20 Prospects That Teams Will Regret Not Protecting in Rule V Draft

Zachary Ball@MLBDraftCntdwnAnalyst INovember 29, 2011

20 Prospects That Teams Will Regret Not Protecting in Rule V Draft

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    While it may not have the sex appeal of the First Year Player Draft (also known as the Rule IV), the Rule V draft has become an important part of the Major League Baseball offseason.

    Here's the quick rundown on how the process, which takes place during the Winter Meetings each year, works.

    "Teams must file a 40-man roster with the league office by November 20. Any player who fits all of the criteria below is eligible for the Rule V Draft:
    • Player is not on the 40-man roster
    • Player has been in the minor leagues for at least four years if he was signed after age 19 (was three years before the 2006 CBA).
    • Player has been in the minor leagues for at least five years if he was signed before age 19 (was four years before the 2006 CBA).

    Any player drafted must stay in the major leagues all season. Before he is sent to the minors, he must be offered back to the club who had his rights for a $25,000 waiver fee. Often, teams will send a player in lieu of the fee."

    The thing that makes the Rule V draft so tricky is that second-to-last sentence, "any player drafted must stay in the major leagues all season." It's because of that requirement that the average Joe tends not to devote a whole lot of time to thinking about the event.

    Still, over the years, some pretty impressive talent has been gleaned from the Rule V. The most well-known player was Roberto Clemente, who was selected from the Dodgers by the Pirates in 1954. He's not the only one, though. Johan Santana, Dan Uggla and Josh Hamilton all got a fresh start as a result of the Rule V draft and each flourished into big-league stars.

    There aren't many Ugglas or Santanas available in this year's crop, and there's certainly no Clemente, but that doesn't mean there aren't some usable parts.

    Most of the talent comes on the mound and, specifically, out of the bullpen.

    So, without further ado, let's take a look at the cream of the crop from the 2011 Rule V draft class.

Rossmel Perez, C, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Perez had a career-year in 2011, setting high-marks in numerous offensive categories including average, hits, runs and walks. His reward for the patience of the Diamondbacks organization could very well be a ticket out of town and spot on a big-league roster; although, given the fact that he has yet to play a game above High-A, he'll likely be returned to the team even if he is selected.

    Perez has never been an offensive-minded catcher, which could actually help his cause. He's a fantastic defensive backstop who has averaged fewer than 10 errors per season in the minors, a solid number. The rate at which he throws out attempted base-stealers is near 40%.

    As an extra plus, he has some of the best plate discipline in the system, as evidenced by his 166-to-155 BB:K ratio as a professional. Last season he drew 16 more walks than strikeouts, marking the third season (of six) that he was walked more than he struck out.

Brett Butts, RHP, Atlanta Braves

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    Butts missed the majority of the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to Tommy John surgery, but that won't stop him from being one of the most sought-after Braves eligible for the Rule V draft.

    When healthy, he shows two above-average pitches: a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a changeup. As a long-term reliever, he shouldn't need much more than those two pitches.

    Butts didn't look particularly sharp in his comeback, which included stops in rookie ball, High-A and Double-A. He finished the year with an ERA approaching 10.00, but the fact that he was able to return to the mound at all was more important.

Tim Bascom, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

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    Bascom is surprisingly headed to the Rule V draft market, despite winning the organization's Pitcher of the Year honors—yet another befuddling sign from a floundering organization.

    However, the decision isn't befuddling for the fact that they left the 26-year old unprotected, but rather that they offered him POY honors after a comparable season to other pitchers with much higher ceilings (Bobby Bundy and Oliver Drake). No doubt, Bascom is a seasoned right-hander, but he hasn't been able to remain a starter for the duration of his stay in the minors.

    He pitched 12 games in relief in 2011 and has yet to crack the team's top-15 prospect rankings. He offers back-of-the-rotation talent at best, and if he ends up elsewhere it will likely be in a relief role.

Cesar Cabral, LHP, Boston Red Sox

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    Let's face it: it's pretty hard to crack the Red Sox big-league roster no matter what position you play.

    As such, Cesar Cabral's fate was pretty much set in stone, and he'll likely be on his way out of town come the day of the Rule V draft.

    The team that scoops up Cabral will be getting a seasoned reliever with closing potential. He's saved 22 games in his career, including a career-high nine last year. He's also a strikeout machine and has racked up 150 punchouts the past two seasons in 130.1 innings. He spent the majority of the 2011 season at Double-A Portland, so he's more likely than most to stick on the big-league roster, a requirement of any player selected and kept.

Terry Doyle, RHP, Chicago White Sox

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    While Doyle isn't the flashiest name that the White Sox chose not to protect (that honor would go to John Danks' younger brother Jordan), he certainly has the brightest short-term future, which means he'll likely end up hearing his name called on draft day.

    Doyle, now 26 years old, has put together impressive back-to-back campaigns and was the darling of the system in the Arizona Fall League, where he went 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA in eight starts. He competed against some of the best players in the minor leagues, several of whom will wind up on big-league rosters next spring.

