After finishing with the worst record in baseball, the Phillies will pick first in the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The draft, set to be held on December 10th, is the final activity of the Winter Meetings. Teams have a chance to select players from rival franchises with a main rules:
- Any player on the 40-man roster is protected
- Players signed at age 19 or older are protected for four seasons
- Players signed at age 18 or older are protected for five seasons
If none of those conditions apply to a player, then he may be selected in the draft. Draft picks cost $50K and the drafting team must keep a player on the major league roster for the entire season in order to retain him. Injured players must spend at least 90 active days on the roster.
If a team decides not to fulfill these conditions, the former club can reacquire the player for $25K. Sometimes, the team refuses to pay the fee, as was the case when the Phillies selected Shane Victorino from the Dodgers. There is also a minor league portion of the draft with slightly different rules and requirements. For the scope of this post, we’ll focus on the major league portion.
The Phillies and the Rule 5 Draft
The Phillies are one of the most successful teams in the Rule 5 draft in recent years. Dating back to 2009, they’ve made the following picks: David Herndon (2009), Michael Martinez (2010), Ender Inciarte (2012), Kevin Munson (2013), Odubel Herrera (2014), and Andy Oliver (2014).
Herndon, Martinez, and Herrera were the most successful of those picks with Herrera looking like a building block for Philadelphia. Many of you will recognize Inciarte, an able outfielder for the Diamondbacks. The Phillies failed to keep him on the active roster for a season and had to return him.
Teams generally select players who fit one of these profiles:
- Left-handed relievers
- Hard throwing, wild pitching prospects
- Back-up catchers
- Polished hitters with uncertain defense
- Athletic, raw position players
Herrera, along with fellow successful pick Delino DeShields (Rangers), fell into the latter category. The toolsy athletes are probably the riskiest bucket to pick, but they also come with the highest upside.
In full rebuild mode, it’s my opinion that the Phillies will benefit most from an aggressive pick at first overall. Rather than playing the relief market, I expect them to target a possible starting left fielder. Herrera and Aaron Altherr are the only two starting outfielders on the roster. Both are exciting young players who emerged during the 2015 season. Both also come with risk. The Phillies will want to build redundancy.
Other options on the 40-man roster include Cody Asche, Darnell Sweeney, and Roman Quinn. Asche and Sweeney are penciled in as the left field platoon, but that’s not how the team will enter Spring Training. Quinn is not yet major league ready. Given the internal options, there is room to give a Rule 5 pick a long look in left field.
The 40-man roster currently stands at 37, meaning the club could pick up to three players if it chooses. Rarely do teams take more than two, but the Phillies might be the exception. The bullpen is a work in progress, and there are enough interesting relievers to give two a look after picking an outfielder.
We recently cited J.J Cooper of Baseball America’s list of Rule 5 names to remember. Of those, five stand out as first pick material to me. This is not to say that the Phillies scouts won’t fall in love with another player or decide to go with a pitcher. But these are my best guesses to go first overall in the draft.
Jabari Blash, OF, SEA
This is the second time Blash, 26, is eligible for the draft. The Mariners left him unprotected last year, and he went unpicked. That’s unlikely to happen this year after he blasted 32 home runs between Double- and Triple-A. It wasn’t a matter of dominating the weaker opponents either. After a BABIP-fueled outburst in Double-A, the righty finished with 22 home runs in 228 plate appearances in Triple-A. His BABIP actually fell to .263, yet he still posted a strong .264/.355/.640 line.
Pros: Power, athleticism, a high walk rate, upper-minors success, and plus defense.
Cons: A big whiff rate that could get out of hand in the majors.
Tyler Goeddel, OF, TBR
Cooper describes Goeddel, 23, as one of the most polished hitters in the draft. The right-handed hitter is eligible for the first time after hitting .279./350/.433 over 533 plate appearances at Double-A. He’s a well-rounded asset with some power (12 home runs) and speed (28 stolen bases).
Pros: Athleticism, youth, plate discipline, plus defense, power, and speed.
Cons: Yet to reach Triple-A.
Jake Cave, OF, NYY
Entering his age 23 season, Cave is still relatively young like Goeddel. He was once thought to possess upside similar to Jacoby Ellsbury, but injuries and time have sapped his speed. The lefty is viewed as an ideal fourth outfielder with some latent power, decent wheels, and the ability to do a passable job in center field. He hit .269/.330/.345 in 563 Double-A plate appearances. He received a brief, successful trial in Triple-A too.
Pros: Can play all three outfield spots, decent contact skills and plate discipline
Cons: More of a fourth outfielder
Zach Borenstein, OF/1B, ARI
Borenstein, 24, is a left-handed power prospect who has lost some steam. He performed well at Double-A last season with a BABIP-fueled .314/.394/.511 line in 327 plate appearances. He was miserable in a 53 plate appearance try in Triple-A. A questionable defender, Borenstein may be a better candidate for the Phillies second pick.
Pros: History of power, strong plate discipline once he adapts to a level
Cons: Iffy Triple-A track record, game power was best in 2013
Balbino Fuenmayor, 1B, KAN
Now there’s an 80-grade baseball name. As you might expect, Fuenmayor is a right-handed, aggressive power hitter. The 26-year-old is recovering from a torn ACL.
When healthy, Fuenmayor hit .354/.386/.591 with 15 home runs in 308 Double-A plate appearances. He also had a small sample of success in Triple-A. Unlike the others listed here, he’s a first baseman if not a designated hitter. The Phillies have two of those – Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf. They might be willing to try another.
Pros: Excellent half season in 2015, power and contact skills
Cons: Aggressive, questionable defender
My best guess
I expect the Phillies to select Goeddel or Blash first overall. Both are candidates to step in and perform at a high level much like Herrera did last season. At the very least, they’ll offer plus defense. Their multi-faceted skill sets should ensure other means of production too. Goeddel is probably the safer of the two options, and I like that he’s younger too.
Remember, these picks can be traded. There’s nothing stopping the Phillies from taking a shot on both athletes. They’re liable to match the production of Sweeney who can be optioned. Asche is viewed as a trade candidate. The trade route would also give the club the option of evaluating two players during the spring and picking their favorite. It’s probably an unlikely path, but it’s an open option.