than those for strikeouts.
Gonzalez tends to keep the ball on the ground, and allowed just 4 home runs in 2005. Those two things will help when moving to the high altitude of Coors Field. However, Gonzalez must learn to better harness his fastball, which is erratic, and caused serious control problems in 2005.
As a team, the Rockies pitching staff allowed left-handed batters to hit .295/.378/.460 in 2005. Many of the clubs top performers against LH (including Carvajal), save Brian Fuentes, are no longer in the Rockie organization. The team has brought Jamie Cerda in to help neutralize left-handers, but there is no reason not to spend $50,000 on insurance. Not a lot of upside in this pick, but he could fit a role.
Chance of Lasting: 25%. If the guy had such troubles in AAA, at the hitter-friendly Las Vegas, what is going to happen in Coors?
3. San Diego Padres -- Steve Andrade (TOR/AA) -- RHP: 1.97, 23/50.1, 71/16
Of all the players that I did not include in my preview, I'm most upset about Andrade. I'm not sure Davis Romero wouldn't have been a better pick, but it's hard to beat Andrade's numbers. His season was relatively short, but when he pitched, he was among the Eastern League's toughest pitchers. And, New Hampshire isn't the easiest environment, so Andrade belonged in this draft.
With that being said, shame on the Devil Rays for not hanging onto this pick. The Padres were the team with the most 40-man roster space, so this is a risk they can take. This risk is trusting a spreadsheet rather than a scouting report. Andrade has never been one to impress the scouts, with nothing more than a high-80s fastball and two average breaking pitches. But he's smart, and has rarely had trouble getting guys out.
Chance of Lasting: 50%. The Padres bullpen will have a lot of competition, and Andrade will probably be 'battling' the likes of Dewon Brazelton and Chris Oxspring. I think he'll start on the team, I'm just not convinced he can last.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates -- Victor Santos (MIL/MLB) -- RHP: 4.57, 153/141.2, 89/60
An interesting pick, and the first of what seems to be a growing trend in the Rule 5 Draft. A few years ago, veteran Andy Fox was chosen after he had signed a minor league deal with a different team. Before the Rule 5 draft, the Kansas City Royals had signed Santos to a minor league deal after he had left the Brewers.
What the Pirates plan to use Santos on is a question I have. The team traded Mark Redman at the Winter Meetings, but even after losing him, the team still has a loaded rotation. However, Santos hasn't been effective in a relief role since 2001, his rookie season with the Texas Rangers.
Santos pitched far worse in 2005 than in 2004, despite having a better ERA. His K/9 decreased while his walks increased, yet it appears that Santos may have developed a certain veteran mentality for pitching under Mike Maddux. Santos has a wide arsenal under his belt, but really throws only one plus pitch: a big-breaking overhand curveball. It's interesting to note that for four seasons now, Santos has been worse against right-handed hitters by a 10-15% margin.
Chance of Lasting: 60%. On a young team looking to solve their problems cheaply, the Pirates can afford a league-average ERA out of whatever role they give him.
5. Detroit Tigers -- Chris Booker (CIN/AAA) -- RHP: 2.49, 45/65, 91/28
Like Santos, this is another player that had been a minor league free agent prior to the draft. The Nats had picked up Booker, who finally thrived in a relief role, after his last season with the Cincinatti Reds. Booker had pretty extraordinary numbers last year, and looked as if he could me a minor league free agent steal by Jim Bowden.
Not so fast, says Dave Dambrowski, with a pick that almost reminds me of one-time choice Chris Spurling. While Comerica Park is hardly a hitter's park, it appears that RFK might be the better fit for Booker, who had a really-low 0.45 G/F ratio last season. His home run numbers are down, a good sign, but those numbers are bound to change from year-to-year.
Chance of Lasting: 55%. Same as Andrade, but with a little push because the Tigers are the worse team and Booker has better stuff. However, inconsistency has been a staple of Booker's career, so there is no reason to use pen on your depth charts with this guy quite yet.
6. San Diego Padres -- Seth Etherton (OAK/AAA) -- RHP: 2.72, 93/112.1, 99/30
Man, I'm going to have to start a new rule next season. This is the third straight player who was a minor league free agent turned Rule 5 pick, and the second in which the Royals lost. Etherton is also, like Booker, an extreme flyball pitcher, with a 0.46 G/F ratio in 2005. However, that will play in PETCO Park, where flyballs generally go to die.
I would need convincing that Etherton is a better pick than Davis Romero, someone who would fill the same role for a club. While Etherton might be a bit closer to the Majors, Romero makes up for that difference in stuff, and has a better track record. Did the Padres just go with Etherton because of his age?
Chance of Lasting: 25%. I really don't see this one happening, unless Clay Hensley gets hurt, or something of the like.
7. New York Mets -- Mitch Wylie (SF/AAA) -- RHP: 4.50, 68/66, 58/15
This is the first selection that left me really, really scratching my head. Wylie is pretty much a mediocre AAA pitcher at this point, and at 28, he's not getting better anytime soon. The Mets were apparently interested in someone versatile for their bullpen, and probably liked the good control that Wylie brought to the table.
