Pinch Hit-Rule 5 draft preview

Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 08:53 AM EST

Contributed by: Mike Green

Box regular Marc pinch-hits and offers us his view of some of the prospects available in next month's Rule 5 draft. Thanks, and take it away, Marc.

December 13 Major League Rule 5 Draft

Here is an explanation of the Rule 5 draft from Baseball America.

There are some big names available in this year's Rule 5 draft, including 6'9'' lefty Andy Sisco, 6'7'' rehabbing lefty Luke Hagerty, Moneyball darling Brant Colamarino, as well as a 23-year-old catcher Mike Napoli, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 118 runs in high A ball. There are also a number of former first rounders including LHP Royce Ring, RHP Colt Griffin, IF-OF David Espinosa and RHP Ben Fritz, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

The group has some interesting names, but the players are somewhat inexperienced from traditional Rule 5 standards. In the past three years* (of 60 players picked), teams have preferred to pick mostly double-A players (38 per cent) and triple-A players (32 per cent). In the past three years, the most likely players to be drafted and stick with the drafting team for the whole year came from double-A (43 per cent) and high-A (43 per cent).

*Three year span chosen due to popularity/growth of draft in recent years.

Thirty-eight of the 60 players chosen over the past three years were pitchers (63 per cent). Fifteen of those (39 per cent) stayed with the drafting team for the whole season. Seven of 22 hitters (32 per cent) chosen in the last three years stuck with their new team.

Best players chosen (past):
2003 - Chris Shelton (DET), Luis Gonzalez (COL), Hector Luna (STL)
2002 - Wil Ledezma (DET), Luis Ayala (MON), Javier Lopez (COL)
2001 - None

Best Picks (Arguably) All Time:
Pitcher - Johan Santana (taken from low-A ball)
Hitter - George Bell

2004 all draftable roster (*some players played at multiple levels; level chosen where players spent majority of their time):

       		AGE	LEV	ERA	  IP	HITS	BB-K	 (2003 BA rank)
SP - Andy Sisco 21 A+ 4.21 126 118 65-134 (CHC #4)

Sisco is a 6'9'' monster lefty with low-90s heat, but he has developed slowly since being made a second round draft pick four years ago. He has better upside than most players available in the draft, which could make him a top pick.

SP-David Pauley 21      A+      4.17    153.3     155    60-128  (SD #8)

The Padres are probably holding their breath that Pauley does not get picked up based on the fact that he has not pitched above single-A ball. He has high-80s to low-90s heat and a plus change up, which is his go-to pitch. He needs work on his other pitchers and he has to learn to effectively mix his pitchers to keep batters off balance.

SP-Vazquedano   23      A+      3.95     68.3     65     21-60  (BOS #28)

Jose Vazquedano hails from Honduras and could be the first native of the country to play in the majors. He is a sinker-style pitcher, whose best pitches are his sinking fastball and change up. He has not possessed a good breaking ball in the past, although his numbers this year suggest that it has improved, at least a little. He needs to pitch more, as he moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation last year.

SP-Davis Romero 21	  A-	2.53	 103.3	  77	 30-108	  (TOR - )

Listed at 5'10'' 140 lbs, Romero probably gets stopped by security at visiting ballparks a lot entering the locker room. It is also why the Jays probably felt safe to leave him off the roster. He does not possess the desirable pitcher's body, but he gets guys out and he has gotten better every year. Unless his body fills out, Romero's career will likely have to blossom in the pen.

SP-Ricky Nolasco 22	   AA	3.70	 107	 104	 37-115	   (CHC #20)

Nolasco has always put good numbers up on the board, but he does it with slightly above-average stuff and a traditional three-pitch repertoire (fastball, curve, change). A late season creaming in triple-A (9.30 ERA in nine starts) may have cost Nolasco a spot on the 40-man roster. Future is likely in the pen, where he can utilize his sinking fastball more effectively.

RP-Colt Griffin   22	   AA	4.02	  31.3	  29	 16- 26	   (KC #5)

Griffin was highly sought after as a senior in high school after showcasing a 100 mph fastball. Unfortunately he had not idea where it was going. The Royals now have Griffin throwing in the mid-90s and have moved him to the pen where he can concentrate on his two plus-plus pitchers (fastball and slider). For a guy with great stuff, he does not strike out a lot of people and is still more of a thrower than a pitcher. Big upside, but less polished than others available.

