The annual winter meetings wrapped up as usual with the Rule 5 draft, and it had the same amount of action as usual. 42 players were taken, 15 in the ML phase, 27 in the AAA phase and zero in the AA phase. To recap, teams with open spots on the 40 man roster can pay $50,000 to pick up an eligible player not protected on another team's 40 man roster. If the new team can keep that player on the 25 man roster all season, they permanently acquire that player's rights. If they can't do that, the player is subjected to waivers, and eventually the original team can pay $25,000 to bring the player back. In the two minor league phases of the draft, teams can select players not on a list of 75 protected minor league players. Players selected in the minor league phases do not have to be returned to their old organization. The Rays lost lefties Kyle Lobstein and Braulio Lara in the Major League phase, and righty Scott Shuman was picked up by San Francisco in the AAA phase.
LHP Kyle Lobstein, picked by Mets and traded to Detroit: Lobstein was drafted out of high school by the Rays in the 2nd round of 2008. At 6'3 and 200 pounds, he was expected to add to his mid to high 80's fastball velocity as he got stronger, but it never happened. With only an average fastball, Lobstein relies on mixing up all his pitches, including a solid changeup and curveball, and throwing strikes to get outs. With AA Montgomery in his age 22 season in 2012, his K% was a full-season career high 20.7%, but his BB% was also a full-season career high at 11.1%. He most recently appeared in Baseball America's Rays top 30 prospects after the 2010 season at #29, but he dropped out last off-season.
He's a flyball pitcher which won't hurt him at Comerica Park, and while he's been a starter his entire minor league career, he could have some success in relief. In 2012, Lobstein struck out nearly one out of every three lefty batters he faced. This was higher than other seasons in his career, but if he can sustain something close to that, he could work out of the bullpen as a lefty specialist. Phil Coke and former Rays farmhand Darin Downs did good work against lefties out of Detroit's bullpen in 2012, but obviously he's going to get a look in spring training.
LHP Braulio Lara, picked by Miami: Mentioned in a lot of Rule 5 previews around the prospect community, Lara was selected by the Marlins despite not pitching above high-A in his career. With a fastball that has reached triple digits in the past and a potentially average curveball, it's easy to see why an organization desperate for talent would take a chance on Lara. Despite the stuff, he only struck out 15.9% of batters he faced with high-A Charlotte last year, and his 18.8 K% against lefties wasn't that much better. Throwing strikes has always been a problem for him, and his BB% rose from 10.6% in 2011 to 11.2% in 2012.
It's hard to imagine Lara sticking in the majors unless the Marlins are absolutely determined to keep him. He hasn't had success on the field despite his stuff, and his strikeout rate and allowing more hits than innings pitched is disappointing given his fastball. Pitching for the legendary Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Republic this winter, Lara has walked seven and struck out four in 5.1 innings. Pitchers with his fastballs, especially lefties, will always get chances, but I suspect he'll be back at Charlotte Sports Park at some point before the minor league clubs break camp.
RHP Scott Shuman, picked by San Francisco in AAA phase: Shuman wasn't a very good pitcher at Auburn as an amateur, but the Rays took him in the 19th round in 2009 anyway because of his great stuff. He pitches in the mid to high 90's with a great slider, but unfortunately he was a top graduate from the Jason Neighborgall School of Command. After a good 2010 season with Bowling Green with a 1.23 WHIP, 37% strikeout rate and 12.7% walk rate, his control kind of fell apart. In 2011 with Charlotte, he still struck out 35.3% of batters, but he walked 24.2%. In 2012 with Montgomery, his strikeout rate decreased to 29.4%, and his walk rate increased to 25.5%. The Giants won't have to return Shuman, and if they somehow find a way to straighten out his control, they have themselves a major leaguer.
Now for a quick rundown of the rest of the player movement in the Major League phase of the draft:
Houston selects RHP Josh Fields from Boston: Last week I covered Fields in my Rule 5 preview, and it's not a surprise that he was taken. The Astros obviously have a need for talent in the majors, and Fields has the stuff to pitch there even if his improved ability to throw strikes doesn't carry over to 2013.
Cubs select RHP Hector Rondon from Cleveland: Rondon was once a top 10 prospect in Cleveland's system, but elbow injuries have limited him to 41.2 innings over the last three seasons. He seems to be healthy now and pitching effectively in the Venezuelan Winter League. Although he's missed a lot of innings lately, he does have over 100 innings of experience in AAA, so he's probably close to ready for the majors. The Cubs probably have room to keep him on board for a season. He commands his fastball well, but his slider and changeup leave much to be desired.
Colorado selects LHP Danny Rosenbaum from Washington: Rosenbaum doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but he throws a lot of strikes and generates groundballs. Obviously that's something that is important in Colorado, and with nearly 200 innings in AA over the last two seasons, he's probably pretty close to being able to handle his own in the majors. His changeup has improved a bit lately, and that'll be important in his success because his curveball's effectiveness will be limited at Coors Field. Whether they're using a four, five, six or 10 man rotation, Colorado definitely has an opening for him if he pitches well.
