Winter Meetings Notebook: Who to take in the Rule 5 Draft

The Pittsburgh Pirates pick second in the 2009 Rule 5 draft, which is today at 9:00 AM.  With an open spot on the roster, it’s pretty much confirmed that the Pirates will make a selection, which is good considering how much time I’ve spent researching the Rule 5 draft over the last few weeks.

Of course that wasn’t for nothing, as the site has seen more people this week (and I’m talking about three days, because I’m not one of those crazy people who counts Sunday as the start of the week) than the entire month of September.  Ironically, I think the Pirates have as many wins this week as they did in the entire month of September.  Most of the traffic has been from links from other team’s forums, and a few from Pirates forums, so I just wanted to take this time to say thanks.  It made me feel like the work was appreciated, especially during the brief time period where Neal Huntington was talking about not selecting a player (which for me would kind of be like washing your car only to have it start raining ten minutes later).

The draft is now upon us, and the Pirates pick second.  The Washington Nationals have the first pick, although they traded that pick to the New York Yankees this week.  There were rumors that the Yankees were shopping the pick, although it has recently been announced that the Nationals would take an unprotected Yankees prospect, left handed pitcher Zach Kroenke, and send him to New York in order for the Yankees to replace the recently traded Phil Coke.

Although Neal Huntington has danced around the issue of whether there is a talent that stands out, I feel there are a few talents that are worthy of the number two pick.  You can check out all of the players I’ve profiled over the past few weeks in the links below, as well as some trends of the last three Rule 5 drafts:

MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo suggested that the Pirates could be looking at a position player, and said there was some buzz that it could be a catcher.  The only way that would make sense is if the Pirates intended to trade Ryan Doumit, and Neal Huntington said nothing was imminent.  If we did take a catcher, the guy I’d like if Doumit was traded is Anthony Recker from Oakland.  Recker turned 26 in August, and hit for a .261/.333/.449 line with 12 homers in 272 at-bats in AAA last year.  His career line in AA is .256/.327/.411 with 18 homers in 688 at-bats.

With the signing of Bobby Crosby, I think a middle infielder is out of the question.  The Pirates now have Akinori Iwamura, Ronny Cedeno, Bobby Crosby, and Ramon Vazquez on the roster.  As for an outfielder, there are a few interesting options.  John Shelby tops my list, coming off a down year offensively in AA, but possessing strong defense, good speed, and good power for a center fielder.  He can also play second base, shortstop, and both corner outfield positions.

Truthfully I don’t see the Pirates taking a position player.  Their bench looks to be set next season with the current makeup of the roster.  Jason Jaramillo is guaranteed a spot, and if Doumit is traded, that spot will go to another backup catcher (likely Erik Kratz).  Delwyn Young will also have a spot, as will Ramon Vazquez due to his salary (it’s unlikely the Pirates could get rid of him).  The loser of the shortstop battle between Ronny Cedeno and Bobby Crosby will take the fourth spot, leaving one final spot.  That spot will likely go to Brandon Moss, who is out of options.

Now you could say that the Pirates should cut Moss in favor of a Rule 5 pick, but that brings up a problem.  Pedro Alvarez is due up in June, which would move Andy LaRoche to the bench, making it even harder to keep a position player on the roster.  The situation gets even muddier if Jose Tabata also gets the call in June.

As I type this, Jonathan Mayo has tweeted an update that says the Pirates are looking at a right handed pitcher in the draft.  That brings me to my favorite choice in the draft, Aneury Rodriguez.  Rodriguez was surprisingly left off the Tampa Bay 40-man roster after being acquired for Jason Hammel before the 2009 season.  Rodriguez posted a 4.50 ERA with an 7.0 K/9 and a 3.7 BB/9 in 142 innings in AA this past season.

Rodriguez has a 91-92 MPH fastball with late movement, and a curveball that serves as an out pitch.  He is 6′ 3″, 180 pounds, and turns 22 next week.  He still has a little bit of room to grow, and still fits that “projectable” label, despite being at the AA level.  Rodriguez also has a strong changeup, leading to a .192 BAA versus left handers in 2009.
Other options could include two arms from the Yankees farm system: George Kontos and Kanekoa Texeira.  Both project as future relievers, and don’t have the upside that Rodriguez has, although there’s still a chance that Kontos could be a back of the rotation starter.
Yohan Pino is another strong option, being left off Cleveland’s 40-man roster after coming over in the Carl Pavano trade to Minnesota last year. &

nbsp;Pino relies on off-speed pitches, with a great curveball and slider.  He throws in the mid-to-high 80s, but still manages to fool hitters, with an 8.6 K/9 in 127 innings between AA and AAA in 2009.  Pino also has solid control, with a 2.1 BB/9 ratio last season.

Steve Johnson is another player who was acquired in a 2009 trade and went unprotected.  The Orioles got Johnson in the deal that sent George Sherrill to the Dodgers.  Johnson, the number 15 prospect in the Dodgers’ system at the start of the season, had a 3.41 ERA, a 9.5 K/9, and a 3.8 BB/9 in 145.1 innings between high-A and AA in 2009.  He has good velocity, with a 90-93 MPH fastball, but he lacks control.  He’s smart on the mound though, with a good approach for pitching, which leads to the strikeouts.  At 22, he would be the Evan Meek of this draft for me.
If the Pirates wanted to go with another high upside pitcher with no control, like Donald Veal in the 2008 draft, Arquimedes Caminero could be the best available option.  Caminero throws a 95-98 MPH fastball and a mid-80s slider, both of which are plus pitches.  The only problem is that he has yet to pitch above low-A ball, outside of two innings in high-A last year.  Caminero, who turns 23 next June, put up a 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings between three levels of A-ball in 2009, although he had an incredible 13.5 K/9.  His problem was control, with a 5.8 BB/9 ratio.  He would be a great project for Joe Kerrigan.
As for left handed pitchers, there aren’t many options who stand out above the right handed pitchers.  The Pirates prefer their pitchers to be able to get both sides of the plate out.  Edgar Osuna is an interesting option, although he had a .259 BAA versus both sides of the plate in AA in 2009, which isn’t exactly earth shattering.  Graham Taylor from Florida is an interesting option, with a better lefty/righty split of .242/.249 in AA this year.  Taylor has good movement on his pitches, which leads to a very strong 51.6 percent ground ball ratio in his minor league career.  He’s also a starting pitching option.
Chuck Lofgren is a popular name to throw around, as he was drafted by Cleveland when Huntington was there, and had a .208 BAA versus left handers in 2009.  Lofgren was drafted last year, although passed over by the Pirates for Veal, and eventually returned to Cleveland.  In my opinion, the only reason Lofgren is mentioned so often as a option is due to the Cleveland connection, and because he’s left handed.  Neither has proven to be a factor in Huntington’s decision making in the past for these issues.
If I was making the pick, here would be my top five options (although the only ones that matter when picking second are the first two):
1. Aneury Rodriguez
2. Arquimedes Caminero
3. Yohan Pino
4. Steve Johnson
5. John Shelby
Check back tomorrow morning for a recap of who the Pirates select in the draft, along with the AAA and AA phases.
Bobby Crosby deal finalized tomorrow
The Bobby Crosby signing is expected to be finalized tomorrow.  Crosby will receive $1 M in guaranteed money, as well as $500 K in possible incentives, based on plate appearances.  I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t like the move.  It’s nothing to celebrate, like the Iwamura trade, but at the same time I can’t find any reason to hate the move.  At best, Crosby becomes a marginal upgrade over Ronny Cedeno at short.  At worst, we have a better version of Luis Cruz backing up shortstop, and very little chance of Brian Bixler sniffing the majors in 2009.
I’ll also point out again that Crosby has a career .270/.339/.423 line versus National League teams in 355 at-bats, compared to a .232/.298/.370 line against AL teams.  It’s a small sample size, but how great would it be if Crosby ended up being an Edgar Renteria type player who hits much better in the NL?  It’s also interesting that he has taken hitting lessons from Mark McGwire, alongside Matt Holliday.
I’ve always thought that Crosby’s name value was better than his performance.  I wasn’t too happy with the idea of going after him at first, mostly because I figured he’d cost at least three times the amount the Pirates signed him for.  Seeing that he only received $1 M guaranteed, I find no reason to complain about the deal.  Still, it’s nothing to get too excited over, unless of course Crosby does manage to continue hitting well against NL teams.
Winter Meetings Information
-I looked

at some of the recent starting pitching contracts and determined that the free agent market may be out of the Pirates’ price range, but that the trade value of Zach Duke has just gone up.

-The Pirates plan of offering arbitration to their three eligible players: Ronny Cedeno, Matt Capps, and Zach Duke.
-John Russell says that Matt Capps is the closer going in to 2010, but that Joel Hanrahan is an option to close should Capps struggle.
-The Tampa Bay Rays will trade Jesse Chavez to Atlanta for closer Rafael Soriano.  Atlanta got stuck with Soriano when he accepted arbitration, guaranteeing him a raise over his $6.1 M salary.  His 2010 salary is unknown, but could be in the $7 M range.  Essentially Tampa Bay traded one year of Akinori Iwamura for one year of Rafael Soriano.
-Follow BUCCO Fans.com on Twitter to get instant Winter Meetings updates.
-Keep track of all of the Pirates’ off-season additions with The Off-Season Tracker.
-Follow the Pirates’ 2010 payroll on the 2010 40-man roster/payroll page, which has been updated with Crosby’s salary amount.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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