Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 draft took place on Thursday morning and was once again uneventful, with only nine players selected in the major league phase.
Unsurprisingly, seven of the players were pitchers.
Here's a breakdown of the players selected and whether they can earn a spot on their respective team's Opening Day roster next season.
1. Patrick Schuster, LHP, San Diego Padres—Selected by Houston Astros (traded to Padres)
Following Schuster's selection by the Diamondbacks from the Astros, Schuster was traded to San Diego to complete a previous recent trade.
2013 Stats (A+): 44.1 IP, 1.83 ERA, .191 BAA, 45/18 K/BB (55 G)
Originally selected by the Diamondbacks in the 13th round of the 2009 draft, Patrick Schuster made national headlines as a high school senior by throwing four consecutive no-hitters.
After a disappointing showing at High-A Visalia in 2012, Schuster turned in the best season of his professional career this year while repeating the level. Appearing in 55 games out of the Visalia bullpen, the 23-year-old registered a 1.83 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 44.1 innings, and he held opposing hitters to a paltry .191 batting average.
A 6’1”, 182-pound left-hander, Schuster is naturally deceptive thanks to a high-effort delivery and the ability to work from several different arm slots. His fastball typically registers in the 88 93 mph range with heavy sinking action that has also led to a favorable ground-ball rate.
Schuster’s secondary arsenal is comprised of a curveball in the upper 70s and a sweeping slider in the low 80s that’s also thrown from a lower arm slot. The southpaw also has a changeup, though it’s been a less important offering since moving to the bullpen permanently.
Chances of Sticking: With Schuster coming off a breakout 2013 campaign, the Padres clearly believe that he can make an impact at the back end of their bullpen next season. However, without an inning of experience above High-A, the left-hander will likely have to dazzle next spring in big league camp to land a spot on the Opening Day roster.
2. Adrian Nieto, C, Washington Nationals—Selected by Chicago White Sox
2013 Stats (A+): .285/.373/.449, 41 XBH (11 HR), 82/53 K/BB (110 G)
Selected by the Nationals in the fifth round of the 2008 draft, Adrian Nieto struggled mightily at the plate to begin his professional career, batting just .226 and battling injuries while spending back-to-back years in the Gulf Coast League.
In 2010, the organization tried to jump-start his bat with an aggressive assignment to Low-A Hagerstown to open the season. However, the switch-hitting backstop was simply overmatched as he batted .195/.291/.253 in 203 plate appearances.
Nieto’s once promising career continued to fall apart in 2011 when he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a pair or performance-enhancing drugs. The following year he returned for a third stint at Hagerstown, but this time showed signs of life at the dish with a .739 OPS in 299 plate appearances.
Moved up to High-A Potomac for the 2013 season, Nieto finally started to tap into the potential that Washington envisioned when it drafted him in 2008. Playing in a career-high 110 games—his previous high was 78 games—the 24-year-old batted .285/.373/.449 with 41 extra-base hits (11 home runs) and a 82-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 452 plate appearances.
Nieto also boosted his prospect stock with a strong showing this offseason in the Arizona Fall League, as he posted a .271/.345/.333 batting line in 13 games.
Despite struggling at the plate for the better part of six seasons, Nieto’s carrying tool is still his bat. The 24-year-old switch-hitter has a good feel for the strike zone from both sides and made noticeable adjustments to his swing mechanics.
Nieto features more pop as a left-handed hitter, as 35 of his 41 extra-base hits came against right-handed pitching last season. And although he shows solid plate discipline from the right side, the swing is geared toward contact and should continue to result in empty production.
Defensively, the 6’0”, 200-pounder has improved his blocking, footwork and receiving since turning pro, but his overall development behind the plate has been limited due to an abundance of injuries. However, he compensates for some of the shortcomings with a strong arm and mature catch-and-throw skills that have produced a career caught-stealing rate of 32 percent in 277 games behind the plate.
Chances of Sticking: Nieto will enter spring training next season as one of four catchers—the others being Tyler Flowers, Josh Phegley and Hector Gimenez—vying for two spots on the White Sox Opening Day roster. While he’s obviously the least experienced of the four players, the 24-year-old Nieto represents a potentially cheap option as a backup catcher. He’s still a long shot to make the roster, but it’s obvious the White Sox at least believe he’ll offer healthy competition come spring training.
