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Pirates Pick John Raynor in Rule 5

The Pirates have selected Marlins outfielder John Raynor with the second pick in the Rule 5 draft. Raynor struggled at Class AAA New Orleans last year, but he had an impressive minor league profile before that, posting nice averages and OBPs, even in 2008 after skipping a level by heading straight from the South Atlantic League to AA. He's also blazingly fast, but he's not a slap hitter--he hit 13 homers in both 2007 and 2008, although he only had six last year. 

Finding information about Marlins prospects is tricky, because no one cares about the Marlins, let alone their minor leaguers. But my guess is that Raynor can handle center pretty well. He's fast, he wins some praise for his defense, and Baseball America guessed in 2007 that he would wind up being the Marlins' starting center fielder.

The downsides with Raynor are that he strikes out a bit too much for a prospect of his type, doesn't have a ton of power and is coming off a pretty bad season.

Raynor came up all the time in Rule 5 discussions before the draft, but I didn't see this coming because, well, the Pirates didn't really need outfielders and, in particular, they're really short on relief pitching. So they must have liked Raynor a lot. It's certainly possible that Raynor won't stick, but if he does, it could mean even less playing time for Brandon Moss. As it stands now, Lastings Milledge and Garrett Jones will probably man the corner outfield spots, with Jeff Clement playing first. Moss hasn't hit as well as Delwyn Young, and time will tell if he plays defense as well as Raynor, so if Raynor makes the team Moss could be a spare part without much of a use. And if the Bucs sign one of the outfielders they're interested in, like Rick Ankiel or Xavier Nady... well, in that case, my guess is that Raynor would be sent back to the Marlins, but if he isn't then constructing the bench could get really tricky.

Overall, though, Raynor's performance record before 2009 makes him an interesting pick. If he can recover some of the ability to hit for average he's shown in the past, then he can be a valuable bench player.