The 2008 Rule 5 Draft: The Hitters
It is almost here. The 2008 Rule 5 Draft is 10 days away. Last week, we took a look at some of the pitchers that could be scooped up during the draft, as organizations look for cheap, talented options that will hopefully stick on the big league roster for the entire 2009 season. As always, if you need a refresher on the rules and history of the Rule 5 Draft, click here.
James Skelton | Detroit
One of the more quizzical omissions from the 40-man rosters, James Skelton creates flashes of Jesus Flores, whom the Washington Nationals stole from the New York Mets with the sixth overall pick of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft. Flores is now producing just as well for the Nationals as the Mets' big league catchers, and at a much lower cost. The Tigers organization is seriously lacking in prospects and the 40-man roster had room for Skelton. He was originally selected by the Tigers in the 14th round of the 2004 draft out of a California high school. Skelton has hit more than .300 in each of the past three seasons - a rarity for catchers. This past season, he hit .307/.467/.406 in 212 High-A at-bats and moved up to Double-A and posted a line of .294/.423/.388 in 85 at-bats. There are concerns about Skelton's defence. His is just 5'11'' and 165 lbs - small for a catcher. His arm also lacks strength, but he threw out 43% of base stealers in 2007, and 19 of 54 (35%) at High-A in 2008, followed by nine of 19 (47%) at Double-A. It will be shocking if no one takes a flyer on the left-handed hitting catcher with an excellent eye at the plate and the ability to hit for a high average. The list of clubs that could use catching depth include Toronto, San Diego, Cincinnati, Houston, Chicago (NL), Washington, Florida, Balitmore, Chicago AL, Tampa Bay and Boston.
Francisco Hernandez | Chicago (AL)
The list of available catchers is not overly deep and Francisco Hernandez sticks out as an interesting option. His bat regressed in 2008 - .245/.333/.382 with a .137 ISO in 241 at-bats - but he was the 21st best prospect in the organization prior to 2008, according to Baseball America. His rates were respectable at 11.7 BB% and 13.7 K%. Hernandez has an excellent arm and threw out 37 of 86 (43%) base stealers in 2008 and is at least average in all other defensive facets. If selected, he won't hit much but he should be at least average defensively as a back-up catcher.
Jordan Brown | Cleveland
Jordan Brown has something a lot of Rule 5 prospects don't: A MLB-ready bat (and he swings from the left side too). The first baseman, though, does not have much power. Brown would be an excellent option for a National League team looking for a pinch hitter. In 2008 at Triple-A, he hit .281/.336/.417 with an ISO of .136 in 420 at-bats. The former fourth-round draft pick is a career .300 hitter and traditionally walks almost as much as he strikes out, although his rates dipped in 2008 to 7.7 BB% and 16.0 K%. He would be a cheaper and possibly more effective option for a club looking at a free agent like Mark Sweeney, who has made a career out of coming off the bench.
Jesus Guzman | San Francisco
Jesus Guzman was originally signed by the Seattle Mariners and then signed as a minor league free agent prior to the 2007 season by the Oakland Athletics. He became a free agent once again after the 2008 season and recently signed with the San Francisco Giants but was not placed on the 40-man roster, which makes him eligible for the draft. A number of teams expressed interest in him as a minor league free agent (including the A's) so one of those clubs that missed out in the bidding process could nab him on Dec. 11. This past season, Guzman hit .364/.420/.560 with a .196 ISO in Double-A. He was then promoted to Triple-A but struggled a bit and hit just .237/.286/.373 in 59 at-bats. The switch hitter also slugged 25 home runs and drove in 102 runs for Seattle's High-A club in 2007. Guzman has the ability to play third base, second base and the corner outfield, which could make him a valuable utility player for a Major League club.
Erik Lis | Minnesota
Traditionally, first basemen are not overly popular in the Rule 5 draft, but Erik Lis might be of interest to a Major League club. He hit .277/.322/.462 with a .185 ISO in 405 Double-A at-bats in 2008. The former ninth round draft pick has seen his power output improve each season and he has above-average bat speed. Lis is not overly athletic and is a one-dimensional player with all his value wrapped up in his left-handed bat. He can play both first base and left field, which adds to his attractiveness as a pinch hitter and left fielder.
