General managers will wrap up this week's winter meetings with the Rule 5 Draft, a process where teams can sort through other team's dumpsters and find hidden gems among assorted dreck. The Rule 5 Draft is where the Royals unearthed All-Star Joakim Soria and forgettable speedster Rich Thompson. While most selections are more similar to Thompson, occasionally teams can find semi-useful parts, as the Royals seemingly did last year in selecting Nate Adcock from the Pirates.
For a nice primer to the rules and process of the Rule 5 Draft, read this.
The Royals are currently at the 40 man roster limit, although they are currently looking to make a move to clear room for a pick. The following is a brief preview of eligible players that might make some sense for the Royals.
LHP Cesar Cabral, Red Sox
Cabral was actually selected in the Rule 5 Draft last winter by the Rays, but failed to stick. The 22-year old pitched well in AA, posting a 46-16 K-BB ratio in 38.1 innings with a 3.52 ERA after dominating in 16.2 innings in high A ball. Cabral features a low-90s fastball with a plus circle change, in addition to a curveball and slider.
LHP T.J. McFarland, Indians
McFarland is a ground-ball pitcher with an excellent sinker in the low-90s. The 22-year old posted a 3.87 ERA in AA with 103 strikeouts and 50 walks in 137.1 innings, but really impressed in the Arizona Fall League. He might actually be more suited as a long-reliever than a true LOOGY, but Ned will probably use him wherever he can be least optimal. McFarland has battled elbow problems in his career.
LHP Dan Meadows, Brewers
Meadows is a 24-year old who split time between AA and AAA in 2011. Overall he posted a 2.68 ERA in 77 innings with 74 strikeouts and 23 walks, although his numbers suffered upon his promotion. Originally a 49th round pick because of a fastball that tops out in the high-80s, Meadows consistently strikes out 8 K/9 at every level. The 6'6'' lefty actually has a reverse-platoon split with righties struggling more against him than lefties, so he may not fit the mold of a typical LOOGY.
LHP Joseph Ortiz, Rangers
Ortiz stands just 5'7'' but works with a late-breaking slider that can be devastating on left-handers. The 21-year old Venezuelan does a terrific job throwing strikes and posted a 2.15 ERA in High A ball last year in 67 innings. Ortiz has a compact delivery with a wild follow through that nearly has him facing second base following his delivery.
LHP Trevor Reckling, Angels
Reckling was named the 15th best Angels prospect, a C+ prospect by John Sickels before the season, but was underwhelming in this third tour in AA, posting a 3.73 ERA with a 63-35 K-BB ratio in 99 innnings. He made just seventeen starts due to an elbow injury. Reckling has unorthodox mechanics and has struggled with control his entire career. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter and while his velocity is merely average, he has a plus curveball. He has a very high arm slot, allowing the ball to tumble out of his hand, inducing ground-balls. He also throws a decent change-up.
Valiquette throws hard. Very hard. The Montreal-born southpaw can unleash a fastball in the high-90s, but that hasn't translated into impressive strikeout numbers, as he averages about 7 K/9 with high walk rates. Valiquette hasn't suffered major injuries, but has had nagging minor injuries throughout his career. He is also known to be an oddball, once refusing to report due to homesickness. He was finally released by the Reds last summer, only to be picked up by the Mariners. Keith Law thinks the lefty will be coveted in today's draft.
LH/RHP Pat Venditte, Yankees
Venditte is one of the most interesting players in minor league baseball as he is one of the only pitchers in memory to be able to throw with both arms. Armed with a unique six-fingered glove that can be worn by a right-hander or left-hander, Venditte will change which arm he throws with depending on the hitter. An Omaha native and Creighton grad, Venditte posted a 3.40 ERA in 90 innings for AA Trenton, striking out 88 and walking 31. It marked a big jump in his walk rate as he had posted much better control numbers in the lower minors. The twenty-six year old is not considered much of a prospect, but his unique abilities could make for an interesting advantage if he's ready to make the leap to the big leagues.