    Furthermore, Doyle is viewed as being nearly big-league ready. He made 15 starts at the end of this past season at Double-A Birmingham and excelled, tossing a career-high 173 innings, striking out 122 batters while walking only 33.

Cale Iorg, SS, Detroit Tigers

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    Iorg's star has fallen quite a ways since he was one of the Tigers' top prospects.

    In order to make room for some of their more talented, younger prospects, the Tigers were forced to remove Iorg from their 40-man roster, thus making him eligible for the Rule V. Once upon a time, he would have been a highly sought-after piece. However, after hitting .199 this past season and .215 and .222 the two previous years, he just might slip through and return to Detroit.

    Defensively, Iorg has improved greatly and is now one of the top defensive shortstops in the system. Without any offensive potential, though, he's not going to stick in the big-leagues.

    Maybe all he needs is a change of scenery.

Danny Meszaros, RHP, Houston Astros

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    If you look at the recent history of the Rule V draft, the majority of the players who actually stick and end up starting the season in the Majors are relievers. As such, it's likely someone will take a chance on Astros right-hander Danny Meszaros.

    The diminutive 26-year-old has put together a solid career for a former Round 48 draft pick, and has developed a reputation as a strikeout machine. He has a career K/9 rate of 10.3. Last year, he struck out 71 batters in 61 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

    With 25 games worth of experience at Triple-A, he could be ready for a full-time big-league job.

Elisaul Pimentel, RHP, Kansas City Royals

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    It was hard to miss, but 22-year-old Elisaul Pimentel had one of the best seasons of any Royals pitcher.

    He posted a 3.70 ERA and a 111-to-35 K:BB ratio in a career-high 138.2 innings. More importantly, he reached Double-A for the first time, giving the Royals hope that he could be a useful piece within two years.

    Unfortunately, they might lose Pimentel to another franchise this winter, as he is one of many players the team chose not to protect in advance of the Rule V draft.

Luis Vasquez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Dodgers signed Vasquez out of the Dominican back in 2003 as a position player. After just one season at the plate, however, it was obvious that his arm was his greatest asset, so he moved to the mound.

    He has five seasons under his belt but has really only seen significant time in two of them (2009 and 2010). This past season he made only 13 appearances.

    The main reason teams would seek out Vasquez is the same reason that the Dodgers would want to hold onto him. He throws in the high 90s and is capable of hitting triple digits.

    That was enough to get him added to the 40-man roster last year in advance of the Rule V, but with Chris Withrow and several other players approaching their fourth and fifth seasons, somebody had to go.

Peter Andrelczyk, RHP, Miami Marlins

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    Andrelcyzk has seemingly gotten better each year since signing with the team formerly known as the Florida Marlins.

    Still, that wasn't enough to warrant inclusion on the Marlins 40-man roster, leaving him exposed and available to team's drafting in the Rule V. The right-hander had his best season yet in 2011, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A.

    He posted a strong 3.06 ERA with Jacksonville but was even sharper in a 21-game cameo with New Orleans. He posted a sub-2.00 ERA, struck out 27 batters in 36.1 innings and allowed no home runs. For the season, he went 9-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 41 appearances.

    Of all the players available in the Rule V, Andrelczyk has one of the best chances to stick in the Majors.

Evan Anundsen, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Anundsen will likely be the only player eligible for the upcoming Rule V draft with a minor league no-hitter to his name.

    Back in early 2009, Anundsen tossed nine scoreless, hitless innings, issuing just one walk while striking out 10 batters. That was—and still remains—the highlight of his pro career, but he's been very successful for the Brewers since signing out of the 2006 MLB Draft.

    Twice in his career he has notched double-digit victories, most recently in 2009. He spent almost all of 2010 on the DL with a shoulder injury but returned this past season and showed little rust, going 5-2 with a 3.86 ERA for High-A Brevard County.

    When healthy, Anundsen shows enough to potentially be a No. 5 starter or potentially a long-reliever.

Angel Morales, OF, Minnesota Twins

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    Morales ranked No. 14 among all Twins prospects in the 2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook and the gurus there lauded the outfielder as having a very high ceiling.

    However, he has yet to play a game above High-A ball, despite having five years in. He continues to impress in batting practice and in the weight room, but he has also yet to see all of his talent come together despite having close to 1,500 minor league at-bats.

    This past season, Morales suffered an arm injury, and for a while it sounded like Tommy John surgery was an option. He rehabbed the injury and returned in time to see some action in the Puerto Rican winter league.

    When healthy, Morales offers five-tool potential. At different stops in his career, he's hit 15 home runs (2008), stole 29 bases (2010) and compiled a .301 average (2008). The talent is clearly there, all he's lacking is the everyday consistency.

Jefry Marte, 3B, New York Mets

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    Marte competed for the World squad in the Futures Game this past season, but he ultimately ended up on the outside of the 40-man roster in New York.

    While he's still rather young (20 years old) and still playing below Double-A, he's quite experienced and has shown considerable progress since signing as a teenager back in 2007. He posted his worst batting average (.248) since 2009, but he also set career highs in numerous offensive categories including doubles, home runs and RBIs. 