3. Kevin Munson, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks—Selected by Philadelphia Phillies
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 14 SV, 54.2 IP, 4.12 ERA, .209 BAA, 66/22 K/BB (53 G)
Once considered a promising prospect for the Diamondbacks, Kevin Munson—selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of James Madison University—seemed to be on the fast track to the major leagues after a strong 2011 campaign. However, the right-hander regressed considerably in his first full season at Double-A Mobile in 2012, registering a 6.28 ERA in 53 innings.
This past season, the 24-year-old had a respectable bounce-back performance, posting a 4.12 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 54.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A Reno. At the same time, his stuff wasn’t nearly as crisp as previous seasons, with a low-90s fastball that scraped 94-95 and a slider that featured average break and pace.
Chances of Sticking: Although Munson lacks advanced command, he throws enough strikes and misses enough bats to serve as a major league reliever in 2014. However, the question is whether the Phillies believe he can contribute right out of the gate. He’ll receive a long look next spring in camp, but I don’t foresee Munson making the Opening Day roster.
4. Tommy Kahnle, RHP, New York Yankees—Selected by Colorado Rockies
2013 Stats (AA): 15 SV, 60 IP, 2.85 ERA, .182 BAA, 74/45 K/BB (46 G)
Since his selection by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, Tommy Kahnle, 24, has posted an 11.99 K/9 rate (strikeouts per nine innings) in 214 career minor league innings. He’s also posted a walk rate of 5.17 BB/9.
That’s Kahnle in a nutshell: lots of arm strength and power but fringy control.
Serving as the closer last season for Double-A Trenton, the 6’1”, 230-pound right-hander works in the mid-90s with his fastball and touches 96-98 mph when he’s well-rested. Kahnle’s changeup is a consistent above-average pitch that flashes plus with diving action that resembles a splitter and helps neutralize left-handed hitters.
Chances of Sticking: Honestly, I was very surprised to learn that the Yankees decided not to add Kahnle to the 40-man roster. He held opposing hitters to a paltry .182 batting average this past season—left-handers batted just .159—and has experience as a closer. Sure, he has some serious control problems, but the right-hander has a nasty fastball-changeup combination capable of missing bats at any level. More importantly, Kahnle has the potential to be a late-inning arm for a team by mid-to-late 2014.
I think he’s a strong candidate to make the Rockies Opening Day roster.
5. Brian Moran, LHP, Seattle Mariners—Selected by Toronto Blue Jays
Following his selection in the draft, Moran was traded to Angels in exchange for $244,000 of international slot money.
2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 4 SV, 62.2 IP, 3.45 ERA, .290 BAA, 85/20 K/BB (48 G)
Selected by the Mariners in the seventh round of the 2009 draft out of the University of North Carolina, Brian Moran—whose younger brother is 2013 first-rounder Colin Moran—appeared to be on the fast track to the major leagues after he posted a 1.73 ERA and 78-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio across three levels, including Double-A, in 2010.
Since then, however, the left-hander hasn’t been able to repeat his success, spending the last three seasons between Double- and Triple-A. The 25-year-old spent the entire 2013 season at Triple-A Tacoma in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, and put up solid numbers with a 3.45 ERA and 85-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 62.2 innings.
At 6’3”, 210 pounds, Moran lacks a true plus offering but has proven that he still can miss plenty of bats. The left-hander’s fastball typically registers in the mid- to upper 80s, however, it tends to play up (in terms of perceived velocity) thanks to a lengthy stride toward the plate and deceptive arm action. His primary secondary offering is a breaking ball that’s slow and loopy but offers stark contrast to his heater.
Chances of Sticking: Moran’s value as a major league reliever will depend on his effectiveness against same-sided hitters. This past season, the 25-year-old held lefties to a .235 batting average and posted a 48-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32.1 innings. On the other hand, righties had no problem squaring up the soft-tossing southpaw, as they batted .341 against him this season with 43 hits in 30.1 innings.
If he can keep the ball down in the zone and baffle opposing hitters as he did in the Mariners system, Moran should have a decent chance to earn a spot in the Angels bullpen.
6. Seth Rosin, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies—Selected by New York Mets
After obtaining Seth Rosin in the Rule 5 draft, the Mets traded him to the Dodgers, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
2013 Stats (AA): 126.2 IP, 4.33 ERA, .248 BAA, 96/35 K/BB (26 G/23 GS)
Originally selected by the Giants in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Minnesota, Seth Rosin was sent to the Phillies in 2012 as part of the Hunter Pence trade.
