Reviewing the 2009 Rule 5 Draft
It was a pretty lackluster Rule 5 draft this past Thursday, which was to be expected. Since October 2006, when Major League Baseball increased the 40-man roster addition requirements from three years of pro experience to four (for players signed at age 19 and above) and four years to five (for players signed at age 18 and below), it's given teams more time to evaluate their in-house talent. You can find the rules for the draft HERE.
Of the 17 players selected in the '09 Rule 5 draft, 14 were pitchers (six left-handers, eight right-handers). Two outfielders were taken (with the first and second picks) and a third baseman was also selected (eighth overall).
In 2008, the Rule 5 draft saw four of the 21 players selected stick in the Majors in '09: shortstop Everth Cabrera (San Diego from Colorado, third overall pick), left-hander Donald Veal (Pittsburgh from Chicago NL, fourth overall pick), right-hander Luis Perdomo (San Francisco, later claimed on waivers by San Diego, from St. Louis, sixth overall pick), and right-hander Darren O'Day (New York NL, later claimed off waivers by Texas, from Los Angeles AL, 15th overall pick).
In 2007, 18 players were selected. Perhaps the biggest name selected was right-hander Randy Wells, who went from the Chicago Cubs to the Toronto Blue Jays. He actually made Toronto's opening day roster, but had just one appearance before being offered back. In '09, he was called up to the Majors by the Cubs and was one the best rookie starters in the National League.
During the 2006 draft, two significant diamonds in the rough were uncovered: right-hander Joakim Soria (Kansas City from San Diego, second overall), and outfielder Josh Hamilton (Cincinnati via Chicago NL, from Tampa Bay, third overall). Catcher Jesus Flores (Washington from New York NL, sixth overall) has also shown promising, although he's been bitten by the injury bug.
The Intriguing Picks
Ben Snyder | LHP | Texas via Baltimore, from San Francisco
A former fourth-round pick out of Ball State, Snyder is a left-hander with good stuff, and above-average command (although his control has slipped a bit since leaving A-ball). He'd probably be more successful in the National League than in Texas, but the 24-year-old southpaw has a chance to contribute out of the 'pen if he can keep the ball down. Unfortunately, his 37.1% ground-ball rate suggests he didn't do that overly well at double-A in '09. He has nice splits against left-handers: .178 average, 1.71 BB/9, 10.65 K/9. With C.J. Wilson as the only guaranteed left-hander in the bullpen in 2010 (and possibly the recently-acquired Clay Rapada), it was smart of the club to target some southpaw depth.
Bobby Cassevah | RHP | Oakland from Los Angeles (AL)
If you're a ground-ball freak like me, then Cassevah is your man. The 24-year-old right-hander spent the '09 season in double-A and posted a ground-ball rate of 70% on the season, which is borderline ridiculous. Over the past four seasons, he's allowed just four homers. Aside from the sink, his stuff is otherwise ordinary (velo, break, etc.). His control could get him into trouble in the Majors (4.54 BB/9) and his strikeout rate has dropped each of the past three seasons, but he's a good gamble. Cassevah adds some depth to an inexperienced bullpen, but it remains to be seen just how good the A's infield defense is going to be in 2010.
Hector Ambriz | RHP | Cleveland from Arizona
A solid starting pitcher at UCLA for four seasons, Ambriz' stuff does not play as well in pro ball, thanks to his below-average heater. He did have some nice results in triple-A in '09, though, despite the 5.57 ERA. His FIP was just 3.80 and he suffered from a .372 BABIP, so you can explain away some of those 164 hits in 127.2 innings. He has always shown good control (2.82 BB/9 in '09) and he misses enough bats (7.26 K/9). Career-wise, he has pretty even numbers against right-handed and left-handed hitters. Despite making just three relief appearances over the past three minor league seasons, Ambriz is not an option to start in the Majors (especially the AL), but he could provide innings out of the inexperienced 'pen.
Steven Johnson | RHP | San Francisco from Baltimore
Part of the loot in the mid-2009 trade of closer George Sherrill to the Dodgers, Johnson made just seven starts for his new organization before heading back to the NL West. The right-hander has average stuff, but he has good command/control and posted a strikeout rate of 9.43 K/9 on the season. Although he struggles with his control against left-handed hitters (4.83 BB/9), Johnson handles them well otherwise: .219 average, 10.28 K/9. The club basically traded Snyder for Johnson, which was a pretty good move, especially considering the organization already has pretty solid left-handed depth. And Johnson has a chance to pitch out of the starting rotation down the road.
