Pitching all the rage in the Rule 5

A couple of days ago, I wrote a preview on the Rule 5 Draft that included some numbers on how many Rule 5 picks since 2006 (when the rules dictating roster protection changed) stuck in the big leagues the following year and/or remained in the big leagues (hint: more than you probably thought).

Now here at the lovely Dolphin & Swan in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, I had some time to play with the research a little more. It shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise that a vast majority of players taken in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 have been pitchers. To be precise, of the 121 players taken from 2006-2012, 88 were pitchers. Most of them (61) were right-handed. Here’s the breakdown, keeping in mind the infielders groupings are little loose as many of those taken played, or were asked to play, multiple positions (for instance, there are a few guys who are listed as “INF”):

RHP     61
LHP     27
OF        10
SS          6
C            5
2B         4
1B          3
INF       3
3B         2

That’s a breakdown of all the guys taken. What about the guys who stuck inn the big leagues the next year, a total of 38 players? Here’s how that looked:

RHP    21
LHP      7
SS         3
OF        2
1B         2
2B        1
C          1
INF      1

What’s the takeaway from all of this? If you’re looking at Thursday’s Rule 5 picks and trying to guess which ones have a shot, go with the pitching.

And that’s one to grow on.

What Erisbel Arruebarruena might bring to an MLB team

My colleague Jesse Sanchez recently wrote a good story on the next wave of Cuban prospects on its way to Major League Baseball. One of them, who recently defected, is former Cuban National Team shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena.

I just talked to a scout who is in the Dominican Republic watching the 23-year-old Arruebarruena to see if he’ll be worth pursuing. From his evaluation, it sounds like he will certainly bring some Major League-caliber skills to a team, but he doesn’t see him as a true impact player, like a Cespedes, Puig or Chapman. Here’s his thoughts on what he’s seen of Arruebarruena:

“He’s what you’ve been reading. He’s a very good defensive player. His glove is very close to the big leagues. The bat, you kind of think he’s one of those guys who’ll bat down in the order. He can really play shortstop, if that’s the type of player you’re interested in. He’ll be a quality defensive shortstop in the Major Leagues, but you wonder if he’s going to hit. Some of the others who have come recently – Jose Iglesias, Adeiny Hechavarria — I felt more confident about the bat. We’ll have to hear what the money is. This isn’t like watching Aroldis Chapman or Yeonis Cespedes. You’re not going to hear from 15 teams. You’ll hear from teams that are hurting a little bit at shortstop.”

A 2014 Mock Draft Top 10

Our first look at the Class of 2014, a Draft Top 50, is live and ready for your perusal over on Prospect Watch. You can also read Jim Callis’ look at the class and my feature on No. 1 prospect Carlos Rodon over on MLBPipeline.com.

Just for fun, Jim and I decided to do a quick Top 10 Mock Draft. Yes, we realize it’s a fool’s errand. Yes, we understand that a whole lot can and will change in the spring. But we figured, why not? It’s a fun exercise. Check out Jim’s Top 10 at Callis’ Corner and compare to mine here. You can check out the full Draft order as well.

So here it goes…

1. Houston Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State: About as no-brainer as it can be at this point, it’d be more of a surprise if he didn’t go No. 1.

2. Miami Marlins: Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS, Calif.: The top high school player in the class and the Marlins haven’t shied away from taking exciting young bats (see Yelich, Christian).

3. Chicago White Sox: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina: The White Sox like their athletes, but they also like big, strong starting pitching. After Rodon, Hoffman is the best in the class.

4. Chicago Cubs: Trea Turner, SS, NC State: How about a future left side of the infield featuring Kris Bryant, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 Draft, and Turner, a leadoff type with 80 speed?

5: Minnesota Twins: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt: A former first-round pick back in 2011, look for Beede to answer questions about his command this spring and be among the top college arms taken in June.

6. Seattle Mariners: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis HS, Calif.: The power is more than legit, but there are some questions about the hit tool… not enough to keep him out of Top 10 consideration.

7. Philadelphia Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville HS, Ga.: The Phillies have taken a high schooler with their first pick in each of the last six Drafts. They seem to like toolsy position players and Gettys fits that description perfectly.

8. Colorado Rockies: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU: After nabbing Jonathan Gray at No. 3 in 2013, adding Nola could give them a very nice 1-2 punch that could get to Coors Field in a hurry.

