2012 Rule 5 Draft Liveblog

10:45am: The Yankees did not take or lose any players in the Rule 5 Draft, in either the Major League or Minor League phase.

9:50am: The Rule 5 Draft marks the unofficial end of the Winter Meetings as executives will leave the meetings in droves in about an hour or two. Clubs will spend some time (and cash) this morning hoping to grab the next Johan Santana or Dan Uggla, or even just the next Joe Paterson or Lucas Luetge. Digging up a useful left-handed matchup reliever is a pretty great return on a Rule 5 pick.

Only three of last year’s Rule 5 picks managed to stick with their new team, highlighted by Luetge. The Mariners kept him, the Orioles kept infielder Ryan Flaherty, and the Astros kept right-hander Rhiner Cruz. The Yankees selected two players last year but neither made it out of Spring Training healthy. Right-hander Brad Meyers hurt his shoulder in an offseason workout, spent the entire season on the DL, then was returned to the Nationals after the season. Lefty Cesar Cabral nearly made the team out of camp before breaking his elbow. He’s still with the Yankees and will get another look in Spring Training.

The Yankees have a full 40-man roster and are unable to make a selection today, but they do have a handful of players who could be picked. Left-hander Vidal Nuno and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte were mentioned as possible selection candidates by Baseball America (subs. req’d), though Venditte has gone undrafted in each of the last two years and he’s now coming off right shoulder surgery as well. Marc Hulet at FanGraphs tabbed right-hander Graham Stoneburner as one of the draft’s best available players. I honestly can’t remember the last time the Yankees lost a player in the Rule 5 Draft and regretted it.

The Rule 5 Draft rules are pretty simple and if you’ve been reading RAB long enough, surely you know them by now. If not, I recommend taking a quick glance at the Wikipedia page. The draft is scheduled to begin at 10am ET and usually lasts a half-hour or so. I’ll liveblog the whole thing here because hey, someone’s gotta do it. All you hot stove talk should go here.

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Mailbag: A-Rod, Dice-K, Rule 5 Draft

I took it a little easy this week, so I only have three questions for you. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions or anything else.

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Roy asks: Do you think that Alex Rodriguez will be so rusty as to be useless between now and the postseason? I expect that he will take a long time to be back in sync. Just a gut feeling.

Useless is a pretty strong word, but I am definitely concerned about his hand injury lingering and negatively impacting his production when he returns. I don’t just mean being rusty, but not having enough time to rebuild strength in the hand. It’s not at all uncommon for hand, finger, and wrist issues to linger like that even after the break is fully healed. If you can’t grip the bat properly, you’re not going to hit Major League pitching. It’s as simple as that.

For A-Rod, the concern is even greater since it’s his left (bottom) hand. The entire front arm — shoulder, wrist, hand, etc. — is where the power comes from, and that’s where the injury happened. What’s the old saying, the bottom hand is the car and the top hand is the driver? If the car isn’t working right, the driver is irrelevant. Rust and not seeing live pitching for a while is just a small part it. If A-Rod has lost too much strength in that hand during the downtime, he might be physically unable to drive the baseball with the authority when he comes back, at least initially. That’s what I’m worried about.

Chris asks: If the Yankees bring Hiroki Kuroda back next year do you think it would be worth it to try and bring in Dice-K for one year at say $4-6M? Scott Boras might want him to take a one-year show me deal and I think Kuroda might be able to get through to him.

Oh hell naw. He’s coming off the Tommy John surgery now so pretty much anything he does this year can be thrown right out the window as far as evaluating him going forward, but Daisuke Matsuzaka’s been around a while and we’re all well aware of what he is. He nibbles and avoids contact to the extreme despite having the stuff (at least pre-surgery) to challenge hitters, which results not just in walks, but also hitter’s counts. Those are the real problem, not so much all the ball fours.

Dice-K isn’t all that young anymore (32 next month) and even in his best years he was a low-4.00s FIP pitcher. He’s also been an extreme fly ball pitcher (career 36.2% grounders) and when you combine that with the walks (4.29 BB/9 and 11.00 BB%) and Yankee Stadium, you’re looking at a lot of multi-run homers. An NL team with a big park like the Dodgers, Giants, or even the Mets makes a ton more sense for Dice-K as a player, who needs to rebuild his value on a one-year deal. Staying in the AL East won’t do that, no matter how buddy-buddy he is with Kuroda. This one’s a definite no for me.