Kanekoa Texeira | RHP | Seattle from New York (AL)
The better of the two Te(i)xeiras to lose, Texeira was acquired from the White Sox prior to the '09 season. Given the organization's reputation for trading pitchers who then fall victim to injuries, New York may have just been happy to get one healthy season from the reliever. In 101.1 double-A innings, the durable righty allowed 90 hits and posted a walk rate of 3.82 BB/9. His strikeout rate of 7.82 K/9 was solid, as was his 61.2% ground-ball rate. He certainly won't benefit much from Seattle's excellent outfield defense. Oddly, his strikeout rate was 10.69 against left-handed batters and just 4.25 against right-handed batters. With the likes of Sean White, Jason Vargas, and Garrett Olson vying for spots in the bullpen, Texeira has a good shot at making the opening day roster.
Jamie Hoffmann | OF | New York (AL) via Washington, from Los Angeles (NL)
This choice was puzzling... and made even more so by the fact that the Yankees traded up to get Hoffman. Yes, the 40-man roster boasted just four outfielders prior to the Rule 5 draft, but the club does not need to pinch pennies in effort to build its bench. As well, if Hoffmann is such a desirable commodity, why didn't the Yankees grab him on waivers when he was designated for assignment by the Dodgers just three months ago on Sept. 1/09? He'd have more value in that scenario because he has minor-league options remaining, which cannot be utilized as a Rule 5 pick. Most of Hoffmann's player value is in his defense, as well as his willingness to take a walk (11.1% in triple-A) and his base running (15+ steal capability in regular playing time).
John Raynor | OF | Pittsburgh from Florida
Raynor is an interesting pick for the Pirates organization, which actually has a fair bit of depth at the position with the likes of Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Lastings Milledge, Brandon Moss, and Delwyn Young (as well as Garrett Jones) kicking around. Raynor brings some speed (18 steals in 26 attempts) and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He had an off-year in '09 by hitting just .255/.326/.357 (.336 BABIP) after back-to-back seasons of hitting .312+, but he also had BABIPs of .404 in each of those two seasons. As a result, his '09 numbers appear far more realistic. Raynor needs to curb his strikeouts (27.0%).
Chuck Lofgren | LHP | Milwaukee from Cleveland
Another interesting pick-up, Lofgren was considered one of Cleveland's top pitching prospects as recently as 2007. His stuff has gone backwards since then, but he still has an above-average breaking ball that could make him an OK LOOGY reliever in the Brewers 'pen (He has modest left/right splits. At double-A in '09, Lofgren allowed 94 hits in 98.1 innings, while posting a walk rate of 3.02 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 5.67 K/9. If either Mitch Stetter or Chris Narveson falter, Lofgren should be ready to step in.
Edgar Osuna | LHP | Kansas City from Atlanta
With just one left-hander (Dusty Hughes) on the 40-man roster prior to the selection of Osuna, the organization clearly needed some southpaw depth. The 22-year-old hurler reached double-A in '09 where he allowed 74 hits in 77.1 innings and posted a walk rate of 2.44 BB/9. While his control rates have remained fairly static over his career, Osuna's strikeout rate has dropped rather significantly since he left low-A ball and bottomed out at 5.70 K/9 in double-A. His career 40% ground-ball rate is nothing to write home about. You also have to hope the Royals are not looking to him as a LOOGY. His career splits are not favorable: .285 average/7.05 K/9 vs lefties and .242/8.90 vs righties.
Jorge Jimenez | 3B | Florida via Houston, from Boston
There is honestly nothing about Jimenez that really suggests he's going to be even an average big-league third baseman. The left-handed hitter is a platoon waiting to happen, with a double-A OPS of .600 against southpaws. Overall, he hit just .289/.366/.424 in 498 at-bats. With a .135 ISO, his power output is below-average for a third baseman. But hey, Jimenez, 25, is probably an offensive upgrade over Emilio Bonifacio.
