The Rule 5 Draft was completed at the GM Meetings last week, and by the end of it, everyone was dying to know if Philadelphia had hit the jackpot with infielder Michael Martinez (the answer: no). But even without anyone that projects as the next Dan Uggla or Joakim Soria, there were a few interesting guys nabbed in this year's draft that could be interesting and/or effective enough to stick in the majors all season.
MLBTR has a quick explanation as to how the draft works, but the key thing to remember here is that selected players must remain on the team's 25-man roster or MLB disabled list for the entire season or they must pass the player through waivers and offer him back to his original team for $25,000. So you can't exactly take a toolsy-but-raw A-baller with big upside in the Rule 5 draft unless you're willing to basically punt a roster spot for an entire season, which isn't exactly a reasonable proposition.
While the draft used to be a time when teams were able to take some riskier picks, you now commonly see teams hoping that they can nab someone from Triple-A that can become a solid role player- a utility infielder or a solid middle reliever. Rarely do teams land legitimate impact players through the draft, although we've seen it in the past from the likes of Uggla, Soria, Johan Santana and Shane Victorino, among others. But some guys here are more likely to stick than others, and we'll take a look at a few of those guys today.
Utility Infielders With A Small Chance At Starting
Two of the more interesting guys taken this season were utility infielders, and both have a good chance of sticking. Pittsburgh's Josh Rodriguez and New York's Brad Emaus were both snagged from AL teams after strong individual seasons in Triple-A, and they could both stick all season if they can show up strong this spring. There's been some talk from both fanbases about potential everyday jobs, with Rodriguez replacing Ronny Cedeno at shortstop in Pittsburgh and Emaus replacing Luis Castillo at second base in New York, but bench roles seem to be most likely, and most appropriate, for both of them. The Pirates selected Rodriguez from the Indians with the first overall pick, while Emaus came to New York from Toronto a few picks later.
Neither player offers much with the glove beyond some versatility- Emaus isn't capable of playing shortstop and neither player plays above-average defense at any respective position- but they're both adequate at second base and third base, and at least Rodriguez can play shortstop for extended stretches. If either of these players is going to emerge as an everyday player, it will likely happen with the bat. Neither player is particularly old, Rodriguez turns 26 in a couple weeks while Emaus turns 25 in March, so there's hope that they can translate some of their Triple-A success to the majors. Both Rodriguez (.293/.372/.486) and Emaus (.298/.395/.495) put up great numbers in extended Triple-A action in 2010, and each is considered to have some decent pop for the middle infield. Emaus has a stronger grasp of the strikeout and better contact skills, as reflected by his exceptional 81/69 BB/K ratio last season compared to Rodriguez's 50/85 mark, although many consider Rodriguez to have a bit more power and superior defensive skills.
Both players could emerge as second-division regulars at second base with good OBP skills, decent power for the position and below-average defense, although they're probably both more likely to find extended tours of duty in the majors as utility infielders.
Possible Fifth Starters
A fifth starter doesn't sound like much, but if you can land a decent starter in the Rule 5 draft, that's a job well done. Minnesota's Scott Diamond and Houston's Aneury Rodriguez stand out to me as guys that could end up landing in the rotation at some point. The two pitchers differ in many ways, from handedness to velocity, but both profile as possible back-of-the-rotation starters on their new teams. Diamond, a 24-year-old lefty selected from Atlanta, works primarily off of his strong breaking stuff and a decent sinking fastball, and he fits into the Minnesota mold with good control. He's not likely to beat out Brian Duensing or Nick Blackburn for an Opening Day spot in the rotation, but if he can stick in the bullpen he'd presumably be one of the first names called if a starter went down.
Rodriguez is a tad more intriguing, with youth (he turns 23 today) and a fastball that can touch 94 on his side. He's coming off a solid season in Tampa Bay, where he put up a 3.80 ERA with solid peripherals, and should compete with Nelson Figueroa and Ryan Rowland-Smith to be in the team's Opening Day rotation. He lacks Diamond's strike-throwing ability but has a clear advantage in velocity, and has two decent offspeed offerings in his curveball and change.
These are a commonplace in the Rule 5 draft- teams draft a pitcher with a big-time fastball but little else in terms of command or breaking stuff, and hope that they'll be able to have him stick as a one-trick pony, as least initially. This year's draft was no different, with a bevy of young arms that fit the profile: Seattle's Jose Flores, Baltimore's Adrian Rosario, Washington's Elvin Ramirez, Texas' Mason Tobin, San Diego's George Kontos, and the two New York picks: Robert Fish for the Yankees and Pedro Beato for the Mets.
Ramirez and Beato are probably the two guys with the best odds of landing a bullpen role, although one could see Kontos sticking in San Diego pretty easily, too. I'm not really sure that Flores, Rosario, Tobin and Fish can stick- Flores, Rosario and Tobin are quite raw, while Fish is coming off of a rough 2010. Ramirez is a former Met that turns some heads with a high-90's fastball this fall, although the 23-year-old is going to have to improve his command- he walked 49 guys in 79 innings between High Single-A and Double-A in 2010. Beato was a starter in Baltimore for years, but shifted to the bullpen in 2010 and put up a 2.11 ERA in 59 innings, so he could stick with a strong spring. Like Beato, Kontos shifted to the bullpen in 2010 after years of starting and put up strong numbers in Double-A, and a move to Petco Park could help to cover up some of his command issues.
There's definitely some potential for an Evan Meek-like find from this class.