Pitchers dominate clubs' Rule 5 picks
Pirates select Indians infielder first, but many arms follow
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The name of the game at the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning was pitching, pitching and more pitching.
A total of 19 selections were made in the Major League phase of the Draft. Sixteen of them were pitchers, with 12 of those being right-handers. Teams that took part in the mound frenzy clearly felt it was worth the small risk to try to improve their pitching staffs; it costs $50,000 to make a selection in the Major League phase, and the player must remain on the active Major League roster all season or be sent back to the original club for $25,000.
The Pirates, selecting No. 1 overall, were the exception to the rule. Pittsburgh took Indians infielder Josh Rodriguez with the top pick. The Rice product spent much of the season at Triple-A and finished the year with a combined .297/.378/.484 line. He also can play a number of positions and will get a chance to compete for a utility role with Pittsburgh during Spring Training, though the organization thinks he might eventually develop into something more than that.
"We like him as a guy to compete to make our club as a middle-utility player with upside to potentially become an everyday player," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "He's a guy that will compete to make our club as our utility guy. He has solid defense at shortstop. He can swing the bat a little bit. He can bounce around and play second, short and third. You can probably run him into the outfield. He's a guy that's a good addition to the organization."
After that came a string of eight straight pitchers, starting with the Seattle Mariners going off the board a bit to take Indians reliever Jose Flores (who pitched in relief in the Class A Midwest League) and finishing with the Brewers taking right-hander Pat Egan from the Orioles. The two bigger names in that run were the Nationals' selection of Elvin Ramirez from the Mets and the Astros' selection of Aneury Rodriguez from the Rays.
Ramirez, the 23-year-old righty who pitched most of the year with St. Lucie in the Florida State League, has been pitching extremely well in the Dominican Winter League, posting a 2.18 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings. The reliever had reportedly been clocked in the upper 90s this winter, and while command has been an issue, he's walked only four in the Dominican Winter League.
Several teams attempted to trade up in order to take Ramirez, but the Nationals held on to their pick and took him at No. 6 overall. Washington also took the Cardinals' Brian Broderick, who had impressed scouts in the Arizona Fall League, near the end of the Major League phase of the Draft.
At the start of the Winter Meetings, it was the Rays' Rodriguez who was talked about the most as a player sure to be taken. Houston took him right after the Nationals picked, at No. 8, and like Ramirez, the soon-to-be 23-year-old improved his stock in winter ball. Rodriguez has a 1.22 ERA and .193 opponents' batting average in seven Dominican League starts. Unlike Ramirez, though, Rodriguez spent most of the year at Triple-A and had some success there (3.80 ERA in 113 2/3 innings), so Houston believes he's ready to compete at the Major League level.
The Astros believe the same thing about their second pick of the Major League phase as well, Lance Pendleton. Pendleton made 22 of his 27 starts at Double-A for the Yankees, finishing with a combined 12-5 record and a 3.61 ERA. Both Rodriguez and Pendleton will compete for the No. 5 spot in the Astros' rotation in Spring Training.
"Being able to get these two guys provides us with depth of competition for a starting role in Spring Training, and we'll see where it goes from there," Astros general manager Ed Wade said. "It's good to add some quality [talent] to the organization, and we understand what the Rule 5 process is and are satisfied with the way it went."
There was just one trade announced at the conclusion of the Draft, with the Rangers acquiring Mason Tobin, the Angels Minor League right-hander initially selected by the Chicago Cubs. Tobin is coming off Tommy John surgery, but he has a good arm that the Rangers coveted.
"He has a live fastball in the mid-90s, plus life and a good breaking ball," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He had Tommy John surgery a year and a half ago, but we're hoping he'll bounce back. We like the upside."
The Yankees and Mets joined the Astros and Nationals as the only teams to make more than one selection. The Mets took one of the two other position players, infielder Brad Emaus from the Blue Jays (the Phillies took infielder Michael Martinez from the Nationals), with their first pick, then selected Orioles right-hander Pedro Beato with selection No. 2.
The Yankees went lefty-righty with their picks, starting with the Angels southpaw Robert Fish and ending the Major League phase with Red Sox right-handed reliever Dan Turpen.
"We like [Fish's] stuff," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who lost two players from his system in Pendleton and righty George Kontos. "We're going to see if it can translate for us at the Major League level. We're going to take a look at [Turpen], too, out of the bullpen."
A total of 24 players were taken in the Triple-A phase, which costs a team just $12,500 per pick. Those players, along with the four Double-A selections made (at $4,000 per pick), do not have to stay at any particular level to stay with the organization that took them.