It's that time of year again. Teams have finalized their rosters prior to the Rule 5 draft, and as is always the case, a number of intriguing options are available for selection. As partial compensation for our ML-worst record in 2010, we receive the draft's first overall pick, and with it a good opportunity to swipe an attractive talent for a relatively low price. The following players are the ones who seem to me like the best available possibilities. Don't like my selections? You're in luck! Tim at Pirates Prospects put together his own nice two-part list (hitters here, pitchers there ), so go crazy!
Ryan Adams, Baltimore Orioles, 2B/3B. Born 4/21/87, bats R, throws R, 6'0", 195 lbs. Baltimore selected Adams, a high school shortstop from Louisiana, in the second round of the 2006 draft. He was regarded at the time as a middle infielder with more ability on the offensive side of the game than the defensive, and that assessment has proven correct in the pros. He has the ability to hit for a solid average, in spite of some contact issues, as well as gap power with the potential for more down the road. In 2010, he hit .298/.365/.464 with class AA Bowie of the Eastern League, and was honored with a spot on their All-Star team. Defensively, Adams is more experienced at second base than at any other position, though his track record there is spotty at best. Throwing accuracy has been a particular issue, with bouts of wildness leading to errors in bunches. He has enough arm strength to handle third base or the outfield, and might be better suited for either of those positions, but the question is whether his bat will be sufficient for the requirements of either spot. Reviews from his time in the AFL this fall are mixed: He hit only .265/.320/.353 in 68 AB, but looked good enough doing it to earn a spot on the league's Rising Stars team. He might be best-suited right now in a role similar to the one Delwyn Young played for us last year, where he serves as a PH and a backup at 2B, 3B, and RF, with the potential to develop into any of the above once we have more time to assess him and provide instruction.
*Video of Adams from this year, via YouTube.
Wilfredo Boscan, Texas Rangers, SP. Born 10/26/89, bats R, throws R, 6'2", 187 lbs. Boscan was unheralded as a prospect in Venezuela, somewhat of an afterthought in the same Latin signing class as high-profile young pitchers like Geuris Grullon and Wilmer Font. He signed with the Rangers for only $15,000. Nevertheless, he has emerged as arguably the best SP prospect available in this year's Rule 5 draft. He has three solid pitches: a low-90s fastball, a changeup that's deadly against LHBs, and a decent curve. He keeps the ball down and gets ground balls, he's got a fairly advanced approach for a pitcher of his age, and he's regarded as an intelligent and coachable player with a strong work ethic. Boscan's raw numbers last year were not as impressive as those of some other pitchers on this list: a 4.67 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 130 strikeouts in 163 2/3 innings pitched. He was a 20-year-old pitching in the California League, however, a difficult assignment that he handled quite well under the circumstances. His full-season numbers are also inflated somewhat by a late-season collapse (6.18 ERA in August and September), probably a consequence of workload-related fatigue, given his nearly 60-inning increase from 2009 to 2010. Even given Boscan's level of polish, it's unlikely that he'd be able to play a signficant and constructive role in the majors in 2011. If a team were willing to carry him, however, he'd be a good candidate to become a mid-rotation starter a few years down the road.
*Video of Boscan from 2009, via YouTube.
Pedro Beato, Baltimore Orioles, RP. Born 10/27/86, bats R, throws R, 6'6", 230 lbs. Beato, a native of the Dominican Republic, came to the United States at the age of 12 and went to high school in Brooklyn, where he excelled as a pitcher. He underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2004, which greatly reduced his standing in the 2005 draft, as teams were leery of the recent injury. The Mets selected him in the 17th round, and when he emerged from his recovery throwing as well as ever, he became one of the highest-profile draft-and-follow players of his class. He and the Mets were unable to come to an agreement, and shortly thereafter the Orioles took him in the sandwich round and gave him a million dollar signing bonus. He started out well, even pitching in the 2007 Futures Game, but experienced a mysterious loss of velocity (probably mechanically-related) that dampened his standing as a prospect. His velocity is mostly back this season, and a move to the pen has re-energized his career. Beato throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a big curve, and an inconsistent change, and also experiments with various other pitches. At AA Bowie this year, he made the Eastern League's All-Star team on the strength of a 2.11 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP, and 50 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings. He pitched a large number of multi-inning appearances and remained effective in spite of the extra work, giving him added tactical value as a potential bullpen option.
*Video of Beato from this year, via YouTube (relevant footage starts at 3:56).
