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The 2023 Rule 5 draft: The hitters

The Royals could add to their bench.

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Tampa Bay Rays Photo Day Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Rule 5 draft will be held tomorrow, and the Royals will need to open up a 40-man roster spot soon in order to make a selection. Earlier I looked a the pitchers that might be available, here are the hitters that could be selected.

On-base machines

Matt Koperniak, Cardinals

The British-born outfielder can draw walks (10 percent rate) without striking out much (16 percent) but will turn 26 by next spring. The left-handed hitter smacked 18 home runs this year, mostly at Triple-A, so he has some power, but Baseball America writes he has below-average raw power. He can play all over the outfield, but is probably stretched in center.

Kameron Misner, Rays

Misner played at Mizzou before he was a first-round selection by the Marlins. The Rays acquired him for infielder Joey Wendle, and Misner has been unable to break through to the big leagues despite solid minor league numbers. He hit .226/.363/.458 with 21 home runs and 21 steals in 130 games in Triple-A this year with a 17.5 percent walk rate. He went unprotected and unselected last year despite hitting well at Double-A, and he’ll turn 26 next January so his clock is ticking. But he seems like a useful left-handed bat capable of playing good defense in center with good speed.

Anthony Prato, Twins

Prato was struggling at Double-A Wichita, so he got bumped up to Triple-A and of course, he started hitting. In 72 games for St. Paul, he hit .302/.452/.539 with 10 home runs and 10 steals with a 19.7 percent walk rate. He played mostly second base, but also filled in at third and left field, and Aaron Gleeman writes he is a good fielder. The 25-year-old stands at just 5’9’’, so he may not for much power at the big league level, but he knows how to get on base and can help off the bench.

Power bats

Deyvison De Los Santos, Diamondbacks

MLB Pipeline has the 20-year-old ranked #5 in the Diamondbacks organization, grading his power at 65. They write he “has the near-top-of-the-scale raw power that ranks among the best in all of the Minor Leagues” with elite exit velocities. He smacked 20 home runs in 113 games in Double-A, but with a line of .254/.297/.431 and a 26 percent strikeout rate. He plays third, but there are questions about his defense and he may end up at first base.

Zach Daniels, Astros

Daniels has good raw power, but it hasn’t translated into big home run totals, perhaps because he strikes out so much. He hit .277/.349/.462 with 13 home runs and 22 steals in 84 games across High-A and Double-A this year, but with a 31 percent strikeout rate. MLB Pipeline ranks him #18 in the Astros organization, writing he “should be at least a 20-20 player if he can find a way to make consistent contact at the plate.”

Justin Dirden, Astros

Dirden is a St. Louis native that went to Jefferson College and Southeast Missouri State. He quickly rose through the farm system, enjoying a terrific 2022 season where he hit .302/.384/.558 across Double-A and Triple-A, earning him a #14 spot on MLB Pipeline’s Astros rankings. But he regressed in Triple-A this year, battling hamstring injuries. Dirden has a solid 11 percent walk rate in the minors, plays all three outfield spots well, and is a lefty bat that hammers righties.

Jeremiah Jackson, Mets

Jackson was acquired by the Mets mid-season from the Angels for pitcher Dominic Leone. Fangraphs write he has great power, but a “20-grade hit tool.” Still, he seemed to hold his own in 119 games at Double-A this year, smackin 22 home runs and stealing 27 bases with a line of .252/.328/.450. MLB Pipeline writes he has “loud, albeit raw, tools”, ranking him #21 in the Mets organization. He was drafted as a shortstop, but played more second and third and some feel he would fit best in center with his athleticism.

Ryan Ward, Dodgers

I wrote about Ward last year, when he went unprotected and undrafted. He has hit 76 home runs over the last three years, although his power numbers dipped a bit this year in Triple-A. He strikes out a ton, doesn’t walk much, and hit .234/.324/.424 this year. But he does bring pop on the left side as a first baseman who can play corner outfield, not unlike the role Matt Beaty played last year.

Shay Whitcomb, Astros

The Royals already have Witt, why not add Whitcomb? It’s not often middle infielders who hit 35 home runs go unprotected, but the Astros left the 25-year old exposed because of his 30 percent strikeout rate and below-average walk rate. Still, he stole 20 bases, plays adequate defense at short, and is capable of playing around the field, not a bad skillset for a bench bat.

Good glove man

Dayan Frías, Guardians

Frías is considered a plus defender at shortstop despite not showing a ton of athleticism in his body, but because he has extremely quick hands. He hit .260/.356/.426 in 100 games at High-A at age 21. He projects to have decent power and on-base skills, but he because of his young age and lack of experience in the upper minors, the switch-hitter is unlikely to be selected.

Freddy Zamora, Brewers

Zamora fields the ball well and has a big arm at shortstop, although he had some shoulder injuries in 2022. He has above-average speed and can draw a walk, but is not a plus hitter, batting just .255/.352/.361 in 108 games at Double-A this year. The 25-year-old will probably never be much of an offensive threat, but his glove makes him useful enough to take a look.

Speed demons

DaShawn Keirsey, Twins

Keirsey was a fourth-round pick out of Utah who Baseball America writes has a “strong case for being picked in the Rule 5 draft”. He got off to a rough start in his career, but has slowly improved at each level, hitting .305/.363/.488 with 13 home runs and 31 steals in 91 games at Double-A Wichita before moving up for 39 games at Triple-A. The 26-year-old is considered a plus defender in center and can help a team with his speed.

Grant McCray, Giants

McCray has stolen 95 bases over the last two years, and isn’t afraid to take a pitch, with a 12 percent walk rate in the minors. MLB Pipeline grades him as having 70 speed, ranking him #7 in the Giants organization, writing that he has a strong arm that plays anywhere in the outfield. A toolsy athlete, he shows good power with 23 home runs last year, although that fell to 14 this year. But he strikes out a ton, will turn 23 this week, and has yet to play about High-A, making him a risky selection.

Nasim Nuñez, Marlins

I was a big fan of Nuñez as a draftee, but while he can fly, he hasn’t developed any kind of power. He stole 52 bases and drew 87 walks (14.8 percent rate) in Double-A this year and earned MVP honors at the Futures Game, but overall he hit just .225/.341/.286 with five home runs. He is a fantastic defender at short or second and is a switch-hitter, so he could at least provide value with speed and defense.

Injury risks

Hudson Haskin, Orioles

A second-round pick by Baltimore out of Tulane, Haskin has a solid career line of .272/.376/.435 in the minors, but played just 33 games this year due to hamstring and hip injuries. He spent an entire season in Double-A last year, hitting .264/.366/.455 with 15 home runs, so a jump to the big leagues would not be unreasonable. He has a good power/speed combo and is ranked #17 in a deep Orioles system by MLB Pipeline. They write he has an unorthodox swing not unlike Hunter Pence with a big leg kick. He is an athletic fielder capable of playing anywhere in the outfield and will turn 25 at the end of the year.