2008-09 Rule 5 Eligibilities: The Pitchers

On the second and final installment of Rule 5 Eligibilities for 2009, we focus on the pitchers eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, which will take place on the final day of the Winter Meetings in December.  The performance of pitchers is obviously much more volatile than hitters, as many hard-throwing moundsmen in the low minors tend to get selected in the Rule 5 Draft.  Joakim Soria, anyone?  This is why I believe we must take careful consideration, while paying attention closely to scouting reports, in order to conclude which Minor League pitchers we should and should not protect.

Remember the "selectability factor", which is simply the chances they are selected in the December Rule 5 Draft.  This grading is on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being highly unlikely to be taken, 3 being somewhat likely to be taken, and 5 being very likely to be taken.  I will divide this into a two-part series.  Let us begin with the hitters.

The complete list of Rule 5 eligible pitchers is below.

RP - Henry Barrera (Opening Day Age:  23 / T: R)

2008 Line:  2.81 ERA, 57.2 IP, 42 G, 24 BB, 78 K, 1.23 WHIP (A+ Wilmington)

Selectability Factor:  3 / 5 (Maybe worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Barrera has posted terrific strikeout rates in every Minor League level since being drafted out of Rosemead High School in California by the Royals in 2004.  He is a power reliever who can touch the mid 90's with his fastball velocity.  He was a key component of the Blue Rocks' pen in '08, and seeks to move up again in '09.  At the mere age of 23, he is definite power reliever/set-up man future material, and possibly future closer material.  It's difficult to claim that a team will surely select him in December, but with a small market, "rebuilding" team like the Royals, erring on the side of protection is never an unsafe philosophy.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

SP - Jose Capellan (Opening Day Age:  28 / T: R)

2008 Line:  4.10 ERA, 37.1 IP, 6 G, 5 GS, 14 BB, 20 K, 1.31 WHIP (AAA Omaha)

Selectability Factor:  3 / 5 (Maybe worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Dayton Moore and the Atlanta Brave'd Royals signed ex-Brave pitcher Capellan to a Minor League contract back in July.  Capellan is a journeyman extraordinaire who has enjoyed - or not enjoyed? - stints in Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, and most recently, Colorado.  Capellan was arguably rushed through the Minors as a fairly good prospect.  He possesses a mid-90's fastball, but projects as a more generic swingman in the future.  The fastball could possibly increase if he moves to the bullpen.  That said, I like taking chances on the Matt Wrights and Roman Colons of the world.  I watched him pitch in Omaha back in July, and was impressed.  He can never stay healthy, though, and he was shut down for the season with an injury in August.  By golly, I can not find what the injury was, or when he'll return.  I'll modify my projection if anyone can provide explanations or articles for this regard.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA 

SP - Luis Cota (Opening Day Age:  23 / T: R)

2008 Line:  3.55 ERA, 25.1 IP, 6 GS/G, 16 BB, 21 K, 1.58 WHIP (R+ Idaho Falls) / 5.80 ERA, 35.2 IP, 8 GS/G, 14 BB, 32 K, 1.49 WHIP (A Burlington)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Cota has mostly disappointed since being selected out of Sunnyside, California in 2004, and being ranked 6th on the organizational prospect list by Baseball America in 2005 and 2006.  Cota missed the entire 2007 season to repair fraying in his shoulder from surgery, and was truly only beginning to make headway back to the organizational top prospect list in Idaho Falls (3.55 ERA in 25+ innings) before hitting a slight bump in the road at Burlington, Iowa (4 HR, 5.8 ERA in 35 IP).  His K-rate improved in Burlington, but he needs to demonstrate he can at least stay healthy over the course of the season, as he missed significant time in '08 due to injuries.  Who knows if Cota can ever fulfill the potential and stuff he showed in the mid-decade?  One thing is for sure:  He definitely needs far more seasoning - mentally and physically - before we can begin to discuss him as a Major League pitcher.  Err on not protecting him this winter.

