The yearly Rule 5 will take place on the last day of Winter Meetings. The players the Rays have protected -- and those left unprotected — were profiled by jtmorgan and Daniel Russell earlier in the month. Here we consider players the Rays add.
For those who need a refresher: The Rule 5 draft pool includes any player who signed his first pro contract in 2013 (or signed his first pro contract in 2012 but was younger than 19) who is NOT on a 40 man roster. Players who are taken in the Rule 5 draft must remain on their new club’s major league roster throughout the season. Otherwise, they are offered back to their original club.
While the talent in this pool may not be deep, on occasion clubs have made significant pick-ups by carefully combing through what is essentially the remainders bin. Rays fans are all too aware of having lost Josh Hamilton to the Rule 5 draft; players like Delino DeShields Jr. or Odubel Herrera have been able to make significant impacts with their new team after getting picked this way.
Who might the Rays target this year?
Tyler Heineman, C, Houston Astros
Arguably the best prospect available in this year’s Rule 5 draft, Heineman is going to be a big help to the team that drafts him. He shows incredible instincts behind the plate, grading as a plus defender and excellent pitch framer.
While his offense may still be a work in progress, Heineman has some strengths. He is a switch hitter who has always shown good plate discipline. His power tool, however, is badly lacking.
Of the players on this list, Heineman should be the most appealing to the Rays, considering their weak catching situation and the fact that he will be both controllable and cheap for a number of years.
Kyle Wren, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
One of Shakespeare's most famous quotes came from his play Romeo and Juliet, in which the character Juliet says this: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." While the sentiment expressed in those two sentences holds true, some names are simply cooler than others, and the similarity of this outfielder's name to a certain villain from the seventh Star Wars movie make his the best on this list. His name is not the only desirable attribute that Wren brings to the table.
After a miserable 2015, he was able to put together a great 2016 in which he batted .322/.412/.412 across the Double-A and Triple-A levels of Milwaukee's system. He is a capable defender as well, able to handle any of the three outfield slots. In addition to his strong defense, Wren possesses excellent bat-to-ball skills and even better speed, with power the only tool in which he lags. He would be able to make the transition to the major leagues better than most Rule 5 picks, and profiles as a perfect fourth outfielder.
Jeff McVaney, OF, Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers haven’t quite figured out the value of Jeff McVaney; he could end up being a useful piece for another team, however.
The brief description of McVaney written by FanGraphs actually makes him sound quite appealing:
Jeff McVaney hit .291/.402/.457 in the high minors last year, while posting positive defensive metrics in right field. McVaney had one of those rare seasons where he walked more than he struck out while also hitting for power.
The fact that he was able to crank out that kind of production in Triple-A Toledo makes it all the more confusing as to why the Tigers have never given him a major-league at-bat. It is possible that they see something in him that has guided their choices, but his defensive abilities and excellent eye paired with acceptable batting abilities would indicate that he could be a capable corner outfielder.
Drew Muren, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
The Rays have already played a key role in Muren’s career. Muren had abandoned pitching early in college following a shoulder injury and had played outfield ever since. He showed up at a Rays free agent try-out hoping to get signed as an outfielder when, as Bobby DeMuro writes in The Hardest Thrower You’ve Never Heard Of, a scout asked him to try a few throws from the mound.
As it turns out, the mound is where he belongs. He used an unusual sidewinder delivery to fire bullets into the strike zone that sat in the low to mid 90s. DeMuro went on to say this:
The 94 mph he hit at that Rays workout two years ago would make for its own feel-good story, but now it’s typically at the bottom end of his fastball velocity range. Comparatively very few men in the game can routinely touch 100 mph, and so at this point, Muren is no longer just a converted reliever with good arm strength, but a true diamond in the rough that could make an impact in the back of the Diamondbacks’ big league bullpen sooner than anybody outside the organization realizes.
One of the things that the Rays need the most is a lights-out reliever, and with a fastball that can blow hitters away and success in minors, Muren has the foundation to become that bullpen arm.