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MLB Rule 5 Draft: Scouting Reports and Predictions for Top Prospects

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterDecember 7, 2016

MLB Rule 5 Draft: Scouting Reports and Predictions for Top Prospects

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    Major League Baseball's annual Rule 5 Draft will take place on Thursday morning, beginning what should be a busy final day at the GM meetings in Nashville, Tenn. The draft has three phases: MLB, Triple-A and Double-A, though the MLB phase is the only one that requires the selected player to be purchased and placed on the 25-man roster.

    Once added to the active roster, the player is required to remain there for the entire season. As a result, few players are selected each year due to the significant risk involved and lack of impact talent made available. If the team opts to remove a Rule 5 draft-pick from the active roster before the end of the season, then they must first clear waivers before they're sent back to previous organization.

    As part of Prospect Pipeline's Rule 5 Draft coverage, I've put together a list of a majority of the top prospects eligible for selection on Thursday. I've also offered several potential fits for each player in relation to the needs of each organization, both at the minor- and major-league levels.

Josh Fields, RHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: RHP

    Age: 27

    Originally Drafted: First round, 2008 (Seattle Mariners)

    2012 Stats: 3-3, 8 SV, 44.2 IP, 2.62 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 6.0 H/9, 11.9 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 (32 G, Double-A Portland); 4 SV, 13.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 5.3 H/9, 12.5 K/9, 1.3 BB/9 (10 G, Triple-A Pawtucket)

    Scouting Report: A first-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners in 2008, I consider Fields, 26, to be one of the biggest overdrafts of the last decade. And sure enough, the hard-throwing closer struggled upon turning pro. In fact, his struggles lasted for almost three seasons before the Mariners gave up and shipped him to Boston in July 2011.

    Since then, however, he’s turned the corner and actually turned in a pretty good season in his first full year with the Red Sox in 2012. He still boasts a plus fastball and has cleaned up his secondary offerings, while his improved command should make him a viable option in the Rule 5 Draft.

    Potential Suitors: Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks

Marc Krauss, OF, Houston Astros

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    Position: OF

    Age: 25

    Originally Drafted: Second round, 2008 (Arizona Diamondbacks)

    2012 Stats: .283/.416/.509, 46 XBH (15 HR), 91/73 K/BB (104 G, Double-A Mobile [Diamondbacks]); .414/.514/1.000, 7 XBH (5 HR), 5/6 K/BB (7 G, Double-A Corpus Christi [Astros]); .123/.203/.123, 20/6 K/BB (22 G, Triple-A Oklahoma City [Astros])

    Scouting Report: A second-round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Krauss is a legitimate three-true-outcome hitter who’s been hindered by a lack of a natural defensive position. However, the 6’2”, 235-pounder can sting the baseball, as evidenced by an .852 OPS in 428 career minor league games.

    Krauss was traded along with fellow 2009 draft-pick Bobby Borchering to the Astros around the trade deadline last season and reached Triple-A with his new organization. He’s a bit of a baseclogger and lacks range at both corner outfield spots, but his bat should get him to the big leagues at some point in 2013 regardless of his organization.

Rafael Ynoa, IF, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Position: 2B/SS

    Age: 25

    Originally Signed: 2005, Dominican Republic (Dodgers)

    2012 Stats: .278/.364/.352, 27 XBH (23 2B), 23 SB, 70/58 K/BB (113 G, Double-A Chattanooga)

    2012 AFL Stats: .330/.374/.515, 10 XBH (2 HR), 20 RBI, 7 SB, 14/8 K/BB (27 G) 

    Scouting Report: Signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, it took Ynoa, 25, four seasons to graduate from rookie-level to Class-A. A switch-hitter with minimal pop, his ability to both draw walks and steal bases could eventually get him to the major leagues as a utility infielder. Defensively, Ynoa is capable of playing either middle-infield position thanks to above-average range and reliable glove.

Carlos Perez, LHP, Atlanta Braves

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    Position: LHP

    Age: 21

    Originally Signed: July, 2008

    2012 Stats: 19 IP, 12.79 ERA, 2.74 WHIP, 5.68 K/9, 9.00 BB/9 (7 G; 4 GS Low-A Rome); 30.2 IP, 2.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 14/67 K/9, 4.40 BB/9, .182 BAA (16 G, Rookie Danville)

    Scouting Report: Regarded as one of the Braves’ top pitching prospects since his professional debut in 2009, Carlos Perez, a left-hander, endured a quick fall from the ranks with an ugly 2011 season for Low-A Rome, and things only improved in 2012 following a demotion to rookie-level Danville and a move to the bullpen.

