2009 Rule 5 Draft Preview: Middle Infielders
Yesterday I reviewed a few catching options in the 2009 Rule 5 draft, although the chances of the Pirates selecting a catcher in the Rule 5 draft are slim. There is a good chance that the Pirates could look at a middle infield option in the Rule 5 draft, and there are several available options that caught my eye this year.
The Pirates are weak at middle infield in the upper levels. They recently traded for Akinori Iwamura to be their starting second baseman in 2010, although Iwamura is only under control for one season. Ronny Cedeno projects to be the starting shortstop, but an optimistic projection for Cedeno still makes him a number eight hitter at best. Ramon Vazquez doesn’t have the defense to play everyday, and has struggled in his career against left handed pitching, which doesn’t make him an every day player. Brian Bixler and Luis Cruz haven’t shown much in their time in the majors, and both could be off the 40-man roster by the time Spring Training rolls around.
Argenis Diaz is at AAA, but is only 22 years old, and is a defense-first shortstop prospect, with his offense preventing him from being an everyday option in the majors at this point. Shelby Ford and Brian Friday both fell off this past year, and Ford is exposed for the 2009 Rule 5 draft. The Pirates have some promising players making the jump to AA this year in Chase d’Arnaud, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison, although as we saw with Brian Friday this past year, success in high-A doesn’t guarantee success in AA. The Pirates have several options below this trio, such as Jarek Cunningham, Brock Holt, and Benjamin Gonzalez, but still no solid options above the AA level.
The San Diego Padres showed last year that you can find a decent middle infielder in the Rule 5 draft when they selected Everth Cabrera with the third pick in the 2008 Rule 5 draft (the Pirates selected Donald Veal with the next pick). Cabrera made the jump all the way from low-A ball, where he posted a .284/.361/.399 line in 479 at-bats in 2008. Cabrera posted a .255/.342/.361 line in 377 Major League at-bats in 2009, with 25 stolen bases. Cabrera did struggle on defense, with a -11.7 UZR, but his selection was a success when considering he was a 22 year old jumping three levels to the majors. So is there an Everth Cabrera in the 2009 draft? Here are some middle infield options I like:
Ryan Mount, 2B, LAA
Mount was the number 14 prospect in the Angels’ farm system heading in to the 2009 season, according to Baseball America. He spent the 2009 season in AA, with a .252/.301/.344 line in 305 at-bats. This follows a 2008 season where he hit for a .290/.337/.512 line with 16 homers in 338 at-bats in the hitter friendly California League.
Mount’s biggest problem has been an injury plagued career. He matched his career best 88 games in 2009, but has suffered injuries in each of the last three seasons. Of course, that could mean he would be easy to hide on the active roster, with plenty of trips to the disabled list, similar to what we saw with Donald Veal in 2009.
Mount has above-average power for a middle infielder. He has average speed, which makes him exclusively a second baseman, moving over from shortstop in 2007. The Angels have a lot of middle infield options in their system, which combined with the injury history, explains why they could afford to leave Mount unprotected.
Scott Campbell, 2B, TOR
Campbell entered the 2009 season as the number 11 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays’ system, according to Baseball America. He spent the 2009 season between high-A, AA, and AAA, receiving only 96 at-bats in AAA. He hit for a .272/.368/.356 line in 298 at-bats combined between all three levels, with a .269/.373/.374 line in 182 at-bats in AA.
Campbell hit for a .302/.398/.427 line in 417 at-bats in AA in 2008, with nine homers. He struggled at the end of the 2008 season after a hand injury, and struggled in 2009 at the plate after an early season injury. Campbell is below average on defense, but his arm allows him to play both second and third base. He turned 25 in September, and doesn’t really project to be a future Major League starter, although he could be comparable to Ramon Vazquez as a backup infielder.
Steven Singleton, 2B, MIN
Singleton spent the 2009 season between high-A and AA in the Minnesota farm system, posting a combined .277/.326/.422 line in 455 at-bats. Singleton struggled some in high-A, with a .269/.329/.424 line in 297 at-bats. That was strange, as Singleton had no problems in 2008 in high-A, with a .295/.371/.452 line in 241 at-bats. The struggles could have been a fluke, as Singleton excelled in AA with a .291/.319/.418 line in 158 at-bats.
Singleton’s numbers look similar to Josh Harrison. He doesn’t draw a great deal of walks (although more than Harrison), but at the same time he doesn’t strike out often, with just 49 strikeouts in his 455 at-bats in 2009. Singleton hit for 11 homers in A-ball last year in 476 at-bats, but only managed six homers in 455 at-bats this year between high-A and AA. He plays second base and shortstop primarily, but has recorded two games playing third base. He could be a utility infielder in the majors, as a good left handed bat off the bench. Singleton turned 24 in September.
Blake Davis, SS, BAL
Davis had a breakout season in 2007 when he hit for a .291/.362/.409 line in 357 at-bats in the Carolina League in high-A. He followed that up with a strong 2008 season in the Eastern League at AA, in which he hit for a .284/.324/.389 line in 457 at-bats. Davis was in contention to make the majors out of Spring Training in 2009, but suffered a stress fracture in his left foot. The injury cost Davis half the season, and he ended up hitting for a .211/.270/.272 line in 180 at-bats in AAA.
Davis doesn’t excel in any area defensively, but he does do everything well enough to make him a starting option in the middle infield. He hasn’t played any other positions, but his coaches have said he can play second base and serve as a utility player. An interesting note is that Cleveland originally drafted Davisin the 46th round of the 2005 draft, so there’s a possibility that Neal Huntington could have Davis on his radar.
Davis turns 26 on December 22nd, which means he’s getting close to the make or break point in his career. He looked strong in 2007 and 2008, and it’s obvious that his injury in 2009 played a big role in his struggles this past year. The Pirates could take a chance that his injury issues are behind him. If they are, and he manages to hit like he did in 2008 at the AA level, he could challenge Ronny Cedeno for the starting job. Worst case, he’d be a decent utility player, probably better than Brian Bixler or Luis Cruz.
Check back tomorrow when I will review some outfield options in the 2009 Rule 5 draft…