Potential Rule Five Relievers


Last week  we took a look at one position the Rays are in desparate need of help: Catcher. This week we're looking at what are likely the easiest Rule Five players to hide, pitchers. 

First, a word on selection process. I certainly do not consider myself a scout in any matter, not regarding Ben Zobrist nor Nevin Ashley.  Most of these players I knew very little about prior to the mining process. I reviewed a fanpost on Sickel's blog, where fans were encouraged to mention their team's most prominent unprotected Rule Five players. I then combed the list looking primarily at strikeouts, walks, and groundballs.  Once I narrowed the list down to 10, I turned it over to the scouts or fans of the team for a report on the player's stuff. Please note the table below does not include pitchers who have stuff who have failed to put it together yet. Its a glaring omission, but I am not qualified to make that sort of assessment.

 

Team

Age

Level

K%

BB%

GB%

tRA

MLE FIP

Craig Baker

COL

24

A+

29%

8%

50%

3.25

3.17

Josh Wilkie

WAS

25

AA

19%

6%

50%

2.56

3.38

Steven Wright

CLE

25

AA

22%

5%

44%

2.91

3.49

Disco Hayes

KC

26

AAA

11%

3%

50%

4.39

3.76

Ben Snyder

SF

24

AA

32%

5%

33%

4.15*

4.13

LOOGY

Yohan Pino

CLE

23

AAA

26%

7%

36%

3.27

4.24

Starter

Client Everts

WAS

25

AA

26%

9%

55%

3.22

4.29

Neil Wagner

CLE

25

AA

26%

12%

53%

3.51

4.71

Carlton Smith

CLE

23

AA

12%

7%

60%

4.32

5.3

Steve Johnson

BAL

22

AA

24%

11%

31%

3.61

6.24

Starter

 Age is based on the player's age today. Level represents where they spent the majority of 2009. K and BB% are based on relief except for those who are listed as starters.

Ben Snyder's #'s except for tRA are based solely vs LHB as he appears to be headed towards a career as a LOOGY.

MLE FIP represents their Major League Equivalent FIPas found on minorleaguesplits.

All stats courtesy of statcorner and minorleaguesplits

 

Craig Baker

Baker was selected in the 4th round of the 2006 draft by the Rockies. He was dominant out of the bullpen for the Rockies in A ball (2008) and in the closer role in A+ (2009).  In 2009, Baseball America named him Class A+'s Best Reliever and owner of the best Breaking Pitch. Per the Modesto Bee:

Nuts' manager Jerry Weinsteindidn't seem surprised that Baker has set the record with 23 games left to play.

"A closer usually has power stuff, and perhaps one or two dominant pitches," Weinstein said. " Craig has three of 'em — curve, slider and fastball. He has a history of being a starter, but he moved to the bullpen after he was drafted."

Josh Wilkie

Wilkie was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Nationals out of George Washington University in 2006. He climbed through the Nationals organization one level at a time and received a 2009 mid-season promotion to AAA, where he struck out 25 with 4 walks in 22.1 IP. Wilkie was in the national spotlight in the AFL and most likely will be a Rule Five selection. The Washington Post recently had a feature on Wilkie:

"His stuff is marginal minus his change-up, which is a plus major league pitch," said Paul Menhart, the pitching coach at Potomac and the Nationals' representative in Phoenix this fall. "It's a pitch that has really just allowed him to get easy outs throughout every level. He's a guy that is a legitimate option for the big leagues next year."

Told of Menhart's assessment, Wilkieresponds with enthusiasm -- "Boy, I hope that it's true" -- and continues to talk about his change-up. This is one of those topics he loves to pursue.

"The change-up has been my best pitch," said Wilkie, who also worked on a cutter while in Arizona. "It's harder than most andit has kind of a split-finger action, it falls, pretty much dives down a little bit, and comes off the hand looking like a fastball. So it's a really deceptive pitch. Instead of the curveball, which hitters can pick up pretty much right when you're throwing it, it'smore of a deception pitch. I've got a good feel with it. My hands are pretty big for my size, so I've been lucky as far as that goes."

