Ranking the Biggest Winners and Losers of the Rule 5 Draft
Sadly, Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft was one of the more exciting events at this year’s Winter Meetings. And although there weren’t any big names among this year’s crop of eligible prospects, 13 teams made selections in the first round of the draft—both the Astros and Marlins also made a pick in the second round of the MLB phase.
But now it’s time to review the draft’s biggest winners and losers.
Winner: Houston Astros
With the first overall pick in the Rule 5 draft, the Astros had the choice of any player on the board. Wisely, they went with the one most likely to contribute immediately, right-hander Josh Fields.
A first-round selection of the Seattle Mariners in 2008, Fields, 27, enjoyed a career year in 2012 with the Red Sox, registering a 2.01 ERA, 12.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 58.1 innings between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket. With an above-average-to-plus fastball-breaking ball combination, Fields should have an opportunity to be a late-inning arm for the Astros and possibly even get his share of save opportunities.
Since the Astros are now a member of the AL West, it’s easy to understand the perceived value in their second-round pick, first baseman Nate Freiman. At 6’7”, 225 pounds, the 25-year-old is a monster human being.
Spending all of the 2012 season at Double-A San Antonio, the right-handed hitter batted .298/.370/.502 with 24 home runs and 95/49 K/BB in 137 games. However, with the designated hitter now in play, the Astros added Freiman due to his success against left-handed pitching (.248/.434/.643 in 112 at-bats last season).
Winner: Miami Marlins
With seemingly nothing to lose next season, the Marlins added a pair of high-upside players via the Rule 5 draft—one in each round.
I admire their aggressiveness in selecting outfielder Alfredo Silverio, a former highly regarded prospect in the Dodgers’ system. Now 25 years old, he missed the entire 2012 season after sustaining a concussion and elbow injury in an offseason auto accident.
When healthy Silverio showcases an all-around impressive set of tools, though it will likely take some time for him to return to his pre-injury form. A right-handed hitter, he batted .306/.340/.542 with 42 doubles, 18 triples and 16 home runs in 132 for Double-A Chattanooga in 2011.
The Marlins went with another high-ceiling, low-floor prospect in the second round, selecting left-hander Braulio Lara from the Tampa Bay Rays. At 23 years old, Lara struggled last season for High-A Charlotte, registering a 5.71 ERA and 4.66 BB/9 in 112 innings.
He’s still raw, but there’s a lot to like in his mid-to-upper-90s fastball. His secondary pitches are incredibly inconsistent and nowhere close to being big-league-ready, but Lara’s strong arm could conceivably be an asset in a bullpen role.
Winner: Cleveland Indians
The Tribe’s top first-base prospect, Jesus Aguilar, was also draft-eligible and I was fairly confident that he’d be selected—but I was wrong. However, the Indians tentatively addressed their weakness at the position by nabbing Chris McGuiness from the Rangers with the fifth-overall pick.
A left-handed hitter with solid plate discipline and power that should translate in the major leagues, the 24-year-old batted .268/.366/.474 with 23 home runs and 107/69 K/BB in 123 games for Double-A Frisco. McGuiness went on to hit .283/.370/.467 with a league-leading 27 RBI in the Arizona Fall League.
Loser: Tampa Bay Rays
Yes, you can make an argument that the Rays’ system is currently overloaded with left-handed pitching prospects—an enviable scenario for any team. However, that doesn’t make it acceptable that they lost two of them in the Rule 5 draft.
The Mets drafted 23-year-old Kyle Lobstein with the 10th-overall selection and then promptly shipped him to the Detroit Tigers. A low-floor arm, he’s a command-oriented southpaw with pitchability. At best, Lobstein could be a serviceable fifth and/or spot-starter.
The Rays lost another 23-year-old left-hander in second-round when the Marlins selected Lara. Compared to Lobstein, Lara offers considerably more to dream on with a solid pitcher’s frame and easy, plus fastball.
Loser: Washington Nationals
While the Rays took a fairly significant hit in the Rule 5 draft, the Nationals—whose farm system is far removed from its pre-2012 status—lost two players who will likely reach the major leagues: left-hander Danny Rosenbaum (I know, great last name) to the Rockies and second baseman Jeff Kobernus to the Red Sox.
Rosenbaum, 25, had steadily risen through the Nationals’ system but never been overly impressive. His fastball only sits in the high-80s/low-90s and induces plenty of weak groundball outs, and is supplemented by a pair of average (but well located) offspeed pitches in a curveball and changeup.
He spent the entire season at Double-A last year, registering a 3.94 ERA, 2.26 BB/9 and 2.29 GO/AO in 155 innings. He pitched especially well over the first two months of the season, posting a 0.77 and 2.71 ERA in April and May, respectively.
A second-round draft pick in 2009 out of the University of California, Kobernus, 24, has a potential future as a reserve infielder. It’s even more likely after the Red Sox traded him to Detroit after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft—a team that views him as “the next Don Kelly.”