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Rule 5 Draft Targets: The Pitchers

The top pitchers to target come Thursday.

Minnesota Twins RHP Kohl Stewart
AP Photo/Genevieve Ross

In my last post, I highlighted some potential hitters to target in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Now it is time to overview the pitchers of preference.

Plenty of examples in recent memory can be found of striking gold with pitcher in the Rule 5.

  • Blue Jays pitcherJoe Biagini, who at least looks like a serviceable reliever, was taken by the Blue Jays in 2015 draft.
  • Hector Rondon turned into a very valuable piece for the Cubs, accumulating 3.8 fWAR over five seasons after getting selected from the Indians.
  • Joakim Soria was a 2x All Star with the Royals after getting selected from the Padres.
  • Johan Santana was picked up from the Houston Astros by the Minnesota Twins. He morphed into one of the better pitchers of the 21st century.

Like hitters, I have a certain things I look for when looking for possible pitchers to take. First, as this applies to all available players, I look to see why they were blocked off the 40-man. Injuries, roster crunches, and age all play roles in this.

All pitchers available have their kinks. That’s mostly why they’re available. So you can’t get too picky when looking for some targets, but here are some of the obtainable arms I have an eye on.

Osmer Morales

Current Organization: Los Angeles Angels

Throws: RHP

Age: 25

2017 Stats: 16 G, 4.83 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 76.1 IP, 77 H, 42 R, 41 ER, 29 BB, 81 SO (AA), 9 G, 3.22 ERA, 5.51 FIP, 50.1 IP, 43 H, 20 R, 18 ER, 21 BB, 40 SO (AAA)

After numerous injuries kept Osmer Morales stuck in the lower levels of the Mariners system, he became a free agent at age 24, later inking a minor league deal with the Angels. The results were decent all things considered, as he went on to post a 4.19 ERA and 8.5 K/9 in 126.2 innings between AA and AAA.

Now Rule 5 eligible, Morales looks to be one of the better arms available for selection. Velocity is not his thing, having trouble reaching 90 MPH. He works with deception and movement, owning a plus curveball and changeup, fooling hitters to the tune of a career 9.7 K/9

I like Morales as a low-floor target. His stuff isn’t all that thrilling, but strikeouts and inducing weak contact (42.6% GB% this year) will always play. I wouldn’t be surprised to this guy taken come Thursday.

Kohl Stewart

Current Organization: Minnesota Twins

Throws: RHP

Age: 23

2017 Stats: 16 G, 4.09 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 77 IP, 72 H, 41 R, 35 ER, 45 BB, 52 SO (AA), 1 G, 7.20 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO (AAA)

Kohl Stewart might be the pitcher drawing the most buzz for this Rule 5 Draft, as the Twins #9 prospect was left unprotected. The problems are clear as day with Stewart, so it’s not like it was unwarranted. Stewart posted an ugly 52:45 K:BB ratio in AA this year, taking a major step back after a encouraging 2016 season.

These recent problems for Stewart could suggest his starting days might be over. If I’m taking the former #4 overall pick and top 100 prospect on Thursday, I’m trying to see how that ground ball inducing, hard sinker and curveball play in the bullpen.

Casey Meisner

Current Organization: Oakland Athletics

Throws: RHP

Age: 22

2017 Stats: 16 G, 3.98 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 74.2 IP, 73 H, 36 R, 33 ER, 20 BB, 80 SO (A+), 12 G, 4.12 ERA, 4.77 FIP, 59 IP, 55 H, 27 R, 27 ER, 27 BB, 37 SO (AA)

A highly regarded third round pick in 2013, the first thing that stands out with Meisner is his tall 6’7” 190 lbs frame. He uses all of his large presence on the mound with his delivery, using a lengthy stride along with a throwing motion that fires across his body.

The fastball sits around 91-94 MPH, but reports suggest he’s had issues keeping it consistent, mainly struggling with his release point, therefore having problems with command. His plus offering is a curveball that gives right handers fits with tons of movement. He also features an average low-80s changeup.

Since 2014, when Meisner was popping up on the prospect radar, after a spectacular season with the Mets A- team, his production fell off a cliff, lowering his K-rate and raising his BB-rate considerably. Now in the Athletics organization, Meisner has found himself back on the prospect spectrum, as he posted a much better 3.98 ERA and 4.30 FIP, even striking out 9.6 per nine. AA was a bit more tough for him though, as he only struck out 37 batters in 59 innings.

These overall improvements can be attributed to some changes made in his delivery.

"Last year I was working on a whole new delivery. They kind of changed some things up on me, staying over the rubber more and finishing more upright, so I was trying to get comfortable with it," Meisner said. "The coaches really helped me out by sticking with me and telling me just trust the process. Finally this year everything is rolling a little bit better."

The main thing Meisner has going for him is he still only 22 years old. I could definitely see a team taking a shot on this high-floor righty.

Rob Kaminsky

Current Organization: Cleveland Indians

Throws: Left

Age: 23

2017 Stats: 1 G, 9.00 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO (AA)

Before essentially missing all of the 2017 season due to injury (only pitched in five innings this year), Rob Kaminsky was a fairly notable prospect. He doesn’t blow hitters away with strikeout stuff, but he easily gets the job done with a heavy ground ball profile (54.0% GB% in 137 AA innings last year).

The fastball isn’t exciting at all, working in the upper-80s, but Kaminsky does feature an amazing breaking curveball. The changeup is below-average. So only working with two ideal pitches, Kaminsky looks like his potential is a future as a back-end rotation guy or high-tier reliever.

Jose Almonte

Current Organization: Arizona Diamondbacks

Throws: RHP

Age: 22

2017 Stats: 27 G, 3.55 ERA, 4.31 FIP, 139.1 IP, 129 H, 62 R, 55 ER, 66 BB, 162 SO (A+)

There’s quite an electric arm available for selection. That is Jose Almonte, the Diamondbacks 25th ranked prospect. Almonte just finished up a season that saw him strike out 162 batters in 139.1 innings with the Diamondbacks High-A team.

A highly ranked arm in 2012 international class, Almonte has yielded pretty nice results thus far, posting a 3.34 ERA in 411.2 career minor league innings. Currently working with a fastball in the mid-to-low 90s, Almonte could project to add a couple of MPH in the bullpen, a likely destination if he is picked Thursday.

Almonte would be a major project, as he is still far away from being ready for the majors. His offspeed stuff still needs a ton of refining and his control could use a lot of work (61.3% Strike% ranked 48th out of 49 High-A qualified pitchers). But if he can improve upon these things, a team could have themselves a very interesting arm that can get a surplus of strikeouts (13.7% SwStr% ranked 7th out qualified High-A pitchers).

Others to consider: Nick Burdi, RHP, Twins; Jordan Guerrero, LHP, White Sox; Mason McCullough, RHP, Diamondbacks; Jake Reed, RHP, Twins; Tyler Eppler, RHP, Pirates; Burch Smith, RHP, Rays

Useful Tool

As seen in my previous post, I have a great tool for those of you interested in the Rule 5 Draft. I created a spreadsheet that list all players eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft along with their Steamer600 Projections.