9. Toronto Blue Jays: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas: It might be too easy to give the Blue Jays the top high-ceiling high school arm available, but they don’t shy away from rolling the dice in that fashion.

10. New York Mets: Derek Fisher, OF, Virginia: After going the high school position player route in the first round for the last three Drafts, maybe the Mets go for a more advanced player. If not a pitcher, then a bat like Fisher, relying on the fact that UVa. bats tend to perform better in the pro game. (more…)

AFL favorites: Non-Top 20 edition

My colleagues Jim Callis (@JimCallisMLB) and Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) have already weighed in on players they liked in the Arizona Fall League who didn’t make MLBPipeline.com’s Top 20 list.  Jim mentioned five players in his blog while Bernie filed two reports, one on outfielder Henry Urrutia and one on lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, both from the Orioles organization.

Teddy Cahill (@tedcahill), who also helped out with the Top 20 along with Jim and Bernie, listed these names when asked who were his non-Top 20 favorites: Eduardo Rodriguez, Andrew Susac, Brian Goodwin and Mason Williams. He also liked Richie Shaffer as a bit of a sleeper pick, not a guy who belongs on a Top 20, but one who “seemed to rebound from a so-so season” and who walked as much as he struck out in Arizona.

Where does that leave me? I, too, like Rodriguez and Susac, but I wanted to find a few players not mentioned by anyone else (a benefit of being late in posting this). So I’m definitely going more of the “sleeper pick” route, though all of these guys are prospects in their own right. In no particular order:

Chris Taylor, SS/2B, Mariners: Not saying he’s going to be a superstar or anything, but he’s hit everywhere he’s been, reaching Double-A this past year. He has good on-base skills and can play second and short. He’s the type of utlity guy (maybe an every-day 2B?) who helps teams win and I’m becoming a firm believer in University of Virginia guys hitting at the next level.

Yorman Rodriguez, OF, Reds: There were signs that the 21-year-old corner outfielder was starting to figure things out during the 2013 season as he reached Double-A for the first time. Yes, there’s swing and miss aplenty, but the tools are very much still there and he’s starting to use them. Oh, and he won’t turn 22 until mid-August.

Mike Montgomery, LHP, Rays: Yeah, I know what you’re going to say. Him again? Been there, done that. But he’s still big and left-handed, and he threw pretty well this fall. He’s still only 24 and has decent stuff. It’s all about command, and it was pretty good in the AFL.

Nick Wittgren, RHP, Marlins: OK, I have to admit. I’m kind of stealing this from Bernie Pleskoff, who really likes Wittgren. So do I, though maybe not quite as much as Bernie does. Wittgren put up video game numbers during the 2013 season (0.77 ERA, .198 BAA, 9.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9), then did it some more in a much more hostile pitching environment in the AFL (0.66 ERA, .130 BAA, 19 K, 2 BB in 13 2/3 IP). He had 26 saves during the regular season, but he’s likely not a closer in the big leagues. But he could be pitching there in 2014.

Some quick AFL Fall Stars pre-game tidbits

We’re less than an hour away from this year’s Fall Stars (previously called the Rising Stars Game). You can watch on MLB Network and the game will be streaming on MLB.com. I hope you watch the entire game, but if you’re curious, I’ll be sitting in with Paul Severino and Joe Magrane for the 4th-6th innings.

Batting practice was quite a show. Jorge Alfaro (Rangers) probably was the most impressive for the West Division Fall Stars. His raw power is just ridiculous and he was putting balls way up on the berm in left-center consistently.

The East Division’s first group turned into a home run hitting contest between C.J. Cron (Angels) and Kris Bryant (Cubs). Cron hit a light post above the berm and one that nearly left the stadium completely. Bryant wasn’t far behind, but Cron might have been the “victor” in this round.

Cardinals outfielder James Ramsey is the leadoff hitter and isn’t a power guy, but he clearly had fun trying to muscle up. He blasted a couple out to right, though he did swing through a pitch with an all or nothing swing at the end.

Ramsey knows his role, though, tonight and in general. He’s hitting atop a lineup followed by the Nats’ Brian Goodwin, Bryant, Cron, Angels 2B Taylor Lindsey, fellow Cardinal Stephen Piscotty, Cubs right field Jorge Soler, Yankees catcher Peter O’Brien and A’s shortstop Addison Russell (any lineup with Russell hitting ninth is insane). Ramsey turned to Goodwin at the start of BP and said, “All I have to do is get to first base and the rest is easy.”