 

 

Steven Wright

Steven Wright was selected in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft. He was one of a number of  pitchers in AAA for the Indians who made a 2009 conversion to the bullpen. Wright has had split seasons since 2007, always resulting in much better repeat level performances during the first half of the year.  Here is a profile of Wright from indiansprospectinsider.com:

 

Strengths & Opportunities:Wright throws a fastball that consistently clocks in at 89-91 MPH and has topped out at 93 MPH. In addition to the fastball he also throws a curveball, slider and changeup, with the best pitch in his arsenal the slider that grades out as a plus pitch. He has always had confidence in his slider, but he is starting to gain a lot more confidence in his curveball and starting to believe he can throw it in any count. He also has very good makeup.

 

 

Chris "Disco" Hayes

Disco was signed in March of 2006 as an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern University. Late in his career at Northwestern Hayes converted to an extreme submariner. His nickname is derived from his velocity matching the era of mirror balls and bell-bottom jeans. Longtime Royals fans have embraced him the same way they rallied around legendary closer Dab Quisenberry. Critics have doubted him from day 1, but slowly he's picked up some believers at each stop along the way to AAA. Hayes is a classic case of scouts vs. sabermetricians. Scouts doubt he has the stuff to make it to the majors, while the numbers guys think he could succeed, with the proof lying in his unlikely successes at each stop along the way. Hayes actually has a very intelligent blog and is one of the few sabermetrically inclined players to emerge thus far.  This particular post shows the intelligence of Hayes as he examines his shortcomings of the second half of 2009:

If these hits had left the bat at a downward trajectory, they would almost certainly be ground-outs as, typically, only very hard hit andwell-placed groundballs get through for hits (though, again in my defense, in my last two outings I have given up three chopped infield hits).  So, it seems I need to get more ground balls.  But last year, when I had a 1.64 ERA and a BABIP of .235, my GO/AO was 1.57.  This year in Triple-A it's 1.5.  As a submarining sinker-baller, you'd perhaps expect higher numbers, but my slider is more of a pop-up pitch because, in comparison to my sinking fastball it appears to float and guys typically hit it in the air.  As a quick example, in my recent outing in Tacoma, I recorded 4 "air outs" and three of them were soft flies to the short stop off of my slider.  I haven't had many air outs where the outfielder has tracked the ball to the wall and made a great catch.



Ben Snyder

Snyder is a big lefty who was selected in the 4th round of the 2006 draft by the Indians out of Ball State Unviersity. The 2009 season marked the first in which Snyder worked primarily from the pen. With an acceptable 4.32 FIP vs RHB, it is the stellar numbers versus lefties that lead me to believe his future could be as a LOOGY. Snyder has been dazzling at AA against lefties, striking out roughly a third while walking just 5%.  In 2008, the San Jose Giants Baseball Club had this to say about Snyder's stuff:

Snyder, a left-handed starting pitcher, enjoyed a tremendous year with Augusta a season ago. The former fourth round draft pick went 16-5 with a spectacular 2.09 ERA – second-lowest in the league. Snyder isn’t a particularly hard thrower (high 80’s fastball), but owns a stellar change-up and pinpoint control (32 BB and 145 SO over 151 innings last season). Baseball America projects that Snyder could move through the Giants minor league system quickly, but that he should open the season in San Jose.

 

Yohan Pino

Pino was the player to be named later Cleveland acquired in the Carl Pavano trade last season. He had been considered one of the Twins' better pitching prospects early in his career, but endured a minor hiccup at AA, which included a foot injury, but rebounded strong in 2009, even making 10 starts at AAA. Here is a scouting report from a scout.com profile on Pino:

Repetoire:Fastball, Curveball, Slider

Fastball: Pinodoes not overwhelm batters with his fastball, but he does have the ability to spot it wherever he wants. His fastball sits in the mid-to-high 80s, and he uses it to set up some great off-speed stuff. While his fastball is not a putawaypitch, it does seem faster when mixed in with the rest of his arsenal.

