The Rule 5 draft will take place on December 14th at the Winter Meetings, and various players available are worthy of being selected for a variety of reasons. To recap, players chosen in the Rule 5 draft have to remain on the 25-man roster of the team that selected him for the entirety of the 2018 season, or else are offered back to the team that he was originally on. Pitchers and players currently injured tend to be more frequently selected, due to their ability to be stashed or hidden on the 25-man roster. However, roster crunches and player experience play a big role in the draft, and not all players are likely to be selected as many of them wouldn’t be very impactful right away in the bigs. But there isn’t a shortage of interesting potential selections this year.
Travis Demeritte, 2B, ATL
Although Demeritte went unprotected from this year’s upcoming Rule 5 Draft, JJ Cooper at Baseball America thinks he won’t get selected. And JJ Cooper’s speculation is about as good as anyone’s in prospect land. But he does make for an extremely intriguing add. I’ve seen 70 grades put on his defense at 2B and can play a little SS and 3B if needed, which paired with his raw power and ability to draw a walk should give him a decent floor of a utility man. With the bat, Demeritte definitely had a down year, hitting .231/.306/.402 after a .266/.361/.544 2016 campaign. His strikeout total reached a career low, but his walk rate and power tagged along and the entire profile lost a little shine. But there’s a gold glove winning, power hitting 2B somewhere in there.
Kohl Stewart, RHP, MIN
Stewart was the 4th overall pick back in 2013, when he was constantly praised for his athleticism and well-rounded arsenal, displaying up to 4 above average pitches in flashes. Many even prefered Stewart over the 1st and 3rd overall picks, Mark Appel and Jon Gray, and one scouting director said, “[his] pure stuff is as good as theirs, and he’s more athletic than they are”, according to Baseball America. But it has been all downhill since then for the 6’3” sinker baller, whose walk rate has continuously risen and whose strikeout rate is consistently pedestrian. Still, Stewart’s pedigree, arsenal, and upside could make for an interesting selection in the draft.
Andrew Case, RHP, TOR
I hadn’t heard of Andrew Case about a week ago, but after doing my homework, he has established himself as one of the better stories in baseball in my eyes. For those who don’t know, Tournament 12 is a baseball tournament held in Toronto at the Rogers Centre every year in September. The tournament gives amatuer Canadian ballplayers the chance to step into a Major League stadium and play some game in front of college and professional scouts. It quite the incredible tournament. The inaugural T12 was in September 2013, and bar none the most dominant pitcher there was Andrew Case, who threw a 7 inning, 13 strikeout, complete game no hitter in one outing. The Jays signed Case to a Major League contract in October 2013 as he was starting his second year at a community college, and the rest is history. Case won’t blow anyone with his arsenal, but he has posted a 2.73 ERA out of the bullpen in almost 200 IP since being signed, and climbed his way to AAA in 2017, making him an appealing option for team’s looking for cheap middle relief help in 2018 and beyond.
Max Pentecost, C, TOR
Drafted 11th overall in 2014, Pentecost has been the subject a quite a few throwing shoulder surgeries since being drafted, and his catching career is in jeopardy. He’s been slowly working his way back, but played more 1B/DH than catcher this season and neither is position his bat will play at. All of Pentecost’s value is in his ability to catch, and Toronto’s omission of Pentecost from the 40-man roster says a lot; it says they don’t think he’s a catcher long term. I don’t think Pentecost is a likely Rule 5 selection, but who knows. AJ Preller selected catcher Luis Torrens last Rule 5 draft and carried him on the 40-man all year, which included a gross -1.1 WAR, 56-game showing. Pentecost could be a similar situation.
Nick Burdi, RHP, MIN
Selected in the 2nd round in 2014 out of Louisville, Burdi has logged 60+ innings above High-A since being drafted, but is oft injured and can get a bit wild when healthy. Burdi missed the back half of 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in late May. However, given the age, experience, and arsenal (80 fastball, 60 curveball), Burdi is exactly the type of player to be drafted, stashed on the DL while he recovers from TJS, and given some innings at the Major League level in late 2018. The flamethrower has closer potential if he can stay healthy and harness his stuff.
Trevor Clifton, RHP, CHC
Clifton had a lot of helium entering the 2017 season, coming off a 2.72 ERA season at High-A Myrtle Beach in 119 IP. But reports of decreased velocity in the spring led to a terrible year for Clifton, who saw his ERA, WHIP, and BB% inflate massively. I’ve been speculating for a couple years that Clifton would make for a great bullpen piece and that was probably where he ended up long term, given his (more-or-less) 2 pitch arsenal and inefficient outings (Clifton has averaged under 5 IP per start since 2014). Clifton could see the velocity spike back to his 2016 velo if he were moved into the bullpen, something a non-contender may elect to try.
Wes Rogers, OF, COL
Rogers is, inarguably, the best base stealer in all of Minor League baseball, being called “prolific” at times. He was 70/82 in stolen base attempts in 2017 at High-A Lancaster, numbers that jump off the page at you for multiple reasons. He’s lightning quick and efficient as all hell, and would make for a very intriguing pinch runner and/or defensive substitution for a big league club. That said, he’s never played an inning above A+, and despite actual offensive improvements this season, Rogers 2017 stat line is largely because of a hitter friendly Lancaster park. He knows how to take a walk, but at the Major League level, his hit tool is probably a 30, maybe less. Hard to see a team drafting Rogers and holding a pinch runner / defensive sub on the active roster all season, but I’ve seen weirder (see: Luis Torrens).
Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports