The 2019 Rule 5 Draft Scouting Reports by Eric Longenhagen December 12, 2019 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 while dozens of hungover industry folks loitered near the doorway with their luggage. 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 injured 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. Conversations with sources at Wednesday evening’s Scout of the Year ceremony indicated the draft might be wild, with anticipated roster changes — the 26th active roster spot and three batter minimum for relievers — driving uncertainty. Would non-competitive teams use the extra roster spot to stash the sort of player who typically wouldn’t be able to stick without such flexibility? There was more uncertainty surrounding team approaches than discussion about players who might go. First Round 1. Detroit Tigers Rony Garcia, RHP (from NYY) Garcia, who turns 22 next week, spent most of 2019 at Double-A Trenton, where he posted a FIP of 4.21. He sits 91-94 and touches 95 with pretty significant fastball spin for that velo range — about 2400 rpm on average — but because Garcia has a lower arm slot, the pitch doesn’t have the kind of lift that would miss bats. The arm slot and Garcia’s above-average, two-plane breaking ball make him especially tough on righties, who he held to a .197/.273/.356 line in 2019. The changeup needs to get better if Garcia is going to continue to start, but Detroit is becoming quite good at implementing coherent pitch design, so maybe it will, or perhaps the Tigers will find a way to give him a relevant second breaking ball. 2. Baltimore Orioles Brandon Bailey, RHP (from HOU) Another spin rate monster, Bailey is a short righty with a deep repertoire very likely to stick on the Orioles’ 25-man next year. Like most pitchers who’ve been touched by Astros player development, Bailey’s fastball plays at the top of the strike zone, and it helps set up an above-average, 12-to-6 curveball. His changeup will flash plus and he can vary his breaking ball shape to look like a slider or cutter to give hitters different looks. All of these components allow Bailey to strike out lots of batters without big velocity (91-94, touch 96), but his approach to pitching is not conducive to efficient strike-throwing, so he’s likely a multi-inning relief piece or swing man who works about 100 innings during the course of a season. 3. Miami Marlins Sterling Sharp, RHP (from WSH) Sharp doesn’t throw very hard (I had him peaking at 93 in the Fall League, sitting 88-92) but his heater has heavy sink which has helped him generate a nearly 65% groundball rate in the minors. He is lithe and lean and very athletic, enabling him to repeat a pretty complex delivery and throw a lot of strikes, but at age 24, it’s unlikely that he grows into better velocity. Sharp’s changeup is plus, which should enable him to miss big league bats, but some combination of his mechanical deception and command will need to enable his slider to play since it’s not a very good pitch on its own. 4. Kansas City Royals Stephen Woods Jr., RHP (from TBR) Woods had big stuff in college but struggled to throw strikes. The Giants made him a more viable strike-thrower before trading him to Tampa Bay as part of the robust Evan Longoria package. At his best, Woods was 93-96 with a plus curveball. He had a labrum issue in 2018 and missed the whole year, then came back in 2019 and posted an ERA under two, albeit as a 24-year-old in A-ball. His velo was down, 91-94 touching 96, but he has the coveted 12:30 spin axis on the fastball and still has quality breaking stuff. If his velo is all the way back in the spring he has a shot to stick, but he’s a high-risk to bounce back to the Rays anyway because of his erratic history of control. 5. Toronto Blue Jays No Pick (passed) 6. Seattle Mariners Yohan Ramirez, RHP (from HOU) Ramirez’s career got off to a late start (he didn’t begin playing pro ball until he was 21) and he was also a little slow to develop, languishing away in A-ball for several years. His stuff really started to pop in 2018, and then last season he was showing bat-missing, multi-inning stuff — 92-97, up to 99, two plus breaking balls. He walked 74 hitters in just over 100 innings last year, and that needs to be better if he’s going to stick. 7. Pittsburgh Pirates No Pick (passed) 8. San Diego Padres No Pick (full 40-man) 9. Colorado Rockies No Pick (full 40-man) 10. Los Angeles Angels No Pick (full 40-man) 11. Chicago White Sox No Pick (passed) 12. Cincinnati Reds Mark Payton, CF (from OAK) Teams got an extra-long look at Payton because he was on the Team USA Premier12 roster that saw action deep into the fall. He’s 28, but a swing change (evidenced by his 45% groundball rate in 2018 while with the Yankees, 34% last year with Oakland) unlocked dormant raw power and he had nearly as many homers in 2019 as he had in his entire minor league career up to that point. That production was no doubt aided by the hitting environment in Las Vegas and the Triple-A baseball, but tools-wise Payton is a bunch of 50s and 55s, he hits left-handed, and looks like a solid fourth outfielder. 