2017 Rule 5 Draft Preview V 1.9
Updated: 12/14/17 2 a.m. Added another name to sluggers category.
As everyone heads to bed before the Rule 5 draft, the same names keep popping up. It would be a surprise if Nick Burdi (Twins) and Burch Smith (Rays) don't hear their names called relatively early. Beyond that, there are a lot of names floating around and few certainties.
Updated: 12/14/17 12 a.m. Added another name to sluggers category.
Updated: 12/13/17 10 p.m. Added one more name to the "nearly ready relievers."
Updated: 12/13/17 9 p.m. Added one more name to the "fireballers with work to do."
Updated: 12/13/17 3:45 p.m. Added three more names, one to a new "hard to categorize list," one back-end starter and one nearly ready reliever.
Updated: 12/13/17 10:30 a.m. Added two more names to the "fireballers with work to do."
Updated: 12/13/17 12:30 a.m. Added three more names.
Updated: 12/12/17 5:45 p.m. Re-ranked the top five candidates and added one more potential center fielder. More names coming later tonight.
Updated: 12/8/17 9:30 a.m. Added three more relievers for subscribers.
Depending on which scout you talk to the 2017 Rule 5 eligibles class is either great, good, mediocre or bereft of talent. In other words, it’s like every Rule 5 class. This is the draft where there is very little consensus. When teams get around to putting together their final Rule 5 draft pref lists next week, there will likely be little overlap. A player one team may love to have would have zero chance of making a different team.
So with that in mind, as always, Baseball America has cast a wide net. We’ll keep adding names to this list as we hear them over the next week.
Top Five Rule Five Candidates
1. Burch Smith, RHP, Rays Smith missed all of 2015 and 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery but came back looking like the player who was once an intriguing prospect. Both at the end of the season at Triple-A Durham and in the Arizona Fall League, Smith sat 94-96 mph with his fastball, flashed a knee-buckling 74-76 mph curveball and showed a swing-and-miss 79-81 mph changeup. Though he's 27 and has had serious arm health issues, Smith is major league ready and has the stuff to help a team as a back-end starter or move to the bullpen.
2. Nick Burdi, RHP, Twins
If not for the Tommy John surgery that ended his 2017 season in May, it’s possible that he would have made it to the majors last year. At the time of the injury, Burdi was 2-0, 0.53 with 20 strikeouts and only 4 walks in 17 innings with Double-A Chattanooga. The 2014
first-second-round pick made some strides with his control last year before the injury and he’s long had a 95-100 mph fastball to go with a usable slider. Burdi’s injury means he can begin the 2018 season on the disabled list, and he can be sent to the minors for up to 30 days when he returns on an injury rehab assignment. That could give a team a chance to pick up an excellent arm while only needing to carry him on the active roster for the tail end of the 2018 season. If he doesn’t get to 90 days on the 25-man active MLB roster in 2018, he would need to start the 2019 season on the 25-man roster to complete the remainder of his required 90 days. There's a general expectation that someone will take a chance on an arm this good.
3. Mason McCullough, RHP, Diamondbacks McCullough is big, hefty reliever at 6-foot-4, 245 pounds with a protruding belly and power stuff, a la Bob Wickman. McCullough’s fastball consistently sits 97 mph with such heavy downward movement it’s been called a "bowling ball” and he backs it up with an above-average if inconsistent slider. McCullough’s main issue is because he is so large, his delivery is so big and wild it hurts his command. Having consistent control and command has long been a challenge, and he has walked 6.5 batters per nine innings in his career, although he has also allowed only 5.9 hits per nine and notched 11.9 strikeouts per nine.
4. Cale Coshow, RHP, Yankees The Yankees have an enviable stable of hard-throwing righthanders, and Coshow has touched 100 mph with his fastball. He couples the pitch with a slider that will flash 55-grade on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. He’s big, strong guy at 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, but his delivery is pretty clean too.
5. Nick Ciuffo, C, Rays As a lefthanded hitting catcher with developing power, Ciuffo could be picked as a backup catcher much like Stuart Turner, who stuck with the Reds all year last year in a backup role. Turner is a little better than Ciuffo defensively, but Ciuffo has more offensive upside, as he started to show signs of hitting for more power in 2017. Ciuffo has an average arm, is a steady pitch framer and calls a solid game, but his feet limit his blocking ability.
For subscribers, here is a much deeper dive looking at the variety of categories that normally produce Rule 5 picks. Back-End Starters Teams love to try to find a pitcher who can potentially handle a fifth-starter role. There aren’t a lot of success stories in recent years among pitchers who can jump straight to a starting job. Luis Perdomo (Padres Rule 5 pick in 2015) is the best example. Matt Bowman (Cardinals Rule 5 pick in 2012) was a back-end starter in the minors who has turned into a solid reliever in the big leagues. Most of these players end up being useful innings-eating relievers who can make a start if needed.
Trevor Clifton, RHP, Cubs A year ago, Clifton was seen as a young righthander who was blossoming into one of the better pitching prospects in the Cubs system. His 2017 season was one to forget. He got a little cutter happy and saw his slider suffer in comparison. More advanced hitters seemed to be a step ahead of him for most of the season, but he still had a 90-95 mph fastball and an OK changeup. He’s not ready for the big leagues and the upside is not likely enough to stash him as a non-contributor.