Rafael Cova, San Francisco Giants, RP. Born 3/5/82, bats R, throws R, 6'2", 175 lbs. Picking Cova is, without a doubt, the screwiest idea I'm proposing in this entire piece, which is saying something considering some of the other mutts further down. (I'm looking at you, Mr. Miller.) As you may have noticed, Cova was 28 years old last season, putting him well outside the usual demographic range of prospect-dom. He's also on his fourth MLB organization, which doesn't even count his two stints pitching in Mexico. He started out as the propterty of the Philles, was cut without reaching the US, signed with the Mets, lasted in their system until a ghastly season in the FSL in 2006, pitched in Tijuana for a season, signed with the Cubs, surrendered a home run to the only batter he faced while wearing their uniform, got shipped out on loan and spent two more years in Mexico, signed on with the Giants in 2009, and then miraculously started gunning down hitters, which he's been doing ever since. He spent all of 2010 with the Giants' affiliate at Richmond, where he ridiculously overmatched AA competition, putting up a 2.35 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, and 68 strikeouts in only 57 1/3 innings, on his way to an Eastern League All-Star appearance. Even more impressively, he only allowed 31 hits and three home runs. His main weapon is a fastball that sits in the mid 90s, and can peak at 98 or 99. He also throws a curve and a change, though I'm unsure of the merits of either, insofar as the only description of Cova's secondary pitches I could locate came from Cova himself, in an interview with a Spanish-language newspaper. Command remains something of a concern, with 5.7 walks per nine innings last year, as well as a wild pitch every eight innings. Still, that kind of velocity can't be taught or faked - either you have it, or you don't. It would be very interesting to bring him and his power arm to camp and see what he can do.
*Alleged video of Cova from 2009, via YouTube. I must confess that I can't actually identify Cova as any of the pitchers in this incredibly confusing clip, which must be seen to be believed. He was playing at that point for Magallanes (the team with the Brewers-blue helmets) at that point, if that helps. Special guest appearances by Argenis Diaz , ex-Bucs farmhand Jean Machi , and some guy in a suit giving a sign language interpretation of the incredibly excited Spanish-language audio track.
Ramon Delgado, St. Louis Cardinals, RP. Born 9/3/86, bats R, throws R, 6'3", 195 lbs. As a young man, Delgado was nicknamed "Chapo" (Spanish for "Shorty") until a late growth spurt. The Cardinals originally selected him in the 41st round of the 2007 draft, out of Pima Community College in Arizona, the same school as Donald Veal. Delgado threw two no-hitters at Pima (the first two in school history) and earned a scholarship to the University of New Mexico for 2008, but he was not particularly highly regarded as a prospect at the time, and he's had to earn his prospect status the hard way. His fastball is pedestrian, sitting a hair below 90, but he commands it effectively and compliments it with his best pitch, a very good slider that's about 10 MPH slower. He also throws the occasional changeup. Delgado spent most of 2010 in A+, where he made the FSL All-Star team, before a late-season promotion to AA. He struck out more than a batter an inning at both levels, posting an aggregate 1.34 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 67 innings. The Cardinals selected him as one of their representatives in the AFL this fall, and he has continued to pitch well there, posting a 3.65 ERA and 1.22 WHIP for the Surprise Rafters. Delgado probably is not a future star, but fastball/slider relievers with good command can be surprisingly effective on the ML level, and he might be a useful piece in the bullpen as early as next year.
*Video of Delgado from this year, via YouTube. Not sure exactly what's going on with the music...
Brad Emaus, Toronto Blue Jays, 3B/2B. Born 3/28/86, bats R, throws R, 6'0", 200 lbs. Emaus was drafted by the Braves out of high school in the 18th round in 2004, but he elected to attend Tulane rather than turn pro at that time. He enjoyed a fairly distinguished college career, including an All-Star turn in the wood bat Cape Cod league between his sophomore and junior seasons, but a sprained ankle his junior year damaged his standing with scouts, and he wasn't picked in 2007 until the 11th round, by the Blue Jays. He played both second and third base in college, and has continued to alternate between the two positions as a pro. He isn't a perfect fit at either one, with a little less range than you'd like at second and a little less power than you'd like at third, but is certainly tolerable at both. Offensively, Emaus has gap power and excellent command of the strike zone, with only eight more strikeouts than walks in his professional career - Baseball America has rated him as having the best plate discipline of any hitter in Toronto's system for several years. He's got below-average speed, but is a smart baserunner, with a 37/9 SB/CS in his pro career. In 2010, Emaus started the year by hitting .272/.402/.434 as a level repeater with the AA Eastern League's New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and then after a quick promotion to AAA, hit .298/.395/.495 for the Las Vegas 51s. That latter batting line is inflated somewhat by a hitter-friendly home park, but is still a very respectable performance within context. Most recently, he has played winter ball in the DWL, hitting .264/.346/.472 in 72 at-bats. Emaus would be an interesting option as a backup at 2B and 3B, with the potential to develop into a starter down the line (if need be). He is not, however, a particularly high-upside choice.
