The Rule 5 draft is coming on Thursday morning as the winter meetings come to an end. I’ll spend far too much time writing about it here, as will many people, for an event that’s ultimately pretty uneventful. Many players will be projected to be taken, some will be, some won’t be, and just about all of them will have unmemorable stints in spring training with their new organization and eventually be returned. Changes made to the Collective Bargaining Agreement last time around had an impact on the draft, forcing minor leaguers not on the 40 man roster to accumulate an additional year of service time before being eligible for the draft than before. The Phillies tend to participate and have kept players in back to back seasons. David Herndon could be an average middle reliever, and Michael Martinez could be, well… moving on.
The Phillies will probably take a player again this year. Their 40 man roster currently stands at 39 players, so they have the requisite opening necessary to take a player. Teams can take different approaches to the draft. Struggling teams like the Astros may hope to take a really talented player and develop him to play a bigger role in the future. It seems like the Phillies have targeted players with less upside but can fill a certain role, or maybe a player that has one really good tool. Who are some players they could target this year?
Cesar Cabral, LHRP, Boston- Cabral was taken by the Rays in last year’s rule 5 draft but was ultimately returned to Boston. The Red Sox felt he would eventually find his way back to the organization and left him unprotected again. He should be drafted now that he’s had success at AA and is closer to reaching the majors. He has a 90-93 fastball, but his best pitch is a plus breaking ball that allows him to dominate lefties. He could certainly be a second lefty in the Phillies’ bullpen.
Jose Casilla, RHRP, San Francisco- Casilla underwent Tommy John surgery five months ago which complicates his situation. This will probably prevent him from being taken due to the limit on rehab appearances rule 5 players can make, but before the injury, it looked like he was on his way to joining his brother Santiago in San Francisco’s bullpen. He has a low 90’s fastball with tremendous sink to induce ground balls. He also strikes out a solid number of batters with a potential plus slider.
Ryan Flaherty, INF, Chicago Cubs- Flaherty isn’t living up to expectations after receiving a big bonus in the 2008 draft, but he could still be on the radar as a utility player that provides a little offense. In his second stint at AA this year, he batted over .300 with a .907 OPS, hitting 14 home runs in 83 games before being promoted to AAA where he struggled. He’s kind of clumsy at third base but should be okay there in the long run with an above average arm. He has experience in the middle infield but doesn’t have the athleticism to play there regularly. If he played every day, he could hit 20 home runs, but he’s probably not more than a platoon player.
Nick Francis, OF, Kansas City- Francis struggled in his limited experience above A-ball, but he has a track record of being a solid hitting corner outfield. In 135 games in the Carolina League, a difficult environment for hitters, Francis hit 23 home runs. He needs to continue improving his plate discipline as he’s done in recent years, and even when he struggled in AA in 2011, he crushed lefty pitching. He’s played most of his games in right field and had to start a second straight season back in the Carolina League due to top prospect Wil Myers’ conversion to right field.
Steven Hill, C/1B, St. Louis- In 2010, Hill hit an opposite field home run in his only major league game, and he hasn’t returned since. He was limited by knee injuries this year and is now unprotected. In 148 at bats this year between AA and AAA, he hit 14 home runs. He’s not very good behind the plate, but he he won’t kill a team in an emergency role, and he does have a good arm. First base is his best position, he in a pinch he could probably play in any corner position. He could add nice power from the right side off a major league bench with his short, powerful swing.
Lucas Luetge, LHRP, Milwaukee- For a team that went pretty much the entire season without a lefty in their bullpen, the Brewers lefty three potential lefty relievers unprotected in advance of the rule 5 draft. Luetge’s AA numbers were good against righties and lefties, but his stuff is limited and may not be able to get righties out at higher levels. His fastball is only in the mid 80’s and his changeup is average, but he’s able to strike out lefties with a big curveball. He struck out 69 batters in 69 innings in AA this season.
Diego Moreno, RHRP, Pittsburgh- Moreno is a popular name in rule 5 discussions this year, and it seems likely that he’ll be taken. He has a great fastball that some rate an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. It can sit in the high 90’s with a little sink, and he usually throws a lot of strikes. His slider can be a plus pitch in the high 80’s, but a lack of consistency will likely prevent him from becoming a closer. 50 is his career high in innings, and he’s had shoulder issues in the past.
Kyle Russell, OF, Los Angeles- In a way, Russell is an outfield equivalent of Ryan Flaherty. He was a tremendous power hitter in college, and thanks to his strength and desire to hit a home run every time he bats, he’s shown power as a professional too. He won’t hit for a very good average because he has a long swing and poor pitch recognition, but he can crush mistakes. He’ll be a decent defender in a corner outfield and could occasionally fill in at centerfield. Like Flaherty, it would probably be best to limit Russell’s exposure to left handed pitching.
Bryce Stowell, RHRP, Cleveland- Stowell has power stuff, but an elbow injury limited him to 38.2 innings in 2011. A full year removed from his injury, his velocity could improve back into the high 90’s where he sat in 2009 and the early parts of 2010 before his injury. He’s hardly pitched above AA in his career, but he has the potential to pitch late in games, especially if he can improve his slider or changeup.
I originally wanted to write about a 10th player, but I realized it didn’t make sense for him to be left unprotected, and further research indicated he wasn’t eligible for the draft this year. As for the players the Phillies might lose, Jiwan James may be the most well known prospect available. A team can see his tools and athleticism and hope they can develop him, but he’s so raw that it would be difficult playing sparingly in the majors. The previous regime in Houston like outfielder Leandro Castro, but if their baseball operations department had a lot of turnover, he might not have any supporters there. First basemen Cody Overbeck and Matt Rizzotti were left unprotected as well as pitchers Tyler Cloyd and B.J. Rosenberg.
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