Adam Loewen | Toronto
A club in search of the next Rick Ankiel or Brian Bogusevic may look to former Orioles hurler Adam Loewen, who recently signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was a talented two-way player in high school and injuries ruined his pitching career. A number of teams (including Seattle) were interested in signing Loewen as a free agent hitter, but Toronto won out as the left-handed hitter is a native Canadian. In his first taste of professional hitting, Loewen hit .207/.368/.207 in 29 at-bats during the Hawaii Winter Baseball league this fall. He is definitely raw as a hitter but has a ton of power from the left side.
Daniel Mayora | Colorado
Daniel Mayora's exclusion from the Rockies 40-man roster is more a testament to the organization's enviable middle infield depth than a comment on the infielder's ability or promise. As it was, the Rockies added three middle infielders to the roster this fall in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft: Chris Nelson, Eric Young Jr., and Hector Gomez, joining four other middle infielders already on the roster. Mayora lacks the athleticism of some of the other prospects but he hit .288/.347/.422 with an ISO of .134 in 486 High-A at-bats. He stolen just eight bases in 2008, but nabbed 26 the previous season. Mayora is solid defensively at both second base and shortstop.
Corey Wimberly | Colorado
Corey Wimberly, like Mayora above, was caught in the Big Roster Crunch of 2008. He has done nothing but hit and run in professional baseball after being selected in the sixth round of the 2005 draft. He began his pro career by hitting .381 and compiling 107 hits in 67 games. In 2008, the speedster hit .291/.359/.345 with 59 stolen bases in 388 Double-A at-bats. He has no power (.054 ISO in 2008) but he can steal a base in his sleep and can play all over the diamond. Wimberly should definitely garner interest in the draft, although it would help if he walked a little more often (9.6 BB% in 2008).
Will Rhymes | Detroit
Like Skelton, Will Rhymes' 40-man roster omission is a little surprising. At Double-A, he hit .306/.361/.391 in 516 at-bats. He has limited power (.085 ISO) but he has the potential to steal 15-20 bases. Rhymes also has respectable rates (although he could stand to walk a bit more) and does not strike out much: 7.9 BB% and 12.8 K%. He is average defensively at second base and his value is hurt by his lack of versatility. He held his own in the Arizona Fall League by hitting .287/.322/.324 in 108 at-bats, but managed just two extra base hits.
Jamie Romak | Pittsburgh
The Rule 5 Draft's outfield depth is lacking, but Jamie Romak is an interesting name. The former Braves prospect was traded to Pittsburgh during the 2007 Adam LaRoche deal and was rated by Baseball America as the Pirates' seventh best prospect entering into 2008. He offers massive power potential but a low batting average. He is still very raw, but the Canadian has intriguing upside. In 2008, he hit .279/.351/.552 with 25 doubles and 18 homers (.272 ISO) in 290 High-A at-bats. Upon a promotion to Double-A, he hit .208/.307/.433 (.225 ISO) in 120 at-bats. He is a huge risk, but if he rebounds in 2009 a club will have a tough timing prying him from Pittsburgh. That said, he struggles with off-speed stuff and could easily become a Quad-A slugger.
Mitch Einertson, Eli Iorg and Jordan Parraz | Houston
The remainder of the outfield depth for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft is sponsored by the Houston Astros. Mitch Einertson, a former fifth round selection out of high school, caught the baseball world's attention when he made his pro debut and slammed 24 home runs in 63 games. But that was Rookie Ball and also 2004. Since then, Einertson has struggled to live up to those lofty numbers, especially considering he was never looked at as a power hitter while in high school. This past season he hit .262/.309/.427 in 382 Double-A at-bats. He is more of an interesting name, rather than a true threat to be nabbed in the draft.
Eli Iorg comes from a talented baseball family and is loaded with raw athletic ability but has had troubles translating his skills to the baseball diamond. At Double-A in 2008, he hit .268/.303/.407 with an ISO of .139 in 459 at-bats. He also stole 21 bases after nabbing 42 in 2006. Iorg walked just 4.4% of the time in 2008. His numbers were down a bit in 2008 because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery in late 2007.
Jordan Parraz is not quite as athletic as Iorg, but he has a better chance of hitting for average. He has moved slowly through the system and was old for High-A but he hit .289/.382/.419 with 21 stolen bases in 425 at-bats. Parraz also has a cannon for an arm and can hit the mid 90s off the mound.