Minnesota selects RHP Ryan Pressly from Boston: This off-season, Minnesota is busting their stereotype of only valuing command and control pitchers between the acquisitions of Alex Meyer, Trevor May and now Pressly. He has an arsenal deep enough to start, led by a low 90's fastball and curveball, He had his most success after moving to the bullpen though, and his a very good stint in the Arizona Fall League this off-season might've boosted his stock. He struck out 18 and walked just one in 14 innings.
Cleveland selects 1B Chris McGuiness from Texas: McGuiness is another player I mentioned in my Rule 5 preview, but with the addition of James Loney since then, McGuiness didn't seem like a fit for the Rays. It's not surprising that he landed with another team with a need at first base though, and he fits their recent mold of first basemen without a bat that really profiles at the position. Unless they add Kevin Youkilis at first, the door will be open for McGuiness to stay in the majors.
Miami selects OF Alfredo Silverio from Los Angeles: Silverio entered 2012 as the Dodgers' 4th best prospect and top position player prospect, but an off-season car accident kept him out the entire 2012 season. If he's healthy, he certainly has the kind of talent the Marlins need. He's a potential five tool player, led by his hit and power tools that resulted in a .883 OPS for AA Chattanooga in 2012. He hit 16 home runs and 42 doubles, and despite being an average runner, an obscene 18 triples. He's not very patient, but he doesn't strike out much either. He could be a solid defender in a corner outfield spot, and he could certainly stick in the majors if he's healthy enough to hit well in 2013.
Boston selects (and trades to Detroit) 2B Jeff Kobernus from Washington: Kobernus really doesn't offer much upside at second base, and I'm not exactly sure how he fits in with the Tigers. He's spent very little time at any position besides second, so it's hard to imagine he could fit in a utility role. His great baserunning is easily the best part of his game, and he plays with the energy team love to have. Unfortunately, he doesn't really hit. Kobernus has batted an empty .282 the last two seasons, offering essentially no power and not being a particularly patient hitter. After being listed in Baseball America's top 30 Washington prospects last off-season, they said he has the upside of a starting second baseman, but it's hard to see it.
Arizona selects RHP Starlin Peralta from the Cubs: After pitching three consecutive seasons for the Cubs' Dominican Summer League affiliate, Peralta has reached low-A in the two seasons since. He's thrown 156.1 innings at the level the last two years, but he'll be facing an uphill battle trying to stay in the majors in 2013. His tendency to allow home runs would be especially troubling with the Diamondbacks. He has an above average fastball in the low 90's and complements it with a nice slider. His splits against righties aren't really significantly better than against lefties, so he may not even be able to stick as a righty specialist.
Philadelphia selects CF Ender Inciarta from Arizona: Hours before completing a trade for Ben Revere, they drafted Ben Revere-lite from the Diamondbacks. The small left handed center fielder runs down balls very well in the outfield and steals bases pretty efficiently, but he'll be lucky to even hit for a high empty batting average. His plate approach is okay, but unless the Phillies are willing to commit a roster spot to a player that's only going to pinch run, he should be headed back to Arizona at some point.
White Sox select SS Angel Sanchez from Anaheim: After just signing Sanchez over a month ago, Anaheim sees the White Sox take him away, raising the question why Chicago didn't just sign him in the first place. Sanchez has over 500 ML AB with Houston, and they've been largely unsuccessful. It seems unusual for a player with that much experience to go in the Rule 5 draft, and it doesn't even seem like he's a very good defender. This one is a bit puzzling to me.
Baltimore selects LHP T.J. McFarland from Cleveland: McFarland finally cracked Cleveland's top 30 in last year's Baseball America rankings, and his ability to throw strikes has been what's gotten him there. Like a lot of fringy lefties, his fastball tends to hover in the high 80's without a real out pitch, but he is able to generate some ground balls. He hasn't really allowed many home runs in his minor league career, but it still seems like a profile that's not a fit in the AL East.
Texas selects RHP Coty Woods from Colorado: The Rockies could probably use all the pitching help they can get, but Texas is taking a chance on this side-armer. Ron Washington certainly loves making pitching changes, and he can probably find room for a righty specialist. He struck out 20.7% of righties he faced across two levels in 2012, and he can keep the ball on the ground against them too with an average fastball around 90 MPH. Even if his stuff isn't top notch, pitchers with that arm slot can certainly survive in the majors if used properly.
Houston selects 1B Nate Freiman from San Diego: Freiman was a World Baseball Classic qualifier star for Israel, slamming four home runs in three games as they nearly won their pool to advance to the big tournament this spring. The 6'7 Freiman has okay power, but like McGuiness, it's probably not enough to profile at first base. Moving to the AL, Houston is trying to find anything at first base or DH before Jonathan Singleton is ready to go sometime in 2013. He has a nice plate approach and makes pretty good contact, so he does deserve a chance to make the club.