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Rule 5 draft candidates: The position players

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The Royals seem unlikely to take a hitter at this point.

Oakland Athletics Photo Day Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Royals have used the Rule 5 draft to find a few pitching gems in recent history, acquiring Brad Keller and Joakim Soria through the draft. They haven’t taken position players as much - the last hitter they acquired through the Rule 5 draft was outfielder Rich Thompson in 2003. However they may want to provide more depth through a Rule 5 acquisition.

The Royals aren’t likely to need a catcher, first baseman, third baseman, or corner outfielder. The acquisition of Chris Owings probably makes it much less likely they’ll need a reserve infielder or centerfielder either, but in case the Royals are looking for more options, here are a few players that may be of interest.

Utility infielders

Drew Jackson, Dodgers

Jackson was Northwest League MVP in his first pro season with the Mariners organization out of Stanford. After being traded to the Dodgers, he has developed some power, hitting 15 home runs this year in AA Tulsa. Jackson can play all over the infield, flashing a plus arm. The 25-year old can walk a bit, and hit .251/.356/.447 last year. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #19 prospect in the Dodger system, noting he is “one of the best athletes in the system” and has well above-average speed, as his 22 steals last year would attest.

Richie Martin, Athletics

Martin is a former first-round pick known for his defensive range at shortstop. The bat has been slow to come around, but he hit .300/.368/.439 with six home runs in 118 games in AA this year. The 23-year old can draw a few walks and stole a career-high 25 bases in 2018. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #12 prospect in Oakland’s system, writing “he’ll never hit for much power, but there’s enough pop in his right-handed bat for him to a consistent source of extra-base hits.”

Jack Mayfield, Astros

Mayfield split time between second base and shortstop for the Astros’ top affiliate in Fresno last season, hammering 16 home runs with a line of .270/.324/.457 in 113 games. The former Oklahoma Sooner has been in the Astros system forever, but has developed power the last two seasons. He missed time in 2017 after being hit by a pitch in the face, but was invited to big league camp last spring. Mayfield is a bit older at age 27 and his strikeout and walk rates aren’t great, which could be a problem at the big league level.

Danny Mendick, White Sox

Mendick was a 22-round pick out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell who does a little bit of everything well. He can play all over the infield, and has the tools to stick at shortstop. Last year in AA, at the age of 24, he hit .247/.340/.395 with 14 home runs and 20 steals. He has posted a walk rate over 10% in each of the last two seasons with a below-average strikeout rate. He has a good attitude and profiles as a utility infielder at the big league level.

Others: Chad de la Guerra, Red Sox; Jake Hager, Rockies; Christian Lopes, Rangers

Second basemen

Travis Demerette, Braves

Demerette was one of the most interesting unprotected players for last year’s draft, but went unselected. He repeated AA and again put up underwhelming numbers, hitting .222/.316/.416 with 17 home runs. He has good pop for a second baseman and can draw some walks, but is a low-contact hitter. The 24-year old can play second and third, but spent most of last season in the outfield.

Max Schrock, Cardinals

If the Royals want hitters who can put the ball in play, Schrock is their main. Only two qualified hitters in AAA had a lower strikeout rate than his 7.9%. The Cardinals acquired the second baseman from the Athletics for Stephen Piscotty before last season, but he disappointed, hitting .249/.296/.331. He doesn’t have much power or speed, but contact hitting will be his calling card, as it was in 2017 when he hit .317 in AA.

Kolten Wong, Rays

The brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, Kean went unselected in last year’s Rule 5 draft. The 23-year old had a better season this year batting .282/.345/.406 for the top Rays affiliate. Like his brother, he bats left-handed with a similar skillset - modest power, modest speed. He plays primarily second base but has spent some time in the outfield as well.

Speedsters

Yonny Hernandez, Rangers

The 20-year old Venezuelan stands at 5’9’’, but he can fly around the bases, swiping 46 bags last year. He is not a hacker either, showing patience at the plate with a 13.5% walk rate. The problem is, he did this in low-A ball, a far cry from the big leagues. Hernandez has pretty much no power, and would be pretty much a pinch-runner and reserve infielder with the hopes that the Royals can stash him in the organization after this year with a chance to develop him into something more.

