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Rule 5 draft preview: The pitchers

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The Winter Meetings have gone virtual, which may mean fewer big trades and signings, but there will still be a Rule 5 draft. The Rule 5 draft was designed to prevent teams from hoarding talent. Players are eligible to be drafted if they are not on the 40-man roster and (a) they were signed at age 18 or younger and five seasons have passed or; (b) they were signed at age 19 or older and four seasons have passed. A drafted player must spend the entire season on the active roster or be offered back to their original team.

The Royals have had some success in the Rule 5 draft, grabbing Joakim Soria in 2006 and Brad Keller in 2017. If they make a selection this year, it is likely to once again be a pitcher. They currently have enough open roster spots to take up to four selections if they choose.

The Rule 5 draft will take place Thursday, so here are a few pitchers that could be of interest.


Zack Brown, Brewers

The right-hander was a top prospect in the Brewers system until he hit Triple-A where his ERA and walk rate spiked. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the #14 prospect in the Milwaukee farm system, noting that his poor performance in 2019 stemmed from a lack of confidence, not stuff. He has been a starter with a 92-95 mph fastball, a curve, and change up, but he may see better numbers with a move to the bullpen. Brown was eligible last year, but went undrafted.

Paul Campbell, Rays

Ranked the #24 prospect in one of the top farm systems by MLB Pipeline, Campbell had a solid 2019 season with a 3.67 ERA in 144 23 innings across High-A and Double-A. The right-hander has a good arsenal of pitches, flashing good fastball command in the 92-95 mph range, an above-average cutter, a solid changeup, and “elite” curveball spin. The 25-year old doesn’t generate big strikeout numbers, but he throws strikes.

Parker Dunshee, Athletics

Dunshee doesn’t have overpowering stuff, throwing in the low-90s, but he dominated Double-A, putting up a 1.97 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 118 23 innings from 2018-2019. He fared worse upon a promotion to Triple-A, but every pitcher was banged around in the Pacific Coast League, so his 5.38 ERA in 92 innings there is actually not bad. Dunshee does a good job throwing strikes, and is deceptive in his delivery, but he will turn 26 years old in February.

Others: Lake Bachar, Padres; Luis Rijo, Twins; Shea Spitzbarth, Dodgers

Short relievers

Joe Barlow, Rangers

The 25-year old Barlow went unselected in the Rule 5 draft last year, despite a career 12.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings. He absolutely dominated High-A and Double-A that season, allowing just three earned runs in 39 23 innings, but he was lit up in Triple-A, walking more hitters than innings pitched. He has a mid-90s fastball and a solid curve, but his lack of control will overshadow his ability to miss bats.

Brett de Geus, Dodgers

MLB Pipeline ranks de Geus as the #27 prospect in a good farm system, writing his “ability to generate strikeouts and weak ground-ball contact could make him a late-inning relief weapon.” He struck out 72 to just 13 walks in 61 23 innings of work in 2019 as a pure reliever in A-ball in 2019, then threw 9 13 inning shutout innings in the Arizona Fall League. The 23-year old throws a mid-90s fastball with running action, with a curveball and slider/cutter. He doesn’t have a ton of pro experience, but with his arsenal and command he may be better equipped to make a big jump than most.

Oliver Ortega, Angels

The right-hander can miss bats, striking out 135 in 111 innings in 2019 across High-A and Double-A. Fangraphs ranked him as the #27 prospect in the system, noting he has a mid-90s fastball and vertical curveball with an inconsistent delivery that has led to high walk rates.

Others: Dakota Mekkes, Cubs, Wladimir Pinto, Tigers

Guys with MLB experience

Pedro Avila, Padres

Avila has some big league experience, having pitched five innings with the Padres in 2019. But he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery that summer, causing the Padres to drop him from the 40-man roster. The 23-year old right-hander has a low-90s fastball with a good slider/change up combo and while he isn’t a high-upside arm, he could be a serviceable pitcher right away, provided he is healthy.

Enyel de los Santos, Phillies

The burly right-hander has a big presence on the mound with a fastball that reaches the high-90s. He pitched 30 innings over parts of the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Phillies with a 5.70 ERA and 24 strikeouts to 13 walks. He has a slider and a developing change up and is ranked the #9 prospect in the Phillies farm system by MLB Pipeline.

Tim Mayza, Blue Jays

The left-hander made 68 appearances with the Blue Jays in 2019, and has a 4.67 ERA in 104 innings over parts of three big league seasons. He had Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2020 season, but could be primed for a comeback now. Lefties have hit just .217/.288/.349 against him in his career, so a team short on lefty relievers like the Royals could have a need for him.

Others: Joel Kuhnel, Reds; Sterling Sharp, Nationals

Groundball artists

Matt Krook, Rays

Krook was originally a first-round pick by the Marlins out of high school, but opted to go to the University of Oregon instead. He became a fourth-round pick by the Giants and was dealt to the Rays in the Evan Longoria trade. Krook’s fastball sits in the low 90s, but his out pitch is a sinker that induces groundballs at a rate well north of 60 percent. Krook had a 4.50 ERA working as a starter and reliver in 50 innings in Double-A in 2019, and he has had a very high walk rate throughout his career, walking 6.4 per-nine innings in his career.

Will Vest, Tigers

The right-hander skyrocketed up the system in 2019, going from High A ball to Triple-A by the end of the season. He had mixed results but struck out 58 in 55 innings with a 3.27 ERA. Vest has a fastball that sits at 93-94 mph and he commands it well with good deception, but is still lacking secondary offerings, with a below-average slider and changeup. Vest can be hard to hit at times, but he will probably need to develop a better second pitch.

