The 2022 Rule 5 Draft Scouting Reports

© Amanda Inscore/The News-Press USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA

After being cancelled last offseason due to the lockout, on Wednesday, the 2022 Rule 5 Draft was completed in San Diego, with 15 players selected during the Major League phase. Below are our thoughts on those players; the numbers you see in parentheses are the 40-man roster counts that were recited by each team during the draft roll call. Remember that you can venture over to The Board for more information about several of these guys.

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.

1. Washington Nationals (38)
Thad Ward, MIRP, from the Boston Red Sox
Ward’s omission from Boston’s 40-man came as somewhat of a surprise. Once upon a time, the 25-year-old righty was on track to claim a spot in the Red Sox rotation, but the delay caused by the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season was compounded by Ward needing Tommy John surgery the following year. He returned to the mound in July of 2022 and put up solid numbers, striking out nearly a third of his opponents throughout the remainder of the season. He then had a promising turn at this year’s Arizona Fall League, and now looks like a big-league ready reliever, with a mid-90s fastball and two above-average breakers. He may ultimately be a starter, but given that he’s coming off just half a season and a TJ rehab, it might work better for Ward’s innings count to start his big league career in a long relief role.

2. Oakland A’s (38)
Ryan Noda, 1B, from the Los Angeles Dodgers
Noda’s selection by Oakland was predictable – in fact, Eric all but called it in his 40-man analysis of the NL West. An obvious upgrade from the A’s alternatives, Noda has far exceeded league average at every level of the minor leagues during his professional career thus far, capped off by a stellar 2022 in which he slashed .259/.395/.474 while walking 16% of the time at Triple-A. His refined approach allows for in-game power, as he’s keenly aware of which pitches he’ll be able to do the most damage to. He’ll slot in as an everyday first baseman for the A’s, with the added benefit of outfield utility.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates (38)
Jose Hernandez, SIRP, from the Los Angeles Dodgers
Hernandez showed up to 2022 spring training with a harder breaking ball than he had previously shown, and as the season went along, he added to his fastball as well. Hernandez sat 93-96 mph in 2021 and when seen prior to Dodgers list publication in ’22, then kept throwing harder throughout the summer and ended up averaging 95-97 and touching 101 while with Double-A Tulsa. His breaking ball is now a mid-80s power breaker up to 88-89 at peak that generates plus chase and whiff rates. You’ll occasionally see a low-90s changeup from Hernandez as well, but he’s a relief prospect all the way and likely to stick in Pittsburgh’s 2022 bullpen despite below-average command.

4. Cincinnati Reds (39)
Blake Sabol, C/RF, from the Pittsburgh Pirates (traded to Giants)
It’s interesting that Sabol was announced as a right fielder. The big-framed lefty power bat had returned to catching in pro ball and it felt imperative that he become workable back there for him to be a career big leaguer. While the Fall League is a tough place to evaluate catchers because they’re working with so many new pitchers, Sabol struggled and does look more like a corner outfield defensive fit. Now that he’s been acquired by San Francisco, though, the org’s penchant for players who catch and also fill another position makes us think he’ll be used in a multi-positional capacity. While he has big all-fields pop, the big league performance of former prospects who strike out as often as Sabol has in the minors isn’t great, and a 26% K% as a 24-year-old in Double-A is pretty scary. Sabol has a vulnerability to fastballs up and away from him — it just takes his barrel too long to arrive and he tends to be late on heaters out there. If he can catch part-time, the amount of power he’ll provide makes Sabol an interesting bench piece.

5. Kansas City Royals (40)
No pick (full 40-man)

6. Detroit Tigers (38)
Mason Englert, SP, from the Texas Rangers
Englert’s second healthy pro season was fantastic, as he made 24 healthy starts and pitched just shy of 120 innings with a 30% K% and a 7% BB%, commanding four pitches with aplomb. He doesn’t throw very hard, sitting 90-94 and living off deception created by his arms-and-legs delivery and the pitch’s odd angle. After that, Englert mixes in an above-average changeup and two solid breaking balls — a mid-80s slider and upper-70s curveball — both of which he commands. He probably doesn’t have a huge long-term ceiling but Englert’s feel to pitch is polished enough for him to essentially make the leap from High-A to the majors and stick as the Tigers’ fifth starter.

7. Texas Rangers (40)
No pick (full 40-man)

8. Colorado Rockies (38)
Kevin Kelly, SIRP, from the Cleveland Guardians (traded to Rays)
Kelly is a low-slot “look” reliever with a drop-and-drive, sidearm delivery. He struck out 75 hitters in 57 relief innings at Double- and Triple-A in 2022, working with a tailing low-90s heater and sweeping mid-70s slurve. He’ll douse opposing righties in a lower leverage role.

9. Miami Marlins (39)
Nic Enright, SIRP, from the Cleveland Guardians
The Marlins add a low-variance bullpen contributor in Enright, whose low-90s fastball tends to sneak past hitters at the letters because of its angle. Enright’s tall-and-fall style delivery and overhand arm action help his slider stay hidden on release, as the pitch doesn’t pop out of his hand. He’s a low leverage relief option who might move into a more significant role if his fastball velocity can continue to climb.