Travis asks: Who is Rule V eligible next offseason?

Marshall via Mike Ashmore.

The general rule of thumb is high schoolers drafted four years ago (2008) and college players drafted three years ago (2009). There are some exceptions, like Corban Joseph. He was a high schooler drafted in 2008 but had to be added last season because he was a little older than most kids when he graduated. Anyway, the big name this year is right-hander Brett Marshall. I’m not his biggest fan but he’s a no-brainer, you add that guy to the 40-man roster. If the Yankees leave him unprotected, he’d be a candidate to go first overall in December’s draft.

The rest of the drafted player crop is highlighted by right-handers Graham Stoneburner and Mikey O’Brien, though I don’t think the Yankees should protect either. I have a hard time believing both could stick on a big league 25-man roster all season. Adding Ryan Pope or Addison Maruszak to the 40-man would be a huge reach as well. Both are having nice years in Double-A but aren’t actual prospects. Fringe guys all the way.

It’s always tougher to tell which international free agent signees are eligible because their exact signing dates are unclear. I’m almost certain outfielder Abe Almonte is Rule 5 eligible this winter and I’m really on the fence about him. He’s been solid in Double-A while batting injury (.353 wOBA) and is a speedy, leadoff type of center fielder. Utility man Jose Pirela may be eligible as well, but I’d have no problem leaving him unprotected. He had a solid year in Double-A overall (.365 wOBA), but he was repeating the level and it was basically just a great first half.

Ultimately, I think the Yankees should only protect Marshall this offseason (among the player that I know are Rule 5 eligible). Almonte, Pirela, O’Brien, and Stoneburner may be capable of helping the Yankees down the line, but they’re unlikely to next season. There are already too many players like that on the 40-man. Sometimes the best way to keep a player is leave them unprotected like Ivan Nova in 2008. He wasn’t big league ready so it was inevitable that he was coming back. Those four are in the exact same boat for me.

Update: Left-hander Nik Turley is the obvious one I missed. He’s Rule 5 eligible as well. Turley’s had a great season (3.36 FIP in High-A) but I think he’s in the exact same situation as Nova a few years ago. Solid pitching prospect but not ready to stick on a big league roster all season. I wouldn’t protect him but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees did.

The Trade Deadline and the Rule 5 Draft

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

I still feel like the season has just started, but we’re already fewer than seven weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline. We’ve already taken a very brief look at what the Yankees could be in the market for prior to July 31st, though the shopping list has changed somewhat because the starting rotation has sorted itself out and David Robertson is one day from returning. Brett Gardner‘s elbow injury continues to linger though.

Anyway, rather than talking about needs, I want to spend some time talking about what the Yankees have to offer in trades. Specifically, I want to discuss three young right-handed pitchers: Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, and Mikey O’Brien. All three are having solid years and are pitching at the Double-A level or above, which is when you can really start to get serious about thinking a guy may be able to help your big league roster at some point relatively soon. More importantly, all three guys share one thing in common that is beyond their control: they’re all eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this coming offseason.

The renewed emphasis on the farm system in the mid-aughts resulted in a lot of players being protected or left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft in recent years. The Yankees famously lost Ivan Nova to the Padres for about three weeks in 2008, and over the years we’ve seen guys like George Kontos and Lance Pendleton get selected in the Rule 5 Draft before being returned. Zack Kroenke was selected and returned in 2008 before being retained by the Diamondbacks in 2009.

At the same time, the Yankees have protected hordes of players from the Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the 40-man roster. Right now they’re carrying Brandon Laird, D.J. Mitchell, Austin Romine, Corban Joseph, and Zoilo Almonte on the 40-man for that very reason. In the past it’s been guys like Ryan Pope and Reegie Corona, Anthony Claggett and Kevin Russo, Romulo Sanchez and Chris Garcia. Some saw time in the big leagues after being added to the 40-man, some didn’t. None of them had any kind of impact and were all eventually cut off the roster.

