Saturday, November 29, 2014

Interesting Rule 5 Guys

The Rule 5 draft rarely hurts the team losing the player and rarely does much for the team gaining the player. The Atlanta Braves last drafted a player in the Rule 5 in 2011, picking up lefty Robert Fish from the Angels. While Fish was kept as the Angels weren't that interested in getting him back for the second straight year (he was a Rule 5 choice the year before), the former sixth rounder never played above A-ball for the Braves and was released. You have to go all the way back to 1997 to find a player the Braves picked in the Rule 5 and who broke camp with the team. Brian Edmondson appeared in ten games for Atlanta that season before being waived in early June. A few followed the Chris Spurling road. Get drafted, spend most if not all of the spring with the Braves, get traded.

While Atlanta has rarely selected players, it has been more frequently raided by other teams. Most recently, the Twins picked up left-hander Scott Diamond in 2011 and he started 58 games for them between 2011 and 2013. A Canadian fan favorite and outfielder, Adam Stern was picked in 2004. Like Diamond after him, fans bemoaned the loss as another player on the 40-man roster was kept over him. He also shares the fact that his career was short and unremarkable with Diamond.

Not that there aren't Rule 5 success stories. Johan Santana stands out and as does our former friend Dan Uggla. It's just rare that the player even sticks around to play for the team he was drafted by and rare that the Braves even try.

But this year could be the kind of season to give it a try. We've heard all winter how Frank Wren destroyed the minor league depth for the organization. Whether that's fair or not, looking at who the Braves worked to keep a few weeks ago, it's fairly obvious that there truly is a problem. If Atlanta wants to add depth, the answer might come in December 11th's Rule 5 draft. The only problem is that to get a draft choice, you need to have room on the 40-man roster. Currently, Atlanta is carrying 40 players. That could change and I truly hope it does. Here are some of the guys who could be useful for the Braves in 2015 and beyond.

An Option for the Starting Rotation

Jed Bradley - Milwaukee

As rare as picking a pitcher that sticks is, it's almost never seen that a starter jumps into his new team's rotation like Diamond did as Rule 5 choice. However, as it stands, the Braves do have an empty spot at the bottom of the rotation. Sure, there are the flirtations with Jon Lester and Justin Masterson, the intriguing cases of Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, and the exceedingly mediocre David Hale, but as of right this second, the fifth spot is wide open. Could Bradley be an option? Obviously, he would have to make an impression in spring training and pitching coach Roger McDowell would have to do his magic, but Bradley is only three years removed from being the 15th overall selection out of Georgia Tech. The left-hand starter could get a shot at bullpen work, but let's look at him as a starter first. He certainly hasn't been overly impressive stat-wise just yet, but something to consider was that he moved toward getting more groundballs last year. Things clicked and led to a promotion to AA, where he started strong and was roughed up late. Making the jump to the majors after 17 starts in AA is hard for huge prospects, let alone fringe ones. He has a nice mid-90's fastball and a good feel for his change-up. Would he stick with the Braves? Probably not. However, if pitching depth is a problem, why not take a chance? An alternate route is if McDowell likes him and wants to keep working with him, the Braves could work out a deal with the Brewers to keep Bradley, but send him to the minors.

Greg Peavey - New York Mets

A member of the Little League World Series in 2000, Peavey's velocity stays in the low 90's. With a good, hard slider, he might be better off in the bullpen, but is coming off a solid year with AA Binghamton in the Eastern League where he posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. A six-start run in the Pacific Coast League with Las Vegas didn't go so well and his AAA numbers are abysmal, but the former sixth rounder from Oregon State has superb control and is a bit of a surprise that he's even available.

Bullpen Depth

Greg Infante - Toronto

Unlike many that could interest the Braves, Infante has some major league experience as he appeared in five games with the White Sox in 2010. He hasn't got back to the majors since, but the now 27 year-old did have a 1.94 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 2.4 K/BB in 41 games last season. Bullpen guys have a better chance of sticking than starters out of the Rule 5 draft and Infante could possibly help the Braves next season.