Garrett Whitlock, Yankees

The 24-year old had Tommy John surgery in 2019 but should be ready near the start of this season. He had a 3.07 ERA in 70 1/3 innings at Double-A before his elbow injury in 2019, and has a career 2.41 ERA in the minors. He’s a sinker/slider pitcher with good control who has induced a groundball rate of 55 percent in the minors.

Others: Griffin Jax, Twins


Raymond Kerr, Mariners

Kerr is a lanky lefty who can hit 100 mph on the radar gun. He struck out 93 hitters in 89 2/3 innings with a 3.91 ERA at High-A Modesto in 2019, and fared well in the Arizona Fall League. Like most fireballers, he has some control issues, walking 5.1 hitters per-nine-innings at Modesto.

Jose Alberto Rivera, Astros

Rivera has a skinny build on his 6’3’’ frame, but saw a big velocity bump in 2018, going from the low-90s to the mid-to-upper 90s, even hitting 100 mph on occasion. He throws a change up with “splitter action” and has some command issues at time. He struck out 95 in 75 2/3 innings in low-A ball in 2019 with a 3.81 ERA, but that’s a long way from the big leagues.

Alex Speas, Rangers

Speas is a former second-round pick who was throwing in the mid-90s until he had Tommy John surgery in 2018. At summer camp with the Rangers, he turned heads when he was hitting 102 mph on the radar gun. The Rangers considered bringing him up this season, but opted against it. The 22-year old right-hander has pitched in just one inning the last two years, has never pitched higher than A-ball, and has struggled to throw strikes, but it is hard to ignore that kind of velocity.

Jerrick Suiter, Cubs

Suiter spent five seasons as a non-descript outfielder in the Pirates organization. The Cubs signed him as a minor league free agent, put him on the mound, and now he’s throwing 98 mph. He has only pitched in two professional games, so who knows how he would perform, but the velocity is at least intriguing.

Others: Jordan Sheffield, Dodgers; Dauris Valdez, Padres

Left-handed specialists

Ryan Lawlor, Cubs

Lawlor was an eight-round pick by his hometown Braves, but was let go despite some pretty good numbers. The Cubs brought him in and he dominated in both low-A and high-A ball in 2019, striking out 85 hitters in 55 13 innings with a 1.95 ERA. He was considerably older than his competition, and he walked 4.2 per-nine innings. He drew praise from Keith Law for his performance in the instructional league that fall with “two above-average pitches”, a fastball at 93-95 mph and a curveball.

Braeden Ogle, Pirates

Ogle is a former foruth-round pcik who can miss bats, striking out 120 in 130 23 innings in his minor league career. He has put up a solid ERA at each level, working mostly as a reliever in the last two seasons. The 23-year old is a two-pitch pitcher with a fastball that runs in the mid-90s and an average slider. He has yet to pitch above High-A ball and can struggle with command at times.

David Parkinson, Phillies

Drafted in the 12th round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Mississippi by the Phillies, Parkinson put up amazing numbers in his first pro season in 2018. His minuscule ERA of 1.45 paired nicely with 10.2 strikeouts-per nine innings. He wasn’t quite as impressive in 2019, but he held his own in Double-A with a 4.08 ERA and 8.9 strikeouts-per-nine innings. Fangraphs described him as having a “good changeup, slow sweeping breaking ball, and below-average fastball.”

Others: Thomas Burrow, Braves; Mack Lemieux, Diamondbacks; Packy Naughton, Reds; Kyle Young, Phillies


Nolan Blackwood, Tigers

Drafted by the Athletics, the right-hander was acquired by the Tigers in 2018 in the Mike Fiers trade. Blackwood throws releases the ball about waist-high as a sidearmer and uses his sinker/slider combo to generate high groundball rates. He had a 1.76 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings for Double-A Erie in 2019.

Willy Collado, Astros

With a slight build to his 6’2’’ frame, Collado is a sidearmer who throws from slightly below the belt to generate good movement on his pitches. He skyrocketed up the Astros farm system in 2019, going from Low-A to Double-A, and holding his own with a 2.13 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 38 innings for Corpus Christi in the Texas League. Collado doesn’t impress with his fastball, but he gets results and is still just 22 years old.

Others: Jack Anderson, Mariners

Injury concerns

Marshall Kasowski, Dodgers

Kasowski led Division II in strikeouts-per-nine innings at West Texas A&M with a deceptive low-90s fastball with natural rise. He has continued whiffing hitters in the minors, striking out 14.8 per-nine innings. In 2019, he had an ERA of 2.45 with 46 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 29 13 innings in Double-A. He’ll be 26 in March, has some issues with walks, and had surgery on his ulnar collateral ligament, which will make him a question mark to begin next season on time.

Riley Pint, Rockies

Pint is a local kid, having graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas in Overland Park, Kansas. He was the fourth overall pick of the 2016 draft, but has struggled to put up positive results so far. Standing at 6’7’’, Pint has the build of a study workhorse, and the high-90s fastball to boot. But he has drawn criticisms for his mechanics, and has been oft-injured, battling forearm soreness and an oblique injury in 2018, and tendinitis in 2019. He has pitched just over 25 innings since 2018, and has yet to pitch in High-A ball, so a jump to the big leagues would be a huge leap.