    Marte has hardly impressed in the field, however, committing 121 errors at third base in just 371 games. His career fielding percentage is .875, and with a wealth of options at the hot corner (Wilmer Flores, Zach Lutz, etc), the team can afford to dangle Marte.

Pat Venditte, RHP/LHP, New York Yankees

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    I'm going to go out on a limb and say Venditte is probably the only ambidextrous pitcher to ever be eligible for the Rule V draft.

    And even if he isn't, he's surely the best. The 26-year old had another strong campaign in 2011, posting a 3.40 ERA in 51 appearances. He struck out 88 batters in 90 innings, walking 31. He's almost two years removed from his breakout campaign in which he posted a 1.93 ERA and a 89-to-15 K:BB ratio.

    Venditte is much more than a tourist attraction; in fact, he has one of the highest career K/9 ratios in the organization. He's also proven capable of filling the closer's role, saving a combined 45 games in his first two professional seasons.

    No doubt, some team will take a chance on the enigmatic reliever.

Jonathan Joseph, RHP, Oakland Athletics

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    Joseph has long been a dark horse in the Oakland organization. It took him more than four years to reach Low-A ball, but when he finally took part in full-season ball, he opened a lot of eyes.

    He had the best year of his career in High-A this past season; since he's still relatively young and inexperienced, the A's have decided to see if they can sneak him through the Rule V. His ERA (5.67) didn't necessarily reflect his success, but the rest of his numbers looked good.

    On the mound, Joseph has great velocity and a devastating curveball. Obviously, he let it hang a bit too much in the Midwest League this year.

    Like most of the other guys on this list, Joseph probably profiles best long-term as a reliever.

Jiwan James, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

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    James represents arguably the top prospect available in the Rule V draft. He ranked as the team's ninth-best prospect heading into the offseason, according to Baseball America.

    James is an incredible athlete who played multiple sports in high-school and who could have played any of them in college. He's a switch-hitter who has garnered comparisons to former Phils top prospect Domonic Brown.

    James spent the entire year at High-A Clearwater. He showed great speed, stealing 31 bases and decent pop (26 doubles). For all of his talent, however, James has plenty of holes. He struck out 120 times and got caught stealing a whopping 16 times.

    The 22-year old has one of the highest ceilings in the system, but it would be a shock if he stuck on a big-league roster due to his rawness.

Aaron Pribanic, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    If any team can afford to lose some pitching in the Rule V draft, it's Pittsburgh.

    Still, right-hander Aaron Pribanic offers solid back-of-the-rotation stuff and could be a useful part for someone. He's shown plenty of polish as he's marched through the system since signing back in 2008 with the Mariners. He came to Pittsburgh in mid-2009 and has gone 21-17 since signing, posting strong ERAs in the mid 3.00s.

    He's also shown an incredible stinginess with the walks, issuing on average around 30 per year. Combine that with the fact that he's a workhorse (154 and 153 innings the past two seasons) and there's a good chance some under-performing squad gives Pribanic a chance to start, or at least relieve, or them.

Nick Schmidt, LHP, San Diego Padres

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    Once upon a time, Schmidt was a first-round pick, selected No. 23 overall in the 2007 draft.

    He's endured a good bit since that day, but finally started to make some progress in 2011. He improved his strikeout rate to a career-best of 8.5 and lowered his walk rate to 3.3, also the best of his four-year career. More importantly, he proved capable of being successful in High-A ball, where he struggled greatly in 2010.

    He took an even bigger step when he participated in the Arizona Fall League, showing considerable skill there, as well.

    Chances are, Schmidt will never be the guy that the Padres thought they were getting back in '07, but he could be a useful part for some other team.

Chad Tracy, 1B, Texas Rangers

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    It's hard to believe that after six seasons and 111 minor league home runs, it's likely that Chad Tracy will no longer be a part of the organization that gave him a pro career.

    And after having arguably the best year of his life (26 HR, 109 RBI) at Triple-A Round Rock, Tracy will very much be in hot demand. In addition to having fantastic hitting ability (.260/.340/.466), Tracy also offers versatility. He's seen time at first base, left field and even catcher throughout the course of his career.

    Tracy would be a perfect fit for a team looking for options at first base or any competitive team looking for an extra spark off the bench who can play multiple positions.

Jon Diaz, INF, Toronto Blue Jays

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    The Blue Jays don't have to worry about losing much after protecting top prospect Travis d'Arnaud, first baseman Michael McDade, RHP Nestor Molina and LHP Evan Crawford, a good sign for a team on the up-and-up.

    Infielder/outfielder Jon Diaz is the best of the bunch that was left unprotected, but take that with a grain of salt. Diaz has six seasons in and has reached Triple-A, but he has yet to show anything other than fantastic plate discipline and great versatility. He has only 15 more strikeouts than walks over his six years and has seen time at shortstop, second base, third base and even in the outfield.

    Diaz won't offer much, but he could be a decent piece off the bench. He's certainly a good bet to get on base, whether it be by hit or walk.