*Video of Emaus from 2009, via Vimeo.
Tyler Henley, St. Louis Cardinals, RF. Born 6/10/85, bats L, throws L, 5'10", 200 lbs. A high school football star in Texas, Henley emerged as a top outfield talent in his sophomore year of college. As he was both a draft-eligible sophomore and a Rice player, questions about his signability led him to drop all the way to the 50th round in the draft. He was unable to come to terms with the Astros, but after a strong season in the Cape Cod league, he seemed well-positioned for a big draft payday in 2007. Unfortunately for Henley, he struggled all season, and wasn't taken until the eighth round by the Cardinals, with whom he signed for an above-slot $150k. Henley lacks one outstanding tool, but there are no real holes in his profile, either. He's a good contact hitter with gap power and average speed. Defensively, he has above-average range for a corner outfielder, and has some experience at all three positions, though he's spent most of his time as a pro in right. Last year was a lost season for him, as he suffered a major elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery on July 20. As such, he would likely be out until at least late July next year, and would then need to remain on the 25-man roster for a significant portion of 2012 for us to fully clear his Rule 5 roster time requirements. Even with this limitation, I think that his overall package of skills is strong enough for him to warrant consideration in this year's Rule 5 draft.
*Video of Henley from 2009, via YouTube.
Jairo Heredia, New York Yankees, SP. Born 10/8/89, bats R, throws R, 6'1", 190 lbs. Heredia was a notable Latin signee for the Yankees in 2006, earning a $285,000 bonus, the fourth largest they awarded that year. He dominated in the GCL as a 17-year-old, and was nearly as successful in full-season ball a year later in spite of shoulder soreness that prematurely ended his season. He missed all but ten starts' worth of 2009 with an undisclosed medical issue, and then delivered a strong performance at Charleston this year after struggling in an attempted promotion to Tampa. At this point health and stamina have to be something of a concern, but he was at an age-appropriate level, and his core skills are still there. His fastball has good natural sink and sits in the low 90s, with the potential for a bit more as his slender frame fills out. He complements it with a curve and a changeup, both of which are good for a pitcher of his youth, but still inconsistent. He has the poise and confidence of a veteran, keeps the ball down, and is a strike-throwing machine (to the point that he might actually benefit from wasting a few more pitches). Heredia is a promising young arm, but nowhere near ready for the majors, and if we wanted to try and carry him all season, we'd likely need to engage in some Veal-esque shenanigans. I almost hate to even mention him as a possibility, given the risk to his career that a premature promotion would entail, but he's got the talent to be very useful down the road as long as a lost season doesn't utterly wreck him.
*No video of Heredia, unfortunately.
Adam Miller, Cleveland Indians, DL/RP. Born 11/26/84, bats R, throws R, 6'4", 200 lbs. I have to admit that even writing about Miller creeps me out a little bit. A few years ago, he was one of the very best prospects in all of baseball. High school star from Texas, upper 90s fastball that sometimes hit triple digits, upper 80s atomic slider, above-average coachability and pitchability. He made BA's Top 100 prospect list five times... which is in and of itself a sign of trouble. I went to my bookshelf and got down my 2007 BA guide just for this entry, and looking back on his entry feels like stepping on a grave: "His delivery is free and easy, so there's no reason his health should be an issue down the road...It's only a matter of time before Miller makes an impact in the major leagues." Things didn't turn out that way. He hasn't thrown a pitch in an official game in two and a half years. Elbow problems slowed his ascent, but the real killer blow to his career was a damaged flexor tendon on the middle finger of his throwing arm. Numerous attempts have been made to address the problem, including four different surgeries, two of which involved transplanting tendons from other, less-important parts of his body. Anyway, word is that he's finally healthy, and that he was throwing in the mid-90s in instructional league work this fall. He probably isn't going to pitch again until spring training, and we aren't allowed to look at his medical file until we actually draft him. Can you pick a guy based on a hope, a rumor, and a three-year-old memory? I guess we'll find out.