    The new role did allow him to regain the aggressiveness that made him successful in previous seasons, as reflected by his improved strikeout and walk rates. Perez still lives by his low-90s fastball, as his curveball and changeup are inconsistent pitches. However, both offerings seem to play up as a reliever.

John Keck, LHP, Kansas City Royals

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    Position: LHP

    Age: 24

    Originally Signed: 42nd round, 2009

    2012 Stats: 2-1, 22.1 IP, 1.61 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, .197 BAA, 2.29 GO/AO; 2-2, 42.1 IP, 4.04 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, 5.7 BB/9, 1.96 GO/AO (28 G, Double-A Northwest Arkansas)

    Scouting Report: At 6’6”, John Keck is an imposing presence on the mound. He’s also incredibly difficult to barrel, as he throws a heavy fastball on a steep downward plane.

    He doesn’t generate as many whiffs as one would expect, even with a plus slider, so he doesn’t have the upside of a closer, or even full-time setup man. However, he could be a force in situational matchups out of a big league bullpen this season and is only starting to truly put things together.

Ryan Chaffee, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

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    Position: RHP

    Age: 24

    Originally Drafted: Third round, 2008 (Angels)

    2012 Stats: 2-0, 7 SV, 22.2 IP, 2.38 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 6.8 H/9, 11.1 K/9, 3.6 BB/9 (18 G, High-A Inland Empire); 5-1, 43 IP, 2.72 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 5.0 H/9, 11.7 K/9, 5.7 BB/9 (37 G, Double-A Arkansas)

    Scouting Report: A third-round draft pick out of Chipola College (Fla.) in 2008, Ryan Chaffee was originally developed as a starting pitcher with minimal success. However, the 24-year-old right-hander showed well in his first full season out of the bullpen in 2012, though his command still leaves something to be desired.

    With a mid-90s fastball and an above-average slider, Chaffee could be selected if a team believes he can quickly refine his arsenal over the course of the 2013 season, which, considering the strides he made in 2012, is possible.

    Potential Fits: Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants

Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Cleveland Indians

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    Position: 1B

    Age: 22

    Originally Signed: Nov., 2007

    2012 Stats: .277/.365/.454, 39 XBH (12 HR), 91/45 K/BB (107 G, High-A Carolina); .292/.402/.500, 9 XBH, 24/13 K/BB (20 G, Double-A Arkansas)

    Scouting Report: Jesus Aguilar is certainly the most high-profile name of all the Rule 5-eligible prospects, and also the most likely to reach the major leagues among all the position players.

    In fact, I’m not exactly sure why the Indians didn’t protect him given their lack of pop at the major league level. I'm guessing they're confident that he won't be selected, but we'll see. 

    A participant in the XM Futures Game this past July, the 6’3”, 257-pound, first base-only prospect reached Double-A for the first time this season and put up a .902 OPS with 24/13 K/BB, even if it was only 20 games.

    The right-handed hitter’s loudest tool is definitely his bat, as he has plus raw power to all fields but lacks the frequency that one naturally associates with his strength. Aguilar always had swing and miss to his game, though he did improve his strikeout-to-walk ratio last season.

    Potential Fits: Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates

Kenny Wilson, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Position: OF

    Age: 22

    Originally Drafted: Second round, 2008

    2012 Stats: .252/.360/.358, 68 R, 23 XBH (6 3B), 41 SB, 75/44 K/BB (94 G, Low-A Lansing); .282/.368/.359, 7 XBH, 14 SB, 22/14 K/BB (29 G, High-A Dunedin)

    Scouting Report: Former second-round pick who was developed as a switch-hitter due to his top-of-the-order speed. Wilson, 22, has advanced plate discipline, although it’s come at the expense of four straight seasons in A-ball. He gave up switch-hitting last season in favor of his natural right side and turned in his finest offensive season to date.

    A natural centerfielder, Wilson is an excellent defender with plenty of range and amassed a career-best 55 stolen bases last year between two levels. He has the upside of a defense-oriented fourth outfielder if a team believes he’ll ever hit enough.

    Potential Fits: Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres

Miguel Celestino, RHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: RHP

    Age: 23

    Originally Signed: Dec. 2006 (Seattle Mariners)

    2012 Stats: 7-9, 134.2 IP, 4.68 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.22 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 1.71 GO/AO

    Scouting Report: Originally signed in 2006 by the Mariners, Celestino has been moved along slowly—very slowly. In fact, it took the 6’6” right-hander four seasons to graduate from rookie ball. However, the Red Sox have scaled back the caution since landing him in a trade prior to the 2012 season.

    Celestino made 26 starts at High-A Salem last season with mediocre results, though he did show the ability to induce plenty of groundball outs using his heavy, low-90s fastball. Neither his changeup nor curveball are as strong as his fastball, though they do give him a bit of upside as a reliever.