Projected 2009 Level:  A

SP - Blake Johnson (Opening Day Age:  23 / T: R)

2008 Line:  4.85 ERA, 143 IP, 38 BB, 86 K, 26 G, 22 GS, 1.44 WHIP (AA NWA)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  At the beginning of the season, baseball scouts and Royals fans were raving about the talented Northwest Arkansas rotation, with Johnson as merely the #4 pitcher.  Like his counterparts Rowdy Hardy and Julio Cesar Pimentel, Johnson's stock fell significantly in 2009.  He possessed one of the finest curveballs in the Texas League, but must rely on location! location! location! in order to succeed at every Minor League level and earning a position on the Major League squad.  As a tall, young righthander, I like his makeup, but his lack of dominance or velocity will likely deter teams from selecting him, as he is probably not ready to start at the Major League level.  Keep him in the organization, but don't worry about protecting him.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

SP - Dusty Hughes (Opening Day Age:  25 / T: L)

2008 Line:  2.91 ERA, 52.2 IP, 20 G, 4 GS, 16 BB, 43 K, 1.2 WHIP (AA Northwest Arkansas) / 5.04 ERA, 55.1 IP, 12 G, 11 GS, 25 BB, 36 K, 1.63 WHIP (AAA Omaha)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  The Royals named Dusty Hughes the Wichita Wranglers Pitcher of the Year in 2007.  After showing promise in NWA in the first half of the season, the short left-hander stumbled a bit in Omaha.  Hughes was once heralded for his excellent control, but given his short stature and non-overpowering stuff, he will need every aspect of that control for the remainder of his career.  Hughes, unfortunately, doesn't really project as anything more than a long reliever at the Major League level.  However, at 5'8", he is certainly an everyman in terms of height.  I am rooting for him, but I don't count on any team selecting him this winter.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

SP - Matt Kniginyzky (Opening Day Age:  26 / T: R)

2008 Line:  3.57 ERA, 141 IP, 27 GS/G, 51 BB, 113 K, 1.3 WHIP (A+ Wilmington)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Kniginyzky - whose name I have to reference every time I type it - possesses an 89-92 miles per hour fastball and a solid power curveball and changeup.  He holds a fine ability to throw strikes, but his age and lack of overpowering pitches do not make him worth protecting, in my opinion.  Rowdy Hardy without the pizazz and more generic stuff.  He did win the Wilmington Blue Rocks Pitcher of the Year award for 2008.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

SP - Mario Santago (Opening Day Age:  24 / T: R)

2008 Line:  3.43 ERA, 141.2 IP, 27 GS/G, 39 BB, 86 K, 1.37 WHIP (A+ Wilmington)

Selectability Factor:  4 / 5 (Worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Santiago translated his excellent heat into solid pitching results for Wilmington this year.  In my opinion, he should have beaten out Kniginyzky for the Pitcher of the Year at that level.  His tender age and upper hand as a starting pitcher make him worth protecting, in my opinion.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

RP - Juan Abreu (Opening Day Age:  24 / T: R)

2008 Line:  3.66 ERA, 76.1 IP, 22 G, 4 GS, 42 BB, 104 K, 1.32 WHIP (A Burlington)

Selectability Factor:  3 / 5 (Maybe worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Abreu posted an excellent season for Midwest League champion Burlington Bees in '08.  He combined with Dan Duffy for a no-hitter and, according to Royals Authority, was a darkhorse candidate for the Baseball America/Midwest League Top 20 prospect list.  Abreu is still rather young and possesses excellent heat.  He should be worth considering for protection.