Nestor Cortes, LHP, Yankees The bridge between Cortes and former Yankees pitcher Vidal Nuno isn’t particularly long or difficult to traverse. Neither lefthander will wow you with knockout stuff, but both pitch with extreme guts and attack the strike zone relentlessly. Cortes’ fastball, thrown typically between 87-93 mph, gets on hitters quickly and was deceptive enough to induce a 20 percent swing-and-miss rate. He varies the speed on the fastball at will, and he changes arm angles to increase deception as well. He pairs the pitch with a curveball and a changeup, and he’s performed well at every level.
Raynel Espinal, RHP, Yankees Watch pretty much any Yankees minor league game and you're likely to see a fireballing pitcher. Espinal was one of the best of those flamethrowers. He was one of the most successful relievers in the Yankees' system this year and he does it with a fastball that sits 92-95 mph and touches 97. Espinal was 4-2, 1.09 in 74 innings between Class A and Double-A with sterling 1.8 BB/9 and 11.3 K/9 rates.
Jordan Guerrero, LHP, White Sox Guerrero is a crafty lefty with an excellent changeup and enough fastball velocity (90-93 mph) to keep hitters from sitting on his changeup. His breaking ball has never reached the level of his changeup. He could serve as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a multi-inning reliever.
Justin Haley, RHP, Red Sox Haley’s name was brought up everywhere in the lead-up to the 2016 Rule 5 draft. He ended up being picked by the Twins and did get 18 innings with the big league club before he was offered back to the Red Sox. Haley’s stuff and profile hasn’t changed a ton since but now that he’s already gotten a chance and been offered back, he seems to be flying much more under the radar this year. One advantage that does give a team picking Haley is that if he is picked and offered back, he has the option of declaring free agency. Daniel Stumpf did that last year and ended up remaining in the Tigers farm system. He then made it up to Detroit later in the season.
Brandon Leibrandt, LHP, Phillies
The son of long-time big leaguer Charlie Leibrandt, Brandon was a successful starter at Florida State and has been effective in the minors, but his lack of fastball velocity means he has to be really locate. He’s made it Triple-A and he fits in the T.J. McFarland mold of a lefty who can slide to the bullpen but can also make a spot start.
Brad Keller, RHP, Diamondbacks Keller took a step back in 2017 as the jump to Double-A showed his solid but not spectacular fastball didn’t play as well at a more advanced level. His secondary stuff needs to develop further and his control took a step back, but the big-bodied righthander has shown three average pitches at times.
Casey Meisner, RHP, Athletics The 6-foot-7 Meisner rebounded from a disastrous 2016 with a solid 2017 as he ascended to Double-A. Meisner sits 90-92 mph and touches 95 out of his downhill frame and mixes and matches with a five-pitch arsenal made up of his fastball, slider, curveball, changeup and cutter. Nothing Meisner throws is plus, but he throws strikes and keeps hitters off-balance.
Burch Smith, RHP, Rays No. 1 on the Top Five To Watch
Nearly Ready Relievers
Much of the biggest success teams have in the Rule 5 draft comes from drafting relievers who are able to step in and produce useful low-leverage innings immediately. In some cases, these relievers end up developing into pitchers who can handle larger relief roles. Recent successful examples include Josh Fields( (2012 Rule 5 pick of the Astros) and Hector Rondon (2012 Rule 5 pick of the Cubs).
Jose Almonte, RHP, Diamondbacks Almonte went 11-8, 3.55 and led the high Class A California League with 162 strikeouts in 2017, ably handling the challenges of hitter-friendly Visalia and earning back-end starter grades from some evaluators. At his best Almonte reaches 94 mph with a natural glove-side cut that makes his fastball almost unhittable. He also has a two-seamer with armside run that handcuffs righties and a usable slider and changeup, although he doesn’t have great command of them yet. His stuff is not consistent, however, and he will drop to as low as 88-90 at times. Almonte has starter upside and room to still grow, but finding consistency in his stuff and focus level are steps he needs to take.
Luke Bard, RHP, Twins
The younger brother of Daniel is coming off of his best season as a pro as he's healthy after plenty of injury problems. He struck out more than 14 batters per nine innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester. He has a mid-90s fastball and an at times quality slider.
Cale Coshow, RHP, Yankees No. 4 on the Top Five Rule 5 Picks To Watch
Austin Davis, LHP, Phillies
Davis had a breakout season in 2017 as he saw a jump in his velocity and a similar jump in his effectiveness. After a dominant 2-0, 2.01 with a sparkling 29-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio with high Class A Clearwater, he was promoted to Double-A Reading. He was effective there as well. The big lefty sits in the mid-90s and can touch 97. Davis doesn’t have pronounced platoon splits, so he’s more of a big arm who can get three outs than a matchup lefty.