Now obviously protecting a player and possibly getting some mileage out of him is preferable to losing him for $50k in the Rule 5 Draft, but it’s not an either/or situation. The Yankees could also use some of those borderline players in trades before they become Rule 5 eligible to clear up the 40-man roster crunch before it even happens. The Red Sox did this to a certain extent last summer when they acquired Erik Bedard in exchange for four miscellaneous prospects, two of whom — Stephen Fife and Chih-Hsien Chiang — were Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season.

That’s kinda where O’Brien, Marshall, and to a much lesser extent Warren fit in. They’re right on that protect/expose bubble and the question becomes: are they more valuable on the 40-man roster in the coming years or as trade bait? How necessary are these three with similar pitchers like David Phelps and Mitchell already on the 40-man? The answer could very easily be yes, there’s always going to be a need for pitching. That’s not always a given though, not every prospect is going to make it. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean the Bombers should they go around shopping these guys, but perhaps they should be among the first offered when it does come time to talk trade.

The Yankees are carrying 48 players on their 40-man roster right now thanks to the eight 60-day DL guys, but at least three of the 40 healthy players — Dellin Betances, Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa — are unable to help the big league team right now if needed. They just aren’t ready for it. A case can be made that Corban Joseph and Matt Antonelli belong in that group as well. There are going to be bubble players every year with regards to the Rule 5 Draft, and many times the best way to maximize what you get out of those guys is by trading them before they’re even eligible.

Yanks take one, trade for another in Rule 5 Draft

Cabral. (Photo Credit: www.prorumors.com)

The Angels agreed to sign both Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this morning, but the Yankees managed to steal the spotlight with their moves during the Rule 5 Draft. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit. The Yankees selected 26-year-old right-hander Brad Meyers from the Nationals with their pick, then later acquired 22-year-old left-hander Cesar Cabral from the Royals for cash. He was Kansas City’s pick from the Red Sox organization. The Yankees did not lose any players during the Rule 5 Draft, and Greg Golson has been released to make room on the 40-man roster.

Meyers was Washington’s fifth round pick in 2007, and Baseball America ranked him as their 27th best prospect prior to last season. “Meyers pounds the zone with a polished four-pitch mix,” they wrote in their Prospect Handbook. “His 88-90 mph fastball bumps 92, and it plays up because of the deceptive angles created by his lanky body [Ed. note: 6-foot-6, 195 lbs.] and high front side in his delivery (video). He has excellent command of his fastball and three secondary pitches: an average changeup, average slider and a short curve that he uses as a show pitch.”

Meyers. (Photo Credit: John C. Whitehead/The Patriot News)

The problem with Meyers has been health, specifically foot problems. He missed some time with a heel injury in 2009, then suffered a stress fracture in his left foot while jogging after the season. He had surgery, returned to the mound, then missed more time because some screws in his foot were giving him trouble. Meyers made 24 starts (and one relief appearance) in 2011, pitching to a 3.18 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and a miniscule 1.0 BB/9 in 138.2 IP. The Yankees are almost certainly looking at him in a long relief role. As per the Rule 5 Draft rules, they must carry him on their 25-man active roster all season or put him on waivers and offer him back to the Nationals.

Cabral is in a slightly different situation. He was a Rule 5 Draft selection last year, so if the Yankees don’t keep him on their active roster but he clears waivers, they don’t have to offer him back to Boston. He can elect free agency if that happens though. Cabral was in the Rays organization at this time last year, though he did not crack their top 30 list in the Prospect Handbook. He owns a low-90’s fastball with a changeup that’s better than his breaking ball, so that doesn’t exactly make him a traditional lefty specialist candidate. Sure enough, he had a reverse split this season and has in the past as well. Here’s some video.

The Yankees apparently liked Cabral enough that they tried to trade with Astros, Twins, and Mariners — owners of the top three picks in the Rule 5 Draft — to make sure they got him. The ended up making the deal with the Royals, who picked fifth. Due to waiver claims and such, Cabral has now been part of the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays organizations in the last year or so. Both he and Meyers will audition for jobs in Spring Training, but as is always the case with these guys, they’re unlikely to stick.

