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Rule 5 draft preview: The pitchers

The Royals have taken a lot of arms in the Rule 5 draft lately.

MLB: Seattle Mariners-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Teams have assembled in San Diego for the Winter Meetings, which will conclude Thursday following the Rule 5 draft. The Royals have acquired four players in the last two drafts - all pitchers - the most notable being Brad Keller. With four open spots on the 40 man roster, expect them to at least make one selection this week, most likely another arm. Here are some of the names they’ll be looking at.

Potential starters

Anthony Misiewicz, Mariners

Misiewicz is a 24-year old left-hander who was drafted by the Mariners, traded to the Rays in a minor four-player deal, then reacquired by the Mariners for international slot money. Fangraphs ranked him as the #22 prospect in Seattle’s system before the year, writing he had a “bevy of average or better pitches that should enable him to operate as a fifth starter or multi-inning reliever.” He dominated Double-A this season with a 2.52 ERA in seven starts, and held his own in the sillyball Pacific Coast League with a 5.36 ERA and 8.4 strikeouts-per-nine innings.

Ljay Newsome, Mariners

Newsome was an overlooked strike-thrower who opened eyes when he struck out 169 hitters in 155 innings across three levels, including one start in Triple-A. Newsome, ranked as the #28 prospect in the Mariners system by MLB Pipeline, throws a fastball in the low-90s with excellent control. He also features an above-average slider, a curve, and a changeup. The fact he was not added to the Mariners 40-man roster came as a surprise, and with him just turning 23 years old, he still has some upside as a potential late bloomer.

Others: Matt Swarmer, Cubs

Potential relievers

Brandon Bailey, Astros

Bailey gets overlooked due to his stature, but despite standing at 5’10’’ with a fastball in the low 90s, he has been able to generate a lot of strikeouts, whiffing 10 per-nine innings in 92 23 innings at Double-A this year. Fangraphs ranked Bailey as the #21 prospect in a deep Astros system before the year, and he pitched well with a 3.30 ERA, although with a rather high walk rate of 4 per-nine innings. Bailey’s fastball has “premium life” with a good spin rate and he also throws a 12-6 curveball and his changeup can “flash plus”, according to Fangraphs. The 25-year old right-hander who originally began in the Athletics organization until he was traded for outfielder Ramon Laureano, has been a starter, but may profile better in the bullpen.

Eduard Bazardo, Red Sox

David Scharff at Kings of Kauffman recently made the case for the Royals to select Bazardo. The right-handed reliever has excelled at each level, posting a 2.21 ERA with 10.8 strikeouts-per-nine innings across High-A and Double-A this season. Bazardo can hit 94 with his fastball and features a 55-grade curveball, according to Fangraphs. The Dominican-born reliever has a “jerky, effortful delivery” according to Sox Prospects. Bazardo just turned 24, so he is a bit old to have a lot of upside left, but he has missed bats in the minors.

Zack Brown, Brewers

Brown was briefly teammates with Royals reliever Daniel Tillo at Kentucky. The Brewers made him a fifth-round pick in 2016 and he was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2018, and was ranked the #6 prospect in the system by Fangraphs. But his numbers regressed in the offense-heavy Pacific Coast League with a 5.79 ERA in 116 23 innings with a spike in his walk rate. Regardless, he is still ranked as the #3 prospect in the Brewers system by MLB Pipeline. He has a “wonky, violent delivery” according to Fangraphs and a fastball/curveball combo that may be more suited for the bullpen.

Tommy Eveld, Marlins

Eveld was a backup quarterback at South Florida who didn’t even play varsity baseball. But after a knee injury ended his football career, he tried out for the baseball team and became a ninth-round selection by the Diamondbacks, who eventually dealt him to the Marlins for reliever Brad Ziegler. Eveld has a fastball that sits around 95-96 mph and has the kind of size the Royals covet, standing at 6’5’’. The 25-year old right-hander put up an eye-popping strikeout-to-walk ratio in Double-A with 36 strikeouts to just four walks in 26 innings with a 2.77 ERA. But he struggled upon his promotion to the Pacific Coast League with a huge spike in walks and home runs.

Others: Lake Bachar, Padres; Dylan Lee, Marlins; Jared Robinson, Indians; Michael Rucker, Cubs; Raffi Vizcaino, Giants

Command issues

Joe Barlow, Rangers

Barlow struck out an eye-popping 14.7 hitters-per-nine innings in 57 innings across three levels, but with a very high walk rate of 6.6. The 24-year old right-hander particularly struggled in Triple-A, where he posted a 8.83 ERA and 21 walks in 17 13 innings. He features a fastball that sits around 92-93 with movement, and a still developing “slurve.” He has dominated the minors as a reliever with a career 2.65 ERA, but his lack of command makes him a bit of a dicey proposition in the big leagues.

