A general view of the atrium area during the Major League Baseball winter meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Thursday was the Rule 5 draft, a draft that with its MLB, AAA, and AA divisions, took just over 30 minutes. Several teams passed and didn’t take anyone while two teams (Astros and Marlins) took 2 Major Leaguers. The Rule 5 draft is exciting for some, while some choose to ignore it because of a lack of impact players. Regardless, it seemed to be worth at least one “off the radar” post. So here, I just selected 4 random players that I hadn’t written about before and gave introductions on them so perhaps readers can be more familiar with the guys that are trying to make the team out of Spring Training (in the Major League potion of the Rule 5 draft, the player must stay on the MLB roster all year or be offered back).
Selected from Nationals by Rockies
Rosenbaum was picked in the 22nd round by the Nationals in 2009 but found himself on the fringes of the club’s prospect lists until 2012. He did this thanks to his ability to put up some sparkling ERAs in every level of the minors. The 6-1 left-handed pitcher spent the whole year (154.1 innings) in AA and was solid (though perhaps not spectacular) with a FIP .49 better than league average along with a SIERA .45 better than league average (in a park that was a little hitter friendly). He is not a high strikeout guy, instead relying on a lot of grounders. His stuff is described by Baseball America as “fringy” and he certainly seems to fall under the soft tossing lefty category (84-90 MPH fastball). He looks like a big guy and hides the ball behind his body (and by coming basically straight over the top) and with a leg kick giving him deception. It has mostly worked against righties as well, although the strikeout rate is considerably lower.
A guy that relies on grounders/no walks could be more successful than a guy that relies on strikeouts/fly-balls in Coors, as they don’t have to rely on pitching up in the zone (and consequently, watching routine fly-balls fly out of the park). If he can continue to mix his pitches, and keep the ball low, he stands a chance, but AA Harrisburg to Coors Field is a gigantic jump. To me, he seems to fit better as a back end starter than a reliever unless he is used in strictly low leverage situations.
Selected from Red Sox by Twins
Pressly was an 11th round pick by the Red Sox in 2007 out of high school. The 6-3 right-handed pitcher was moved slowly throughout the system but was successful in every level until he reached A+ in 2011. Even then he wasn’t horrible, but his 4.52 FIP was much higher than his career averages and nearly half a run worse than league average. The park at Salem plays relatively neutral (perhaps a touch hitter friendly), and his problem wasn’t homers, it was not enough strikeouts per walk. He improved slightly the next season and then was promoted to AA to pitch in the bullpen. While his ground-ball rate evaporated, he was still really effective, mainly because his strikeouts increased (he also had a low home run rate despite pitching for a team with a slightly favorable park for hitters).
He is very much a Twins’ type of pitcher, not striking out many hitters (15.2% of them over the last two years). He has a fastball that moves, but also has a really good looking hard curve/slider. His mechanics are a little funky, which may make him a little more suited for the bullpen (and may be why the Red Sox moved him slowly). His velocity sits between 91-94 MPH and it may sit a tick higher in the bullpen. Considering he has no career starts above AA, this is where he will be with the Twins in 2013 if he makes the team. In the Arizona Fall League, he threw 96-97 MPH on his fastball with a curve in the low 80-82 MPH range. The curve looks good on video, with some sharp break and the ability to throw it low in the strike zone (it could very easily be called a slider in my opinion). The two pitch mix will serve him well out of the ‘pen. I like him more than Josh Fields, who the Astros selected with the first pick of the Rule 5 draft.
Selected from Nationals by Red Sox who traded him to the Tigers
Kobernus’ has basically no power, with a .052 ISO in AA in 2012 and .105 ISO in A+ in 2011. He had a 99 wOBA + and 91 wOBA + in those two years, mainly relying on an empty average/high BABIP with decent contact and low walk rates. The Nationals liked him enough of the University of California that they drafted him in the 2nd round of 2009. He was basically the same kind of hitter there and had two pretty pedestrian seasons before a breakout junior year (in which he hit for a high average but not really much power).
The 24 year old is known for his defense even though FRAA is very skeptical of any pre-2012 excellence. However, his baserunning and speed is rated very high and the Tigers have already stated that they are thinking about moving him to the outfield. Since his bat won’t do them a lot of good on the corners, where they are more likely to need a player, he would need to be able to play centerfield. Of course, the problem is that they already have a perfectly good centerfielder in Austin Jackson. Perhaps he could be a reserve utility player that can play both in the infield and the outfield (a poor man’s Emilio Bonifacio), but the bat isn’t exactly begging to be played. His only hope seems to be if his BABIP can translate from the minors to the Majors, which seems to be unlikely. His speed (41 steals in 2012 and 53 steals in 2011) will give him some value off the bench, but the slap happy hitter with an other way approach won’t hit for any kind of power now or in the future.
Selected from Rays by Mets who traded him to the Tigers
Lobstein was another 2nd round pick, but in 2008, that spent all year in AA. The left-handed starting pitcher had a league average SIERA, but a .79 HR/9IP (.14 higher than league average) led to a worse than league average FIP. Montgomery’s park played slightly offensive biased this year, and the majority of his homers came at home, so perhaps the SIERA is more accurate. So while he was league average, he is just 23 (with 22 being his age during the middle of the season) and league average in the AA Southern League was roughly 24 years old.
A pitchability guy, Lobstein’s changeup is considered his best pitch. So while we should cut Lobstein’s numbers some slack since he is young, anecdotal evidence suggests that pitchability lefties usually have the most success in the minors compared to other type of pitchers, and a lot of times those numbers prove artificial and do not translate. At 6-3, he has good size and has a really simple delivery (the only thing you could criticize is that he didn’t seem to take advantage of his length by getting extension. However, he has a gigantic leg kick that he eventually straightens outward and comes from a 3/4ths slot). He moves the ball around, and it looks like he throws a lot of sinkers or moving fastballs. He breaks out an occasional curveball that looks pretty good and has some two plane break.
He is much better against lefties than righties (2.89 FIP versus 4.42 FIP over the last two seasons), so a move to a lefty specialist role would accelerate his progress and give him a much better chance of sticking in the Majors (though obviously limiting his ceiling). As a lefty reliever with an ability to keep the ball low and throw nothing straight, there is potential (with the ability to throw 3 different pitches), but he will have to cut down on his walks.