Caleb Dirks, RHP, Braves Dirks has been enormously successful at every level out of the bullpen with a career 1.91 ERA. He reached Triple-A last year and even though his ERA rose, he still struck out 45 in 40.1 innings and held opponents to a .235 average. Dirks sits 90-94 mph with his fastball and it plays up significantly because he hides the ball well and then unleashes a cross-body delivery. His fastball gets on hitters quickly and he commands it. He mixes in a short, tight 81-82 mph slider that draws consistent swings and misses from righthanded batters and also plays up with deception. Dirks’ stuff may be average but plays up because batters don’t see him well.
Montana DuRupau, RHP, Pirates A short righthander with solid but not overwhelming stuff, DuRupau’s excellent cutter and 91-93 mph fastball helped him post a 2.04 ERA between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis last season. DuRupau misses bats (10.5 K/9) but also has sometimes shaky control.
James Farris, RHP, Rockies A poor Arizona Fall League season (11.57 ERA in 9.1 innings) likely kept Farris from being added to the 40-man roster as it reinforced that he has a ways to go with his fastball command. But he has a 91-95 mph fastball and a solid-average changeup. He was dominating in Double-A (0-0, 1.45 with 28-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 18.2 innings) and OK in Triple-A (1-3, 4.61 with a 41-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 innings).
Anyelo Gomez, RHP, Yankees After not getting above A-ball through his first four professional seasons, Gomez rocketed through the system in 2017. He’s primarily a two-pitch guy, coupling a high-90s fastball that’s touched 100 mph with a plus changeup that some grade as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. That arsenal resulted in 87 strikeouts in 70.1 innings.
Mason McCullough, RHP, Diamondbacks No. 3 on the Top Five Rule 5 Picks To Watch
Jose Mesa Jr., RHP, Yankees Mesa has solid stuff rather then sensational stuff, but Mesa does get up to 94-95 mph with his fastball. His performance was sensational, not solid. Mesa was 5-1, 1.93 in 84 innings with only 48 hits and 32 walks with 101 strikeouts.
Jake Reed, RHP, Twins A 2014 fifth-round pick out of Oregon, Reed missed some time in 2017 with a lat injury. When he was healthy, he still showed a 93-97 mph fastball with boring life and plenty of deception thanks to a funky delivery. His slider has never been consistent as it needs to be, but he has had success at the upper levels.
Lefty Specialists In many ways lefty specialists are the fools gold of the Rule 5 draft. Many are taken, but very, very few ever stick for a full season. Daniel Stumpf did help the Tigers in 2017 in his second consecutive season as a Rule 5 pick, but only after he was offered back. MLB rules allow any two-time Rule 5 pick to opt for free agency if they are offered back.
Sam Selman, LHP, Royals
Control troubles have long been a problem for Selman. They still are, but he tamed them enough to make it to Triple-A in 2017. Selman has low-to-mid-90s velo, misses bats and thanks to a hard slider, he held lefties to a sub-.100 batting average.
Stephen Tarpley, LHP, Yankees The numbers Tarpley put up at high Class A this year looked very much like a typo. In 30.2 innings with Tampa, he gave up just eight hits while striking out thirty-six. He gets most of his outs from a deceptive, low-slot delivery and an extremely lively low-90s fastball. He mixes in a slider and a changeup as well, but deception and movement are the name of the game for Tarpley.
Travis Ott, LHP, Rays Ott was part of the mammoth Wil Myers/Trea Turner/Steven Souza deal. He’s been a slow-mover as he’s yet to pitch above Class A. He’s a skinny, low-slot lefty with plenty of funk. He has been effective as a starter but would profile better as a matchup lefty where his bag of tricks (quick pitches, big leg kicks) would play up.
Wes Parsons, RHP, Braves
Parsons doesn't have a lot of distinguishing characteristics. He's started and relieved, pitching predominantly with a low 90s fastball that generates plenty of ground balls. But he had success at Double-A last year, going 3-3, 2.71 in a swingman role, with 8.6 K.9.
Tyler Pike, LHP, Braves Pike’s command and control haven’t let him develop as a starter, but he has eaten up lefties, holding them to a .200 batting average between high Class A and Double-A.
Flamethrowers With Work To Do
Every year there are a tantalizing group of young pitchers with outstanding arms, but often not a whole lot of idea of how to locate their fastball. Often these pitchers also have less developed secondary pitches. Fewer of these get picked over than fans would expect. Terrell Young was taken first overall in the 2008 draft on the basis of his 100 mph fastball and little else and didn’t stick.
Jake Brentz, LHP, Pirates
Brentz is a fireballing lefty with a fastball that can touch 100 mph and often little idea of where that fastball is going to end up. He was effectively wild with high Class A Bradenton and then frighteningly wild with Double-A Altoona (he walked more than a batter an inning). Any team picking him would be counting on figuring out a way to help Brentz tame his wildness but it's still hard to find lefties with arms this impressive.
Anthony Castro, RHP, Tigers
Castro is in no way ready to handle the jump to the big leagues, as he's yet to pitch above low Class A. Any team picking him would have to view the pick as a stash and develop project. But Castro has a very promising low-to-mid 90s fastball and curveball combo that could develop into a future
Jimmy Cordero, RHP, Nationals Cordero has bounced around from the Blue Jays to the Phillies to the Nationals because of his fastball. He has touched triple-digits plenty in the past and has a swing-and-miss slider, but he’s never controlled his arsenal. He walked nearly as many as he struck out this year, but a 100 mph fastball will always be of interest.