Tim Crabbe, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

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    Position: RHP

    Age: 24

    Originally Drafted: 14th round, 2009

    2012 Stats: 3-6, 86.1 IP, 4.90 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 9.69 K/9, 6.88 BB/9 (18 GS, Double-A Pensacola); 5-2, 57.2 IP, 3.28 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 9.36 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, .215 BAA (10 GS, High-A Bakersfield)

    Scouting Report: Crabbe enjoyed a breakout season as a 23-year-old in 2011, registering a 3.45 ERA, 9.8 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 between High and Double-A. The 6’4” right-hander regressed in 2012, though he did have considerably more success back at High-A following a midseason demotion. He also had a respectable showing in the Arizona Fall League, including a nationally-televised start in the league’s championship game.

    His fastball is average in the low-90s, but his secondary pitches make him an intriguing Rule 5 candidate. Both his slider and change-up are above-average offerings, and he’s repeatedly shown the ability to miss bats.

Nate Freiman, 1B, San Diego Padres

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    Position: 1B

    Age: 25

    Originally Drafted: Eighth round, 2008

    2012 Stats: .298/.370/.502, 80 R, 56 XBH (24 HR), 105 RBI, 95/49 K/BB (137 G, Double-A San Antonio)

    Scouting Report: At 6’7”, 225 pounds, Freiman is an absolute presence in the right-handed batter’s box with raw power to match his size. The 25-year-old has advanced plate discipline and a noticeable approach at the plate, which has definitely aided his production over the years.

    However, Freiman’s hands are kind of dead at the plate, and I’m skeptical as to whether he can handle premium velocity. He’s feasted on mistakes as a minor-leaguer, but also shown the ability to shorten up and go the other way with more frequency. As a right-handed, first base-only prospect, his ceiling is limited, but a team could see value in him as a platoon option given his ability to mash left-handed pitching (.348/.434/.643 in 112 at-bats last season).

Braulio Lara, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Position: LHP

    Age: 23

    Originally Signed: Jan. 2008

    2012 Stats: 6-10, 112 IP, 5.71 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 6.59 K/9, 4.66 BB/9 (25 G, 21 GS High-A Charlotte)

    Scouting Report: Lara put himself on the radar in 2010 with an impressive showing as a 21-year-old in the Appalachian League. And despite his struggles for Low-A Bowling Green last season, the Rays still bumped him up to High-A Charlotte this past season, where his command problems were magnified. For what it’s worth, the left-hander has thrown the ball well as a reliever in the Dominican Winter League.

    Even though his fastball will register in the mid-to-upper-90s, Lara lacks a legitimate out pitch that, in turn, limits his chances of remaining as a starter. However, his handedness and velocity could be a premium in a big-league bullpen.

    Potential Fits: Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox

Chris McGuiness, 1B, Texas Rangers

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    Position: 1B

    Age: 24

    Originally Drafted: 13th round, 2009

    2012 Stats: .268/.366/.474, 48 XBH (23 HR), 107/69 K/BB (123 G, Double-A Frisco)

    Scouting Report: A first base-only prospect, McGuiness, 24, capped an impressive season at Double-A Frisco by earning MVP honors of the Arizona Fall League after pacing the circuit in RBI (27). The 6’1”, 210-pound left-handed hitter also posted career highs in nearly every offensive category during the regular season, though he did fan 107 times in 123 games.

    McGuiness can also hold his own against hit left-handed pitching, batting .252/.358/.461 with 12 extra-base hits and 38/19 K/BB in 115 at-bats. His plus raw power alone makes him one of the more intriguing bats in the Rule 5 Draft, though it may be difficult for an organization to guarantee a roster spot to someone who may never be more than a Quad-A slugger.

    Potential Fits: Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros

Jason Hagerty, C, San Diego Padres

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    Position: C

    Age: 25

    Originally Drafted: Fifth round, 2009

    2012 Stats: .248/.346/.382, 19 XBH (7 HR), 51/35 K/BB (72 G, Double-A San Antonio)

    Scouting Report: Hagerty seemingly was on the fast track to the major leagues after posting a .917 OPS in 2010 at Low-A Fort Wayne. He followed that with a strong 2011 campaign, though he did struggle (.633 OPS in 36 games) upon reaching Double-A San Antonio. Since then, the switch-hitting catcher has struggled to exhibit the same amount of pop, though his plate discipline has improved.

    His defense could be big-league-average at best, as his blocking and receiving skills never quite developed as hoped. Furthermore, back injuries limited him to only 58 games behind the plate in 2012 in which he threw out 19 percent of basestealers. If a team believes he’s still harboring above-average power, then he could be one of the few position players selected on Wednesday.

