Feature Photo: Richie Martin, SS, Athletics
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth 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
Richie Martin, SS, Oakland Athletics
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 190 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 3m
Martin’s best attributes have long been his glovework at shortstop and speed on the bases. He repeated Double-A in 2018 and showed more with the bat than he has in the past, slashing .300/.368/.439 with 25 steals in the Texas League. He’s probably a 50-grade hit tool guy at best and will always have below-average power outputs. His ability to stay at shortstop and make contact give the ceiling of a borderline regular, likely a safer bet to profile as a solid role player. Martin is one of the top names available in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, checking lots of boxes as a center-diamond player who has performed in the high-minors.
Kean Wong, UTL, Tampa Bay Rays
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 190 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 11m
Wong’s youth and track record make him an attractive Rule 5 target. He’s coming off his best offensive season as a pro (.282/.345/.406), can play multiple positions, and has plenty of experience in the high-minors. The Rays had lots of talented prospects to protect this November, and Wong likely wouldn’t have been left off the 40-Man Roster if he was in an organization with less depth. Tampa’s roster crunch could be another club’s gain, as Wong could step into a utility role quickly if selected this year in the Major League Phase.
Josh VanMeter, UTL, Cincinnati Reds
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 165 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 0m
VanMeter checks lots of the same boxes as 2B/UTL Kean Wong (Rays): he’s fairly young, plays lots of positions, has a track record of hitting, and brings high-minors experience. VanMeter increased the lift in his swing this year, putting more balls in the air and seeing his power numbers tick upwards. That gives some hope there’s more projection left offensively. VanMeter can step in and fill a utility role quickly for a team that selects him in the Rule 5.
Drew Jackson, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ht/Wt: 6’2” /200 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 8m
The athletic middle infielder is coming off his best season as a professional, having slashed .251/.356/.447 in just over 100 games for Double-A Tulsa last year. His improvements at the plate centered around an increased focus on lift and power, as Jackson’s home run totals spiked accordingly with a jump in aerial contact. He has the speed to steal bases and is athletic enough to move around the field, able to occasionally fill in around the outfield while shuttling mostly between 2B and SS.
A fairly visible prospect in Boston’s system, it was a surprise to see Ockimey unprotected. Power bats that are limited defensively–especially those with platoon deficiencies–are seeing their value plummet across the game, and that trend likely played into why the Red Sox opted to leave Ockimey unprotected this winter. His power potential and plate discipline are enticing, and he mashed righties last year (.273/.393/.531) across two levels. That said, he struggled badly against same-side arms (.186/.269/.295) and can only play first base. If a team buys into his offensive upside they could stash him in a platoon role before sending Ockimey back to the minors for more development.
Levi Michael, UTL, San Francisco Giants
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 180 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 28y, 1m
Michael is much older than the usual Rule 5 target and only fits a need for a team looking to improve their bench with a veteran who can play multiple positions. A first-round pick in 2011, Michael never hit enough to separate himself as a prospect. Released by the Twins prior to 2018, his offensive numbers last year were easily the best of his career (.305/.391/.470) and Michael was named an Eastern League all-star. He was a Minor League free agent at the end of the season and the Giants quickly scooped him up, though they’ll lose him if another club is willing to add Michael to their big league roster.
The 41st overall pick in 2014, Gatewood’s prodigious raw power stands out in this Rule 5 class and has long made him a prospect. Questions about how much of that power he’s able to bring into games are what likely prompted Milwaukee to leave him off their 40-Man Roster. Gatewood stumbled through a Double-A assignment late in 2017, then repeated the level last year and posted a nearly identical slash line. High-minors arms have exposed his issues with same-side pitching, which diminishes the value significantly as a righty-swinging corner player. Even so, Gatewood’s power potential and prospect visibility could convince a team to take a flyer on him in the Rule 5.
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Scouts got a long look at Didder in Fall League this year, where his athleticism, speed, and defense impressed despite a limited offensive showing. That has long been the book on Didder, whose ceiling is a bench player and late-game replacement. His ability to do the little things could put him on teams’ Rule 5 radar, though there are comparable infield defenders in this class who bring more to the table at the plate.