Julian Fernandez, RHP, Rockies Fernandez possesses one of the most powerful arms in the minors with a fastball that clocked in at 102 mph. He’s smooth and athletic in his delivery and can pitch with his premium fastball downhill. He doesn’t have a viable secondary, however, with scouts grading his slider well below average, borderline poor, and despite his premium velocity Fernandez has struck out less than a batter per inning for his career. Fernandez excites with his velocity, but he’s also never pitched above low Class A, doesn’t miss bats and badly needs a secondary pitch.
J.P. Feyereisen, RHP, Yankees Part of the package the Indians used to land Andrew Miller from the Yankees in 2016, Feyereisen is a classic hard-thrower. He brings his fastball into the upper-90s and pairs it with a slider that flashes above-average. His problem is consistency. He needs to continue to sharpen his slider and changeup, but the raw materials are interesting enough to get a look from a team in the spring.
Emerson Jimenez, RHP, Blue Jays Jimenez was a shortstop in the Rockies’ system when the 2017 season began. Now he’s a very raw, but intriguing power arm reliever who has been clocked at 94-99 mph with a surprisingly advanced changeup.
Another member of the century club, Kinley has a blistering 97-100 mph fastball. That was enough to blow away Class A hitters, but his control troubles caused him problems once he reached Double-A. Kinley struck out 12 batters per nine innings this season, so even though he allowed 1.7 baserunners per nine innings in Double-A, a team may be willing to take a chance on him.
Joe Krehbiel, RHP, Diamondbacks
Krehbiel has two big league pitches thanks to a 92-96 mph fastball and a solid average slider. He's also got a track record of missing bats (12 K/9 in 2017 in Double-A). His wildness (4.4 BB/9 this year and 3.7 BB.9 in 2016) has been what's kept him from moving quicker.
Rodolfo Martinez, RHP, Giants Martinez is one of the minors’ hardest throwers with a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and has touched triple digits. He lacks a viable secondary though, with his slider and changeup both a long way off. Thus, advanced hitters have been able to sit fastball and tee off when he throws one over the plate. He missed a lot of time in 2017 with an oblique injury, but he's healthy now. His stuff wasn't as good in 2017 because of the rust and injuries, but it's a special arm.
Adam Ravenelle, RHP, Tigers Ravenelle has a big arm, but until he sorts out his delivery it won’t really matter. He wasn’t able to consistently control his fastball in 2017, but he still can get up to the upper 90s with his fastball.
Gerardo Reyes, RHP, Padres Reyes is an undersized reliever with a big arm. He sits 95-99 mph on his fastball and throws his slider for strikes too. His biggest issue is his command. Reyes tends to fall behind and is still seeking a consistent release point. He’ll be 25 early next season and has yet to pitch above high Class A, but his arm strength appeals nonetheless. He’s been effective in the Mexican Pacific League this winter, but he’s still wild.
Jordan Romano, RHP, Blue Jays Romano’s energetic delivery has kept him from ever showing even average control, but his 92-96 mph fastball (he’s touched higher) has plenty of run. He missed all of 2015 because of Tommy John surgery and he’s yet to pitch above high Class A, but his arm is excellent.
Adonis Uceta, RHP, Mets Uceta can touch 97 mph although he sits more 92-95 mph. He also has a decent changeup, but he has work to do to refine his control and his fastball lacks life.
Connor Walsh, RHP, White Sox Walsh spent his amateur days as a starting pitcher, but has been exclusively a reliever in pro ball. His numbers aren’t the sexiest, but he throws his fastball in the upper 90s and his curveball will flash plus. Command and control are a problem, however, that any selecting team will have to address.
Jacob Webb, RHP, Braves Webb had Tommy John surgery and missed 2015 but has been solid since, reaching Double-A last year and posting a 2.63 ERA out of the bullpen. Webb’s fastball gets up to 97 mph and is a swing-and-miss offering, but his control is shaky, with 5.0 BB/9 last year. Webb’s power arm that misses bats could intrigue, especially if a team thinks a mechanical tweak can fix his wildness.
There are some selling points to drafting an injured player because players only have to spend 90 days on the active roster to meet Rule 5 requirements—they just can’t be sent to the minors on anything other than an injury rehab assignment. The Orioles did just that with Anthony Santander last year and the Braves are still doing that with 2014 Rule 5 pick Daniel Winkler.
Nick Burdi, RHP, Twins No. 2 on list of top Rule 5 Prospects.
Sam Coonrod, RHP, Giants Coonrod sits 93-94 mph and touches 96 as a starter with an 85-89 mph slider. He lives up in the zone with his power arm and thus gets hit a lot when he doesn’t elevate enough. His stuff could tick up if he moves to the bullpen, making him an interesting two-pitch option late in games. He'll miss almost all of 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery, so the good news is he'd only have to be carried for 90 days on the big league roster between 2018 and 2019 to meet Rule 5 requirements. The bad news is he would have to be carried on the 40-man roster for all that time and would make the major league minimum all the time, making him an expensive addition.