After working primarily as a reliever with San Francisco, Rosin was moved back into the starting rotation following the trade and then was challenged with an aggressive assignment to Double-A Reading to open the 2013 season.
In his first exposure at the more advanced level, the 25-year-old held his own with a 4.33 ERA and 96-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 126.2 innings. It also marked the first season in which the right-hander logged more than 89 innings.
Despite a powerful, 6’6”, 250-pound frame, Rosin’s fastball sits in the low-90s as a starter, and he’s capable of working a few ticks higher in short bursts. The right-hander also throws a curveball and changeup, though neither pitch projects as better than average at maturity.
Chances of Sticking: Rosin still has a ways to go in terms of reaching the major leagues as a starting pitcher. Therefore, the assumption is that the Dodgers will deploy him as a full-time reliever moving forward. Rosin's an intriguing arm due to the fastball velocity and overall versatility, but it’s doubtful that he sticks on the Dodgers roster.
7. Wei-Chung Wang, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates—Selected by Milwaukee Brewers
2013 Stats (Rk – GCL): 47.1 IP, 3.23 ERA, .209 BAA, 42/4 K/BB (12 G/11 GS)
Wei-Chung Wang was originally signed by the Pirates out of Taiwan in 2011. Normally the 21-year-old would not be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. However, Wang’s initial contract with Pittsburgh was voided after it was learned that he needed Tommy John surgery. And per the draft’s rules, any player whose first contract is voided is eligible.
Making his professional debut this past season, Wang posted a 3.23 ERA and stellar 42-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 47.1 innings in the Gulf Coast League.
While a ton isn’t known about the 6’1” lefty, he’s said to have promising stuff with a fastball that sits in the 92-94 mph range and bumps 95, as well as a curveball that flashes plus potential at maturity.
Chances of Sticking: Wang’s combination of a young age and lack of professional experience makes him this year’s most interesting Rule 5 draft pick. However, it also makes the left-hander a long shot to stick on the Brewers roster.
The team will give Wang a long look during spring training to determine whether he’s worth a spot on the 25-man roster. If his fastball-curveball combination plays against major league hitters, specifically same-sided ones, then the Brewers conceivably could stash him as a second lefty in the bullpen.
8. Marcos Mateo, RHP, Chicago Cubs—Selected by Arizona Diamondbacks
2013 Stats (Rk/AA/AAA): 31 IP, 1.74 ERA, .205 BAA, 30/13 K/BB (24 G/2 GS)
Marcos Mateo was originally drafted by the Reds back in 2004. However, his career didn’t take off until he was dealt to the Cubs in 2007.
The right-hander reached the major leagues for the first time during the 2010 season, as he posted a 5.82 ERA while appearing in 21 games. Mateo fared much better in his return to the majors the following year, registering a 4.30 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 23 innings.
Unfortunately, an elbow injury cost the right-hander the entire 2012 season, and it also limited him to only 31 total innings this past season.
Now 29 years old, Mateo still boasts an electric arm with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s, and complements it with a power slider in upper 80s that has swing-and-miss, wipeout break.
Chances of Sticking: Mateo was the only player selected in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft that has actual experience in the major leagues. He’s currently making up for the lost time in 2012 and 2013 with a strong showing in the Dominican Winter League, which likely played a part in his selection on Thursday. Considering that he has two legitimate plus pitches, I think Mateo will ultimately land a spot in Arizona’s bullpen.
9. Michael Almanzar, 3B, Boston Red Sox—Selected by Baltimore Orioles
2013 Stats (AA): .268/.328/.432, 48 XBH (16 HR), 81 RBI, 100/42 K/BB (131 G)
Signed by the Red Sox in 2007 out of the Dominican Republic, Michael Almanzar showed huge potential early in his career but never progressed as expected.
The 2013 season marked Almanzar’s sixth in the organization and first at the Double-A level. Although he didn’t match his 2012 production (.812 OPS, 12 home runs), the 23-year-old had a respectable year at the plate, batting .268/.328/.432 with 16 home runs and a 100-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 131 games.
Almanzar has showcased impressive raw tools throughout his professional career. However, they’ve never quite materialized into usable baseball skills.
Chances of Sticking: If Almanzar sticks on the Orioles roster, it will be due to his ability to mash left-handed pitching. This past season, he batted .285/.349/.483 with seven home runs in 151 at-bats against southpaws. He’s worth a look as an inexpensive platoon option next spring, but it’s highly doubtful the 23-year-old holds a spot on the active roster.