The 2008 Rule 5 Draft: Previewing the Pitchers
There are only 15 more shopping days left. Major League Baseball's Rule 5 draft will occur on at the end of the Winter Meetings on Dec. 11. The draft, which is explained here, has become extremely popular in the eyes of online fans, but participation amongst teams has been up and down in recent years.
The 2008 Rule 5 draft could be popular. The economic woes and uncertainty are impacting professional sports, just like the rest of the world. The draft is an opportunity for clubs to find cheap - and potentially talented - roster options. A club can pick up a 24th or 25th man pretty cheaply through this process.
As you can see above, the draft peaked in 2002 and dropped off sharply in 2004 - which is likely because teams started altering the way they protected prospects after almost 50 players were selected between 2002 and 2003. It is much harder to find a Johan Santana these days as all promising young pitchers - even those in Short Season ball or A-ball - are being protected on 40-man rosters.
The 2008 draft does not appear to have a raw, talented future star available, but then again, who knew Santana's name in 1999... aside from Minnesota and Houston? What this draft does have, though, is a ton of potential back-up infielders and left-handed relievers... as well as a few other interesting names. Let's take a look at some of the top options on the mound. Next week we'll look at some intriguing hitters.
Eduardo Morlan | Tampa Bay
Eduardo Morlan was traded to Tampa Bay from Minnesota last winter in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young swap. He can dial his fastball up into the mid-90s and he has a high-80s slider that acts as his strikeout pitch. His numbers were down in 2008 after switching organizations but you don't get the chance to nab a player with this skill set after a fabulous season. He still allowed just 44 hits in 47 innings with rates of 2.87 BB/9 and 8.62 K/9.
Chris Mason | Tampa Bay
Chris Mason has always been a Top-10 prospect, but he was also considered a step below the top two pitching prospects in the system: Jacob McGee and Wade Davis. Mason's horrendous 2008 season certainly did not help his cause. After going 15-4 with a 2.57 ERA in 2007 at Double-A, Mason regressed at Triple-A with a 6.21 ERA and 144 hits allowed in 108.2 innings. A former second-round amateur draft pick, he has the talent to succeed in the Majors and many scouts have felt he has always been better suited to pitching out of the bullpen. His slider is excellent, the change-up is very good, but the fastball is just OK at 87-91 mph.
Alan Horne | New York (AL)
Alan Horne spent the majority of the season battling a bicep strain and was not at his best when he made eight starts at the Triple-A level. He allowed 35 hits in 32 innings of work and posted rates of 6.19 BB/9 and 6.75 K/9. Teams that are comfortable with his medical report could grab him with the hopes of seeing a healthy Horne show up at spring training. In 2007 at Double-A, he struck out 165 batters in 153.1 innings. He has a low-to-mid-90s fastball, slider, curveball and change-up.
J. Brent Cox | New York (AL)
The Yankees are putting a lot of faith in the hopes that teams will be scared away from intriguing prospects by medical reports. J. Brent Cox was a top college reliever when he was selected in the second round of the 2005 draft. He was on the cusp of a Major League call-up after a solid 2006 season at Double-A but those hopes were derailed by Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2008 and allowed 30 hits in 36 Triple-A innings. His rates were poor at 4.25 BB/9 and 4.00 K/9 but command and control are the last things to return after the surgery. Based on his past performances, Cox is worth a look.
Erik Cordier | Atlanta
Of the players listed in this article, Erik Cordier is certainly the biggest reach, but he also has the most potential - if his stuff fully returns after Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season. Obtained from Kansas City for disappointing shortstop Tony Pena Jr. prior to the 2007 season, Cordier allowed 51 hits in 40 A-ball innings in 2008. He posted rates of 4.73 BB/9 and 6.98 K/9. Prior to the injury, the right-hander was touching 98 mph and sitting in the mid-90s. He was topping out in the low-90s in 2008, and needs to regain the feel for his plus change-up and average curveball.
Chris Nicoll | Kansas City
Chris Nicoll was originally selected by the Royals in the third round of the 2005 draft as a starter. After injury woes in 2007, he was converted to a reliever and thrived. Between the two minor league levels, Nicoll allowed 77 hits in 87 innings and struck out 104 batters. At Double-A, he posted rates of 1.65 BB/9 and 11.34 K/9. With an organization badly in need of pitching depth, it is a little surprising that Nicoll - even with just an average fastball and slider - was left unprotected.
Ryan Mullins | Minnesota
A third-round selection out of Vanderbilt University in 2005, Ryan Mullins is a 6'6'' lefty with a fringe fastball and a big-league curveball, which are just the right ingredients for a 2009 MLB LOOGY. His 2008 numbers at Double-A were nothing to write home about: 169 hits allowed in 148.1 innings, 3.58 BB/9, 6.01 K/9, but check out the splits:
Left-Handed Batters: .204 AVG, 0.88 WHIP, 1.45 BB/9, 12.8 LD%
Donald Veal | Chicago (NL)
A former top prospect, Donnie Veal has stagnated at Double-A. In two seasons at that level, he has allowed 276 hits in 275.2 innings of work. His rates in 2008 were not so good at 5.02 BB/9 and 7.62 K/9. Obviously, his control is lacking but he is a lefty that can consistently throw in the low 90s and he has two solid secondary pitchers: a curveball and change-up. He faced 142 left-handed batters in 2008 and did not allow a home run. His splits suggest he could also have some success as a LOOGY: Left-handed batters hit .221, while right-handed batters hit .290.
Yes, Chuck Lofgren's numbers, which included a 5.99 ERA and 93 hits allowed in 85.2 innings, were ugly in 2008. He carried those struggles over into the Arizona Fall League where he posted a 32.14 ERA in 10 games. But he is just 22 years old and two years removed from a breakout season in A-ball that saw him added to the Indians' top prospects list. A club that thinks it could fix his mechanical and/or mental woes could take a flyer on him.
Brad Kilby | Oakland
Brad Kilby is not a former top prospect like the other southpaws listed above, but he has quietly put up some solid career numbers as a former 29th round draft pick. Career-wise, he has compiled a 2.64 ERA, allowed 178 hits in 232.1 innings and posted rates of 3.41 BB/9 and 10.16 K/9. In 2008 at Triple-A, Kilby allowed 51 hits in 70 innings with rates of 3.34 BB/9 and 8.49 K/9. On the downside, his stuff is a little short and he is a flyball pitcher (27.2 GB%).
Pedro Viola | Cincinnati
Signed as a pitcher by the Reds at the age of 22 in 2005, Pedro Viola rocketed through the minors in his North American debut in 2007 and reached Double-A. He spent the entire 2008 season at that level while struggling with his command and control. Viola can hit the mid-90s, a rarity for southpaws, and also has a slider and change-up. After dominating left-handed batters in 2007, he struggled against them in 2008 and allowed a .292 batting average.
Robert Rohrbaugh | Seattle
Kei Igawa | New York (AL)
The Yankees paid $26 million to negotiate for Kei Igawa's rights prior to the 2007 season and he has been a disappointment, to say the least. Igawa has thrived at the Triple-A level but he has struggled to succeed in the Majors and under the intense scrutiny that comes with pitching in New York. At $4 million a year through 2010, he might be a worthwhile gamble for a National League club like the Padres. In 2008 at Triple-A, he allowed 141 hits in 156.1 innings, with rates of 2.59 BB/9 and 6.74 K/9.
Be sure to check back next week for a look at some of the position players that could be on the move during the MLB Rule 5 draft on Dec. 11.