Kevin Gadea, RHP, Rays The Rays took Gadea with the fourth pick in the Rule 5 draft last year and stashed him on the 60-day disabled list the entire season with elbow tendinitis. Gadea features a fastball that ranges 91-95 mph, a changeup that flashes plus, a developing curveball and elite control. However, he will be 23 next season having never pitched above low Class A and coming off a missed year of development.
Max Pentecost, C, Blue Jays Usually the injury list is the purview of pitchers, but Pentecost is the rare position player who easily qualifies. Pentecost was considered one of the best catchers in the 2014 draft class, but shoulder injuries have largely ruined his pro career so far. Pentecost has had two labrum surgeries and has caught only 30 games in three pro seasons, but when he’s back there, he shows the potential to be an at least average catcher defensively and he still has an above-average arm. Scouts have long believed in the bat. Pentecost caught on back-to-back days for the first time in his pro career in the final days of the Arizona Fall League season. Teams will likely be scared off by his medical reports and he’s yet to play above Class A, but he has more potential than almost anyone available in the Rule 5 draft.
Nick Travieso, RHP, Reds Travieso was the Reds’ first-round pick in 2012. He hasn’t been able to consistently maintain the premium velocity he showed in high school on a five-day schedule, but there have long been thoughts that a move to the bullpen would allow his stuff to play up. It’s unlikely a team will take a chance on drafting him after he missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury that required surgery. No team claimed him when he was outrighted, adding to the likelihood he will go unpicked.
Outfielders Who Can Handle Center Field Many of the best players picked in recent Rule 5 drafts are center fielders. Odubel Herrera and Delino DeShields Jr. both made immediate impacts because they had enough bat to contribute right away while their speed and defense gave them plenty of other ways to contribute. This year’s class may lack a Herrera, but it does have some legit defenders.
B.J. Boyd, OF, Athletics
A team picking Boyd would have to be convinced that he plays just well enough defensively in center field to be a viable fourth outfielder. The lefty hitter hit .323/.366/.428 for Double-A Midland this season with doubles power and plus speed.
Charcer Burks, OF, Cubs
Burks is a backup, but a team looking for a plausible fourth outfielder option could do worse than the speedy righthanded hitter. He doesn't have much more than gap power, but he does a good job of working counts, making contact and getting on base, with a .270/.370/.395 stat line with Double-A Tennessee in 2017.
Roemen Fields, OF, Blue Jays Fields is a speedster who can cover ground in the outfield, swipe a base and slap the ball around the infield and outfield. He’s a backup outfielder, but after posting a .355 OBP in Triple-A, the team in the right situation could be intrigued.
Luis Liberato, OF, Mariners Liberato can handle the job defensively right now. He plays shallow, challenges hitters to hit it over his head and then outruns the ball with excellent speed and good routes. His above-average arm can handle right field as well. Liberato has plenty of athleticism and some developing power, but he also hit .234 in the low Class A Midwest League and .257 in the high Class A California League with a 131 combined strikeouts. He’s not ready offensively.
Ian Miller, OF, Mariners Miller is a plus-plus runner with elite instincts who stole 43 bases in 48 tries at Double-A and Triple-A last year, a year after he stole 49 bases in 52 tries. Miller made significant strides at the plate, although he still projects as a fringy hitter with no power. He’s a slightly above average outfielder in center with a below-average arm and doesn’t always throw to the right base. His speed alone makes him an interesting candidate to be stashed as a pinch-runner on a big league bench.
Victor Reyes, OF, Diamondbacks Reyes is a lanky, switch-hitting, athletic outfielder who has always hit and gotten on base. He hit .292 with a .332 on-base percentage at Double-A Jackson this year and followed by hitting .316 with a .333 OBP in the Arizona Fall League. He also stole 12-of-13 bases in the AFL. Reyes has little to no game power, with just 12 home runs in six pro seasons. He can handle center but is more suited for a corner with average speed and long strides. He makes highlight-reel plays in the outfield followed by boneheaded ones. Reyes’ lack of power creates a profile issue, but switch-hitters who can reliably get on base, steals bags and can play all three outfield spots have value, especially in the National League.
Champ Stuart, OF, Mets Stuart can’t hit, which is a big problem. But he is a near top-of-the-scale runner who can handle center field and swipes bases with ease. He’s a better fit as a pinch runner a la Terrance Giore, but he does have some attributes that could help a big league team.
Carlos Tocci, OF, Phillies Tocci has been a regular resident of the top Rule 5 prospects list. He provides value as a solid defensive center fielder with some bat control. He just turned 22, but at this point it’s probably unfair to expect him to gain weight and strength, as that has been on his to-do list ever since he signed and it just hasn’t happened. He’s a potentially useful backup outfielder.
Sluggers With Little Defensive Value
In 2013 the Marlins made one of the better picks ever in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft when they swiped Justin Bour from the Cubs. He’s hit 64 home runs for them in the four seasons since. He, Chris Shelton and Nate Freiman fit this category, but it’s one that teams rarely shop at during the Rule 5 draft.