Still, there were about 5-10 relievers that I would have drafted prior to Wylie, who the Mets say is a sinker/slider pitcher. It's unlikely that any team from New York is going to keep a Rule 5 reliever on their roster for all season. It's even more unlikely when the pitcher is as middle-of-the-road as Mitch Wylie.
Chance of Lasting: 1%. Not going to happen.
8. Florida Marlins -- Dan Uggla (AZ/AA) -- 2B: .297/.378/.502 in 498 AB
Really just a match made in heaven. After trading Luis Castillo for two pitchers last week, the Marlins don't have a lot of options for second base. It was rumored that some of their minor league shortstops -- Josh Wilson and/or Robert Andino -- would be changing positions, but it's not even clear if either player is ready. So, that likely will leave Uggla battling with Alfredo Amezaga for the job.
If true, I actually like Uggla's chances. He's hardly as fast as Amezaga, and it's likely that he won't provide such good defense. But his true strength is his bat, which was one of the best in the hitter-friendly Southern League last season. Having an ISO of .205 in that league is a difficult talk, so I see little reason that Uggla can't put up a .260/.320/.410 line in a full season of the Majors. Given what the Marlins will be trotting out there on April 1, you can bet I'm in.
Chance of Lasting: 80%. The Marlins need a second baseman, and could afford giving Uggla the part-time job.
9. Minnesota Twins -- Jason Pridie (TB/AA) -- OF: .213/.275/.394 in 94 AB
At first, I completely disregarded this pick, called Terry Ryan an idiot, and moved on. But going over this Minnesota roster, I'm not so sure Pridie is a horrible chice. In the outfield next year, the Twins will likely have Shannon Stewart in left, Torii Hunter in center and Lew Ford in right field. After that, there isn't a considerable amount of back-up.
Pridie didn't play very much in 2005, so his numbers are extremely low. His contact skills were never great to begin with, and his batting average seems to overshadow a bat that probably has some pop. He also is a good baserunner, and pretty defensively fantastic in the outfield. On a team that isn't really filled with depth, and looking to spend their money elsewhere, Pridie could be a decent pick-up.
Chance of Lasting: 35%. How bad does Terry Ryan want a Proven Veteran in the 4th OF spot?
10. Boston Red Sox -- Jamie Vermilyea (TOR/AA,AAA) -- RHP: 3.65, 116/101, 76/27
The back end of the Sox bullpen sounds pretty good, so it didn't make a lot of sense for the team to draft players like Bob Zimmermann and Billy Sadler, one-inning right-handers. Instead, they get Vermilyea, a groundball pitcher that had a good year between the Eastern and International Leagues.
Whether he fits into the situation or not in Boston, I'm not sure. I would doubt it, given how full the bullpen is right now, especially just to check. Also, if the team managed to keep Jamie, it would be a double victory, as they would also be taking him out of the rival's roster. A good pick in this situation, but again, is Vermilyea a better pitcher than Davis Romero?
Chance of Lasting: 15%. I know that Adam Stern did it last year, but really, Vermilyea's numbers aren't good enough to project a full season from.
11. St. Louis Cardinals -- Juan Mateo (CHC/A+) -- RHP: 3.21, 99/109.1, 123/27
Talk about stealing a player from your rivals, I'm guessing the Cubs were blindsided by this choice, as I did not see Juan Mateo on a single radar. Looks like a mistake from the numbers, as not one of those peripherals is bad; Mateo looks like quite the player. He's inexperienced, of course, and probably only fits in on a Cardinal team that, of course, has been sitting on their hands for most of the winter.
Still, I have a hard time believing the Cards can keep anyone on their roster for an entire season that has yet to reach AA. Mateo is in for a big test next year, and I'm not talking about Big League camp...at Double-A. Mateo would have been a better pick from a worse team, but with the Cards, I'm ambivalent about the selection. He won't last, but he's almost worth the $50,000 just to bring to camp.
Chance of Lasting: 40%. A decent chance, given the young arm, but still far from being really helpful.
12. Florida Marlins -- Mike Megrew (LAD/INJ) -- LHP: Injured
If Megrew had not gotten injured a year ago, forcing surgery, he would have been included at the back end of my top 75 prospects. I actually wrote him onto the list, and boasted about the potential he had being a southpaw with such good indicators. The injury will, without question, set Megrew back, making it quite hard to have him adjust on the fly at the Major League level.
The kid's stuff was never particularly good, so who is to say what it will be like now. The Dodgers had to actually shut Megrew down in the Instructional League, though that could have been to save face more than anything else. What the Marlins are really hoping for is that Megrew stays injured, starts the season on the 60-man DL, gets off and gets some rehab time in the minors. A lot of potential in this pick, it's just hard to think that potential will be cashed in.
Chance of Lasting:25%. The chance isn't very much better than Luke Hagerty last year, but the effort is a noble one.
* * * * *
And after just 12 picks, the 2005 Rule 5 draft ended, mostly due to 30 near-full 40-man rosters. This year's group wasn't the greatest class ever, and I guess that only about two players will make it through the season unscathed. Hopefully, the Marlins will give a shot to Dan Uggla, who despite being short, deserves a chance to prove that his bat is for real.
That's what the Rule 5 draft is all about, finding that one diamond in the rough that can start for your team and show some serious upside. But after looking over Thursday's group, all I can say is that for that diamond in the rough, we'll probably have to Wait 'Til Next Year.