Osvaldo Duarte, UTL, Houston Astros
Ht/Wt: 5’9” / 160 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 2m
Duarte is a hard-nosed player who puts the ball in play and can defend at numerous positions. In 2018 alone, he suited up at SS, 2B, 3B, and all three outfield spots. He lacks the offensive impact to profile as a regular, but Duarte consistently barrels balls hard and can shoot the gaps. His defensive versatility and feel to hit could put him on team’s Rule 5 radar, though Duarte’s lack of high-minors time could drop him below other more established infield options in this year’s class.
Jared Walker, 1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 195 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 23y, 1m
Walker put up big power numbers in 2018 and finished the season playing in front of scouts in Fall League, two things that could land him on teams’ Rule 5 lists. He has above-average raw power with an approach that allows him to get to it in games, though he will also strike out a healthy amount as well. Walker splits time between the infield corners on defense, but he’s a better fit at 1B long-term. He struggles mightily against same-side pitching, though hitting left-handed keeps him on the favorable side of matchups.
Santana’s plus raw power started showing up in games last year, as he mashed a career-high 24 homers in the California League. Despite an enthusing showing in 2018 (.274/.302/.447), there are plenty of underlying reasons to question how much Santana will hit for average. He strikes out frequently and never walks, a bad combo for any corner bat—especially one that hits right-handed. Santana’s age and power potential are interesting, but he’s likely too raw for a team to take him in the Major League Phase.
Diaz has an intriguing ceiling but will likely go unpicked. The physical lefty swinger has untapped power potential, though his bat isn’t big league ready and as a 1B-only defender, a team would have to completely sacrifice a 25-Man roster spot to carry him next year. Diaz was scuffling through last season in the Florida State League before missing the rest of the year with a right thumb fracture, which only clouds his outlook further. Minnesota did the math and took a calculated risk leaving him off their 40-Man Roster this November.
Jake Hager, 2B/SS, Milwaukee Brewers
Ht/Wt: 6’1” /170 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 26y, 0m
Hager was a first-round pick in 2011, meaning he qualified for Minor League Free Agency at the end of 2017. He signed a Minor League deal with Milwaukee for 2018 and agreed to a successor contract for next season, so he’s Rule 5 eligible even as a recently resigned Minor League Free Agent. Historically a light-hitting gloveman, Hager had his best offensive season as a pro in 2018. The ceiling isn’t very high and he might wind up a 4A type, but he could compete for at-bats in Spring Training as a bench infielder if a team thinks his offensive improvements last year are for real.
Hinojosa missed the first half of last year serving a 50-game suspension for his second failed recreational drug test. He stayed within his career norms after returning to Double-A Richmond, hitting for a decent average (with little power) while moving around the infield. Hinojosa lacks a carry tool and his suspension is likely to scare teams off, though his ceiling is a hit-first bench player who can man both middle infield spots.
Zach Green, 3B/1B, San Francisco Giants
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 210 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 25y, 0m
A third-round pick in 2012, Green qualified for Minor League Free Agency at the end of the year. He was named an Eastern League all-star for Reading, slashing an impressive .296/.375/.578 in Double-A before moving up to Triple-A at season’s end. The Giants signed him to a Minor League contract this November, so he’s technically Rule 5 eligible by not being on the 40-Man Roster. Green’s performance and power potential could put him on teams’ radar, though he’s limited to the corners and was exposed against same-side pitching at Triple-A.
Max Schrock, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Ht/Wt: 5’8” / 180 lbs. B/T: L/R Highest Level: AAA Age (as of April 1, 2019): 24y, 5m
Schrock’s hit tool has upside but he doesn’t bring much value otherwise. He also doesn’t walk much, which makes his ability to hit for average very reliant on favorable BABIPs. He raked in his first few years as a pro but hit a wall last year at Triple-A (.249/.296/.331). Schrock spent minimal time playing 3B and the outfield in 2018 but profiles best at 2B long-term. His track record of performance prior to last season could pique teams’ interest.
Juan Yepez, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 200 lbs. B/T: R/R Highest Level: A+ Age (as of April 1, 2019): 21y, 1m
Yepez has above-average raw power and has flashed intriguing offensive tools at times. He lit the Midwest League on fire to begin 2018, forcing his way into a promotion to Advanced A. His bat really stalled once there, however, and despite having more youth and upside than some others on this list, Yepez is likely just too far away to garner serious Rule 5 interest.
LONG SHOT RULE 5 DRAFT CANDIDATES
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