Alex Meyer and the rest of the West Division pitching staff might have something to say about that, and the West isn’t exactly devoid of firepower (Byron Buxton’s BP was pretty impressive as well).

Should be a fun night. Hit me on Twitter (@JonathanMayoB3) if you want to chat about the game. And join me over on MLB Network. Enjoy the game!

An early thought from the AFL

I spent last week running around the Arizona Fall League during the opening days of the season. Six games in three days (stay tuned for AFL team reports — video and written — that stemmed from those efforts). While my focus was on getting the 30 interviews we had planned done (check), I was able to watch some exciting players in action, both in batting practice as well as during games.

I’ll try to sprinkle some early thoughts here in a series of blog posts. Here’s the first one.

  • Kris Bryant is really good. Not only has the Cubs prospect (and No. 2 overall pick) started his Fall League by going 8-for-18 with two homers and a double, he puts on a ridiculous batting practice show. The power is beyond legit. He’s also an early member of the All-Interview Team: very engaging and thoughtful. He even was happy to talk to me about how he started with his wide stance (sophomore season). I was particularly curious because my 12-year-old son, Ziv, has been using something very similar.

BryantZiv stance

In case you were curious, Bryant is the first one. And yes, I know Ziv has his hands too high (We’re working on it. Jeez, he’s only 12).

More to come…

Remembering a young Buc

http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=31066535I was in the Pirates clubhouse yesterday, following the pre-Wild Card game workout. In case you missed, it, I came away with a story on what the Pirates might do to contain speedster Billy Hamilton.

I also contributed to the Pirates notebook, writing up something on hometown kid Neil Walker savoring this return to the postseason.

I don’t wander into big league coverage too often, but it’s often fun for me to think about how I’ve covered some of these established players over the years. Walker is an outstanding example.

It started when he was still in high school. I traveled to Pine-Richland High School in nearby Gibsonia when he was a big-time Draft prospect, hoping to be selected by his hometown team. Best quote from that story is Walker dreaming about playing in Pittsburgh:

“It really is storybook,” said Walker, who idolizes Twins rookie Joe Mauer, the former No. 1 pick who was a high school catcher taken by his hometown team. “They like me a lot, and I like them a lot, and I think they would be a good fit for me.

“Whatever happens, happens. If I don’t make it to [the 11th pick], then I’m going to have the same attitude and mentality toward whatever team I go to, because it’s going to be exciting.”

Walker obviously was taken by the Pirates and came back to PNC Park to play in the 2006 Futures Game (he was still a catcher back then). I talked to him after he was named to the team and he came a day early to do a whirlwind Pittsburgh tour for our very first Futures Game Video Diary. We liked the idea so much, we’ve been doing it every year prior to the Futures Game since then.

 

All-Prospect, 2nd Team

On Monday, Jim Callis and I unveiled our All-Prospect Teams. For a refresher, you can take a look at mine and Jim’s at your leisure.

Not surprisingly, the stories generated considerable discussion and debate. And, truthfully, we both had a hard time making decisions in some cases.

So we decided we’d come up with a 2nd team, All-Prospect. Mine is below. You can find Jim’s over at Callis’ Corner. We decided only to go for the positional assignments and not the “biggest jump,” or “most to prove” categories.

1B C.J. Cron, Angels – Not a deep position, I decided not to cave to Yankee fans bugging me about Greg Bird (who had a very nice year). Cron had a solid, if unspectacular, season in the Texas League.

2B Rougned Odor, Rangers — Some great choices, even for the 2nd team, from Delino DeShields Jr. to Eddie Rosario. But Odor’s still a teenager, made it to (and raked in) the Double-A Texas League, finishing with a combined .305/.365/.474 line to go along with 32 steals.

SS Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox — Just edges other fine choices like Javier Baez or Carlos Correa. Holding his own in the big leagues is just icing on the cake.

3B Miguel Sano, Twins — I went off the board a bit by taking Maikel Franco for my first team, so there’s no question Sano is the best choice here.

C Austin Hedges, Padres — Yes, Evan Gattis has had a solid offensive year, but is he really a catcher? Hedges was just so-so with the bat, but has the chance to be special defensively.

OF Wil Myers, Rays — It was hard to leave him off the first team. Watching him help the Rays in the Wild Card race has been great fun.