*Video of Miller from 2007, via YouTube. Please note that he's warming up, not actually pitching. There are a fair number of clips of Miller on the internet, but trying to find a good one is like looking for bigfoot.
Paulo Orlando, Kansas City Royals, CF. Born 11/1/85, bats R, throws R, 6'3", 185 lbs. Brazil isn't traditionally a hotbed of baseball talent, but the White Sox have done some work in the region, and in 2005 they signed Orlando. Chicago then traded him to the tools-hungry Royals in 2008, in exchange for Horacio Ramirez. In the beginning, Orlando was much more familiar with track and field than baseball, but he put his speed to good use on the basepaths (averaging 25 SB per year, at a 74% success rate) and in the field. He is still raw in some areas of the game, but experienced significant offensive progress in 2010. Orlando's .305/.366/.480 batting line with Class AA NW Arkansas earned him a spot on the Texas League's All-Star team. Perhaps the most significant area of improvement for Orlando was his command of the strike zone. He had 24 walks and 62 strikeouts in 469 plate appearances, which may not sound too impressive... until you consider his 18/143 ratio as a rookie in 2006, or even his 15/80 last year with Wilmington. Orlando likely is not ready for a substantial role in the majors at this point, and hiding him on the bench would run the risk of retarding his development. Still, he could offer reasonable tactical value as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, and his ultimate potential is intriguing.
*Blink-and-you'll-miss-it video of Orlando, via YouTube. He's the guy in the dark blue jersey wearing #16 - he takes a swing at 1:10, and I think that might also be him making a catch in RF at 0:16.
Wynn Pelzer, Baltimore Orioles, SP/RP. Born 6/23/86, bats R, throws R, 6'1", 205 lbs. The hard thrower with questionable command is always a popular breed in Rule 5 season, and Pelzer is one of the more intriguing members of that group available in this year's draft. He played his college ball at South Carolina, working mainly out of the pen, and the lack of exposure pushed him down draft boards until he was selected by the Padres in the 9th round. He also fractured his kneecap when he was hit by a line drive in the Cape Cod League that fall, which didn't help his leverage. The Padres had Pelzer work primarily as a starter until this season, when he was traded to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada and made a full-time transition to the pen. He seems like a much better fit in the latter role. His fastballs (both two- and four-seam) play up in shorter appearances, sometimes crossing the mid-90s, his slider gives him an out pitch, and his underdeveloped change is less of a handicap. Pelzer also has a reliever's mentality: tough, competitive, and confrontational. At one point in 2008, he was hit in the head by a line drive, but he insisted on taking his regular turn in the rotation five days later anyway. His main weakness at this point is mechanical consistency, accounting for his largely pedestrian numbers. In 2010, he posted a 4.25 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, and 103 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings for two different AA clubs, San Antonio and Bowie. He walked five batters per nine innings, and that wildness has continued during his time in the AFL, where he carried an ugly 9/12 K/BB in 11 innings. Pelzer is definitely a work in progress, but he has significant upside if he can harness it.
As a side note, I have no idea what the Orioles are doing with their roster. As you may have noticed, Pelzer is the third Oriole on this list (along with Adams and Beato), even though Baltimore has several empty spots on their 40-man roster, and there are several other notionally draftable talents in their system who were also left unprotected.
*Video of Pelzer from this year, via Flickr.
Brant Rustich, New York Mets, RP. Born 1/23/85, bats R, throws R, 6'6", 230 lbs. Rustich was a highly regarded recruit at UCLA, but his college performances never lived up to his natural stuff, in part as a result of ongoing problems with a tendon in his finger (which earned him a medical redshirt in 2006). In spite of an ERA in the low 6's, he parlayed a mid-90s fastball, power slider, and workable changeup into a second-round payday with the Mets. As a pro, he continued to be bitten by the injury bug. In 2008 alone, he was sidelined with a stress fracture in the humerus of his throwing arm, a small tear in his labrum, and a damaged UCL in his elbow. The stress fracture recurred in 2009, and this year, for variety, he missed almost the entire season with pain, weakness, and coldness (?!?) in his throwing arm. The eventual diagnosis was thoracic outlet syndrome , for which he underwent surgery a few weeks ago. If Rustich's response is to believed , the operation was a success. Rustich is fragile, and has never pitched above A+, but he still has the pure stuff that made him a prospect in the first place, and he could be a power arm from the bullpen almost immediately, as long as he isn't decapitated in a tragic fungo accident or trampled by a herd of wildebeast.