2011 Rule 5 Draft Liveblog

The Rule 5 Draft is the unofficial end of the Winter Meetings, a snoozefest of fringe prospects and journeymen joining new teams hoping to find a diamond in the rough. But because we love fringe prospects and journeymen here at RAB, I’ll be liveblogging the whole thing.

Just five of the 19 picks in last year’s Rule 5 Draft managed to stick with their new team, with lefty specialist Joe Paterson of the Diamondbacks likely representing the best of the bunch (3.44 FIP in 34 IP). Joel Sherman says the Yankees were going to take Paterson last year, but Arizona beat them too it. They ended up rolling the dice on righty Danny Turpen and lefty Robert Fish instead, but neither player made it through Spring Training. They lost George Kontos (Padres) and Lance Pendleton (Astros), but both were returned before the season started and eventually made their big league debuts later in the summer. Expect more of the same this year.

The Yankees protected five players — IF Corban Joseph, RHP David Phelps, RHP D.J. Mitchell, OF Zoilo Almonte, and IF David Adams — but did not clear any additional roster space in advance of this year’s draft. They have one open 40-man roster spot, so they can select only one player in the Major League portion of the draft. Joel Sherman says they were planning to make a pick as of last night, and I’m hoping for Ryan Flaherty, a left-handed hitting utility guy in the Cubs’ system, but he’s unlikely to get to them. The Hiroyuki Nakajima stuff could also affect their pursuit of bench help. Pat Venditte is the player they’re most likely to lose, just because someone will want to take a look at the left/right thing in camp. I expect him to be offered back at some point.

I apologize in advance for any misspellings, some of these names will be tough. The draft is scheduled to start at 10am ET, so I’ll open up the chat/liveblog a few minutes before that.

Yankees make no moves prior to Rule 5 Draft roster deadline

Clubs had until 5pm ET today to set their 40-man rosters for the Rule 5 Draft, but the Yankees apparently did not make any moves. They have one open spot on their 40-man, meaning they will be able to select just one player in the Major League portion of Thursday’s draft. I’m hoping for Ryan Flaherty, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. The Yankees took two players (Danny Turpen and Robert Fish) last year and one player (Jamie Hoffmann) the year before, but none of the three made it through Spring Training. The Yankees probably won’t make a selection this year, but even if they do, the player is unlikely to have any kind of impact.

The Yankees and Rule 5 Draft Targets

(Photo Credit: The Italian version of Wikipedia)

The Rule 5 Draft is almost like baseball’s island of misfit toys. It takes place during the final day of the winter meetings (so next Thursday), and is designed to help blocked minor leaguers (with so many years of experience) get a chance with another team in the big leagues. It costs $50k to select a player, then you have to keep him on your active 25-man big league roster all season. If you don’t, then you have to offer the player back to his old team. It’s pretty simple, and very rarely does it yield big results (Joakim Soria, Johan Santana, and Josh Hamilton are the most notable Rule 5 success stories).

The Yankees have been pretty active in the Rule 5 Draft in recent years, taking three players (RHP Danny Turpen, LHP Robert Fish, OF Jamie Hoffmann) in the last two drafts. None of those guys made it all the way through Spring Training, but the Yankees did give them a pretty long look in camp. Five years ago they took veteran Josh Phelps, who they carried on the roster as a right-handed bench bat (.311 wOBA) through mid-June. It’s not often a Rule 5 guy manages to stick even that long.

As usual, the Yankees really only have two spots to fit a Rule 5 player, either on the bench or in the bullpen. That’s pretty typical, no club goes into the Rule 5 Draft looking for a star, they’re just looking for useful spare parts. Here’s three guys that are available and make some amount of sense for the Yankees, particularly this guy…

(Photo Credit: www.milb.com)

Ryan Flaherty, UTIL, Cubs

No relation to John Flaherty, Ryan was the 41st overall pick back in the 2008 draft, which Chicago received as compensation for losing Jason Kendall to the Royals. Yeah, the Cubs actually received a high draft pick for losing Kendall. Crazy. Anyway, they drafted Flaherty out of Vanderbilt, where he was overshadowed by Pedro Alvarez and some big power arms. He’s steadily climbed the ladder since turning pro, reaching Triple-A for the first time this past season. The Cubs already have a ton of infield prospects on their 40-man roster, so they left Flaherty exposed to the Rule 5 Draft rather than clog up another spot.

