Rule 5 draftees hope to make impact
Players from draft see mixed results as Spring Training wraps
The Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas was the appropriate site for the annual Winter Meetings gamble known as the Rule 5 Draft. Now teams are seeing just who paid off.
It will be a much longer time before clubs find out if they uncovered the next Johan Santana or Joakim Soria, the next Josh Hamilton or Dan Uggla, recent Rule 5 bonanzas.
For now, they just hope that their $50,000 purchases, each of whom would have to stick in the bigs all season or be offered back to his team for $25,000, will contribute in some way for the next six months.
Here is a look at the'08 draftees and their current status:
MADE THE CUT:
3. SS/2B Everth Cabrera, San Diego (from Colorado): Despite the fact that the 22-year-old from Nicaragua has not yet played above the Class A level, the Padres are looking to the future by keeping the 2008 Minor League stolen base champion on their roster. The 5-foot-8 switch-hitter had 73 steals at Asheville in 2008, hitting .284 while splitting his time between second base (84 games) and shortstop (34).
He's the ultimate type of Rule 5 pick for a team that doesn't have realistic expectations of contending but wants a guy with his upside to tuck away for the future (think speedy center fielder Willy Taveras, a Rule 5 pick by Houston from Cleveland in 2003 after stealing 57 bases in Class A the previous summer).
4. LHP Donnie Veal, Pittsburgh (from Chicago Cubs): Probably the most highly-touted former "prospect" in the Rule 5 Draft this year, the big southpaw was officially told he'd made the Pirates bullpen on April 2.
The 24-year-old Veal had established himself as one to watch in 2006 when he combined to go 11-5 with a 2.16 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 154 1/3 innings and a .175 average against him between two Class A stops. In his two seasons since then, both at Double-A Tennessee, he still flashed his great stuff, highlighted by a fastball in the mid 90s, but was beset by control trouble, leading the Southern League in walks both seasons while also landing in the loop's Top 5 in strikeouts.
His upside and his command issues both surfaced this spring, with a 3.46 ERA and just four hits in 13 innings for an .098 average, but also issued 13 walks versus eight strikeouts. In the end, the Pirates opted to take their chances with the tantalizing potential.
"We still like the upside," Pirates GM Neal Huntington said. "We've seen the left-hander up to 95. We've seen the power breaking ball. We've seen an interesting changeup. We've also seen him walk four guys in an inning."
6. RHP Luis Perdomo, San Francisco (from St. Louis): The Cards didn't have Perdomo for long before losing him to the Giants in the draft, after acquiring the hard-throwing reliever from Cleveland in late July for starter Anthony Reyes. With his fastball in the low-mid 90s and slider he made a good impression and seems to be a perfect fit in the Giants' bullpen, on a club whose calling card will be youth and promise.
Last year he combined for a 2.36 ERA and 20 saves between Advanced A Kinston, Double-A Akron and Double-A Springfield post-trade, limiting hitters to a .190 average while striking out 92 in 72 1/3 innings.
15. RHP Darren O'Day, New York Mets (from Los Angeles Angels): O'Day officially made the club on March 31 when the Mets trimmed down to their final roster. The lone Rule 5 player left standing with any big league experience, he's a 26-year-old sidearmer who made his big league debut in 2008 with the Angels, posting a 4.57 ERA in 43 1/3 innings of relief over 30 games.
UP IN THE AIR:
7. RHP David Patton, Chicago Cubs (from Colorado): Drafted by Cincinnati and dealt to the Cubs, few if any Rule 5 picks have had better springs than Patton, but his fate remained up in the air pending his scheduled relief appearance on Saturday at the christening of the new Yankee Stadium. The Cubs' bullpen picture has come down to two spots for four pitchers, Patton among them (the others are Angel Guzman, Jeff Samardzija and Chad Gaudin). Heading into Saturday, Patton had a 1.35 ERA in 12 games, striking out 15 while walking three in 13 1/3 innings.
"He hasn't been rattled all spring -- it's been very refreshing," Piniella said of Patton. "It doesn't look like the situation is getting to him. He's out there competing and throwing the ball. We'll see if everything works his way."