Jeremy Hazelbaker, OF, Boston Red Sox

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    Position: OF

    Age: 25

    Originally Drafted: Fourth round, 2009

    2012 Stats: .273/.338/.479, 46 XBH (19 HR), 33 SB, 114/35 K/BB (114 G, Double-A Portland); .267/.281/.367, 3 SB, 8/0 K/BB (7 G, Triple-A Pawtucket)

    Scouting Report: One of my favorite names on this year’s board, Hazelbaker is a former fourth-round selection who offers an intriguing blend of power and speed. Yes, he’s 25 years old and has a fair amount of swing and miss to his game (122 K in 121 G), but he’s a left-handed hitter that has experience at both Double and Triple-A and potentially could contribute as a fourth outfielder on a weaker team.

Kyle Kaminska, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Position: RHP

    Age: 24

    Originally Drafted: 25th round, 2007 (Miami Marlins)

    2012 Stats: 6-3, 49.1 IP, 5.11 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 7.66 K/9, 1.65 BB/9, 1.28 GO/AO (31 G, Double-A Jacksonville [Marlins]); 2-0, 16 IP, 0.75 WHIP, 6.19 K/9, 1.13 BB/9, 1.91 GO/AO (3 GS, High-A Bradenton [Pirates]); 12 IP, 3.00 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8.25 K/9, 0.00 B/9 (4 G, 1 GS Double-A Altoona)

    Scouting Report: Acquired from the Marlins at the 2012 trade deadline, the Pirates immediately tried to extract value by moving Kaminska to the High-A Bradenton starting rotation, which later prompted a promotion to Double-A to end the season. More importantly, the 6’4” right-hander pitched extremely well in the Arizona Fall League, registering a 1.61 ERA, .208 BAA and 1.91 GO/AO over six starts.

    Nothing in his arsenal is electric, though he does demonstrate excellent command of each of his offerings. He may not profile as a big-league starter long-term, but there’s enough there to serve as a spot starter or long reliever.

J.C. Sulbaran, LHP, Kansas City Royals

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    Position: LHP

    Age: 23

    Originally Drafted: 30th round, 2008 (Cincinnati Reds)

    2012 Stats: 7-7, 104.2 IP, 4.04 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 9.54 K/9, 4.64 BB/9 (19 GS, Double-A Pensacola); 0-4, 26 IP, 7.62 ERA, 2.12 WHIP, 8.31 K/9, 7.62 BB/9 (6 GS, Double-A NW Arkansas)

    Scouting Report: Acquired from the Reds in exchange for Jonathan Broxton at the 2012 trade deadline, Sulbaran has always shown great pure stuff but lacked consistency in executing his pitches. While his mechanics have improved, they are still messy overall and involve too much effort.

    The right-hander has a low-to-mid-90s fastball with some weight and late run, as well as inconsistent secondary pitches in a curveball and changeup. Neither pitch was particularly effective this past season due to lack of feel and inability to utilize them off his fastball.

Jonathan Galvez, 2B, San Diego Padres

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    Position: 2B

    Age: 22

    Originally Signed: July, 2007 (Dominican Republic)

    2012 Stats: .292/.364/.426, 28 XBH (6 HR), 12 SB, 70/31 K/BB (82 G, Double-A San Antonio)

    Scouting Report: Still only 21 years old, Galvez is an offense-oriented second baseman that has moved at a steady, one-level-per-year pace through the Padres’ system. At 6’2”, 175 pounds, the right-handed hitter has improved at the plate in each minor-league season and has plenty of gap power. At the same time, his plate discipline has deteriorated upon reaching higher levels, and injuries limited him to only 82 games last season.

    While he’s still primarily a second baseman, his hands can play kind of hard and his actions sometimes lack fluidity. Given the backup of middle infielders through the Padres’ system, it’s worth noting that Galvez did log nine games in the outfield last season.

Nick Struck, RHP, Chicago Cubs

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    Position: RHP

    Age: 23

    Originally Drafted: 39th round, 2009

    2012 Stats: 14-10, 155.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 7.11 K/9, 2.54 BB/9 (28 G; 26 GS, Double-A Tennessee)

    Scouting Report: An undersized right-hander at 5’11”, 185 pounds, Struck pitched the majority of the 2011 season at Triple-A and touched up more than expected—perhaps it was just the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League environment. However, he pitched well this past season at Double-A, registering a 3.18 ERA while eating 155.2 innings pitched.

    His lack of success above Double-A is slightly concerning and may ultimately determine whether a team believes the right-hander will be effective as a big leaguer.

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