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Rule 5 Draft Targets: The Hitters

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The top hitters available for selection.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Though it isn’t very exciting for the average baseball fan, the Rule 5 Draft is a very interesting time for minor league enthusiasts such as myself. And for the most part, the time I spend invested into studying and analyzing is usually for nothing, as most of the players selected in this draft don’t really amount to anything at the major league level.

But sometimes, just sometimes, a team can roll the dice and get lucky. The Rule 5 Draft has produced some very useful hitters in recent history, including guys like Odubel Herrera (10.5 fWAR in 3 seasons), Delino DeShields Jr. (3.8 fWAR in three limited seasons), and Justin Bour (career 122 wRC+).

There are a couple different things you can look at when looking for a good Rule 5 selection. Maybe a young, toolsy player that is one adjustment away from becoming a legit prospect, maybe someone who was blocked in his organization and was the odd man out on a roster logjam (Astros, Twins, Cubs, and Cardinals had that problem this year), or possibly a player that has been overlooked for a certain reason, like injury or age. Here are some guys I think fit into those categories.

Jon Kemmer

Current Organization: Houston Astros

Position(s): OF

Age: 27

2017 Stats: 87 G, .299/.399/.533, 17 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 6 SB, 142 wRC+, .404 wOBA (AAA)

It is not often that I will get excited about a 27-year outfielder in AAA, but Jon Kemmer is a special case. Blocked from the major league team because of the Houston Astros recent success, Kemmer has been stuck in the upper minors for quite some time now. But that hasn’t hindered his performance at all.

I got on the Jon Kemmer bandwagon back in 2015 when he was in AA, when he slashed .327/.414/.574 in 104 games, good for a 174 wRC+. Since that mammoth season of his, he has continued his success, putting up a 114 wRC+ in AAA the following and posting a 142 wRC+ in AAA this year.

The thing that scares people off with Kemmer is age and like I mentioned above, I try to look past age in the Rule 5 Draft, as you can’t get really picky players. But he does make up for the age gap with strong peripherals (.234 ISO, 12.3% BB%, 26.8% LD% all encouraging numbers).

Kemmer is a guy the Royals could easily give 400+ plate appearances next year, rotating him between both of the corner outfield positions and DH.

Jayce Boyd

Current Organization: New York Mets

Position(s): 1B/OF

Age: 26

2017 Stats: 92 G, .297/.371/.512, 73 H, 18 2B, 1 3B, 11 HR, 3 SB, 128 wRC+, .382 wOBA (AAA)

Like the man above him, Jayce Boyd is another guy that I look past the age on. I really think this guy could hit in the majors. At 26 years of age, Boyd put up good numbers in his second stint in AAA, slashing .297/.371/.512, good for a 128 wRC+.

Boyd has a nice right-handed stroke that avoids ground balls and sprays the ball all over the field. Like Kemmer, he also puts up good peripherals (9.4% BB%, 16.9 K%) that suggest a transition to the big leagues could be easy for him. Boyd seems like a player that could sustain a good batting average in the majors.

With good base running skills, above-average speed, and adequate defense at first and in left field, keeping Boyd on a major league roster doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.

Travis Demeritte

Current Organization: Atlanta Braves

Position(s): 2B

Age: 23

2017 Stats: 124 G, .231/.306/.402, 106 H, 21 2B, 6 3B, 15 HR, 5 SB, 105 wRC+, .325 wOBA (AA)

A 2013 first round pick, Travis Demeritte was recently considered one of the better second base prospects in all of baseball after hitting 28 home runs in High-A last year between the Texas Rangers and Atlanta Braves organizations. His numbers fell off a bit moving on up to AA, but he stilled managed to put up an adequate line .231/.306/.402, slugging 15 home runs along the way. Maybe a part of the decline in numbers could be attributed to a change between ballparks (Rangers High-A team has park factor of 133, Braves AA team has a park factor 90). Not to mention, his BABIP fell about 100 points.

I guess an encouraging sign would be the improved plate discipline even after jumping levels. In 2016 with the Rangers A+ team, Demeritte posted a SwStr% of 18.5%. This year with the Braves AA team, his SwStr% was 10.5%. Subsequently, his K% lowered from 33.1% to 26.2%. So there was some improvement.