Lewin Diaz, 1B, Twins
Diaz will play all next season as a 21-year-old, and he’s yet to play above low Class A, which is why it’s hard to see a team taking Diaz, much less carry him all season. But he does have impressive lefty power potential that is just starting to play in games.
Kevin Cron, 1B, Diamondbacks C.J. Cron’s younger brother has hit 27, 26 and 25 home runs each of the last three seasons. He was named best power hitter in the Double-A Southern League this year and was the runner-up for best defensive first baseman in best tools balloting. Cron is more athletic than his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame would indicate but he is still limited to first base only. His power is plus but he swings and misses a good bit, with evaluators split over whether he will get to his power enough against big league pitching.
Gavin LaValley, 1B, Reds LaValley has been about three different players during his still young career. Early on he was the big high school offensive lineman trying to get nimble enough to stick at third base. Then he melted away his football weight, but lost some of his strength in the process to become a singles-hitting line-drive gap-to-gap hitter.
D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B, Reds The Mariners cut their 2013 first-rounder loose last year and he was picked up by the White Sox before being waived and claimed by the Reds. Peterson still struggles with advanced pitching, particularly on the inner half, and will chase breaking balls away. He’s experienced playing both third base and first base and can tap into his raw power in spurts, with 35 home runs the last two years. He has been available on waivers, so it’s hard to see why a team would let him pass through waivers and then draft him in the Rule 5, which has more restrictive roster rules.
Sandber Pimentel, OF/1B, Athletics Pimentel is a bulky first baseman with some lefthanded pop, including 14 homers in 70 games at high Class A Stockton this year after hitting 21 homers the year before. Pimentel cut down on his swing-and-miss considerably, and has some helium as a lefthanded hitter who can get on base and provide some thump.
Peter O’Brien, C/DH, Dodgers If you’re an American League club and you’re looking for a potential DH, you could do worse. Of course, you could also do a lot better. O’Brien has near top of the scale raw power but will strike out a ton to go with it.He’s been on and off of 40-man rosters in recent years, which makes it unlikely that a team will take the higher-maintenance route of the Rule 5 draft.
Ryan O’Hearn, 1B, Royals O’Hearn has been a reliable middle of the order bat all through the minors for the Royals, but he hasn’t hit enough to really stand out as a potential Rule 5 pick. O’Hearn hit .252/.325/.450 this year in his first taste of Triple-A. He’s a lefty bat with some power potential, but the 24-year-old will likely need to produce more next year to have a shot at the majors.
Frank Schwindel, 1B, Royals Schwindel is the latest in the long run of Royals hitters who seem to come out of nowhere to dominate in Double-A or Triple-A. The alumni of this group include Kila Ka’aihue, Clint Robinson, Jose Martinez and Balbino Fuenmayor. Schwindel hit .350/.374/.577 in Double-A this year, hit .321/.340/.528 in Triple-A and is now hitting .341/.375/.488 in the Dominican Winter League. The man can hit.
Isael Soto, OF, Marlins Two years ago, Soto was in the Marlins’ Top 10 prospects. He missed all of 2017 with a fractured foot, but is playing in the Dominican Republic now and has big-time raw power at his best. It’s unlikely he’ll be picked because he doesn’t have the statistical resume to go with his power potential.
Patrick Wisdom, 3B, Cardinals
Wisdom can hit for power. He hit 31 home runs in Triple-A last year and added 25 doubles as well. The hit tool has been Wisdom’s biggest question. It got better, but he struck out 149 batters and hit under .250 last year. But Wisdom has plenty of upper level experience (200 games in Triple-A and another 250 in Double-A), he has an outstanding arm which plays very well at third. He has more defensive value than the other sluggers on this list.
Eric Wood, 3B, Pirates Wood’s name was mentioned in the leadup to the Rule 5 draft last year. He wasn’t picked and a year later, his strengths and weaknesses are nearly identical. After two years in Double-A, he now has a year of Triple-A time on his resume. But he also hit .238/.311/.438, which means the concerns about his hit tool last year are even louder this year.
It’s hard to stick in the Rule 5 draft as a corner outfielder. Center fielders can stick around in a backup role because they can play all three position. Corner outfielders have to prove they can play in at least a significant platoon role from day one.
Jon Kemmer, OF, Astros The World Champs have a logjam of upper level hitters even after trading away Teoscar Hernandez. Kemmer hit .299/.399/.533 this year at Triple-A Fresno and has a track record of hitting (.286/.364/.500 for his career). He’s not a complete slug in the outfield either.
Jason Martin, OF, Astros Scouts have long considered Martin no more than a fifth outfielder but he keeps performing, reaching Double-A as a 22-year-old last year and holding his own. Martin is considered a tweener who doesn’t have the power for a corner or the speed for center field, and he has some notable swing-and-miss issues, but he keeps rising and as a track record worth noting.
Johan Mieses, OF, Dodgers Mieses is a strong, physical athlete with plus power and little feel to hit. He swings from his shoes, doesn’t see breaking pitches well and has enormous holes in his swing. However, his strength to get ahold of a mistake and hit the ball out of any ballpark, plus his ability to play both center field and right field, make him a possible righthanded power bat bench option in evaluators’ eyes.