RP-Royce Ring    24	   AAA	3.63	  34.3	  37	 12- 22	 (NYM #13)

What you see is what you get with Ring. The former big-time college closer is not going to get much better but he should be able to find a niche in the big leagues as a solid lefty reliever who can give you an inning or get out an important lefty. He likely not succeed as a closer, though. In college, Ring threw consistently in the low 90s but now works with a high-80s fastball and a slider that sweeps in on lefties.

RP-McGinley      26	    AA	3.72	  72.6	  61	 15- 83	 (NYM - )

Blake McGinley survived a late-season promotion to triple-A (4.05 in 26.3 innings) and showed that he could probably survive as a second lefty in someone's bullpen. His numbers have always been decent in the minors and, as we all know, a good lefty is hard to find.

RP-Ben Julianel  25	    A+	2.58	  59.3	  52	 24- 70	 (NYY #29)

Julianel does not have much of a fastball (85-89 mph) but he has a tough slider, which makes him tough on lefties. A perfect candidate for a loogy role in the majors.

RP-Luis Ramirez  22	    SS	4.76	  51	  46	 12- 75	 (BAL - )

Ramirez has moved very slowly and only pitched in short season ball this season but he burst into the limelight early this year by striking out 12 straight batters (a minor league record). In total, Ramirez struck out 75 batters in 51 innings, but he does not possess more than average stuff at best. A stats-loving team might take a flyer on him, but it would likely be a mistake.

RP-Thompson     22	    AA	2.98	  90.3	  78	 14- 65	 (TEX #15)

Erik Thompson has a 90-95 mph fastball and a good slider, although it is inconsistent. Could probably benefit from having a reliable off-speed pitch.

Pos.-Player    Age       Level   BA      Slug    OBP (club-BArank)

C-Napoli       23	   A+	.282	.539	.393 (ANA - )

Mike Napoli's numbers invoke an image of Adam Dunn, or maybe Rob Deer. He flashed big time power this year with 29 homers and 118 RBI in his second go at single-A+ ball. He also struck out 166 times, but walked an impressive 88 times. The biggest question is whether or not it was a fluke or a young player finally 'figuring it out.' Napoli will have to rely on his bat, because his glove is not that great. But power hitting catchers are not exactly a dime a dozen and he could have a nice career as a Matt LeCroy type player.

1B - Sing       23         A+    .270    .571    .399 (CHC - )

Brandon Sing has always had promise, but it was not until he hit 33 home runs in the Florida State League this year that people really took notice. The Cubs likely would have protected him if it were not for A) their abundance of prospects and B) some guy named Dopirak. It was also Sing's third attempt at single-A+, but he is only 23 and walked more than 80 times.

2B-Gautreau     25	  AAA	.274	.500	.333 (SD #27)

Jake Gautreau had a bright future ahead of high as a former first round pick, but colitis played a big part in a numbers dip in 2003. Gautreau took a big step forward in 2004 and showed that he can compete even with the disease. He could fill a spot on someone's bench filling in at 2B and 3B and a starting gig at 2B would not be out of the question either.

3B-Blanco       23	  AA	.245	.455	.300 (CIN #22)

Tony Blanco started off sizzling in 2004 at single-A+ ball, but a promotion to double-A quickly ended that. Blanco did not embarrass himself at double-A but he probably is not ready for the big leagues. He has all the tools to succeed but has not found a way to put it all together yet. He has a great arm, plus power and good bat speed.

SS -Guzman      20	  A-	.306	.413	.334 (PIT #24)

Javier Guzman took a big step forward in 2004 batting over .300 and utilizing his speed to swipe more than 30 bases. He is a big gamble to pick out of low-A ball but he has great defensive skills and he does all the little things well as a batter. That said, he is too much of a free swinger for someone with limited power at this stage in his career, although he could add more power as he fills out.

LF - Stavisky    24	  A+	.343	.550	.413 (OAK - )

A little old for single-A+ ball, Brian Stavisky nonetheless put up eye-catching numbers in 2004. He plays the outfield well enough that he can field all three outfield positions, which makes him an ideal fourth outfielder.

CF - Romero    21	  A+	.292	.405	.387 (MIN #13)

Alex Romero is the typical young, toolsy Minnesota outfielder. Romero has plus speed and is starting to fill out and hit for more power, although he may never have enough power for a corner outfield spot. He also does not play the best centre field, which might turn him into a solid fourth outfielder. He has a lot of room for improvement and knows how to handle the bat.

