Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Rule 5 (or V?) Draft: What To Pursue, What To Pursue

It's no secret that every Winter Meetings period brings a multitude of rumors - some founded and many completely unfounded - to us bloodthirsty bloggers. What is the latest gossip surrounding Manny Ramirez? Which large-market organization will prepare that bombshell contract for that highly coveted starting pitcher? Will Dick Kaegel visit that sunny, warm southern destination and present Dan Glass with that hard-hitting question surrounding Angel Berroa's socks and Ken Harvey's personal maid?

This Winter Meetings period has been no different. I, for one, am stoked for the Rule 5 draft, which takes place Thursday morning in Las Vegas. Here is a brief look at some Rule 5-eligible players who the Royals can potentially gobble up for bucks on the dollar (and a roster spot devotion). Keep in mind the Royals draft 11th in the Rule 5 draft. Their 11th overall pick is only tentative, of course. Teams who draft above them can opt out of participating, as the Royals did - irrationally, at the time, in my opinion - last year.

By the way, Rule 5 drafts, as a rule (nice pun, RN!), are an excellent opportunity for small to mid-market organizations who have finished with subpar recent results - such as the Royals - to take a cheap gamble on another more talented organization's trash.

Anyway, here are some players eligible for the taking that I would look into, if I were in Dayton Moore's shoes. Thanks, Baseball Analysts.

Ryan Mullins Minnesota

Position: Left-Handed Starter
Born: November 1983
2008 Level: Double-A

A third-round selection out of Vanderbilt University in 2005, Ryan Mullins is a 6'6'' lefty with a fringe fastball and a big-league curveball, which are just the right ingredients for a 2009 MLB LOOGY. His 2008 numbers at Double-A were nothing to write home about: 169 hits allowed in 148.1 innings, 3.58 BB/9, 6.01 K/9, but check out the splits:Left-Handed Batters: .204 AVG, 0.88 WHIP, 1.45 BB/9, 12.8 LD%Right-Handed Batters: .314 AVG, 1.72 WHIP, 4.24 BB/9, 17.9 LD%

Donald Veal Chicago (NL)
Position: Left-Handed Starter
Born: September 1984
2008 Level: Double-A

A former top prospect, Donnie Veal has stagnated at Double-A. In two
seasons at that level, he has allowed 276 hits in 275.2 innings of work. His rates in 2008 were not so good at 5.02 BB/9 and 7.62 K/9. Obviously, his control is lacking but he is a lefty that can consistently throw in the low 90s and he has two solid secondary pitchers: a curveball and change-up. He faced 142 left-handed batters in 2008 and did not allow a home run. His splits suggest he could also have some success as a LOOGY: Left-handed batters hit .221, while right-handed batters hit .290.

James Skelton Detroit
Position: Catcher
Born: October 1985
2008 Level: High-A/Double-A

One of the more quizzical omissions from the 40-man rosters, James Skelton creates flashes of Jesus Flores, whom the Washington Nationals stole from the New York Mets with the sixth overall pick of the 2006 Rule 5 Draft. Flores is now producing just as well for the Nationals as the Mets' big league catchers, and at a much lower cost. The Tigers organization is seriously lacking in prospects and the 40-man roster had room for Skelton. He was originally selected by the Tigers in the 14th round of the 2004 draft out of a California high school. Skelton has hit more than .300 in each of the past three seasons - a rarity for catchers. This past season, he hit .307/.467/.406 in 212 High-A
at-bats and moved up to Double-A and posted a line of .294/.423/.388 in 85 at-bats. There are concerns about Skelton's defence. His is just 5'11'' and 165 lbs - small for a catcher. His arm also lacks strength, but he threw out 43% of base stealers in 2007, and 19 of 54 (35%) at High-A in 2008, followed by nine of 19 (47%) at Double-A. It will be shocking if no one takes a flyer on the left-handed hitting catcher with an excellent eye at the plate and the ability to hit for a high average. The list of clubs that could use catching depth include Toronto, San Diego, Cincinnati, Houston, Chicago (NL), Washington, Florida, Balitmore, Chicago AL, Tampa Bay and Boston.

Jamie Romak Pittsburgh
Position: Outfield
Born: September 1985
2008 Level: High-A/Double-A

The Rule 5 Draft's outfield depth is lacking, but Jamie Romak is an
interesting name. The former Braves prospect was traded to Pittsburgh during the 2007 Adam LaRoche deal and was rated by Baseball America as the Pirates' seventh best prospect entering into 2008. He offers massive power potential but a low batting average. He is still very raw, but the Canadian has intriguing upside. In 2008, he hit .279/.351/.552 with 25 doubles and 18 homers (.272 ISO) in 290 High-A at-bats. Upon a promotion to Double-A, he hit .208/.307/.433 (.225 ISO) in 120 at-bats. He is a huge risk, but if he rebounds in 2009 a club will have a tough timing prying him from Pittsburgh. That said, he struggles with off-speed stuff and could easily become a Quad-A slugger.

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