The Long Relievers
RHP Orangel Arenas, Angels
Last spring, Baseball America ranked Arenas the #19 prospect in the Angels system. The 22-year old Venezuelan posted a mediocre 4.48 ERA for AA Arkansas, with just 67 strikeouts in 148 innings. Arenas touches the low-90s and relies on movement, but you can see he doesn't miss bats much. His numbers aren't that different from Nate Adcock or Edgar Osuna - who the Royals have selected in the last two Rule 5 drafts and he profiles as a similar ground ball pitcher.
RHP Nick Barnese, Rays
Barnese was given a C+ grade by John Sickels a few weeks ago, who noted durability as an issue. Barnese hasn't been flashy, but he's put up solid numbers everywhere he has been, averaging 8 K/9, although his walk numbers took a huge spike last season in AA. Barnese throws in the low-90s with a slider and change-up and he projects as a possible back-of-the-rotation pitcher if his shoulder injuries don't resurface.
RHP Tyler Cloyd, Phillies
Cloyd pitched at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, but was dropped from the school for academic reasons. He was still selected in the eighteenth round by the Phillies. Cloyd relies on changing speeds and terrific command. He has struck out 8 K/9 the last two seasons and has shown great control with just 2 BB/9. He was promoted to AA Reading mid-season and posted a 2.78 ERA in seventeen starts with 99 strikeouts and 15 walks in 106.2 innings.
RHP Terry Doyle, White Sox
Doyle is a soft-tosser from Boston College who throws strikes and relies on changing speeds. He has generally been old for his level, but opened eyes in the Arizona Fall League with a 1.98 ERA and a league-leading 0.61 WHIP. The 25 (now 26) year old split time between High A and AA, posting a 3.07 ERA in 173 innings with 122 strikeouts and just 33 walks. He projects as a back-of-the-rotation guy at best, but his work ethic may allow him to exceed expectations.
RHP Brett Lorin, Pirates
Lorin profiles similarly to Nate Adcock, and interestingly they were packaged together in the same trade for Jack Wilson back in 2009. The 6'7'' 24-year old posted a 2.84 ERA in High A ball with 99 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 117 innings. His walk numbers have fallen each year, but so have his strikeout numbers. He throws in the low-90s with decent movement against righties and is most successful when keeping the ball down. He seems to lack much in the way of secondary pitches.
RHP Brad Meyers, Nationals
Meyers posted a ridiculous 116-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 138 innings through three levels of baseball (he threw 38 innings at AA with zero walks). He ended up in AAA with a 3.48 ERA in 95 innings. The 6'6'' 26 year old does not throw particularly hard or have plus pitches, but relies on command, believing in "pitching to contact" and throwing insisde. He has had injury problems, although they all seem to be related to his feet, rather than his arm.
RHP Dae-Eun Rhee, Cubs
The Cubs have been aggressive in scouting Korea, and they signed Rhee for $525,000 back in 2007. Rhee had Tommy John surgery in 2008, and since then he has stayed healthy but has produced mediocre results. He posted a 4.02 ERA last year in his second tour of High A ball, with 117 strikeouts and 43 walks in 127 innings. He is more of a long-term project as he still has great stuff, it just hasn't translated to results yet. He throws in the mid-90s with a change-up lauded by Baseball America as the best in the organization.
RHP Johan Yan, Rangers
Yan is a former infielder who converted to pitching a few years ago and has flourished as a side-armer. He throws in the low-90s with a two-seamer and a slider. The 23-year old Dominican posted a 1.52 ERA in 41 innings at High A ball before being promoted to AA and posting a microscopic 0.34 ERA in 26.2 innings. He generally strikes out around 8 K/9, but his walk rates have been a bit high. Yan is an extreme groundball pitcher, and is very tough on righties. He has drawn quite a bit of interest in the Rule 5 Draft.
The Utility Infielders
IF Drew Cumberland, Padres
Cumberland is a left-handed hitting infielder taken in the first round of the 2007 draft out of high school by the Padres. Cumberland is known for having great speed and good contact rates. His walk rates are decent and his power has begun to come along, although he still lacks an ability to hit the ball out of the park. He has played primarily shortstop, although his arm may not be strong enough or accurate enough to play there regularly. Cumberland missed all of last season with an inner ear condition, but has been cleared to play for 2012. Other injuries have plagued his career, and he's never played more than 77 games in a season.