RF-Rudy Guillen 21	  A+	.264	.339	.313 (NYY #3)

A year ago, this toolsy outfielder was rated third in the Yankees system by Baseball America and sought after by numerous teams in trade proposals. Fast forward a year and Guillen can had for a song. Guillen looked like a young Magglio Ordonez (who was also left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft before he broke out). He has speed and raw power and excellent defensive instincts, but Guillen is the ultimate free swinger and even the minor league pitchers have been able to take advantage of that.

DH -Colamarino 24	  AA	.273	.438	.333 (OAK - )

He will not win any races, but Brant Colamarino possess power potential and knows how to get on base. In 183 single-A+ at bats in 2004, he hit .355 .601 .450. Colamarino likely profiles as a DH, first baseman or below average left fielder.

C - John Suomi 23	  A+	.295	.440	.345 (OAK - )

Suomi possesses above-average offensive potential for a catcher, but his defensive skills are still a work-in-progress. Could fill a utility role, but losing a year of development (by getting drafted) could signal the end of his catching career.

IF - Sardinha   21	  AA	.267	.383	.356 (NYY #10)

Bronson Sardinha was another top Yankees prospect a year ago, who has struggled to find a position to play. He lacks range in the field, but at the plate he shows power potential and the ability to get on base.

IF -Gonzalez   23	  AA	.262	.347	.349 (PHI #19)

Danny Gonzalez lacks the tools and athleticism of other young shortstops, but his work ethic and mental approach have impressed scouts. He is a slap hitter with average speed and little power, but he could have a nice career as a reliable utility player.

IF -Barden     23	 AAA	.283	.476	.324 (ARZ #28)

Brian Barden may have been protected if not for being sandwiched between Chad Tracy in the majors and Jamie D'Antona power hitting third baseman at double-A. Barden has Gold Glove potential at the hot corner, but little power potential. He could hit .300 in the majors however, though his offensive career would most likely mimic those of Joe Randa, Jeff Cirillo or David Bell. He could be an average third baseman right now for a team in need.

OF -Webster    21	 A+	.287	.439	.363 (TEX #12)

Anthony Webster put together two very impressive short season years while with the White Sox and looked destined for great things. Since moving up to full-time ball, however, Webster has taken a step back and now looks like a solid major leaguer, but not a star. He has above average defensive abilities in centre field, solid speed and could hit for a good average.

OF -Madrigal	   20	 A-	.275	.396	.330 (ANA #16)

Warner Madrigal is probably the rawest player on this list but he also has immense promise. He crushes fastballs but hasn't had as much success with breaking pitches. He hit .369 in low-A ball in .2003. He is too aggressive at the plate and can't shake the injury bug, which has robbed him of development time. He has been compared to Albert Bell. He has limited speed and defensive ability but his arm is a cannon.

C - Jared Abruzzo - good defence, lesser bat
C - Robinzon Diaz - good bat, lesser defence; minor league All Star
C/1B - Jesse Gutierrez - good bat, older player (26)
C - John Castellano - age 27, but hit .340 .557 .340 at double-A
1B - Juan Tejeda - not a great glove, but hits for high average and drive in runs
SS/OF - Drew Meyer - former 1st pick; struggled with bat, position
SS - Napolean Calzado - possible utility player his well in double-A (.359 .506 .395)
3B - Matt Craig - 20 home runs at double-A, will take a walk, not great defence
IF/OF - David Espinosa - former 1st pick; now outfielder, better bat as matured
IF - Brooks Conrad - David Eckstein/gritty type of player with more power
OF - Ben Francisco - good chance to hit, but struggled in 2004 (may be 4th outfielder)
OF - Jason Cooper - good chance to hit, but struggled in 2004 (may be 4th outfielder)
OF - Ron Acuna - good size, but limited power/speed numbers; hits .300, but impatient
OF - Ron Davenport - third season in single-A+, drove in more than 90 runs, only 23
SP - Jon Connolly - soft tossing lefty with success in lower minors, might succeed in pen
SP - Mike Connolly - brother of Jon, another lefty; could have success in pen
SP - Dan Denham - star is starting to tarnish, put promise is still there
SP - J.D. Martin - ditto, tarnishing but still young
SP - Sean Henn - once-promising lefty who has come back from TJ surgery
SP - Glenn Bott - lefty with promise, some control issues (72 walks in 146.3 but 120 K)
SP - Glenn Woolard - righty with solid, but unspectacular numbers; middle reliever?
SP - Josh Habel - lefty scuffled a little in double-A due to home runs and too many BB
SP - J.K. Ryu - issues regarding make-up, but talent is there
SP - Brian Slocum - 15 wins nothing to scoff at, seems to do it with smoke and mirrors
SP - Steve Kelly - can provide innings, does not walk a lot but no big strikeout pitch
RP - Ryan Rowland-Smith - lefty that strikes out a fair number of batters, but is hittable

