With the first overall pick in today's Rule 5 draft, the Pirates selected Indians infielder Josh Rodriguez. Rodriguez wasn't a part of my Rule 5 preview, although in retrospect he probably should have been. He's a guy who's really grown on me as a potential pick over the last couple of weeks. We discussed him a bit in the comments on BA's first Rule 5 preview , but here's a quick recap:
Rodriguez is a 26-year-old right-handed batter who spent the majority of last season at AAA Columbus, where he hit .293/.372/.486 and primarily played shortstop. He also has significant experience at second and third base, and can also play the outfield in a pinch. He spent his college years at Rice, where he was for several years a teammate of current Indianapolis second baseman (and 2007 third-round pick) Brian Friday. He was well-regarded going into the 2006 draft, where the Indians made him a second-round pick and paid him a fairly significant $625,000 bonus. Neal Huntington was a special assistant in Cleveland's front office at that time, so he obviously would have some level of familiarity with and personal knowledge of Rodriguez from that time. Here's what BA had to say about Rodriguez in their 2006 draft preview, ranking him at #163 in their top 200:
Rodriguez came into the season as one of college baseball's best shortstop prospects, but he has been supplanted there at Rice by sophomore Brian Friday . Rodriguez had elbow problems that bothered him during fall practice and early in the spring, so he opened the season as a DH and since has moved to third base. He has played second, third and short in three years at Rice, and his arm is a plus at any position. He's a slightly below-average runner, however, so he'll have to move to second or third as a pro. He's a streak hitter with gap power, and he has a penchant for drawing walks. Rodriguez hit .326 with wood last summer for Team USA, the highest average among 2006 draft-eligibles on the club. There's talk that a couple of teams could take him in the second or third round, but he's more of a consensus fifth-rounder. (Link )
The elbow problems they describe haven't proven to be a lasting concern, as he still has plenty of arm strength. Opinions on his defense are mixed. Some sources describe him as a better fit at 2B or 3B for the reasons that BA gives above. When I need info on prospect-related matters for Cleveland, I often turn to Tony Lastoria of Indians Prospect Insider, and for whatever it's worth, Tony thinks fairly highly of Rodriguez's glove (as well as most other aspects of his game) and sees him as a legitimate ML option at short. At the same time, he noted in a piece a few days ago that some Indians personnel had negative things to say about Rodriguez's character and makeup. Such a perception would help explain why the Indians didn't call Rodriguez up last year or add him to their roster this offseason, and whether those feelings end up being well-grounded or not, it's probably a good thing for all parties concerned that Rodriguez is getting a fresh start in a new organization. He seemed to fall out of the team's plans after a disappointing 2008 and then a 2009 that was mostly lost to a hamstring injury, and plenty of opportunities are certainly open for him in Pittsburgh.
In their post-draft coverage, Baseball America seems to see Rodriguez exclusively as a bench player. For example, Jim Callis tweeted that Rodriguez is an "Offensive-minded utility type. Bench fodder, not a potential regular." I think that he has the potential to end up as an average middle infield regular, however, and his 2011 ZiPS projection is surprisingly robust: a .249/.324/.374 batting line, translating to a 91 OPS+. Guys like Adam Kennedy and Jeff Keppinger have made good money as regulars based on similar levels of production, and we could have potential openings at both shortstop (given Cedeno's lack of productivity) and second base (given the uncertainty around Walker's future defensive development at the position).
In light of Rodriguez's polish and readiness, it's mildly disappointing that we didn't opt to add another player in the second round of the draft, perhaps a pitcher to compete for a bullpen spot. There have been rumors around possible trades of players like Doumit, Maholm, and Ohlendorf, and perhaps we're anticipating a need for additional spots on the 40-man roster to account for players acquired in return for one or more of those guys.
The other main development from the major league portion of the draft was the Royals ' selection of Nate Adcock with their first-round pick. The level of major league talent on Kansas City's roster is fairly low, making it slightly more likely that they'll be able to hang onto Adcock, but he still seems like something of a long shot to stick with the team all season. If he does, the decisions to roster Crotta and McPherson instead of Adcock will certainly be the subject of further scrutiny. Personally, I would have taken McPherson over Adcock and Adcock over Crotta, but it's certainly a debatable point.
In the AAA portion of the draft, we selected two players: Padres outfielder Brad Chalk and Angels catcher Travis Scott. Chalk is somewhat interesting. He was a second-round pick in 2007 out of Clemson, drawing comparisons at that time to Jason Tyner due to his speed and lack of power, both of which have continued in his transition to pro ball. He's coming off a very rough 2010, but prior to that time had shown some tools/skills, and it wouldn't be a total shock to ultimately see him emerge as a backup CF (though of course the odds are against him, as they are with any player in his situation). Scott seems more likely to be a purely organizational player. His raw batting lines look decent, but they were compiled in a very strong hitter's park at High Desert, and his CS numbers were consistently between 20 and 30 percent. The Mariners actually cut him loose partway through last season, and he spent some time in indy ball with the Northern League's Rockford RiverHawks before signing a minor league deal with the Angels in November.
We took no players in the AA portion of the draft, and no players were taken from us in either the AAA portion or the AA portion. The full list of draft picks is here . Several players we had discussed as potential picks ended up being taken, including Brad Emaus (by the Mets), Aneury Rodriguez (by the Astros), and Pedro Beato (by the Mets, again).