2018 Rule 5 Draft Scouting Reports

The major-league phase of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft began with its annual roll call of clubs confirming the number of players currently on their 40-man rosters and ended with a total of 14 players being added to new big-league clubs. Dan Szymborski offered ZiPS projections here for the players taken earlier today. Below are brief scouting reports on the players selected, with some notes provided by Kiley McDaniel.

But, first: Our annual refresher on the Rule 5 Draft’s complex rules. Players who signed their first pro contract at age 18 or younger are eligible for selection after five years of minor-league service if their parent club has not yet added them to the team’s 40-man roster. For players who signed at age 19 or older, the timeline is four years. Teams with the worst win/loss record from the previous season pick first, and those that select a player must not only (a) pay said player’s former club $100,000, but also (b) keep the player on their 25-man active roster throughout the entirety of the following season (with a couple of exceptions, mostly involving the disabled list). If a selected player doesn’t make his new team’s active roster, he is offered back to his former team for half of the initial fee. After the player’s first year on the roster, he can be optioned back to the minor leagues.

These rules typically limit the talent pool to middle-relief prospects or position players with one-dimensional skillsets, though sometimes it involves more talented prospects who aren’t remotely ready for the majors. This creates an environment where selections are made based more on fit and team need than just talent, but teams find solid big-league role players in the Rule 5 every year and occasionally scoop up an eventual star. Let’s dive into the scouting reports on this year’s group.

First Round

1. Baltimore Orioles
Richie Martin, SS (from A’s) – Martin was a 2015 first rounder out of the University of Florida, drafted as an athletic shortstop with some pop who was still raw as a baseball player. Martin had really struggled to hit in pro ball until 2018, when he repeated Double-A and slashed .300/.368/.439.

He has average raw power but hits the ball on the ground too often to get to any of it in games. Houston has been adept at altering their players’ swings, so perhaps the new Orioles regime can coax more in-game pop from Martin, who is a perfectly fine defensive shortstop. He should compete with incumbent Orioles Breyvic Valera and Jonathan Villar, as well as fellow Rule 5 acquisition Drew Jackson, for middle infield playing time. But unless there’s a significant swing change here, Martin really only projects as a middle infield utility man.

2. Kansas City Royals
Sam McWilliams, RHP (from Rays) – McWilliams was an overslot eighth rounder in 2014 and was traded from Philadelphia to Arizona for Jeremy Hellickson in the fall of 2015. He was then sent from Arizona to Tampa Bay as one of the players to be named later in the three-team trade that sent Steven Souza to Arizona. McWilliams is pretty raw for a 23-year-old. He spent two years in the Midwest League and posted a 5.02 ERA at Double-A when the Rays pushed him there after the trade.

He has a big fastball, sitting mostly 93-94 but topping out at 97. He’ll flash an occasional plus slider but it’s a rather inconsistent pitch. The industry thought McWilliams had a chance to grow into a backend rotation arm because his stuff is quite good, but he has a much better chance of sticking as a reliever right now.

3. Chicago White Sox (Traded to Rangers)
Jordan Romano, RHP (from Blue Jays) – Romano is a 25-year-old righty who spent 2018 at Double-A. He’s a strike-throwing righty with a fastball in the 91-93 range and he has an average slider and changeup, both of which reside in the 80-84 range. His command is advanced enough that both of his secondaries play up a little bit. He likely profiles as a fifth starter or rotation depth, but the Rangers current pitching situation is quite precarious and Romano may just end up sticking around to eat innings with the hope that he sticks as a backend starter or swingman when they’re competitive once again.

4. Miami Marlins
Riley Ferrell, RHP (from Astros)- Ferrell was a dominant college closer at TCU and was consistently 93-97 with a plus slider there. He continued to pitch well in pro ball until a shoulder aneurysm derailed his 2016 season. Ferrell needed surgery that transplanted a vein from his groin into his shoulder in order to repair it, and the industry worried at the time that the injury threatened his career. His stuff is back and Ferrell is at least a big league ready middle reliever with a chance to be a set-up man.

5. Detroit Tigers
Reed Garrett, RHP (from Rangers)
Garrett’s velo spiked when he moved to the bullpen in 2017 and he now sits in the mid-90s, touches 99 and has two good breaking balls, including a curveball that has a plus-plus spin rate. He also has an average changeup. He’s a fair bet to carve out a bullpen role on a rebuilding Tigers team.

6. San Diego Padres
No Pick (full 40-man)

7. Cincinnati Reds
Connor Joe, 3B (from Dodgers) – The Reds will be Joe’s fourth team in two years as he has been shuttled around from Pittsburgh (which drafted him) to Atlanta (for Sean Rodriguez) to the Dodgers (for cash) during that time. Now 26, Joe spent 2018 split between Double and Triple-A. He’s a swing changer who began lifting the ball more once he joined Los Angeles. Joe is limited on defense to first and third base, and he’s not very good at third. He has seen a little bit of time in the outfield corners and realistically projects as a four-corners bench bat who provides patience and newfound in-game pop.