OF Joc Pederson, Dodgers — Twenty-two homers and 31 steals all while playing a good center field in Double-A. Could help in 2014.

OF Gregory Polanco, Pirates — He was my “biggest jump” selection on the 1st team. Tons of speed (38 steals), power is coming (12 HR, 30 doubles). Right field in PNC Park will be calling soon.

RHP Archie Bradley, D-backs — Need to give a shout out to Taijuan Walker of the Mariners, but Bradley finished with a 1.84 ERA, .215 BAA while striking out 9.6 per nine innings across two levels.

LHP Andrew Heaney, Marlins — Jim’s 1st team choice, the 2012 first-rounder only threw 95 1/3 innings, but did reach Double-A and finished with a combined 1.60 ERA and .211 BAA.

How can you not love Marcus Stroman?

Forget the fact the Blue Jays pitching prospect is ranked No. 91 on MLB.com’s Top 100 or that he’s No. 3 on Toronto’s Top 20.

And I’m not talking about the fact that he had an excellent year in the Double-A Eastern League, finishing with a 3.30 ERA, .234 batting average against and 129 K’s in 111 2/3 innings pitched (while allowing only 27 walks). He would’ve been fifth in the Eastern League in ERA had he qualified and he still managed to finish ninth in strikeouts despite not making his first start until May 19 (Yes, he was serving a 50-game suspension, but at least Stroman took responsibility for taking over-the-counter supplements without knowing what was in them).

But this isn’t about his on-field performance, which should have him poised to help out in Toronto in 2014 in some capacity. This is about what he did for his mom recently. Stroman was the No. 22 overall pick in the 2012 Draft and received a bonus of $1.8 million as a result. His mother was with him through thick and thin, so Stroman felt it was time to show her how much he appreciated her never-ending support.

By paying off her mortgage. The entire thing. The video is brief, but it’s hard not to get emotional while watching it. April Whitzman from MLBFancave posted it on their blog.

Or you can watch the video right here:

His mom clearly was touched.

That’s pretty cool stuff. Kudos to Stroman for using those dollars in a very, very good way.

The latest Japanese import: Takumi Numata

Before I get to my topic o’ the day, I wanted to make sure everyone saw the work that my colleague is doing on his blog, Callis’ Corner. He’s posted twice in the last couple of days, once on the callup and debut of the Royals’ Yordano Ventura and again about former No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham getting the call by the Rays. Been quite an interesting few days in terms of big-name callups this late in the year.

Me? Today I want to head overseas briefly. The Dodgers announced on Monday they had signed Takumi Numata, a 19-year-old right-hander from Japan. So I did a little digging. Or tried to, anyway. I can’t say I’m super well-connected in the Far East, but I do know some scouts who work over there. But I had a hard time finding anyone who knew Numata all that well.

Dodger scouts Isao O’Jimi and Pat Kelly signed Numata. Both know what they’re doing, so it will be very interesting to watch Numata, who will be in Arizona to work out with the Dodgers during instructs this fall, develop.

I was about to give up on trying to track down information on Numata, but then Kazuto Yamazaki came to the rescue. Yamazaki writes for a site called ShutDownInning (check out his post about Yu Darvish), and he was able to find some info on Numata, who’d been pitching in the Japanese Industrial League. Here’s what we know about Numata (Yamazaki found the info from this site):

At 6-1, 188 pounds (that’s according to the release), it doesn’t sound like there’s that much physical projection to look for. His fastball sits in the upper 80s to low 90s, according to the report, topping out at 92 mph. He goes right after hitters with it and largely pitches off of his fastball, though he also has a slider. Here’s some brief video:

What made this signing interesting, I think, is that Numata is a teenager. You don’t see that many players that young come from Japan, as most go through the Japanese professional ranks and don’t come over until several years later (like Ichiro did). A year ago, it looked like Shohei Otani was going to try and bypass the professional leagues and come to the United States, becoming the first player to go straight from high school to pro ball here. Instead, he stayed at home and signed with the Nippon Ham Fighters (where he’s pitching AND hitting).

There have been a few teenagers to sign in the past, though: Takuya Tsuchida signed with the Indians in last fall and played in the rookie-level Arizona League this summer. Back in 2004, the Braves signed outfielder Takumi Hamaoka, who played parts of two summers in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2006 and 2007, but that was it. The biggest success story has been Mac Suzuki, signed as a teenager with the Mariners back in 1993. He spent parts of six seasons in the big leagues.

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