The Rule 5 draft takes place today, and with the Royals holding one vacant spot on the 40-man roster, they can make a selection, although they won't pick until the 27th selection. The Rule 5 draft is a way to prevent teams from hoarding minor leaguers. Teams may select eligible players not protected on the 40-man roster, but must keep that player on the Major League active roster for a full season to keep the rights to that player. Eligible players are those who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years, or players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years.
Last year's Rule 5 Draft was one of the best in years. Odubel Herrera and Delino DeShields, Jr. were fringe Rookie of the Year candidates, Mark Canha put up 16 homerd and almost one-and-a-half wins for the A's, and Sean Gilmartin helped the Mets get all the way to the World Series -- ;) -- with a 2.67 ERA and a 2.75 FIP.
In 2014, the Red Sox sold Jandel Gustave (who they selected sixth) to the Royals. He only stayed with the Royals through spring training and was promptly returned to Houston. He had an exciting arm, and it seemed as though the Royals were planning on trying to stash him at the back end of their bullpen, but ultimately they did not carry him. The Rule 5 draft can be an effective way to add role players - or if you're lucky you can find a regular contributor or even a star, like the Royals did in 2006 when they selected Joakim Soria. Welcome back, Jack.
Yesterday, Baseball America's J.J. Cooper mentioned a few names buzzing around the Winter Meetings.
Here is Baseball America's Rule 5 draft preview with names to know. Balbino Fuenmayor, Sam Selman, Daniel Stumpf, and Yunior Marte are among the names the Royals risk losing in the Rule draft. There are likely not many great fits for this team available in the draft, but the Royals scouts are a crafty bunch, so who knows.
The Rays prospect might not be available by the time the 27th pick rolls around, but if he is, the Royals should seriously consider taking Goeddel. A first-round pick in 2011 (41st overall) Goeddel recently made the switch from third base to the outfield. In October, Goeddel (pronounced like the NFL commissioner - GOODell) was named the Top Power-Speed Player in the Southern League by Baseball America's Matt Eddy. He's got a 55-grade arm according to FanGraphs, and he batted .279/.350/.433 with 12 home runs and 28 steals in Double-A. The right-handed hitter could serve as an interesting fourth outfielder - or fifth, if the team is planning on using Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson in a platoon at one corner and an acquisition at the other. If Orlando struggles, Goeddel could help in that platoon with Dyson. Last year, he batted .385/.435/.677 with six homers, ten walks, and just 12 strikeouts in 108 plate appearances against lefties.
Hernandez, 23, has struggled since reaching Double-A for the Astros, hitting .230/.278/.381 in 144 games. However, he hit 17 home runs and stole 33 bases in 514 plate appearances, so it is apparent that he has some loud tools. The outfielder might be a better pick for a team with a few more roster spots to spare, rather than a team defending their title in 2016. There probably isn't enough room for a player this raw to stick on the roster all year.
Blash has a little more experience than the 23-year-olds listed above. He hit 32 home runs between Double- and Triple-A last year with a combined .271/.370/.576 batting line for the Mariners. The outfielder has a solid .256/.369/.500 throughout his minor league career. However he strikes out a ton, and despite FanGraphs' Kiley McDaniel calling him "an NFL type dude" due to his athleticism, McDaniel also noted that players of Blash's ilk often crush minor league pitching and struggle in the bigs due to their "late-count, low-contact hitting style."
A lefty that can hit 100 mph? YES! How did he not get picked in this draft last year?!? Well, he has a career 1.86 WHIP and struggled considerably in Double-A at the end of last year. Then again, he's got an 11.2 career K/9 - and 100 mph from a lefty! On the other hand, he pairs that flashy strikeout rate with a career 7.2 BB/9. Basically, Guduan is only effective when he strikes out two guys in an inning, statistically speaking anyway. The Astros farmhand limits homers well (0.4 HR/9), but major league hitters might be a little more accustomed to his velocity. The idea here would be to take Guduan if, and only if, Dave Eiland saw something that he felt could be fixed and result in Guduan being useful against lefties.
Pen, a 25 year-old from Shortstopsburg, Dominican Republic, a was a starter for the Cubs last year in Double-A. He posted 140 strikeouts in 129⅔ innings, walked 3.4 per nine, and put up a 3.40 FIP. Obviously, he wouldn't jump directly into a major league rotation, but he could help at the back end of a bullpen for a year and then transition back to starting. In the pen, his fastball (currently touching 96 mph) could probably gain another tick, according to Cooper. The Royals have had considerable success turning starters into relievers in the recent past, so perhaps this would be good for Pena's career as well. The Royals don't exactly need the help in the bullpen this year, but Pena could be a garbage time guy, or even make a few spot starts, and then potentially contribute in the 2017 or 2018 rotation.
Yes. I picked this guy because he calls his changeup "The Changeup of Death." He isn't likely to be much of an impact guy at any point in his career, but he could be a good choice as a swing guy or spot starter at the fringes of the bullpen. He's another Astros minor leaguer, which shows just how deep their system is right now. He has a three-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio in his career despite middling results.
I don't think the Royals will opt to stash a higher-updside prospect type like Carlos Tocci, Wuilmer Bucerra, or Aristides Aquino -- even though that would be exciting. Most likely the Royals will not select anyone. But if they do, for me, it is Goeddel or Pena. Goeddel seems like he could stick in the majors even if his bat disappears. At the very least, he could step into something that resembles the role Jarrod Dyson will be vacating in favor of the starting lineup. And Pena looks like he'd respond well to the pen for a short-term stint and he might be an interesting rotation prospect if they can keep him in the majors all year and then send him down again to stretch back out. It'll be fun to see who gets picked, but the Royals might not make much noise.