The 25-year-old fits right into the Eric Chavez bench role quite perfectly. He’s not the defender Chavez is (few are), but he makes up for it with versatility. Flaherty has extensive experience at second, third, and short, and he’s also played a few dozen games in the corner outfield spots. He’s also a left-handed hitter, a talented one that posted a .364 wOBA without a huge platoon split (.372 wOBA vs. RHP, .341 vs. LHP) between Double and Triple-A this year. That platoon split is consistent with the rest of his career. Flaherty has some power (career .184 ISO with 31+ doubles and 19+ homers in two of the last three years), draws a fair amount of walks (9.3% career walk rate), and doesn’t strike out all that much (17.8%), even against southpaws. His makeup was also highly regarded back when he was drafted, and the Yankees have prioritized strong makeup in recent years.

Flaherty really does make a ton of sense for the Yankees, offering the kind of versatility and left-handed bat skills that would help balance out Eduardo Nunez and (the hopefully returning) Andruw Jones on the bench. Yankee Stadium could always help him get some more balls over the fence as well. Flaherty makes so much sense for the Yankees that I think they should trade up to make sure they get him*, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever said about a Rule 5 guy. They’ve got a chance to add a real useful (and real cheap) piece to their bench with this guy.

* You can’t trade picks, but Rule 5 Draft guys do get traded as players to be named later. Usually one team will offer another $100k — twice the Rule 5 Draft fee — and in return the second team will pick the guy the first team wants and send him over as the player to be named. The Yankees kinda sorta did this with Brian Bruney and Hoffmann two years ago.

(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Phillippe Valiquette, LHP, Mariners

Perhaps the most hyped player available in the Rule 5 Draft, Valiquette has been getting some serious buzz after Keith Law mentioned that he’s a lefty capable of running his fastball up to 99 last week. The problem is that he’s had trouble staying healthy (didn’t pitch at all in 2011 because of an elbow problem) and doesn’t have much of a secondary pitch or a feel for pitching. He’s a classic thrower. Despite that big fastball, he’s only struck out 7.2 batters per nine in his career (4.4 BB/9) while working almost exclusively out of the bullpen. Teams will line up for days to take a chance at hard-throwing lefties, but Valiquette is a very long shot. The Yankees have almost no chance to get him without trading up.

Trevor Reckling, LHP, Angels

(Harry How/Getty Images)

Reckling, 22, was considered the Halos’ fourth best prospect by Baseball America just two years ago, four spots ahead of the now crazy good Tyler Skaggs and five spots ahead of Jordan Walden. He’s taken a step backwards since then, and his 2011 season ended in mid-July thanks to a sprained elbow ligament. Reckling did not have surgery, and as far as I know he’ll be ready in time for Spring Training.

The numbers over the last two years are pretty awful, we’re talking a 5.34 ERA with 4.36 BB/9 and 6.21 K/9 in 247.2 IP between Double and Triple-A. Any team that takes a flier on Reckling would be doing so on the scouting report, which includes a low-90’s fastball and a pair of sliders, a sweepy mid-70’s version and a snappier low-80’s version. He’s also got a herky jerky delivery (seen here) that allows him to hide the ball well but probably also contributes to his control problems. After four years of working exclusively as a starter and with his development stalled out, a change of scenery and role could be in order. Whatever team takes Reckling (if anyone does) will probably just tell him to go to the bullpen, shut off his brain, and just air it out for an inning at a time with his two best pitches.

* * *

The Yankees protected five players from the Rule 5 Draft, with the most notable unprotected guy being Pat Venditte. Some team will assuredly select the switch pitcher, even if it’s just to see what he’s got in Spring Training. They’ll likely get him back though, just like they did when the Padres took Ivan Nova back in 2008. New York’s one empty 40-man roster spot figures to go to Freddy Garcia at some point soon, and the deadline for clubs to set their roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft is next Monday. You can’t select a player without having an open spot, so the Yankees are probably going to have to give someone the axe if they want to take Flaherty, which they totally should.