13. San Francisco Giants Dany Jimenez, RHP (from TOR) Like Ramirez, Jimenez also signed late, agreeing to his first pro contract just before he turned 22. He also missed most of 2017 due to injury, and those sorts of factors combined to limit him to just 33 innings above A-ball even though he is about to turn 26. He sits 93-95, touches 97, the heater spins at about 2450 rpm, and Jimenez’s vertical arm slot makes it hard for hitters to discern the fastball and his power breaking ball from one another. I think he’s pretty likely to stick in a relief role. 14. Texas Rangers No Pick (passed) 15. Philadelphia Phillies (traded to Oakland Athletics for cash) Vimael Machin, SS (from CHC) Machin walked more than he struck out at Double-A (he was 25 all summer) and hit .294/.386/.403 there, he can play all four infield spots passably, and he’s a lefty stick. That’s a rosterable utility guy. 16. Chicago Cubs Trevor Megill, RHP (from SDP) A fastball/slider reliever who had a 32% strikeout rate at Triple-A, Megill will bump 96 and his fastball has tough angle because he’s 6-foot-8. He’s had some injury issues each of the last two years, which, if they continue, might actually make him more likely to stick with the Cubs long term. He profiles in middle relief. 17. Boston Red Sox Jonathan Arauz, SS (from HOU) This is the only draft-and-stash guy selected in this year’s Rule 5. If Arauz sticks on Boston’s roster it’ll be because he plays a capable middle infield utility role during his first year with the org. The profile for such a role would seem to be here. Arauz’s arm, hands, and actions are all good enough for shortstop, he’s a switch-hitter with good feel for contact, he just lacks typical big league strength and physicality right now. If the bat isn’t getting knocked out of his hands in big league spring training, maybe he’ll stick, but to me the probability is low here. 18. Arizona Diamondbacks No Pick (passed) 19. New York Mets No Pick (full 40-man) 20. Milwaukee Brewers No Pick (passed) 21. St. Louis Cardinals No Pick (full 40-man) 22. Washington Nationals No Pick (passed) 23. Cleveland Indians No Pick (full 40-man) 24. Tampa Bay Rays No Pick (passed) 25. Atlanta Braves No Pick (passed) 26. Oakland Athletics No Pick (passed) 27. Minnesota Twins No Pick (passed) 28. New York Yankees No Pick (full 40-man) 29. Los Angeles Dodgers No Pick (passed) 30. Houston Astros No Pick (passed) Second Round Baltimore Orioles Michael Rucker, RHP (from CHC) We’ve been on Rucker for a little while because his deceptive delivery (he hides the ball well) helped enable an otherwise fringy fastball to play. Rucker pitched his way into the Double-A rotation in 2018 but was put back in the bullpen last year and his velocity jumped. He’s now 92-95, touching 97, and his curveball and changeup are both average, while the curve flashes above. Minor League Phase Guys I Care or Know About The Orioles popped two players, first baseman Cristopher Cespedes and second baseman Wilbis Santiago, from Cleveland’s lower minors. Cespedes had the second-highest average exit velo in the minors last year at a whopping 96 mph on average, but he’s a first base-only guy who’s been in rookie ball for several years. I love Santiago’s swing and think he’s been a victim of Cleveland’s terrific middle infield depth in the lower minors, which is why he’s been quite old for his level. Mariners selection Brian O’Keefe (from St. Louis) is a bad defensive catcher with some thump. The Mariners have started having minor league catchers set up on one knee and this seems to aid in framing ability, at least in the minors. Alex Aquino, the Pirates selection from Atlanta, is a converted shortstop up to 95 on the mound. Padres selection Brady Feigl is a rare high-spin sinker guy who’ll provide upper-level bullpen depth in case of a catastrophic series of injuries. Angels picks Edwin Yon and Erick Julio are somewhat interesting. Julio generates plus-plus extension on his fastball so it looks like 95 instead of 91-93. Yon is a lanky corner outfielder with an NBA small forward’s build. He hasn’t played much lately due to a terrible leg injury, but he has monster raw power projection because of the frame. Lever length will be an issue for his bat-to-ball skills. The Rockies grabbed oft-injured righty Michael Petersen from Milwaukee. I’ve seen Petersen up to 98 with a plus breaking ball, but he’s 25 and hasn’t gotten past A-ball yet. He’s a lightning in a bottle type of add.