Zach Kroenke | LHP | Arizona from New York (AL)
Kroenke is an interesting selection, as he was also picked in the '08 draft. However, the Florida Marlins chose not to keep Kroenke and he was offered back (and accepted) by the Yankees. If the southpaw fails to make the Arizona club this time around, he will become a free agent before the Yankees have a shot at taking him back. The 1.99 ERA at triple-A in '09 is nice, but his FIP was 3.64 and he was aided by a low BABIP at .251. His strikeout rate was nothing special at 6.84 K/9 but his ground-ball rate of 60.0% against left-handers suggests that he might have a future as a LOOGY. The Diamondbacks club could use some help in that department with just Clay Zavada currently on hand.
Mike Parisi | RHP | Chicago (NL) from St. Louis
Injuries prevented Parisi from making more than five starts during the regular season in '09. However, he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League and showed a heavy ball. Parisi made seven appearances (six starts), which was obviously enough to catch the eye of the Cubs. He'll open the 2010 season at the age of 27, so he has little upside. The club can use the depth in the bullpen.
Zech Zinicola | RHP | Toronto from Washington
Zinicola actually had a better season than many of his stats would suggest. The right-hander posted a 3.25 FIP in 20.2 innings at double-A and a 3.29 FIP in triple-A, so his defense definitely let him down at the higher level, which led to the 47 hits in 33.1 innings, and misleading ERA. The .417 BABIP and 52.5 LOB% are definitely not going to stick. Zinicola does have a nice heater (topping out around 93 mph), which led to a strikeout rate of 8.37 in triple-A, and he displayed at least average control in '09. You also have to love the 56.7% ground-ball rate, as well as the low 11.8% line-drive rate. On the worrisome side, Zinicola has struggled against right-handed batters in each of the past two seasons (.345 average in '09, .318 in '08), possibly due to inconsistent fastball command. The Jays club has a fair amount of depth in the bullpen, so Zinicola could have trouble finding a home.
Carlos Monasterios | RHP | Los Angeles (NL) via New York (NL) from Philadelphia
Monasterios, 23, was originally acquired by the Phillies from the Yankees in the Bobby Abreu deal of '06. The right-hander has average stuff, but he displays above-average control and posted a walk rate of 2.96 BB/9 in high-A ball in '09. He worked as a swing-man this past season, making seven starts and 28 relief appearances. Repeating high-A ball in '09, Monasterios improved his home-run vulnerability and dropped his HR/9 rate from 1.81 to 0.44. He opened some eyes recently while pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League and has allowed 45 hits in 51.1 innings. His ceiling is probably middle to long reliever in the Majors.
Ben Jukich | LHP | St. Louis from Cincinnati
Another low-ceiling pick, Jukich is 27 years old and he spent the entire year in triple-A with the Reds. In 123.0 innings split between the starting rotation and the bullpen, he allowed 125 hits and posted a walk rate of 2.93 BB/9. He had some trouble with the long-ball and posted a HR/9 rate of 1.17. His numbers against southpaws were nothing to write home about: .242 average (.164 BABIP), 5.71 K/9. Dennys Reyes has a potential partner now, though, in the bullpen.
Armando Zerpa | LHP | Los Angeles (NL) via Tampa Bay, from Boston
Along with Monasterios, the Dodgers actually added two Rule 5 picks, and the club is not likely to compete for the NL West title with both pitchers in its bullpen. Zerpa is definitely the odd man out at this point, even if he has the edge of being a lefty. The club actually already has pretty solid depth and Zerpa has pitched just 16 games above low-A ball. He allowed just 19 hits in 45.0 low-A ball innings in '09 but he was helped significantly by a .200 BABIP. Zerpa does generate a fair number of ground balls (53.3%) and he has good career splits against left-handed hitters (.166 career average).
Kenny (David) Herndon | RHP | Philadelphia from Los Angeles (AL)
A 2006 fifth-round pick of the Angels, Herndon never developed the secondary pitches needed to stick in the rotation. After dabbling in relief in '08, he went all-in in '09 and posted a 4.65 FIP in 65.1 innings. He gave up too many hits in double-A (70) but he didn't hurt himself by issuing walks (1.93 BB/9). His 4.82 K/9 rate leaves something to be desired, as does the 1.24 HR/9 rate. Herndon has never fared well against left-handed hitters, and they hit .313 against him (with a strikeout rate of just 2.54 K/9) in '09.