Dustin Peterson, OF, Braves The Padres drafted Peterson in the second round in 2013 and traded him to the Braves in the Justin Upton deal. He played only 87 games last year after having hand surgery and struggled in his return, batting .248 with one home run at Triple-A. Peterson had shown the ability to hit for average and power in the upper minors before surgery, so a team believing Peterson’s struggles were the result of lingering issues with his hand could keep him as a righthanded corner bench bat.
Andrew Pullin, OF, Phillies Pullin has proven he can really hit at Reading. He’s yet to prove he can hit elsewhere, which is why he will likely go unpicked for a second straight season.
Wes Rogers, OF, Rockies Rogers led the minors with 70 stolen bases last year and was caught only 12 times. Though he’s a top-flight runner on the bases he plays a below-average outfield and is limited to a corner because his routes, reads, and decision-making are poor. He made offensive strides in Lancaster, staying up through the ball and using the whole field, but evaluators are doubtful he will hit against better pitching, Still, Rogers’ basestealing proclivity makes him an interesting candidate to be kept on an ML bench as a pinch-runner.
Franmil Reyes, OF, Padres The Padres strongly considered putting Reyes on their 40-man roster before he sustained an injury in the Arizona Fall League and needed wrist surgery. Reyes is huge at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds and led the Padres system with 25 homers at Double-A San Antonio in 2017. He has 70 raw power on the 20-to-80 scale and, interestingly, has developed into an adept breaking ball hitter. He will chase and has some holes, but has feel to hit. Reyes doesn’t move great in the corner outfield, but his power is real and he could appeal to an AL team seeking a righthanded corner OF/DH bench bat.
Utility Infielders They’re often less-noticed as prospects, but one of the easiest ways to actually make a team as a Rule 5 pick is for them to provide enough versatility and defensive value to give a team a valid reason to keep them around. Marwin Gonzalez is the star among Rule 5 players with this profile.
Osvaldo Abreu, SS, Nationals Abreu had a subpar season, but there’s still hope he can become a second-division regular who can play shortstop. He was challenged at Double-A in 2017 and struggled before rebounding a bit in the second half. He’s got strong, quick hands at the plate but needs to adopt more of an all-fields approach.
Luis Carpio, 2B, Mets Like Isael Soto with the Marlins, Carpio is a former Top 10 prospect whose stock has fallen because of injuries. He missed most of 2016 with a torn right shoulder labrum, then underperformed in 2017 at low Class A Columbia. Carpio’s bat was his carrying tool, and he’s still young enough to be an intriguing buy-low candidate for a team looking to grab and stash like the Padres in 2017.
Michael De Leon, SS, Rangers De Leon is regarded as one of the slickest defenders in the minors. He makes the position look easy with a quick first step, silky smooth hands, excellent instincts and an average, accurate arm that plays up with a tremendous internal clock. While he can play short, De Leon is very slim and physically weak with little offensive ability to hit for average or power. He hit .223 with two homers at Double-A Frisco in 2017. De Leon is still young at 20 years old (he turns 21 in January), so a team enamored by his defense and the fact he already has a full season at Double-A under his belt could take him as a utility option.
Travis Demeritte, 2B/3B, Braves Demeritte has some very impressive attributes. He has big-time power for a infielder, he has a strong arm and some defensive versatility. But his inability to make enough contact has kept him from getting to his power, and it will likely keep him from hearing his name called during the draft.
Zach Houchins, INF, Angels Houchins is older (25) and not considered much of a prospect because of his general stiffness and lack of feel to hit, but he produces solid power numbers every year and plays a solid third base, with the ability to slide over to first. He’s even played a little shortstop in pro ball too. His upper minors experience, defensive versatility and power output have some value.
Pablo Reyes, 2B/SS/CF, Pirates Offensively, Reyes slaps the ball around, gets on base and tries to steal some bases. But his value to a team would be as a utilityman who can play a little of everywhere. He saw significant time at second base, shortstop and center field last year. With Double-A time under his belt, he could fit for someone looking for a Swiss Army knife.
Darren Seferina, 2B, Cardinals Seferina is a versatile lefthanded-hitting infielder who has delivered steady offensive production everywhere he’s been, While he lacks standout tools, scouts generally like him as an overachiever type who can play second base, third base and a little shortstop while getting on base and stealing bags.
Josh VanMeter, 3B/2B, Reds VanMeter is a defensively versatile lefthanded hitter with some speed and a bit of extra-base thump. His can ably play second base and third base, is experienced at shortstop and began seeing time in left field last year. He doesn’t project to ever hit enough for an everyday role, but can drive the ball into the gaps and is an efficient basestealer when he gets on, with 15 steals in 18 attempts last year at Double-A and a career 73 percent success rate.
Zach Vincej, SS, Mariners The Mariners managed to push Vincej through waivers recently after they claimed him when the Reds tried to do the same thing to clear him off of their 40-man roster. He’s a low-ceiling prospect, but Vincej is solid defensively at either middle infield spot and he does have a little bit of big league time to go with over 300 games of Double-A and Triple-A experience, so he fits the utility infield profile.