IF Ryan Flaherty, Cubs
Flaherty is a versatile, left-handed hitter capable of playing all over the infield and he could be one of the more coveted players in the Rule 5 Draft. The former Vanderbilt star was a first round pick in 2008 and drew attention with a 20 home run season in the Midwest League in his first full season. He has continued that power at higher levels, although he struggled upon being promoted to AAA Iowa mid-season 2011. Overall he hit .280/.347/.478 with 19 home runs and 88 RBI. He shows good plate discipline, but his defense is a bit of a liability. He can play shortstop, but is stretched a bit thin there and is probably better suited for third.
IF Marwin Gonzalez, Cubs
Gonzalez is a switch-hitting Venezuelan shortstop who is known as a flashy, but sometimes inconsistent defender. His bat took major strides last year in the Venezuelan Winter League, and that carried over into 2011 where he posted a .288/.343/.400 split between AA and AAA. He doesn't show much home run power, but is finally hitting doubles after struggling with the bat his first few professional seasons. Gonzalez has experience playing all over the infield, with some time in the outfield as well.
IF Beamer Weems, Padres
You gotta take him for the name alone, right? Beamer is a right-handed hitting shortstop with plus defensive skills. He can draw walks, but has not developed much in the way of power or contact skills. The former Baylor Bear is considered a gamer who almost had his career derailed by a beanball in the face. He also missed most of the 2010 season with a thumb injury. Weems played in just 77 games last year, hitting .246/.331/.415 in AA San Antonio.
Almonte is a switch-hitter who swiped 30 bases last year for High A Trenton. He missed nearly all of 2010 with an injury, but rebounded to hit .268/.333/.382 with 50 walks and 112 strikeouts in 598 plate appearances in 2011. Almonte is considered a plus-defender and a smart ballplayer who is still learning the game of baseball. The 22-year old Dominican has not shown much home run power, although his gap power increased tremendously in 2011.
RF Dan Brewer, Yankees
Shouldn't Milwaukee pick this guy up? Brewer is lauded as a gamer who does all the little things. He stole just 13 bases last year, but swiped 29 in 2010, although he was caught ten times. Its probably a stretch to call him a "speedster" as he's really more of a guy who does lots of things well, but nothing exceptionally. He played infield in college, but moved to the outfield in the pros, and has the arm to play right field, and the speed to play center, although he's probably a bit stretched there. The right-handed 24 year old does strike out quite a bit, but will draw a walk. Brewer missed a lot of time last year with hamstring issues and hit .278/.347/.351 in AA Trenton.
CF Daniel Carroll, Mariners
Carroll was a third round pick by Seattle, who has stolen 177 bases in five minor league seasons. Last year he led the California League in steals with 62, while being caught just 14 times. He exhibited some great patience, drawing 88 walks, but that patience had a price as he amassed 157 strikeouts. Carroll more than doubled his career home run total this year with 18 home runs, although the California League massively inflates power numbers. On the other hand, he did start to show more power in 2010 in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. The twenty-two year old right-handed hitter would be making a big leap from High A ball, although his role would likely be a pinch-runner and defensive replacement.
CF Jiwan James, Phillies
James has swiped thirty bags in each of the last two seasons, but has never played higher than High A ball. Baseball America ranked the switch-hitter as the 9th best Phillies prospect this winter, while John Sickels had him ranked 20th, calling him a "C" prospect. The twenty-two year old outfielder who has not hit for any power, but is toolsy enough that scouts expect some power to develop. He has very little control over the strike zone whiffing over 100 times in each of the last two seasons. Despite his high steal totals, he also has a very high caught stealing rate. Reports indicate the Phillies expect James to get selected tomorrow.
CF Tommy Pham, Cardinals
Pham is a toolsy 23-year old with blazing speed that hasn't translated to huge stolen base numbers yet. Selected in the 16th round out of a Nevada high school, Pham struggled his first few season of pro ball before turning it around in 2010 with a .288/.394/.441 season between High A and AA. Pham has decent power but projects as more of a gap hitter than a home run hitter. He struggled mightily as an infielder which led to his move to the outfield. Pham has battled wrist injuries and an eye condition that he corrected with special contact lenses.
Special thanks to Vlad at Bucs Dugout, who wrote this wonderful Rule 5 guide which you can read for more information and videos.