Projected 2009 Level:  A+ Wilmington

RP - Greg Atencio (Opening Day Age:  27 / T: R)

2008 Line:  3.81 ERA, 54.1 IP, 27 G, 25 BB, 63 K, 1.27 WHIP (AA Northwest Arkansas) / 3.24 ERA, 25 IP, 9 G, 11 BB, 22 K, 1.44 WHIP (AAA Omaha)

Selectability Factor:  4 / 5 (Probably worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Atencio is a fairly average-sized right-hander who possesses an excellent slider and mid'90's fastball. There is every reason to believe he can translate his good control and solid strikeout rates to a middle reliever role in the big leagues next season.  Atencio is Joel Peralta, part two:  A late-blooming relief pitcher who relies on control, a decent fastball, the slider as his best pitch, and gives up his fair share of home runs.  Atencio is worth protecting this winter.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA Omaha

RP - Kyle Crist (Opening Day Age:  25 / T: R)

2008 Line:  3.89 ERA, 74 IP, 42 G, 33 BB, 56 K, 1.35 WHIP (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  The Royals selected Crist in the 34th round in 2004.  Crist is a ground ball pitcher who throws a fastball between 93 and 95 miles per hour.  That said, it hasn't exactly manifested in consistently good results.  His 2007 season, notably, was subpar.  Don't protect him.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

RP - Gilbert De La Vara (Opening Day Age:  24 / T: L)

2008 Line:  3.65 ERA, 44.1 IP, 24 G, 12 BB, 31 K, 1.02 WHIP (A+ Wilmington) / 2.76 ERA, 32.2 IP, 21 G, 15 BB, 21 K, 1.16 WHIP

Selectability Factor:  2 / 5 (Probably not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  De La Vara was selected as a draft and follow pitcher by the Royals back in 2005.  He has shown flashes of domination throughout his climb, manifesting in a terrific 2006 season split between the Carolina League and Texas League.  Him being a left-hander could provide additional value, but I doubt he gets selected, based on his inconsistency.  He has been assigned to the North Shore squad in the Hawaiian League. 

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

RP - Patrick Green (Opening Day Age:  27 / T: R)

2008 Line:  8.38 ERA, 7 G, 9.2 IP, 3 BB, 8 K, 1.76 WHIP (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  1 / 5 (Not worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  The Royals selected Patrick Green from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette in 2004, but he's strictly organizational filler, at this point.  He suffered with injuries in most of 2008, but managed to post a respectable 3.92 ERA in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League in '07.  At age 27, whether he will even move significantly up the ladder is in serious question.  Don't worry about a team selecting Patrick Green.

Projected 2009 Level:  AA

RP - Chris Nicoll (Opening Day Age:  25 / T:  R)

2008 Line:  2.91 ERA, 43.1 IP, 20 G, 15 BB, 49 K, 1.13 WHIP (A+ Wilmington) / 3.09 ERA, 43.2 IP, 19 G, 8 BB, 55 K, 1.17 WHIP (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  3 / 5 (Maybe worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  Nicoll has worked his way steadily up the organizational ladder since being selected in the third round by the Royals in 2005.  Nonetheless, Nicoll faltered horribly in 2007, but bounced back nicely in 2008.  Baseball America ranked Nicoll as possessing the best control prior to the 2006 season.  Nicoll is a quick worker who changed pitches effectively in '07, but does not possess overpowering stuff.  He is worth considering, but let's be blunt:  I'm not exactly worried about losing him, because I'm skeptical he'll make it through May on any 25-man roster, even Washington's.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

RP - Jarod Plummer (Opening Day Age:  25 / T: R)

2008 Line:  4.19 ERA, 29 G, 58 IP, 15 BB, 65 K, 1.24 WHIP (AA Northwest Arkansas)

Selectability Factor:  3 / 5 (Maybe worth protecting)

RN Perspective:  The Royals acquired Jarod Plummer from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade during Spring Training in 2006.  He works with a moderate fastball that tops out in the low 90's.  He also possesses an above-average slider and splitter.  The Royals have opted not to retain him the previous two offseasons.  We'll see how it shakes out, this time around.  I'm still not counting on him being protected, but he continues to post solid results as he works his way up the organizational ladder.

Projected 2009 Level:  AAA

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