MLB Offseason: Breaking Down 10 of the Top Rule 5 Prospects

Christopher Czar@@detsportsczarContributor IDecember 2, 2011

MLB Offseason: Breaking Down 10 of the Top Rule 5 Prospects

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    Sorry, Jose Bautista isn't available this year.

    However, back in 2003 the AL's third vote getter for the 2011 MVP award was selected in the Rule 5 draft, which occurs at the annual winter meetings.  You can add a few other big names to that list including Shane Victorino, Dan Uggla, Joakim Soria and Johan Santana as players selected in the Rule 5 draft.

    Here's a quick run down of the rules surrounding the draft. 

    The draft order works the same as the Amateur Draft, worst to best. In order to make a selection, a team must have a spot available on their 40 man roster and the selected player must remain on the selecting team's 25 man roster for the entire season.

    There's also a few rules to protect a teams' top young talent.  The player cannot be on the organizations' 40 man roster when selected, and if signed by the original organization at 19 or older the player must have at least four years of service (five years if signed at 18).

    So basically, you're not going to ever see guys like Bryce Harper or Jesus Montero in the Rule 5.  This will be middling prospects who haven't been able to work their way out of the minors or onto the 40 man roster in nearly a half decade. 

    However, history tells us that there are some hidden gems, which have a lot of professional experience, available through this draft.

    The names this year won't ring a bell to most of us, but here's a quick primer of 10 players available in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft.  Some might get picked, several probably won't since teams might not be convinced they can add value to the 40 man roster, but they're all interesting names.

Nick Noonan: Giants

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    A first round pick in 2007, second baseman Nick Noonan ranked among the likes of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey as top San Francisco Giants near the end of the 2000s.

    However, unlike Posey and Bumgarner, Noonan hasn't reached the majors yet and probably won't soon since the Giants minor league system is stocked with blue chip middle infield prospects like Ehire Adrianza and Brandon Crawford.

    An above-average defender, Noonan has been unspectacular in the minors with his bat but he did hit .297 in a short 13 game appearance at Triple-A Fresno making him one of the few top Rule 5 prospects with Triple-A experience.

Pat Venditte: Yankees

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    Pat Venditte is a "switch-pitcher" that was left off the 40 man roster by the New York Yankees.  Most accounts have the reliever as the only current minor league pitcher able to pitch proficiently with either arm.

    His talent comes with a custom made glove that fits either hand and his very own rule to avoid embarrassing switch-hitter vs. switch-pitcher situations.

    Venditte can hit mid 90's with his right handed fastball and throws a wicked slider left handed.  Due to the fact that he can pitch from either side, he isn't nearly as limited by pitch counts that other pitchers would be.

    He has a career 2.28 ERA in the minors and averages 10 Ks per nine innings, but he hasn't pitched above Double-A ball and will be 27 next season. 

Cesar Cabral: Red Sox

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    The Red Sox's Cesar Cabral was claimed in the 2010 Rule 5 Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, but promptly returned after the Rays were unwilling to place him on their 40 man roster and unable to find a trading partner.

    The left-handed reliever didn't do much to discourage teams from selecting him this season as he posted a 2.94 ERA with 70 Ks in just 55 minor league innings last season.

    Cabral hasn't made it past Double-A yet, but the fact that he's a lefty and only 22 with a live arm will probably lead a team to claim him again.

Diego Moreno: Pirates

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    Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect (say that 10 times) Diego Moreno was one of the last players the organization left off their 40 man roster and is sure to draw serious attention in the Rule 5 draft.

    Health issues have derailed this hard throwing right-hander the last few years, and he's struggled to perform above A-ball.

    However, he has natural talent and can hit high 90s while pitching from a three-quarters arm slot.  He's shown the ability to average over 10 Ks per nine innings as a professional player, which means he has a good chance of being selected.

Cole DeVries: Twins

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    Cole DeVries of the Twins hasn't ever been a top level prospect, but unlike most on this list, he's a guy who proved last year that he could pitch at the Triple-A level.

    In addition, he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League and is a hot name that might be the most major league ready player on this list.

    The right-handed DeVries has been consistent and has experience as both a starter and a reliever.  His fastball hits low to mid 90s and he could be scooped up by a team in need of relief help.

Brad Meyers: Nationals

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    Like DeVries, right-hander Brad Meyers of the Washington Nationals could be ready to contribute now at the major league level.

    The 6'6" Meyers has a 2.86 ERA in 453 innings in the minor leagues and was 6-5 with a 3.58 ERA at Triple-A Syracuse last year.

    Meyers has a chance to get picked and start immediately as a bottom of the rotation starter on a team not expected to contend.  It's just a little curious as to why that team might not be the Nationals.

Derrick Mitchell: Phillies

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    A 23rd round draft pick five years ago, Phillies outfielder Derrick Mitchell has logged over 2,000 minor league at-bats.

    He might have got caught up in the Phillies organization that has been littered with top outfield prospects like Dominick Brown and Michael Taylor in recent years, as he's failed to play at the Triple-A level yet.

    Mitchell, however, has the intangibles that scouts look for.  He's 6'5", 210 lbs with good power and ability to drive in runs. 

    He's also shown improved plate discipline recently and has added base stealing to his resume, swiping 48 bases the last two seasons after only stealing 28 in his first five years of professional baseball.

Matt Rizotti: Phillies

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    The second Philly to adorn this list is a testament to what we all knew—Philadelphia has a strong farm system.

    At 6'5" 255 lbs, Rizotti could pass for a minor league version of Jim Thome.  Rizotti has hit 40 home runs over the past year-and-a-half at Double-A Reading, but struggled after his 2010 call up to Lehigh Valley with no homers in 52 plate appearances.

    Still, he's shown excellent ability at the plate with a sold .388 OBP throughout his career.  His raw power and plate discipline will be a draw when teams consider him for the Rule 5 draft.

Cole St. Clair: Dodgers

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    25-years-old Cole St. Clair has a 3.42 ERA and averages better than a K per nine innings innings since being drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 MLB draft.

    The 6'5" left hander left Rice University as one of the top prospects in the draft but injuries may have contributed heavily to his inability to move up the Dodgers organization quicker.

    He can hit mid 90s on his fastball, throws a slider and has good control.  As a lefty, he's an intriguing prospect in the Rule 5 draft.

Gustavo Nunez: Tigers

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    Once considered to be the shortstop of the future in Detroit, Gustavo Nunez nearly fell off the map after a terrible 2010.

    Prior to 2010, Nunez was seen as the top infield prospect in the Tigers organization but he struggled mightily after being promoted to High-A Lakeland.

    Nunez, however rebounded nicely in 2011 to hit .276 between Lakeland and Double-A Erie.  He's slowly progressing the minors, but his outstanding defensive skills and excellent speed make him an intriguing prospect at a premium position.