RHP Ryan Chaffee (Angels)
This year’s list of prospects eligible to be selected in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft is highlighted by a long list of pitchers, though none of them possess a particularly high ceiling.
The most attractive prospects are those who appear capable of contributing immediately, such as relievers Josh Fields (Red Sox), Ryan Chaffee (Angels) and John Keck (Royals). Beyond that, the field is comprised of a host of starting pitchers who ultimately may offer more value in a bullpen role.
Here’s a look at five pitching prospects who are strong candidates to be selected in the Rule 5 draft.
What to Like: Former first-rounder of the Mariners in 2008, Josh Fields had been pretty terrible up until last year. In his first full season with the Red Sox following a mid-2011 trade, the right-hander registered a career-best 2.62 ERA highlighted by 13.2 scoreless innings at Triple-A Pawtucket to finish the year.
Why He’s Worth the Pick: With his command now seemingly in place (4.33 K-to-BB rate in 2012), Fields’ plus fastball and refined breaking ball make him a viable late-inning option for almost any bullpen.
What to Like: A third-round draft pick in 2009, Ryan Chaffee was developed as a starter with underwhelming results until the 2012 season, when he seamlessly transitioned into a full-time bullpen role. Everything seemed to click for the right-hander, as he posted career-best rates of 5.6 H/9, 0.7 HR/9 and 11.5 K/9.
Why He’s Worth the Pick: While his command still needs some refinement (4.9 BB/9 in 2012), it’s likely to improve over the next season—especially considering his smooth transition from starter to reliever. With a mid-90s fastball and above-average slider, he has the classic one-two punch ideal in a reliever.
What to Like: Well, first of all, he’s a 6’6” left-hander. Beyond that, John Keck is fresh off a breakout season in which he reached Double-A for the first time. Given his height and release point, the 24-year-old throws a heavy fastball that induces tons of ground-ball outs (2.08 GO/AO).
Why He’s Worth the Pick: Although he doesn’t strike out as many batters as one would expect and issues too many walks (5.1 BB/9 career rate), his extreme ground-ball tendencies make him a weapon. It’s easy to envision him finally putting everything together over the course of the next season.
What to Like: Nick Struck is most appealing due to his sustained success last season at Double-A. A 39th-round draft pick in 2009, the undersized right-hander registered a 3.18 ERA last season while logging 155.2 innings.
Why He’s Worth the Pick: Struck, 23, is the type of arm that could be useful as a spot starter or long reliever depending on how a team views him.
What to Like: A 6’4” right-hander, Kyle Kaminska has an arsenal of average-to-above-average pitches that all play up due to his exceptional command. The Pirates used him as a starter upon acquiring him from the Marlins at the 2012 trade deadline, and he finished the year with Double-A Altoona.
Why He’s Worth the Pick: Kaminska could offer value in a long-relief role or maybe even as a spot starter with the right organization. The 24-year-old has great command, and he knows how to use it relative to specific situations.