The Pirates took Cubs starter Donald Veal with the fourth pick in the Rule 5 draft today. Veal looked like an excellent prospect after dominating Classes A and A+ in 2006, but he has always struggled with control, and those struggles bit him badly in Class AA in 2007 and then even worse at AA in 2008. He still has pretty good strikeout rates and a pretty good curveball, and he's a smart guy--his goal coming out of high school was to become a doctor. So maybe he listens to the Pirates' coaches and makes some adjustments to pitch out of the bullpen.
The player I wanted, Eduardo Morlan of the Rays, was still available when the Pirates picked, and he ended up going to the Brewers with the 16th pick. The advantage of picking someone like Veal over someone like Morlan is that Veal is a starting pitcher, so if the Pirates can get him ironed out, they have a valuable property indeed. My guess is that Morlan will end up being a good reliever, but a starter is more valuable. The problem, in my view, is that given Veal's consistent control problems and his struggles the past two years, the chances that he'll get turned around this year are extremely remote. It's also possible, though, that the Pirates see something about Veal they can fix. Also, Baseball America wrote today that Morlan's velocity dropped off this year.
The Tigers took pitcher Kyle Bloom with the eighth overall pick. As I wrote earlier today, this is a shame, because Bloom was one of only a handful of Pirates starting pitching prospects and one of an even smaller number who were anywhere near the majors. There's no good excuse for having lost him. The Post-Gazette explains:
Asked about leaving Bloom exposed after such a strong fall [in Hawaii winter ball], [Neal Huntington] replied: "I think it was a combination of an experienced Class AA pitcher in essentially a Class A league. Historically, left-handed pitchers with changeups do very well in A-ball leagues. And I think Kyle, to his credit, made some adjustments, his velocity came up a little bit. Even if you talk with him, he knows he exploited some A-ball hitters out there. But look, Detroit made a good selection."
This is a little like what Bloom himself said a couple weeks ago:
"Honestly, it's just fastball command," Bloom said. "A lot of these (the hitters) are from Class A ball, so they're pretty aggressive on fastball. So what I usually try to do is initiate the inside part of the plate and then use my off-speed if I fall behind, kind of keep them honest. Mainly, it's just moving my fastball in and out."
That's fine. But to me, Bloom bordered on being a keeper even before the excellent fall performance, which drew notice even if he racked up those stats in a way that said little about his future big league capabilities.
Anyway, in the first round of the AAA phase, the Bucs took Andres Santos of the Yankees. He's a lefty who posted great numbers in the DSL but was too old for the league. In the second round, they grabbed Rafael Quintero from the Indians who, judging from his listed size (6'1", 145) is a ridiculously skinny righty who also dominated the DSL. Quintero recently turned 21. In the third round they picked Gerardo Esparza from the Mariners. Esparza pitched pretty well in the VSL as a 20-year-old in 2008.
There are some pretty interesting comments about these picks in the Post-Gazette:
The Pirates, as mentioned above, claimed three players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5, all out of Latin American summer leagues. Well, shortly after that happened, people from two of those three teams approached a Pirates official to ask how that happened. Nobody looks for Rule 5 guys down there -- for reasons I am not sure I understand -- and most teams, apparently, do not go so far as to determine which of them is eligible.