10. Los Angeles Angels (40)
No pick (full 40-man)

11. Arizona Diamondbacks (40)
No pick (full 40-man)

12. Chicago Cubs (36)
No pick (passed)

13. Minnesota Twins (39)
No pick (passed)

14. Boston Red Sox (39)
No pick (passed)

15. Chicago White Sox (36)
Nick Avila, MIRP, from the San Francisco Giants
Avila, 25, features a four-pitch mix (a 95 mph fastball, plus a cutter, slider, and curveball) and broke out in 2022, inducing a chase rate over 35% on all four offerings at High- and Double-A. He was on the older side for those lower levels, but his already small walk rate decreased even further following his promotion to Double-A Richmond, and his ability to locate never faltered. He was drafted by San Francisco in 2019, when White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz was the pitching coordinator for the Giants, and that pre-existing relationship may help in his leap to the big leagues, where he’ll likely compete for a multi-inning relief role.

16. San Francisco Giants (39)
No pick (passed)

17. Baltimore Orioles (38)
Andrew Politi, SIRP, from the Boston Red Sox
Politi’s mid-90s fastball is unremarkable in terms of its shape, but his short levers and flat approach angle allow it to pair well with his upper-80s slider and low-80s curveball. None of his offerings are particularly deadly, but he creates deception with his delivery, and his ability to locate was markedly improved in 2022. He ditched his changeup and lowered his walk rate while boosting his strikeouts, and proved he could miss bats despite the average offerings.

18. Milwaukee Brewers (38)
Gus Varland, MIRP, from the Los Angeles Dodgers
Varland almost certainly would have been taken in last year’s Rule 5 had there been one. At his best, Varland pitches deep into games while sitting 92-96 mph with running life, flashes a plus slider, and shows starter-worthy changeup feel. Most of Varland’s swing-and-miss damage is done with his fastball, and despite his slider’s bite and length and his changeup’s consistent location, those two pitches aren’t as dastardly and effective. His long arm action and the way his injury history has impacted his ability to establish a foundation of starter’s innings both make it more likely that he makes a big league impact as a bulk, multi-inning reliever.

19. Tampa Bay Rays (39)
No pick (passed)

20. Philadelphia Phillies (38)
Noah Song, SIRP, from the Boston Red Sox
This was the shocker of the draft since Song hasn’t pitched since 2019 due to a naval commitment. He goes on Philly’s military reserve list and will be subject to Rule 5 roster mandates when he returns, meaning he’ll need to spend his entire return to pro ball on the big league roster or be sent back to Boston. It’s a $100,000 gamble on a pitcher who was once a first round talent, up to 99 mph with a bevy of plus secondary offerings and premium on-mound athleticism. As of publication, sources (including with the Phillies) have no new information about the potential timing of Song’s full return to pro baseball and it seems as though this pick was a purely speculative one.

21. San Diego Padres (34)
Jose Lopez, SIRP, from the Tampa Bay Rays
A husky lefty with a big, mid-90s fastball, Lopez occupied a single- and multi-inning relief role for the Rays Double-A Montgomery roster throughout much of 2022. He’s a power pitcher with stuff commensurate with the best lefty out of a contending team’s bullpen, but probably not the command/control consistency to be handed the keys to such a role right away. Lopez’s 81-85 mph slider has two-plane angle that plays as a chase pitch to lefties and as a back-foot weapon against righties, so he’s not purely a lefty specialist prospect and could grow into a more meaningful role down the line.

22. Seattle Mariners (37)
Chris Clarke, SP, from the Chicago Cubs
Clarke fits the Mariners’ mold, as they seem to care a little less about fastball shape and playability and more about how many strikes you throw, and Clarke throws a ton of them with all of his pitches. He can sink and cut his low-90s fastball, and alter the shape and speed of two breaking balls in the 77-84 mph range, with the pace of his delivery helping him sneak those past hitters in the zone for strikes. He throws strikes at a 63-70% clip with every one of his pitches and held his velocity all the way through 2022, sitting 92-94 in his final start after blowing past his career innings mark during a mostly healthy season.

23. Cleveland Guardians (39)
No pick (passed)

24. Toronto Blue Jays (39)
No pick (passed)

25. St. Louis Cardinals (38)
Wilking Rodriguez, SIRP, from the New York Yankees
Rodriguez, 32, last pitched in affiliated ball in 2015 with the Yankees, who still controlled his rights, but has spent the last several years in Mexico and Venezuela, where his arm strength has exploded. He was working 97-100 at times in August for Mexico’s Dos Laredos, up from the 90-92 range he worked during the 2022 Caribbean Series. We have him throwing two different breaking balls in the past but reports coming out of Mexico indicate Rodriguez is only a fastball/slider guy now, with the latter pitch sitting 83-86.

26. New York Yankees (39)
No pick (passed)

27. New York Mets (34)
Zach Greene, SIRP, from the New York Yankees
Greene sets up on the extreme first base side of the rubber and has an open stride down the mound, clearing his front side and enabling him to have a nearly perfect north/south arm slot from a drop-and-drive style delivery. It creates huge carry on his fastball and helps it blow past hitters at the letters even though it only sits 90-92. Greene’s slider and changeup are both average, and his changeup seemed to take a significant step forward late in 2022. He looks like a three-pitch middle reliever.

28. Atlanta Braves (38)
No pick (passed)

29. Houston Astros (37)
No pick (passed)

30. Los Angeles Dodgers (37)
No pick (passed)

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Great write up. Always love to see the smaller transactions!