The Rule 5 draft was instituted by MLB to curb teams from stockpiling too many prospects in the minors. The draft allows teams to select prospects that are not on a team’s 40 man roster that have accrued 4+ years of MiLB service time with the caveat that the player must be kept in the majors for an entire year.
These unique rules prevent teams from poaching players and allow players with no path to the majors in their current organization a chance to shine at the big league level. Most notably, Roberto Clemente, Dan Uggla, Johan Santana, and Josh Hamilton were Rule 5 players that went on to have all star careers. Most though do not pan out and are low risk pick ups that fly under the radar. So why should we care?
Well, this season’s Rule 5 draft seems to be loaded with talent that can help out your team right away. There are also a number of exciting prospects that may not be MLB ready but could be worth a shot of development at the Major league level. This mock draft is an exercise in conjecture……but isn’t all our off season news while we await for the stove to turn on?
Detroit Tigers – Wes Rogers, OF, COL
The Tigers’ roster is a bit of a mess with high priced vets and shallow OF depth on the roster with no real speed. There are 2 guys that I think could pique the Tigers’ interest. Wes Rogers is a 23 year old OF from Colorado. Rogers stole 70 bases in High A and has 181 SB in his career. The Tigers have 4 guys on their 40 man listed as outfielders. Nick Castellanos, Mike Gerber, JaCoby Jones, and Mikie Mahtook. The Tigers could also look at Burch Smith, a pitcher from the Rays organization. After struggling with injuries in 2017, Smith lit up the Arizona Fall League with 29 K’s in 20 IP. However, the Tigers protected 4 pitchers, so I think that Smith wouldn’t fit into their plans.
San Francisco Giants – Burch Smith, RP, TB
The Giants protected 3 pitchers and catcher Aramis Garcia and like the Tigers, the roster is full of high priced vets that are clogging the path of young guys. Couple that with the reported rumors of their pursuit of Giancarlo Stanton, I am led to believe that if SF makes a selection, they would seek to tighten up a bullpen that really let them down. I can see them taking Burch Smith here. He is a versatile pitcher than can act as a swing man, 5th starter, or 7th-8th inning guy. His K rate in the AFL definitely raised some eyebrows and his age, 27, makes him a low risk no brainer pick here.
Philadelphia Phillies – Jose Mesa, Jr., RP, NYY
The Phillies are loaded with young starting pitching that they added to the 40 man and they boast a young offensive core led by Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, and Cesar Hernandez. They have no need to roster a young hitter that would serve only as a utility guy so they will go with Mesa, the hard throwing righty and son of the former Indians closer. Mesa was dominant in High A/AA posting a 1.93 ERA and 101 K in 84 IP. He would provide Philly with a reliable bullpen arm that has potential to develop into a starter or a high upside late inning arm.
Chicago White Sox – Kevin Cron, 1B, AZ
Chicago is loaded with young OF and SP talent. While they could take another arm to bolster the bullpen, they go with Cron, a 24 year old power hitting first baseman. There are rumors that the Sox will shop Jose Abreu this offseason and he should net a huge return. Cron hit 25 HR in AA and has posted 3 straight 25+ HR seasons while improving his BB rate each season.
Cincinnati Reds – Nestor Cortes, SP, NYY
The Reds’ starting pitching and bullpen is a mess. Cortes pitched at 3 levels and can be a valuable swing starter/long reliever. He has a career 2.08 ERA and has struck out 344 hitters in 324.1 IP.
New York Mets – Pass
The Mets 2017 season was a season troubled by injuries. When healthy this is a playoff team that boasts an elite starting staff and a really good bullpen. The front office has committed to top prospects Dom Smith and Amed Rosario, so I don’t see any need on the 25 man roster that one of the remaining Rule 5 guys could fill.
San Diego Padres – Jose Almonte, SP, AZ
San Diego GM, AJ Preller, was active during the 2016 Rule 5 draft and have shown that as an organization, they have no problem letting prospects develop at the MLB level. With a loaded farm system and a deep roster of hitters on the 40 man, the Padres will take Jose Almonte, a 22 year old, RHP from rival Arizona. Almonte more than held his own in the hitter friendly California League, posting a 3.58 ERA and 10.48 K/9.
Atlanta Braves – Max Pentecost, C/1B, TOR
The Braves are tough to figure out. With Acuna on the way to Atlanta joining Freddie Freeman, Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and Ozzie Albies, the Braves boast a nice young core of hitters to go along with the bevy of SP prospects on the way. They have a lot of depth everywhere but the bullpen. If Burch Smith were to fall to them, he would be the low risk high upside piece that John Copollela/John Hart have targeted in the past. However, with the front office shake up and the hiring of Alex Anthopolous, the Braves will take a risk on former 1st round pick and local star, Max Pentecost, who Anthopolous drafted when he was GM of the Blue Jays.
Oakland Athletics – Nick Burdi, RP, MIN
Burdi, the former 2nd round pick out of Louisville in 2014, has struggled with injuries the past 2 seasons. Meanwhile, Billy Beane has assembled a solid young infield, led by Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, with more help on the way. Burdi will give Oakland a high upside reliever that has the ability to put up big strikeout numbers.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Raynel Espinal, RP, NYY
The Pirates, like the Mets, boast a veteran team that is accustomed to winning. Down seasons by ace Gerritt Cole and the slow development of top prospect, Tyler Glasnow, leave the rotation in a bit of doubt, but the core remains….for now. One thing that every team needs though is high upside bullpen arms. Espinal gives Pittsburgh that. 93 K’s in 74 IP last season makes him an intriguing prospect in a loaded Yankees farm system. His stuff plays at higher levels.