The 2009 Rule 5 draft is a week away. Already I’ve covered some options at the catcher, middle infield, and outfield positions. Today we’ll go over some of the left handed pitchers available in next week’s draft.
The Pirates not only have a need for left handed relievers, but they’ve also taken pitchers in the last two Rule 5 drafts. They took Evan Meek in 2008, and Donald Veal in 2009. While it’s not exactly easy to keep a pitcher on the 25-man roster all season (as we saw with Veal and the disabled list trips), it’s much easier than any other position. The Pirates only have options like Wilfredo Ledezma, Justin Thomas, and Phil Dumatrait as their internal options, but no lefties who are guaranteed a roster spot. This is where a Rule 5 selection could fit in nicely.
Here are some of my favorites in the 2009 Rule 5 draft:
Edgar Osuna, LHP, ATL
Osuna was the number 17 prospect in the Atlanta Braves system heading in to the 2009 season, according to Baseball America. He spent the season between high-A and AA at the age of 21, combining for a 4.02 ERA, with a 6.3 K/9, and a 2.1 BB/9 ratio. Osuna only has a mid-80s fastball, but has a plus curveball, and the best changeup in Atlanta’s farm system.
Osuna was about even against left handers and right handers in AA this year, with a .259 BAA versus both sides of the plate. The Pirates prefer someone who can get batters out on both sides of the plate, and Osuna fits that profile. Osuna pitched as a starter this year, so you’d have to assume his numbers would improve when he only has to focus on one inning. Osuna has a career FIP of 2.24 as a reliever in the minors, compared to a 3.56 FIP as a starter.
Kris Johnson, LHP, BOS
Johnson entered the 2009 season as the number 16 prospect in the Boston system, according to Baseball America. Johnson has a 90-92 MPH fastball, and a solid changeup. He had a plus curveball, but lost control of it after Tommy John surgery in 2005, and hasn’t regained the pitch since.
Johnson has been a starter in the Boston system, but may have to switch to relief with his curveball failing to return. In 2009 he made 22 starts in AAA, pitching 96.1 innings, with a 6.35 ERA, a 6.1 K/9, and a 4.1 BB/9. He might see an improvement moving to the bullpen, as his fastball is strong for a left hander, and his changeup is good enough to be used as an out pitch. He might regain his curveball, but that seems less likely, as he’s now 25 years old, and has struggled with it for a few seasons now.
Graham Taylor, LHP, FLA
Taylor hasn’t made it above the AA level in Florida’s minor league system, but he has skipped over AAA to the majors, making three starts in the 2009 season. In those starts, Taylor had a horrible 8.18 ERA, thanks to 12 walks in 11 innings. He hasn’t had that problem in AA, with a 3.59 ERA in 150.1 innings pitched, with a 5.1 K/9, and a 3.7 BB/9.
Taylor was excellent against both sides of the plate, with a .242/.249 L/R BAA split in AA this year. Taylor throws a high 80s fastball with plus life. He also has a big breaking slurve, and a changeup with tailing action. The movement on his pitches produces a lot of ground balls, with a career 51.6 percent ground ball ratio in his minor league career. Taylor was rated the number 30 prospect in Florida’s farm system going in to the 2009 season.
Chuck Lofgren, LHP, CLE
A lot of people assume that the Pirates will take Lofgren because of Neal Huntington’s Cleveland connection. That same assumption was floating around last year, although the Pirates obviously passed on Lofgren. Lofgren now has time at AAA, with 17 starts this year, and a 5.31 ERA in 98.1 innings, with a 5.7 K/9 and a 3.0 BB/9.
Lofgren has a better line against left handers than Taylor and Johnson, with a .208 BAA versus lefties in 2009. He also is effective against right handers, with a .256 BAA in 2009. Like Taylor and Johnson, Lofgren has been a starter. If you’re detecting some sort of theme here of transforming a starter in to a reliever and expecting more success in the relief role, then you’re right on.
Alexander Smit, LHP, CIN
Smit pitched mostly at AA in the Reds farm system in 2009, making ten starts and 11 relief appearances, with a 3.04 ERA. He had an impressive 9.3 K/9 ratio, but a poor 5.3 BB/9 ratio. The walks have been a problem, as Smit has a career 4.3 BB/9 ratio in the minors.
Smit locates his fastball well, pitching in the high 80s to low 90s. He does well against both sides of the plate, with a .234/.211 lefty/right BAA split. Smit’s walks are actually worse as a reliever, although his strikeout ratio also takes a bit of a jump to an impressive 11.9 K/9 as a reliever in his minor league career. He turned 24 in October.
Ben Snyder, LHP, SF
Snyder had primarily been a starter in San Francisco’s farm system heading in to the 2009 season. In 2009 he spent his second year at the AA level, after splitting time between high-A and AA in 2008. Snyder made just five starts in his 34 appearances in 2009, and really improved his numbers, going from a 5.98 ERA in 2008 as a starter, to a 2.88 ERA in 2009 as a reliever. Snyder also saw an increase in his strikeout ratio from 6.4 to 8.0 K/9, and a reduction in his home run ratio from 1.3 to 0.4 HR/9.
Synder was excellent against left handers this year, with a .178 BAA. He didn’t have as much success against right handers, with a .289 BAA, so he’s more of a LOOGY option at this point. Snyder is a Noah Lowry type pitcher, with a high 80s fastball, a curve, a slider, and a change, all solid pitches. Snyder could make a strong LOOGY, although the Pirates probably will elect to go with a guy who can get batters out on both sides of the plate with the number two pick.
Check back tomorrow when I will review some of the right handed pitching options in the 2009 Rule 5 draft…