Eligible Rehabbing Top Prospects:
These players represent the ultimate high risk - high reward scenario. Likely would never have been available if not for dreaded Tommy John surgery. Cincinnati seems to take a flyer on pitchers like these ever year at draft time. These players are a risk but it may be the only time a team will ever be able to get their hands on them, especially Hagerty and Blasko.

SP - Luke Hagerty - 6'7'' lefty put up great numbers before succumbing to TJ surgery
2002 - SS 1.13 48 32 15-50

SP - Chad Blasko - ERA under 2.00 in FSL two years ago before TJ surgery
2003 - A+ 1.98 136 100 43-131

SP - Shane Komine - risk too great for player with 4th starter/long reliever potential?
2003 - AA 3.75 103.1 108 30-75

SP - Ben Fritz - good two-way college player, wanted to hit, may get chance (TJ)
2003 - A+ 4.91 77 83 34-77

Royce Ring, Blake McGinley (LHP) - It is no secret that the Jays ' pen suffered from a lack of left handed relievers last season and there is not much available in the upper tiers of the farm system. Ring and McGinley are some of the most advanced available lefthanders and the Jays have shown an affinity for Rule 5 picks who are ready to contribute in the majors (as opposed to younger players with tools and upside). Both players may not be more than a loogy, but that is better than what the Jays had last year.

Bronson Sardinha (IF/OF), Brant Colamarino (1B/OF) - Both Sardinha and Colamarino reached double-A in 2004 and each player has solid on-base numbers (Sardinha .356 in double-A and Colamarino .333 in double-A... but .450 in single-A+). Sardinha's exclusion from the Yankees' 40 man roster is a little puzzling given that he was considered by many to be one of the team's better prospects. A lack of position (he has tried various with limited success) may have hurt him in the eyes of the Yankees. Colamarino can play 1B and LF, both of which are positions where the Jays are unsettled. He also has enough bat for DH. Both players may be more likely to stick than some position players because they can play multiple positions.

Mike Napoli, John Suomi (C) - Napoli takes the cake this year as the one player who raised my eyebrows the most when he was not protected by the Angels. Sure he was only at single-A+ and stuck out 166 times, but he is only 23 and a catcher with 29 home runs, more than 100 runs batted in and he walked 88 times. Adam Dunn as a catcher, yes please. OK, that may be a stretch but you get the idea. One of the only problems keeping Napoli from being a top prospect is that he may not be able to stay behind the plate. He needs work and played 36 games at first base and two games at 3B in 2004. Canadian Suomi also flashed some awesome numbers for a catcher at the single-A+ level and with the Jays catching depth suddenly not so deep, they may want to take a flyer on one of these two blossoming backstops. Suomi also player 20 games at 3B in 2004.

Brian Stavisky (OF) - Perhaps he makes this list simply because he IS an A's farmhand and a former college pick, but Stavisky also hit more than .340 with good power and solid on-base numbers. He plays well enough in the outfield to field all three positions as well, which could make him a solid fourth outfielder. Stavisky has moved slower than some college picks mainly due to his reluctance to hone his skills by playing ball in the offseason, which may be why the A's have soured on him. He has limited upside but likely would not embarrass himself in the majors like some other single-A+ prospects.

Brandon Sing (1B) - The Jays need a first baseman and do not have a whole lot in the minors either. Sing could be a consideration, especially when you look at how he stacks up against former Jays Rule 5 pick (2002) Jason Dubois (also a CHC farmhand), who failed to make the 2003 Jays but could be the Cubs' 2005 left fielder. Could he make an impact in 2005? Probably not.

Sing (age 23) A+ .270 .571 .399 32-94 (HR/RBI) 84-101 (BB/K) in 408 at-bats.
Dubois (23) A+ .321 .562 .422 20-85 (HR/RBI) 57- 95 (BB/K) in 361 at-bats.

Thanks again, Marc.