Anthony Gose, Astros

Gose is interesting mostly because he played 372 games in the big leagues as an outfielder, and is now trying to make it as a pitcher. He does have a fastball that can hit 98 mph, but he still has trouble controlling it. The lefty struck out 22 in 18 innings in Double-A, but with 20 walks. The 29-year old is still pretty raw as a pitcher and suffered some shoulder soreness this year, but his live arm, and his ability to play the field as a speedy outfielder could make him intriguing. He also does not need to be offered back to his original team, since has already been selected in the Rule 5 draft before, so if the Royals don’t keep him, he becomes a free agent who could decide to stay with the club.

Dakota Mekkes, Cubs

Mekkes was a tenth-round pick out of Michigan State in 2016 who has put up solid numbers at each level despite some high walk rates, with a career 2.20 ERA and 11.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings. Mekkes just turned 25 and has a huge frame a 6’7’’, 275 pounds with a fastball that sits at 91-93 mph, with the ability to hit 96. Despite lacking huge velocity, he has “abnormal extension and a strange arm slot” that gets a lot of swing and miss. His 5.29 ERA this year wasn’t great, but considering it was the Pacific Coast League, that was pretty average, and he strikeout rates didn’t suffer.

Wladimir Pinto, Tigers

Pinto is one of the younger players on this list, with his 22nd birthday in February. He has amassed large strikeout totals in the minors as a reliever, including 38 in 28 innings upon his promotion to Double-A this year with a 2.57 ERA. Overall he has struck out 12.4 per-nine innings but with a high walk rate of 5.5 per-nine innings. Pinto features a fastball that sits around 96 mph with an above-average curveball. Pinto got his feet wet in the Arizona Fall League competition and held his own this year, so despite his youth, he could be ready for a jump to the big leagues.

Yohan Ramirez, Astros

Ramirez had a whopping 158 strikeouts in 106 innings across High-A and Double-A, but walked 74. His fastball sits in the mid-90s but he can reach 99 at times and he has a curveball that flashes plus at times. The 24-year old Ramirez has a max effort delivery and gets a lot of ground balls.

Bradley Roney, Braves

Roney missed all of 2018 with an injury, but bounced back to have a very solid season this year. He did not allow a single run in 14 13 innings in High-A, earning a promotion to Double-A where he posted a 2.96 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 27 13 innings, followed by a strong outing in the Arizona Fall League. The 27-year old Roney throws in the mid-90s and struggled with walks early in his career, but improved significantly this year.

Carlos Sanabria, Astros

The 22-year old Sanabria had a very solid season in Double-A as a reliever with a 3.11 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 55 innings. He has struggled with walks at times, including a pretty high walk rate of 5.9 per-nine innings at Double-A this year. Fangraphs ranked him as the #31 prospect in the sytem befor the season, writing “a lot of teams think he has the repertoire depth and command to start”, although his upside is limited to a fifth-starter type. Sanabria locates his slider and changeup well with a fastball in the mid-90s and is said to be an intelligent pitcher on the mound.

Andre Scrubb, Astros

The Astros have a ton of guys that throw hard, but have trouble throwing strikes. Scrubb was acquired this summer from the Dodgers for first baseman Tyler White and he enjoyed a solid season between the two organizations with a 2.78 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 64 23 innings in Double-A. Scrubb is imposing on the mound, standing at 6’4’’, 265 and he has hit 98 on the radar gun, although he usually sits in the mid-90s. He has a plus curve, and despite some high walk rates, he could be ready to contribute in a Major League pen soon.

Jordan Sheffield, Dodgers

Sheffield is a former first round pick who has a fastball that sits at 98 mph but has trouble throwing it for strikes. The older brother of Mariners pitcher Justus Sheffield, Jordan had a 3.58 ERA in 37 2/3 innings in Double-A with 48 stirkeouts but 32 walks this year and has struggled with command at each level. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #26 prospect in the system, but notes he has a history with injuries. The 24-year old features a plus curve and plus circle change up so if someone can harness his command, he could have pretty high upside.

Dauris Valdez, Padres

Valdez is a 6’8’’ fastball/slider pitcher with a heater in the upper-90s that can hit triple digits at times. The 24-year old had a 4.23 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 55 13 innings at Double-A and while his walk rates have been high, they are better than some of the other names on this list.

Others: Connor Jones, Cardinals; Jovani Moran, Twins; Dalbert Siri, Indians; Garrett Williams, Giants

Groundball artists

Steven Fuentes, Nationals

Fuentes was suspended late in the year for testing positive for a banned stimulant, Heptaminol. He will have to miss the first month of the 2020 season, but he won’t take up a roster spot during that time, which may make it easier for a team to carry him as a Rule 5 draftee. The 22-year old right-hander posted a 2.23 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings across High-A and Double-A last year. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #21 prospect in the Nats organization, writing that he features a low 90s fastball with sinking action, a plus changeup, and an average slider, comparing him to Yusmeiro Petit.

