The annual Rule 5 Draft will be held as the Winter Meetings wrap up on Thursday, and there are several interesting players that the Royals could look into to supplement their roster. Baseball America's J.J. Cooper scoured this year's crop of Rule 5-eligible players and came up with a list of interesting names.
When a team selects a player in the Rule 5 Draft, they have retain that player on their 25-man roster for the entirety of the following season. If they don't -- or can't -- they have to return the player to his original team. Rule 5 draftees also have to be active for at least 90 days during the season after they're selected to prevent teams from abusing the draft by keeping a draftee stashed on the disabled list.
In the past, players like Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Johan Santana, and Joakim Soria have been successful after being selected. Maybe this year's draft will produce another All-Star. Probably not, but it could happen.
A few Royals minor leaguers -- Whit Merrifield and Matt Fields -- made Cooper's list. Neither would be a devastating loss for Kansas City, but it would be preferable to see both of them go undrafted. Recently, Max Rieper took a look at a few Royals minor leaguers that could be added or removed from the 40-man roster in preparation for the draft. Of the players Max listed, only Jorge Bonifacio and Orlando Calixte were protected, so there are a few guys - Buddy Baumann, Ali Williams, Chris Dwyer - that could be snatched away by the competition.
As far as potential targets for the Royals go, the crop of players available in the draft is somewhat limited, as usual. Kansas City could conceivably benefit from adding a left-handed reliever or a bench bat, but there isn't much room on the 25-man roster for filler since the Royals will be attempting to return to the playoffs next year.
If you look at Martin's numbers and his age -- or perhaps you remember his name being on top prospect lists from 2011 and 2012 -- you might wonder why he wasn't protected. Cooper offers up his lack of a plus pitch as a possibility. Martin might not ever be more than a back-of-the rotation starter or an option for long relief, but he has had success in Triple-A -- a career 3.52 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP in 225⅔ innings -- so he might be worth a look for the Royals as a deep bullpen/spot starter type, but they aren't likely to have room unless they trade either Wade Davis or Greg Holland.
Guduan can hit 100 mph with his fastball, which isn't special on it's own given the large number of fireballers available in the Rule 5 this year, but he does it from the left side. If the Royals treat the Rule 5 draft as a chance to add a promising lefty reliever, Guduan could be worth some consideration. However, the 22-year-old has only pitched 2⅓ innings above rookie ball -- he struck out four and walked three while allowing one run in his lone appearance for Triple-A Oklahoma Ciy last year. It'd be surprising to see the Royals draft a guy with such limited experience. On the other hand, Tim Collins is the only lefty they have permanently designated as a reliever right now. Brandon Finnegan and Brian Flynn might both be used in the bullpen next season, but both players would provide more long-term value as starters.
Gilmartin had a relatively strong showing last year for the Twins after being traded by the Braves for Ryan Doumit last winter. He started well in Double-A, putting up a 3.12 ERA in 12 starts with 74 strikeouts and just 16 walks in 72 innings; but he was less impressive in the Independent League. There, he posted a 4.28 ERA in 72⅔ innings and his strikeout-to-walk ratio shriveled to 2.11. He's been a starter for his entire career, but if the Royals drafted him, he'd have to lean on his strong numbers against left-handed hitters and attempt to become useful as a LOOGY. Cooper notes that many of the Rule 5 picks from 2013 were lefty specialists, so it wouldn't be shocking to see the Royals go that route.
Other potential fits: Gregory Infante, Edgar de le Rosa, Rafael De Paula, Adys Portillo, Andrew McKirahan, and Jed Bradley
Delino DeShields, Jr.
He's the most notable name on the list of players available, but DeShields is still a year away from the majors at the very least. He killed low-A ball in 2012 and 2013, but last season he hit just .236/.346/.360 in 507 plate appearances for Double-A Corpus Christi. However, he did manage to hit 11 homers and steal 54 bases.
Since the Royals pick later in the draft, they might not even get a chance to take him. DeShields wouldn't be an awful risk for a team that knows it probably won't contend in 2015, but stashing him in the majors for the entire season might also set him back in his progression toward being a complete player. What might also set him back is his attitude. Cooper mentioned the fact that DeShields has been "pulled from multiple games for not running out balls over the years" in his article, so that could be a big enough red flag for some teams to pass on him. For the Royals, the 22-year-old could conceivably serve as a fifth outfielder/pinch runner in 2015, after which he could return to the minors for seasoning in 2016 if need be.
It's hard to see DeShields as a fit for the Kansas City since they already have a proven major league player that can serve as a fourth outfielder in Jarrod Dyson and they seem poised to add another established player to the outfield mix this winter. But DeShields can play second base as well, so he could be squeezed onto the roster if the Royals are in love with his potential.
Some scouts think Mitchell is a late-bloomer, and he reinforced that belief by having his best season in 2014 as a 25-year-old. Across two levels -- Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte -- Mitchell hit 19 homers and stole 15 bases while batting .256/.362/.446 in 515 plate appearances. While those numbers are encouraging, he also struck out 151 times and slugged just .375 in the hitter-friendly parks of the Independent League. He could conceivably fit as a fifth outfielder, but the Royals don't have a huge need for that type of player at the moment.
Canha batted .303/.384/.505 with 20 home runs and 82 runs batted in last year in Triple-A. He had a pretty balanced split in 2014, but over the course of his minor league career he's been much better against lefties. That could make him a decent low-cost platoon match for Carlos Peguero at DH. Both players could fill in as outfielders from time to time, and Canha has minor league experience at first and third as well. Banking on Canha being able to translate his minor league success against lefties to major league success would be a big risk, but they could save a lot of money by doing so. And if he struggled they could always send him back to Houston and look elsewhere for a right-handed bat.
Other potential fits: Mike O'Neill, Taylor Featherston, Jabari Blash, Roberto Pena, Gioskar Amaya, and Matt Skole