Patton posted a 3.54 ERA in 73 2/3 innings of relief work at Advanced A Modesto last summer, striking out 81 while walking 28.
ON THE SHELF: (roster decisions pending their return)
1. RHP Terrell Young, Washington (from Cincinnati): The 10th-rounder from 2004 with an electric arm but erratic control, the Reds' 10th-round pick from 2004 appeared to get it together in '08 when he combined for a 2.88 ERA in relief between two Class A stops and he's limited hitters to a .224 average in five seasons. His mid-90s fastball, slider and recent addition of a changeup convinced the Nationals to use the first pick in the draft on the 23-year-old. But shoulder trouble shut him down the second half of spring training, and he was placed on the DL retroactive to March 27.
10. OF Ben Copeland, Oakland (from San Francisco): Copeland, who combined to hit .276 with 24 steals between Double-A Connecticut and Triple-A Fresno, suffered a shoulder injury when he crashed into an outfield wall March 14 and opens the season on the 15-day disabled list.
18. RHP Miguel Gonzalez, Boston (from Los Angeles Angels): After missing all of 2008 due to a knee injury, Gonzalez will miss 2009 as well after undergoing Tommy John surgery last month and will be placed on the Red Sox' DL for the year.
2. SS/2B Reegie Corona, Seattle (from New York Yankees): One of the final cuts by Seattle during spring training, he was placed on waivers April 2. The switch-hitting 22-year-old will likely be in the infield mix at Triple-A Scranton for the Yankees.
5. C Lou Palmisano, Houston (from Milwaukee): Drafted by Baltimore and dealt to the Astros, Palmisano was viewed as a potential backup to Humberto Quintero but the signing of Ivan Rodriguez 86'd that plan. The Brewers declined Palmisano's return and he was outrighted to the Minors with Houston.
8. LHP Kyle Bloom, Detroit (from Pittsburgh): The former fifth-round pick was returned to Pittsburgh March 29 after the Tigers' attempt to work out a trade to retain his rights fell through.
9. LHP Jose Lugo, Seattle (from Minnesota): Drafted by Kansas City and then traded to Seattle, Lugo was returned to the Twins April 1.
11. C James Skelton, Arizona (from Detroit): Skelton was one of the final cuts from camp on April 1, losing out on the 25th man utility spot, but the Diamondbacks were able to retain him by dealing 2006 supplemental first-round pitcher Brooks Brown to the Tigers, and have assigned Skelton to Double-A Mobile.
12. LHP Zack Kroenke, Florida (from the New York Yankees): The left-handed reliever was returned to the Yankees on March 16.
13. LHP Gilbert de la Vara, Houston (from Kansas City): The southpaw reliever was sent back to the Royals on March 31.
14. RHP Jason Jones, Minnesota (from the New York Yankees): The Twins couldn't find a spot for Jones on their roster but they were able to retain his rights and send him down on March 28 by trading pitcher Chuck Nolte to the Yankees.
16. RHP Eduardo Morlan, Milwaukee (from Tampa Bay): Sent back to the Rays on March 19, Morlan had been one of three players acquired from Minnesota in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young trade with the Twins a year ago.
17. RHP Bobby Mosebach, Philadelphia (from Los Angeles Angels): The sinker-slider starter was returned to the Angels April 1 after an attempt to work out a trade to retain his rights fell through.
19. RHP Derek Rodriguez, Tampa Bay (from Chicago White Sox): The side-armer, who limited opposing hitters to a .191 average between two levels in 2008, was returned to the White Sox on March 23.
20. RHP Ivan Nova, San Diego (from New York Yankees): The first of two second-round picks, the Padres returned Nova to the Yankees on March 29 and the 21-year-old will be in the Trenton starting rotation.
21. RHP Rocky Cherry, New York Mets (Baltimore): The only other Rule 5 pick with any big league time under his belt, the Mets' second pick was released on March 17 and though Baltimore declined the return, he signed as a Minor League free agent with Boston on March 26. He had a 6.85 ERA in 18 games with the Orioles in 2008.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.