Teams are always looking for catching because it’s one of the thinnest positions in baseball annually. So if a team can find a backup catcher, like the Reds did last year with 2016 Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner. Teams have also been willing to take chances on younger catchers in recent years. It didn’t pay off for the Diamondbacks with 2014 Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez and we’ll need a couple of years to know if it paid off for the Padres with 2016 Rule 5 pick Luis Torrens.
Nick Ciuffo, C, Rays No. 5 on the Top Five To Watch
Taylor Gushue, C, Nationals Gushue, who has a pedigree from catching at Florida, has earned a rep as pitcher’s favorite. He’s an exception game-caller who quickly develops a rapport with his staff and boasts a 60-grade arm behind the plate. He’s not an offensive standout, but he’s not a pushover, either. Catchers are always in short supply, so Gushue, who is also fluent in Spanish, could be intriguing.
Michael Perez, C, Diamondbacks Perez is a glove-first catcher with a solid defensive reputation. He receives well, calls a solid game and has a plus arm. He’s bilingual, which is an asset in working with a pitching staff. Offensively, he doesn’t have much power, but as a lefty bat with the ability to make contact, he fits the backup catcher profile.
Beau Taylor, C, Athletics Taylor is an org player, but he’s a solid catcher defensively who handles a staff well. It’s unlikely he’ll get picked, but it won’t be unlikely if he ends up having an up-and-down big league career a la Corky Miller one day.
Impossible To Classify
Anthony Gose, LHP/OF, Rangers
If Shohei Ohtani is the trend-setter among two-way players, Gose is a less-noticed but still intriguing two-way guy. He made the majors as an outfielder, and his speed and defense still makes him a viable backup option in the right situations despite a light bat. But the Tigers also let him try pitching last year in the Florida State League and he quickly showed 98-100 mph from the left side. He had to be shut down with elbow soreness, but did not require surgery. The Rangers signed him as a minor league free agent. It’s hard to see how he fits on a big league roster since his pitching is so raw, but the talent is intriguing.
First-Time Available First Rounders
Consider this the change of scenery list. For a 2013 or 2014 first-round pick to be left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft is a sign that his development has not gone as planned. Most of the time, first-round picks left unprotected in the first year he is eligible for the Rule 5 draft don’t get picked. And this year’s group likely won’t change that.
Mark Appel, RHP, Phillies If any team had wanted Appel, it could have claimed him last month when the Phillies put him on waivers. He still has options remaining, so such a move would have let the team potentially move Appel to the bullpen and send him back to Triple-A to see if something can be salvaged from what has been a disappointing career so far for the 2013 No. 1 pick. No one did, so it’s hard to see a team picking him in the Rule 5 draft, which would require the drafting team to carry him on the big league roster all year.
Trey Ball, LHP, Red Sox Ball’s stuff has just never been as good as expected as a pro pitcher. A two-way player in high school from the Northeast, the hope was his stuff would get a little better when he focused on pitching. Instead, he’s had to pitch with average stuff at best and his control and command don’t really allow that to work for him.
Jonathan Crawford, RHP, Reds A shoulder injury has pretty much ruined the one-time Tigers first-round pick’s career. He made it back to the mound, but he also walked more than eight batters per nine innings in 2017.
Nick Howard, RHP, Reds Howard has had shoulder problems and control issues that limited him to 20 innings in 2016 and none in 2017. He was pitching in instructional league for the Reds, but it’s a long way back for the Virginia star.
Eric Jagielo, 1B, Reds One of the players the Reds received in the Aroldis Chapman trade, Jagielo’s career has been wrecked by knee problems. He slugged under .200 in his first taste of Triple-A and has had to give up playing third base.
Rob Kaminsky, LHP, Indians Kaminksy, the first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2013, missed the entire season with a forearm/elbow injury although it has not required surgery. Before the injury he was known for his feel but also lacked the velocity to miss bats. His curveball had turned into a still effective slurve.
Kohl Stewart, RHP, Twins Stewart’s stuff is too often described as vanilla, but he did get back up to 94-96 mph this year at times. Unfortunately for him, his delivery is too inconsistent. His below-average control has not allowed him to get into situations to succeed, so a team taking him would be betting on a young athlete, with the hope they could develop him down the road.
Take My Contract Please!
A team stuck in a bad contract can hope to win the lottery by seeing their problem taken away in the Rule 5 draft. It never happens because any team picking a player in the Rule 5 assumes that player’s current contract. It’s why Jose Tabata and Allen Craig sat unpicked on Rule 5 lists for several years.
Rusney Castillo, OF, Red Sox Castillo performed in Triple-A last year (.314/.350/.507) but no team is likely to take a chance on him since they will be committing themselves to taking on more than $30 million in salary for Castillo over the next three seasons.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Astros Singleton would cost a team picking him $2 million in 2018, which is why he’s almost assured to return to Double-A, where hit only .202 last year.
Nick Ciuffo Regains Rays' Trust
Though his season began with a 50-game drug suspension, catcher Nick Ciuffo finished the year as a September callup.
Kyle Glaser and Josh Norris contributed to this report.