Demerrite has experience at all infield positions expect first and could probably even play a little outfield with his athleticism and strong-arm. So there is some versatility.

Second baseman that hit and hit for power are always intriguing, but it seems the Royals are comfortable with Nicky Lopez and Raul Mondesi up the middle, so I’ll call this one unlikely.

Ian Miller

Current Organization: Seattle Mariners

Position(s): OF

Age: 25

2017 Stats: 83 G, .326/.382/.430, 18 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 30 SB, 130 wRC+, .370 wOBA (AA), 41 G, 41 G, .268/.297/.315, 45 H, 4 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 13 SB, 57 wRC+, .274 wOBA (AAA)

A 6’0” 175 lbs outfielder with 70 speed, Ian Miller screams high-end fourth outfielder to me. Miller has burned a track on the base paths in his career, swiping 175 bags on 210 attempts in five seasons and going 43 for 48 this year.

The bat hasn’t been too awe-inspiring thus far, but Miller did manage to put up a 130 wRC+ in 83 games at AA this year. But don’t get too excited because he fell off a cliff though after the promotion, hitting .268/.297/.315 in a small sample size at AAA.

Like I said, the bat isn’t anything exciting, but with Miller’s defense and base running, achieving the status of a viable fourth outfielder shouldn’t be very hard for him. If the Royals end up taking a player, I could it looking something like this, with the current dark hole in center field.

Mike Ford

Current Organization: New York Yankees

Position(s): 1B

Age: 25

2017 Stats: 101 G, .272/.410/.451, 91 H, 19 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 1 SB, 141 wRC+, .388 wOBA (AA), 25 G, .266/.383/.543, 25 G, 5 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 0 SB, 156 wRC+, .404 wOBA (AAA)

Mike Ford is probably one of the better bats available in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, owning some good numbers between AA and AAA this year as a 24-year old. He has a very impressive presence at the plate, putting up extraordinary BB/K numbers this year.

AA BB/K ratio leaders, minimum 300 plate appearances

KATOH also listed him as one of the better first baseman in this year’s draft, liking the bat, but not so hot on the defense.

Mike Ford mashed .270/.404/.471 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017 after mashing .289/.411/.479 the season prior. Ford can clearly mash but may not fit on many rosters due to his lack of defensive flexibility.

I should also point out that Ford has the best projection out of any hitter available in the Rule 5 Draft, as Steamer projects him for a 104 wRC+, which would be a good enough mark to lead all Royals projections.

Defense seems like the only issue here, but Ford’s bat could be healthy enough to stay in the bigs. I’m sure the Royals could find him at bats between first base and DH.

Jason Martin

Current Organization: Houston Astros

Position(s): OF

Age: 22

2017 Stats: 79 G, .273/.319/.483, 82 H, 24 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 7 SB, 121 wRC+, .357 wOBA (AA), 46 G, .287/.354/.494, 11 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 9 SB, 136 wRC+, .376 wOBA (A+)

The second Houston Astro on this list, Jason Martin might very well be the best player available in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, ranked as the Astros #15 prospect in a stacked system.

An 8th round pick in 2013 out of a California high school, Martin has hit throughout his whole minor league career, putting up a .269/.345/.446 line in five career seasons. The bat is even better considering the fact he plays center field. Though many think his glove is better suited for the corners. Nonetheless, Martin has a pretty impressive bat and has still hit even though he is younger than most of his competition, playing as a 21-year old in AA.

I love the leadoff profile he holds, walking in 10.4% of his minor league plate appearances. He isn’t totally ridden of power too, owning an impressive .209 ISO this year.

This is a clear example of a player getting left unprotected because of a crowded 40-man roster. It is unlikely he’ll be available for the Royals though since he’ll probably be one of the first players taken off the board, although you never know.

Others to consider: Chesney Young, 2B, Cubs; Bijan Rademacher, OF, Cubs; Gavin LaValley, 1B, Reds; Dom Nunez, C, Rockies; Jose Azocar, OF, Tigers; Chuck Taylor, OF, Mariners

Useful Tool

For those of you that have an interest 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.

Spreadsheet