8. Texas Rangers (Traded to Royals)
Chris Ellis, RHP (from Cardinals)- Ellis, 26, spent 2018 split between Double and Triple-A. One could argue he has simply been lost amid St. Louis’ surfeit of upper-level pitching but his stuff — a low-90s sinker up to 94 and an average slider — did not compel us to include him in our Cardinals farm system write up. The Royals took Brad Keller, who has a similar kind of repertoire but better pure stuff, and got more out of him than I anticipated, so perhaps that will happen with Ellis.

9. San Francisco Giants
Travis Bergen, LHP (from Blue Jays)- Bergen looked like a lefty specialist in college but the Blue Jays have normalized the way he strides toward home, and his delivery has become more platoon-neutral in pro ball. He has a fringy, low-90s fastball but has two good secondaries in his upper-70s curveball and tumbling mid-80s change. So long as he pitches heavily off of those two offerings, he could lock down a bullpen role.

10. Toronto Blue Jays
Elvis Luciano, RHP (from Royals)- Luciano turns 19 in February and was the youngest player selected in the Rule 5 by a pretty wide margin. He was acquired by Kansas City in the trade that sent Jon Jay to Arizona. Though he’ll touch 96, Luciano’s fastball sits in the 90-94 range and he has scattershot command of it, especially late in starts. His frame is less projectable than the typical teenager so there may not be much more velo coming as he ages, but he has arm strength and an above-average breaking ball, so there’s a chance he makes the Jays roster in a relief role. He has no. 4 starter upside if his below-average changeup and command progress. If he makes the opening day roster, he’ll be the first player born in the 2000s to play in the big leagues.

11. New York Mets
Kyle Dowdy, RHP (from Indians)
Dowdy’s nomadic college career took him from Hawaii to Orange Coast College and finally to Houston, where he redshirted for a year due to injury. He was drafted by Detroit and then included as a throw-in in the Leonys Martin trade to Cleveland. He’s a reliever with a four-pitch mix headlined by an above-average curveball that pairs pretty well with a fastball that lives in the top part of the strike zone but doesn’t really spin. He also has a mid-80s slider and changeup that are fringy and exist to give hitters a little different look. He could stick in the Mets bullpen.

12. Minnesota Twins
No Pick (full 40-man)

13. Philadelphia Phillies (Traded to Orioles)
Drew Jackson, SS (from Dodgers)- Jackson is a plus runner with a plus-plus arm and average defensive hands and actions at shortstop. He’s not a great hitter but the Dodgers were at least able to cleanse Jackson of the Stanford swing and incorporate more lift into his cut. He had a 55% ground ball rate with Seattle in 2016 but that mark was 40% with Los Angeles last year. He also started seeing reps in center field last season. He projects as a multi-positional utility man.

14. Los Angeles Angels
No Pick (team passed)

15. Arizona Diamondbacks
Nick Green, RHP (from Yankees)- Green has the highest present ranking on The Board as a 45 FV, and we think he’s a near-ready backend starter. Arizona lacks pitching depth, so Green has a pretty solid chance to make the club out of spring training. He induces a lot of ground balls (65% GB% in 2018) with a low-90s sinker and also has a plus curveball.

16. Washington Nationals
No Pick (team passed)

17. Pittsburgh Pirates
No Pick (team passed)

18. St. Louis Cardinals
No Pick (full 40-man)

19. Seattle Mariners
Brandon Brennan, RHP (from Rockies)- Brennan is a 27-year-old reliever with a mid-90s sinker that will touch 97. He has an average slider that relies heavily on it’s velocity more than movement to be effective. The real bat-misser here is the changeup, which has more than 10 mph of separation from Brennan’s fastball and dying fade.

20. Atlanta Braves
No Pick (team passed)

21. Tampa Bay Rays
No Pick (full 40-man)

22. Colorado Rockies
No Pick (team passed)

23. Cleveland Indians
No Pick (team passed)

24. Los Angeles Dodgers
No Pick (full 40-man)

25. Chicago Cubs
No Pick (team passed)

26. Milwaukee Brewers
No Pick (team passed)

27. Oakland Athletics
No Pick (team passed)

28. New York Yankees
No Pick (full 40-man)

29. Houston Astros
No Pick (team passed)

30. Boston Red Sox
No Pick (team passed)

Second Round

San Francisco Giants
Drew Ferguson, OF- Ferguson is a hitterish tweener outfielder with a good combination of bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline. He has a very short, compact stroke that enables him to punch lines drives to his pull side and he’s tough to beat with velocity. Ferguson doesn’t really run well enough to play center field and lacks the power for a corner, so his likely ceiling is that of a bench outfielder.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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5 years ago

Do we know why Luciano was available besides “he failed a physical and renegotiated his deal” because that’s pretty vague. Did he negotiate in his deal he has to be rule 5 eligible?

Shirtless George Brett
5 years ago
Reply to  Shauncore

Player becomes rule 5 eligible automatically when contract is re-negotiated.

5 years ago
Reply to  Shauncore

Any player no longer on their original professional contract is Rule 5 eligible, regardless of years of minor league service time.

Pirates Hurdles
5 years ago
Reply to  realitypolice

So does that apply to Maitan, Severino, etc?