Ian Miller, Mariners

Miller was a 14th-round pick out of Wagner College in Staten Island and worked his way through the Mariners system. In 2017, he was Mariners Minor League Player of the Year, hitting over .300 in the upper minors in 2017, ranking him as the ninth-best prospect in the thin Mariners system by Marc Hulet of Fangraphs. However he regressed in AAA as a 26-year, hitting just .261/.333/.327 with AAA Tacoma last year. He brings 70 grade speed, above-average defense, and decent plate discipline, but almost no power.

Forrest Wall, Blue Jays

Wall was a first-round selection by the Rockies back in 2014, and a Top 100 prospect before the 2016 season, but he was derailed by a serious shoulder injury in 2017. He moved from second base to centerfield and was traded to the Blue Jays last summer for reliever Seung-Hwan Oh. The 23-year old hit .263/.343/.402 with 10 home runs and 38 steals in 128 games in High A and AA in 2018. The left-handed hitter has a compact swing to all fields and good raw speed, and could be useful as a fourth-outfielder with some upside.

Others: Johneshwy Fargas, Giants; Drew Ferguson, Astros

Advanced corner infielders

Connor Joe, Dodgers

Joe is already in his third organization, but broke through this year with a fantastic season, hitting .299/.408/.527 with 17 home runs across AA and AAA. Originally a first-round pick by the Pirates, Joe had some back injuries early in his career. He has consistently shown a good eye, walking 12% of the time. The 26-year old has spent some time at third base, but was a defensive liability there and will probably end up at first base.

Josh Ockimey, Red Sox

Ockimey is a low-average, high walk-rate first baseman with some pop. He hit .245/.356/.455 with 20 home runs across AA and AAA for the Red Sox this year. His numbers took a hit after his promotion to AAA, and he struck out 35% of the time there. The 23-year old left-handed hitter has always drawn walks, but Jeff Zimmerman questions his power for a first baseman.

Drew Ward, Nationals

The 24-year old third baseman is a patient hitter, walking 14.5% of the time last year in AA. He hit .259/.376/.456 there with 13 home runs in 98 games. He whiffs a lot, and he hasn’t quite tapped into his raw power. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #29 prospect in the Nationals organization, noting his above-average arm at third.

Others: Roberto Ramos, Rockies; Jason Vosler, Padres; Jared Walker, Dodgers, Jared Walsh, Angels

Projects

Dermis Garcia, Yankees

Garcia signed for $3 million out of the Dominican Republic with 80-grade power, but the 20-year old spent last year in low-A ball. He did smash 15 home runs in 88 games, but he strikes out over 30% of the time. The third baseman has a terrific arm, good enough that the Yankees are considering moving him to the mound.

Derek Hill, Tigers

Hill was a former first-round pick out of high school whose career has been ravaged by injuries, including Tommy John surgery. Basebal; Prospectus ranked him as a Top 100 prospect before the 2015 season, but his bat has never really developed. He hit .239/.307/.318 in 106 games in High A ball last year, but stole 35 bases. He is a fantastic defender in center with a strong arm. Perhaps if he is healthy, the Royals could tap into his tools and benefit from his high ceiling.

Hoy Jun Park, Yankees

The Korean-born shorststop is just 22 years old and has yet to play above A-ball. He signed with the Yankees for $1.2 million, with good raw power and a strong arm. Last year he hit .258/.387/.349 with 18 steals in 103 games in High A. He whiffed a lot early in his career, but has worked on it and actually drew more walks (69) than strikeouts (68) last year. If the Royals can develop his footwork and get more of that raw power to translate into game power, he could have some good upside, but he may be too raw to bring up to big league action.

Christopher Torres, Marlins

Torres, once a coveted international free agent, would be another project. The 20-year old switch-hitter played in just 30 games last year and has not played above A-ball yet. The shortstop has a high ceiling and terrific raw tools. He began in the Mariners organization but was traded in the Dee Gordon deal. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #18 prospect for the Marlins, lauding his defense and his intensity, and writing that he has above-average speed.

Others: Cristian Santana, Dodgers