Feature Photo: Tyler Eppler, RHP, Pirates
Editor’s Note: This is the second edition of a multi-part series on this year’s Major League Baseball Rule 5 Draft, to be held Thursday, December 13 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. For basic information on how the Rule 5 Draft works, you can click here. Previous installments of our Rule 5 Draft series are below:
TOP OF THE CROP
Tyler Eppler, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 230 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 26y, 2m
Eppler doesn’t have huge velocity or a nasty off-speed pitch like some of the other arms on this list, but his durability and control of four pitches makes him a potential Rule 5 target. He has made more than 20 starts the last two seasons at Triple-A, pitching to a solid 3.59 ERA this year with low walk rate. He could survive a full season on a big league roster as a longman/spot-starter who soaks up low-leverage innings.
Jordan Romano, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 200 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 11m
Romano made one spot-start in Triple-A last year, but otherwise pitched the whole season in Double-A. He was named an all-star in the Eastern League, posting solid strikeout and walk totals across 25 starts for New Hampshire. Romano touches 95-to-96 mph as a starter, running his fastball as high as 98 mph in short stints. His slider flashes bat-missing potential at best, especially playing off an aired-out fastball from the ‘pen. A team could hope to make him a true backend starter long-term, using Romano as a hard-throwing opener or multi-inning longman this season.
Akeem Bostick, RHP, Houston Astros
Ht/Wt: 6’6” / 215 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 10m
Bostick has moved up the minor league ladder slowly, coming off his best season as a pro in 2018. The athletic righty pitched to a 3.48 ERA over 93 innings at Double-A, making two appearances with Triple-A Fresno at the end of the year. Bostick runs his fastball into the middle 90’s from a fluid arm stroke that generates riding life up in the zone. A mid-80’s slider is the primary off-speed offering, backed up by a developing changeup and show-me curve. There’s long-term starting potential given his durable frame and four-pitch mix, though he’s still raw enough that a contending team likely can’t afford to give him starting innings next year.
Sam McWilliams, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Ht/Wt: 6’7” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 6m
McWilliams came to the Rays in a mid-season trade, pitching 100.1 innings with Double-A Montgomery to finish the year. The extra-tall righty touches the middle 9o’s with his fastball with excellent natural extension from a 6-foot-7 frame. His slider is fringy, lacking depth at times but flashing signs of becoming an average offering. He limits walks well, though his actual in-zone command and third pitch lag behind other attributes. McWilliams is more of a long-term upside play, but a rebuilding team who could sacrifice a longman spot in the ‘pen could take a flyer on him.
Junior Fernandez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 1m
Fernandez has battled biceps injuries the last two seasons, able to pitch just 30.2 innings in 2018 after working from the rotation in previous years. The flamethrowing righty runs his fastball up to the high-90s, though he has never missed as many bats as his stuff suggests. The go-to secondary is a changeup that flashes above-average upside. His fringy slider needs to develop more consistent depth in order to project as enough of a third pitch to start. Fernandez is a total upside play, though one who arguably has as much ceiling as any rotation candidate available in this year’s Rule 5 class. He isn’t truly ready to pitch in the big leagues, but a team that wants his long-term upside could sneak him in a bullpen spot given his velocity.
Sorted alphabetically by MLB organization
Cody Reed, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 245 lbs. B/T: R/L Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 22y, 9m
Arizona’s second-round pick in 2014, Reed missed all of last season with an injury. The big-bodied lefty touched the mid-90s with his fastball before the missed time and was coming off a breakout 2017: across two A-Ball stops, he pitched to a pristine 3.17 ERA and struck out roughly a batter per inning. He’s an unlikely Rule 5 pick, but if a team took a flyer on his ceiling they might be able to stash him on the DL for an extended period of time. In some way, Reed’s injury status makes him interesting in that he may not require an immediate roster spot, but a club can still acquire the player for the long-term potential.
Erick Leal, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 0m
Leal missed the second half of 2016 and all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery. He had a bounceback 2018, pitching excellently for High A Myrtle Beach in a swingman role before a strong Arizona Fall League performance. He isn’t overpowering, but he throws a solid three-pitch mix for strikes, potentially fitting as a spot-starter or mop-up type in the big leagues.
Grayson Long, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Ht/Wt: 6’5” / 230 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 10m
Long is another Rule 5 candidate who likely would be on Detroit’s 40-Man roster had he not missed all of last season with an injury. He’s showed back-rotation or swingman ingredients in the past, a physical righty with a deep arsenal of pitches he can throw for strikes–none of them particularly dynamic.
Luis Pena, RHP, Los Angeles Angels
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 7m
Pena’s fastball has touched the mid-90s and could reach higher in short-stints. He backs up a solid heater with two playable (fringy-average) off-speed pitches, a slurvy slider and decent change. Pena reached Triple-A at the end of 2018 and worked out of the rotation, though his issues limiting walks hurt him more than they did at Double-A. He’s a flexible piece that could pitch in a middle relief or mopup role next year if a team takes him in the Rule 5 and is willing to be patient on his long-term potential.
Nick Green, RHP, New York Yankees
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 175 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 0m
Green’s unique fastball movement nets him lots of contact outs and a ton of ground balls. He pitched to a 3.28 ERA across 20 starts in the Florida State League, moving up to Double-A Trenton at the tail end of 2018. He won’t miss many bats as a starter and might lack the third pitch to remain in the rotation long-term. There’s potential in relief, as Green’s ground ball tendencies could help quickly in a matchup role if he has to stick on a Major League roster next season as a Rule 5 player.
Anthony Misiewicz, LHP, Seattle Mariners
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/L Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 5m
Misiewicz is a finesse lefty who throws three pitches for strikes. A leaner frame lacks starter’s durability, but he could be a Rule 5 target in a swingman role.
Jon Harris, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 175 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 5m
Toronto’s first-round selection in the 2015 Draft, Harris has stalled a bit at the Double-A level the past two seasons. He made two starts at Triple-A in the middle of 2018, but has spent most of his time since 2017 with New Hampshire in the Eastern League. His pitch mix might be more impactful in a relief role. Harris has a hard time missing bats and getting swinging strikes as a starter.
LONG SHOT RULE 5 DRAFT CANDIDATES
Sorted alphabetically by MLB organization