Pitching prominent in Rule 5 Draft
Of the 17 players taken in Major League phase, 14 are hurlers
INDIANAPOLIS -- For lefties Zach Kroenke and Chuck Lofgren, the second time is, hopefully, the charm.
The southpaws were two of the 17 players taken in the Major League phase of Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. A grand total of 42 players were taken in all three parts.
During the Major League phase, eligible players left unprotected from their clubs' 40-man rosters may be selected for $50,000. A player selected must remain on his drafting team's active Major League roster during the following season or be sent back to the original club for $25,000.
Kroenke was taken a year ago, by the Florida Marlins, but was returned to the Yankees for the 2009 season. New York, in turn, did not protect the reliever again this offseason, and this time he was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the sixth overall pick.
"Last year it was all new," Kroenke said. "I wasn't sure how everything worked. Now I have a better idea. I found out I was going to Arizona. It will be fun, I think."
"He's a lefty with pretty good stuff and pretty good performance," D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes said. "Actually, [he's] a lefty that has weapons for both left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters and is coming off a pretty good year. I think he's more than just a specialist, so we'll see how he fits with our group."
Lofgren was eligible last year as well, but coming off a rough season in the Indians system, he went unselected. He bounced back with a strong start in Double-A to earn a promotion. Overall, he pitched well in Triple-A, though a rough August made his overall numbers suffer. The Milwaukee Brewers saw enough to take him No. 11 in the Major League phase.
"I feel like coming back this year after the year that I had last year, I did pretty well," Lofgren said. "My August was down, but I thought I put myself back on the map with how I've performed.
"I'm very excited. It's one of those opportunities that present itself very rarely. Very few players get taken, and I'm excited I was. I'm looking forward to being a part of the Milwaukee Brewer family. If they want me to start, I'll start. If they want me to spot start and relieve, or go lefty on lefty, I'm good with whatever they want."
The Washington Nationals technically had the first pick, and selected outfielder Jamie Hoffman from the Dodgers organization, but they will send him to the Yankees to complete the Brian Bruney deal. Hoffman split the year between Double-A and Triple-A in 2009, hitting .291/.390/.466 over 97 games. He also made his big league debut, going 4-for-22 over 14 games.
"We'll see where it takes us," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. "We feel he's got great makeup, he's got ability, and we project him in the future as an everyday type player. It will be interesting to see how he mixes in.
"This guy has got some thump. He's a big boy. He can play center, right or left as a plus defender. He's been rated in the last few years as the Dodgers' best defensive outfielder. He's got a hockey mentality, a Minnesota kid. In our roster situation, where we're at in terms of competing, he's a guy that we're hoping can be No. 25 on this roster and give [manager] Joe [Girardi] some choices."
The Pirates followed, using the second pick to take another outfielder, the Marlins' John Raynor. Raynor is a speedy outfielder who can play all three spots, but he is coming off a bit of a down year in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. Pittsburgh, though, still sees plenty of upside.
"He's a guy that brings an interesting tools package," GM Neal Huntington said. "He can run. He can play defense. He can throw. His A-ball and Double-A season show there is some bat potential. He struggled a little bit this year, but he can go fill a Major League role as a fourth outfielder.
"We like the bat upside enough that we think there is everyday potential here. There's a combination of average, he draws walks, he can drive the ball gap to gap. He can hit the occasional home run. It's not a typical corner bat. It's more of a center-field bat, but as we've talked about in our ballpark, the ideal arrangement has two center fielders."
A string of pitchers followed the pair of outfielders, with six consecutive hurlers selected. Three were lefties: Ben Snyder (Giants to Orioles), Edgar Osuna (Braves to Royals) and Kroenke.
The Orioles, however, are not expected to keep Snyder. Instead he'll be sent to the Rangers as the player to be named in the Kevin Millwood deal. The same is true of the Astros' selection of third baseman Jorge Jimenez from the Red Sox at No. 8, as he's the player to be named in the Matt Lindstrom trade. And there was late word that the Mets would be dealing right-handed pitcher Carlos Monasterios (No. 7) to the Dodgers.
Of the 17 players taken in the Major League phase, 14 were pitchers. Sometimes it seemed best to go with the familiar. Dayton Moore, the Royals' GM, and J.J. Picollo, the assistant GM for scouting and player development, both came by way of the Braves, so it's not a big surprise that they took a lefty from Atlanta's system with their pick. "He's a guy we've been tracking," Picollo said of Osuna. "We saw him pitch in winter ball this year a few times, and we obviously have a history with him."
The Blue Jays can claim the same kind of "inside" knowledge. Dana Brown, special assistant to the GM, was most recently the scouting director for the Nationals, so Toronto dipped into Washington's farm system both in the Major League phase, with reliever Zech Zinicola, and in the Triple-A phase, with right-hander Ruben De La Rosa.
"I'm very familiar with both players," Brown said. "I had a chance to see them for a few years. In particular, Zinicola, who we've seen from 90 to 96 [mph] with a plus slider. He was a really good guy to take a shot at to see if we can get a back-end piece for the Major League bullpen."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.