Griffin Jax, Twins

Jax is a strike-thrower extraordinaire, walking just 1.8 per-nine-innings in his minor league career. A graduate of the US Air Force Academy whose innings were limited his first two pro seasons because of his military commitments, Jax cleaned up in 20 starts in Double-A with a 2.67 ERA, eventually earning a promotion to Triple-A. Jax has never been a strikeout pitcher and lacks a good breaking ball, instead relying on a low-90s fastball and a plus changeup, yielding a groundball rate close to 50 percent.

Sterling Sharp, Nationals

Sharp was a surprise to go unprotected, with MLB Pipeline ranking him the #13 prospect in the system. He pitched collegiately at nearby Drury College in Springfield, Missouri and has performed well since the Nationals selected him in the 22nd round of the draft in 2016. His strikeout rates haven’t been great, although he did whiff 8.0-per-nine innings this year across three levels with a 3.53 ERA. But he has groundball rates well over 60 percent thanks to an exeptional slider that has a very high spin rate. He also throws an above-average changeup and is working on a slider. He was limited to just 12 starts this year due to an oblique injury, but the 24-year old may be able to serve as a long reliever or back-of-the-rotation starter.

Others: Zac Houston, Tigers

Lefty specialists

Thomas Burrows, Braves

Burrows was a fourth-round pick by the Mariners in 2016 out of Alabama, but was dealt to the Braves in a deal for outfielder Mallex Smith. Burrows has put up strong numbers as a reliever at each level, although he regressed this year once he reached Triple-A. The 25-year old had a reverse split in 2018, but was pretty dominant against lefties this year, holding them to a .501 OPS. He can deceive those hitters with a lower arm angle, a 93-94 mph fastball, and a hard slider.


Jack Anderson, Mariners

Anderson is a submariner with a deceptive delivery that nets groundball rates over 60 percent. He was dominant in Double-A this year with a 1.50 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 54 innings. The 25-year old has only given up one home run in his entire minor league career, so he does a good job keeping the ball low and in the park.

Nolan Blackwood, Tigers

Blackwood began with the Athletics but was acquired in 2018 in the Mike Fiers trade. The 24-year old had a 1.76 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 66 13 innings at Double-A this year with a 66 percent groundball rate. Blackwood throws with a lower arm angle, more a sidearmer than a submariner, with good sinking action.

Others: Tom Hackimer, Twins

Young lottery tickets

Rony Garcia, Yankees

Garcia is a right-hander with a sturdy 6’3’’ frame and a fastball that sits around 94-95 mph with an above-average curveball. He won’t turn 22 until later this month, but held his own in 20 starts in Double-A with an ERA of 4.44 with 8.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings. His walk rate spiked this year, but has generally been very good in his career. Garcia could be a pitcher to stash in the bullpen, but he shouldn’t be too overwhelmed to get in some work now and then.

Will Stewart, Marlins

Stewart began with the Phillies, but after a breakout season in low-A ball in 2018, he was included in a deal to Miami for catcher JT Realmuto. His numbers regressed considerably this year in High-A ball with a 5.43 ERA and lackluster strikeout rate, but he still had a groundball rate over 50 percent. The young lefty just turned 22 and has a solid sinker, so a good pitching coach might be able to accerlate his development. But he would more likely be a kid to stash as the 26th man in the hopes he can be a contributor in a few years.

Others: Resly Linares, Rays

Former prospects

Brady Aiken, Indians

Aiken was once the first overall pick by the Astros, but after injury concerns popped up, he went unsigned and was selected 17th overall by the Indians the following year. Aiken had Tommy John surgery, but struggled with command in his first full season in 2017. His fastball velocity has dropped to the 80s and he has pitched in just two games in the last two seasons. He has worked out at Driveline Baseball Academy, but a jump to the big leagues seems like a major stretch.

Phil Bickford, Brewers

Bickford was twice selected in the first round, but has never gotten his career on track. Injuries and a suspension for a “drug of abuse” have set him back, but he did strike out 53 hitters in just 32 23 innings with an average walk rate, although he was a 23-year old in High-A ball.

Alec Hansen, White Sox

Hansen is a former second-round pick who was ranked as a Top 100 prospect before the 2018 season. But he had a disastrous 2018 season, with a 6.31 ERA and 59 walks in just 51 13 innings. He continued to struggle with his walk numbers this year, walking 44 in 52 13 innings across High-A and Double-A. Hansen is a 6’7’’ right-hander with an upper-90s fastball and a big curve, but unless he can throw strikes, he seesm unlikely to help anyone.