Andrew McKirahan - Chicago Cubs

You want strikeouts? He has plenty. You want control? Impeccable. You want a lefty? Bingo. McKirahan has only pitched 21 games above A-ball, but seems to stand a great chance of being drafted in a few weeks (or traded beforehand). Another member of the Tommy John Saved Our Career Club, McKirahan could surprise some people in 2015.

Keith Butler - St. Louis

Recently outrighted by the Cards, Butler has appeared in 18 games in the majors over the last two seasons and has great ratios in the minors. However, he missed most of last season with Tommy John and could miss significant time in 2015 working his way back. After an exhaustive rehab stint, the Braves will be forced to make a decision. The good news is that Butler could be a really good reliever. The bad news is that it might not come until 2016.

Sean Gilmartin - Minnesota

Amazingly, people were sweating losing Gilmartin in last year's Ryan Doumit trade. While Doumit and his demon eyes crashed and burned, Gilmartin stagnated. But he pitches with his left arm and that makes him a bit more valuable than he probably should be. As a long reliever/emergency starter/sometimes LOOGY, Gilmartin could be an option.

John Stilson - Toronto

Unlike many available prospects in the draft, Stilson has extensive time at AAA. He also is coming off shoulder surgery that will likely keep him from competing for a spot in camp. However, his mid-90's fastball and good change-up could interest Atlanta into taking a shot on the former Texas A&M pitcher.

Bench Options

Mark Canha - Florida

With right-handed pop at a premium, Canha could intrigue teams like the Braves. While his natural defensive position is blocked by Freddie Freeman, Canha does have limited experience at third base and in the corner outfield positions and the good news there is that experience is recent. He's coming off a season with AAA-New Orleans where Canha slashed .303/.384/.505, which were mild improvements over his career numbers.

Delino DeShields - Houston

It's remarkable that he is available for this draft, though that also might be a sign that there is something that doesn't add up with this kid. The son of a former MLB player, DeShields possesses world-class speed included 101 steals in 2012. He gets his fair share of swings-and-misses, but still does a solid job getting on base, making his speed a real weapon. He also has enough pop to surpass ten homers in two-of-the-last three seasons. Defensively, he's probably nothing special in center, which he was moved to last season, though he also plays seconds. So, the problem? Attitude, it appears. He has been pulled more than a few times for not running out balls. Talent-wise, he's probably the best offensive player in this draft. But will he accept coaching and play hard? Well, the Astros, of all teams, did leave him unprotected for a reason.

Jared Mitchell - Chicago White Sox

Always a strikeout-prone left-hand hitter, this 2009 first-round talent has been a bust for his entire career. Until last season, that is. The former LSU Tiger still struck out a ton, but he posted his best season with an .806 OPS and 19 HR. He has some speed, though his basestealing isn't much of a skill. He also walks at a solid rate. Could be a late bloomer with platoon capability in left.

Matt Skole - Washington

With the Braves reportedly interested in a platoon option to pair with Chris Johnson, Skole could attract some attention. A fifth rounder in 2011, Skole came onto the scene the following season with a .291/.426/.559 slash that included 27 homers. A significant wrist injury sidelined him in 2013 and the his numbers were down in 2014, but he did hit 5 of his 14 homers in his final 19 games. However, he moved across the diamond for most of the season so he might not be able to play a competent enough 3B at this point.

Zach Borenstein - Arizona

A left-hand hitting corner outfielder, Borenstein was picked up by the D'Backs in the trade that send Joe Thatcher to Anaheim. In four seasons since being drafted in the 23rd round, all he has done is hit to the tune of .286/.359/.509 while climbing to AAA for 20 games last year. Does he have much upside? Probably not. Will he be a AAA regular for the next five years before moving to Asia? Possibly. But he's worth a look for a team that could use options in the outfield.

Chances are that none of these players become productive major leaguers. Teams have essentially said that they are not good enough to be protected and they are probably right in most cases. This is where the scouts earn their money. Atlanta probably won't select anyone in the Rule 5 draft, but for a team that has plenty of holes, I believe it's worth a shot on these players I've profiled and others I didn't mention.

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