Other Pitches:Pino has a great curveball and slider, and it is used to rack up strikeouts. A pitcher who does not throw that hard is not supposed to have such a great strikeout to innings pitched ratio, but Pino knows his pitches, and uses them to their full potential. He has great command over his entire arsenal, and he is only going to get better as he begins to fill out his 6’3’’ frame.



Clint Everts

Everts was the 5th overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Expos. He would undergo Tommy John surger in the 2004 season. Having fully recovered and been transitioned into the bullpen, Everts progressed from A+ to AA to AAA. He was outstanding with a K/9 above 9 at all three levels, but did battle walks a bit at AAA . MLB recently posted this blurb:

Clint Everts, RHP (Washington):Everts, 25, finished the 2009 season withhis original team, though they were known as the Expos when they drafted the teenager with the lively fastball, killer curveball and advanced changeup withthe fifth overall pick in 2002 out of high school in Texas. Injuries (2004 Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery) and an eventual shift to the bullpen slowed that ascent, as '09 marked his debut above Class A. His combined efforts between Advanced-A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg andTriple-A Syracuse -- going 8-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 44 games in relief, striking out 68 in 60 innings and walking just 26 while limiting hitters to a .228 average -- should open eyes.

 

Neil Wagner


Wagner is coming off an impressive first full season in AA where he registered a K/9 of 10.18. Walks are definitely a concern, especially when jumping two levels. Per indiansprospectinsider from 2008:

The Indians drafted Wagner in the 21stround of the 2005 Draft out of North Dakota State University. Wagner might be a sleeper, and someone to keep an eye on. In 2006 at Mahoning Valley, Wagner racked up 17 saves and posted a 1.39 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .143 average and struck out 50 hitters in 32 innings. Wagner closed in college, andat this point it appears the Indians intend to develop him as a late inning reliever. Outside of Adam Miller, Wagner arguably has the most explosive fastball in the system that touches 96-98MPH consistently. He shows good control (2.24 BB/9 rate) andthe ability to put players away with his dominating fastball (10.50 K/9). While he controls his fastball well and can blow it by hitters, the key to him becoming a bonafiderelief prospect will be the development of at least one secondary pitch, which he has struggled with. Wagner was sent the Hawaii Winter League this offseason to primarily work on his two offspeed pitches, a breaking ball and changeup.

 

Carlton Smith

Carlton Smith was selected in the 24th round of the 2004 draft. He is the Jeremy Beckham to former #1 Indians prospect 3B Corey Smith.  Smith throws with a lot of sinking action, so his defensive dependant numbers would improve with a good infield. Once again, per indiansprospectinsider.com:

Smith pounds the zone andpitches to contact withhis sinking fastball which hovers around 91-93 MPH andhas topped out as high as 95 MPH. He complements the fastball with an above average slider, split-finger, and is still working on developing a changeup

 

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was selected out of high school in the 13th round of the 2005 draft by the Dodgers. Johnson ranked as the Dodgers 15th best prospect prior to the 2009 season, during which he was shipped to the Orioles as part of the George Sherrill trade. Having worked primarily as a starter, he has the makeup of a potential rule five bullpen conversion. Many Orioles fans were disappointed they chose to protect former Ray Rhyne Hughes over Johnson.

Per bleacher report:

There's more to Johnson than just the impressive stats, though. While his stuff isn't as explosive as Jacobson's, his baseball intelligence is off the charts (thanks Dad!). He is widely known as one of the smartest pitchers around, and his desire to win is impressive.

In terms of stuff, the cupboard isn't thread-bare. Johnson compliments a low 90s fastball with a so-so curve and an average changeup. The pitch Johnson is working hard at developing, however, is a slider that made great strides this year.

Ask any scout and they'll project Johnson as back of the rotation starter at best, but most likely a long reliever. Interesting...

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