*Video of Rustich from 2009, via YouTube. It gets slightly less jiggly later on.
Zach Simons, Detroit Tigers, RP. Born 5/23/85, bats L, throws R, 6'3", 200 lbs. Simons grew up in the tiny town of Glenns Ferry, Idaho (population: 1,611), and as a result largely escaped notice as a high school player. He was drafted by Oakland in the 38th round in 2003, but did not sign, preferring to attend Everett Community College in nearby Washington state. There, he added more than 20 pounds of muscle, increasing his fastball by about five MPH and emerging as a top draft prospect in 2005. The Rockies chose him with the seventh pick of the second round. He washed out as a starting pitcher in the low minors, but a move to the bullpen in 2007 produced good results, with Simons's K rate nearly doubling in that role. He was traded to the Tigers for Jason Grilli in early 2008, and after he continued to show progress as a reliever, he was added to the Tigers' 40-man roster that offseason. He seemed to fall from the team's favor shortly thereafter for reasons that are unclear to me, however, and in spite of a strong 2009 campaign at AA, he was removed from Detroit's roster last December and then assigned to repeat that level this year. He needs a fresh start in a new organization. Simons's main pitches are a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s and can touch 95, as well as a spike curve that's effective when thrown for strikes but sometimes difficult for him to command (as spike curves often are). He also has worked with a changeup and a cut fastball, though printed opinions differ as to the quality of either pitch. Over the last two seasons, Simons has twice made the Eastern League All-Star team, putting up a 2.59 ERA and 1.12 WHIP at that level over that time span, with 104 strikeouts in 104 1/3 innings. He's also pitched 35 innings at AAA, with a 3.09 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 31 Ks. Simons has some flyball tendencies, and is traditionally a slow starter. Nevertheless, he could probably be a useful bullpen component right now, without any further development, and he has a reasonable amount of upside for a relief pitcher. Plus, he's a Zach, and we can always use more of those.
*Video of Simons from 2008, via Vimeo.
Kyle Waldrop, Minnesota Twins, RP. Born 10/27/85, bats R, throws R, 6'4", 205 lbs. Waldrop is a study in succeeding while defying expectations. In his high school days, he was a top two-way player from Tennessee, with power at first base and a nice blend of polish and upside on the mound. The Minnesota Twins made him a first round pick in 2004 and bought him out of a Vanderbilt commitment, asking him to focus solely on pitching. At that time, he was seen as a projectable arm, with athleticism, a killer spike curve, and a good feel for the changeup. As a pro, Waldrop advanced steadily through the Twins' system, but did not dominate with the Ks or develop any additional heat. He ran into a wall with a promotion to AA in 2007, as finesse pitchers often do, and then missed the entire 2008 season following shoulder surgery. His career seemed to be at a crossroads. When he came back, he moved to the bullpen, a role in which he has experienced great success over the last two seasons, albeit some of the least flashy success possible. In 2010, for example, he put up a 2.57 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP in 87 2/3 innings with AAA Rochester, often in multi-inning stints. That line came with only 60 strikeouts, however, as he used command and that big curve to keep the ball in the zone, on the ground, and in the park. Pitching to contact may not be sexy, but the way Waldrop does it, it's effective. He was a minor league free agent this offseason, but because he already re-signed with the Twins, he can be selected just like any other eligible minor leaguer. A defense as brutal as ours may not be the best fit for his style of play, but he's capable of being a useful bullpen piece right out of the box, and it would not be much of a surprise to see him selected.
*Video of Waldrop from 2007, via Google Video. It's probably too old to be of much value. I don't know. Click on it if you feel like it, and don't if you don't.
[Please also note that several popular candidates from last year are available again this cycle. Aneury Rodriguez successfully made the transition to AAA, although his stuff isn't quite what it was last year, and he looks a bit more like a back-of-the-rotation guy this time around. Danny Dorn is still a righty-masher in an organization with no need for one. George Kontos was inconsistent in his return, as pitchers coming back from TJ often are, but showed that he still has the stuff that made him a prospect in the first place. And so forth...]
Anyhow, those are the guys who struck my fancy this year. There are doubtless many others who would make fine selections. Who are your favorites?