Previewing the 2013 Rule 5 Draft for the Rockies

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bright an early on Thursday morning, the Rule 5 Draft will be held to close out this year's winter meetings. Teams will have a chance to steal away minor league players from other organizations who have been professionals for part of at least four seasons (five if they signed their pro contract at age 18 or younger). The catch? These players need to be kept at the major league level all season to fully become the claiming team's property. One of the strangest little components to offseason analysis, the Rule 5 Draft rarely ends up making a significant difference for a team, but every once and again, there's a diamond in the rough among this field of players.

Last year, the Rockies selected their first Rule 5 pick since 2005 in Daniel Rosenbaum, a starting pitcher from the Washington Nationals system, and also had AAA reliever Coty Woods selected by the Texas Rangers. Rosenbaum was seriously considered for the fifth starter spot, but the sudden signing of Jon Garland spelled the end for Rosenbaum, who was returned to Washington where he put up a decent AAA season. Woods also failed to make the Rangers, but didn't fare so well in his return to the Rockies system. Both players will be eligible again this year.

The Rockies do not tend to take players in the Rule 5 draft, but with one open 40-man spot (two if Justin Morneau's contract isn't made official today), they are possible players. The Rule 5 draft order is the same as the regular draft order in June (barring bonus picks, etc), so the Rockies will have the eighth pick. This draft tends to move fairly quickly; teams may draft as many players they are willing to pay $50,000 for the chance to make the team, but once all teams pass, the round is finished. Two more minor league rounds follow, where teams may draft players that were left off of the reserves list at the deadline. These players are not required to stay on the MLB roster like the first rounders.

There aren't any good comprehensive lists of eligible players out there that I could find (maybe this is something I should try to cook up next year, but with the Rockies system the only one I know quite so well, it could be a challenge). However, I did find three players that may be good fits for the Rockies should they choose to take a pick tomorrow. With the rotation, bullpen and starting lineup now largely spoken for, I decided to focus mainly on good fits for the bench as it is the area of the roster most likely to be decided at the last minute this year.

IF Miles Head
Age: 22
Positions: 1B/3B
System: Oakland
2013 Level: AA
B/T: R/R
Baseball Reference

My favorite match for the Rockies out of the players I examined, Head kills two birds with one stone: he adds a 1B/3B guy that bats with power potential from the right side (combining some of the benefits of having Ryan Wheeler and Josh Rutledge, who are basically competing for the same bench spot at this stage, into one player). He'd be easier than some to hold onto on the roster, being that he fills a need that no other player in the system currently does, meaning he'd be less likely to have his spot challenged in Spring Training by direct competition. He would be used primarily as a righty PH option, as well as 3B insurance if Jonathan Herrera is already manning a middle infield position. He has played both 1B and 3B essentially equally in terms of playing time, and at 22, could represent a talent with room to develop.

The biggest downside is his extremely poor 2013 season, much of which was lost to injury, so health is a concern. Assuming he is at least capable of taking the field, I think spending $50,000 on having a guy like this in Spring Training (assuming we don't sign Michael Young or a more proven Jeff Baker type) is a reasonable move. Put him in competition with Wheeler and tell him to prove that he's a better fit.

Brian Fletcher
Age: 25
Positions: LF, 1B
System: Kansas City
2013 Level: AA/AAA
B/T: R/R
Baseball Reference

Fletcher is another option for a right handed bench bat, but he's not as good of a fit as Head. Primarily a left fielder, Fletcher makes better sense as competition for Brandon Barnes than Wheeler or Rutledge, making his presence in camp more redundant and more likely to be a waste of money. With both more positional versatility and his decent chance to be above average against lefties, Barnes is pretty immediately the favorite over Fletcher should he be drafted. However, Fletcher offers more power and his lack of both strikeouts and walks suggests a good contact tool as well, though Baseball America believes he swings and misses too much. Not an ideal fit, but someone to keep an eye on.

Carlos Perez
Age: 23
Positions: C
System: Houston
2013 Level: AA/AAA
B/T: R/R
Baseball Reference

With Jordan Pacheco still the only candidate for backup catcher on the 40-man roster, the Rule 5 draft could provide an opportunity to find some more competition for him. Perez is exactly the backup catcher candidate many want, with a good reputation for all aspects of playing the catcher's position, from arm strength to blocking. Offensively, he's a bigger question mark but his MiLB numbers aren't disastrous. He even has a little bit more speed on the bases than you'd expect from a catcher. It's hard to imagine a scenario where Perez is not a viable candidate for an upgrade over Pacheco or a Torrealba-type.

But what about players the Rockies may lose? This year, I'm not really certain there are any obvious candidates left remaining. The front office protected most of the obvious candidates in Tyler Matzek, Kyle Parker, Rosell Herrera and Jayson Aquino, as well as some less obvious ones in Kent Matthes, Kraig Sitton and Raul Fernandez. As we discussed back in November at the Reserves Deadline, the biggest name left off the 40-man was that of Christian Bergman. Profile-wise, Bergman is not all that different from the Rosenbaum pick we made last year (AA level starter without the raw upside of the AAA+ level starters above him). His absence makes more sense when considered in this context, as Bergman is being pinched by a AAA rotation that could include the likes of Matzek, Chad Bettis, Christian Friedrich and Jordan Lyles, while Jonathan Gray, Eddie Butler, Tyler Anderson and Daniel Winkler are all looking for good results at AA.

If the scouting reports on the available prospects are in any sense complete, this class of eligible draftees seems to be more pitching heavy, meaning Bergman could get lost in the shuffle behind shinier pieces. It's unlikely Woods gets drafted again after the poor year he produced. Joe Gardner and Tim Wheeler, both of whom were protected from the draft last year, are now eligible after being outrighted from the 40-man roster since the last draft, but with both of their prospects still in question and both moving into the make it or break it age range, neither is an obvious appealing candidate.

Both Ben Paulsen and Dustin Garneau could be fringe candidates, while Kiel Roling's power tool is likely to at least get some attention in pre-draft decision-making meetings. Younger, less experienced prospects like Francisco Sosa, Julian Yan and Jose Briceno are not likely to be picked for the sole reason that they would likely flop at the MLB level at this stage of development, but you might want to keep an eye on Sosa. He was the only one of the three to have a notable breakout season, and the Rockies have had prospects at this stage of development taken from them before (Everth Cabrera).

Finally, here is a list of all Rockies-org players that are eligible to be taken in the draft tomorrow morning:

Unassigned:
LHP Yoely Bello
LHP Carlos Hernandez
LHP Pedro Hernandez
LHP Ryan Kulik
LHP Kenny Roberts

RHP Alejandro Barraza
RHP Brooks Brown
RHP Greg Burke
RHP Bobby Cassevah
RHP Trevor Gibson *
RHP Angel Reyes
RHP Nate Striz
RHP Josh Sullivan

C Matt McBride
C Jackson Williams

IF Brett Tanos
IF Russell Wilson
IF Rafael Ynoa

OF Jason Pridie **
OF Kenny Williams Jr. *

* - assumes player is still with Rockies organization after not appearing anywhere in the system in 2013
** - assumes contract will be made official by Thursday

AAA Colorado Springs:
RHP Justin Berg
RHP Steven Hensley
RHP Coty Woods

IF Drew Garcia
IF Ben Paulsen

OF Tim Wheeler

AA Tulsa:
RHP Christian Bergman
RHP Joe Gardner
RHP Leuris Gomez
RHP Dan Houston
RHP Josh Mueller
RHP Cole White

C Dustin Garneau
C Dallas Tarleton

IF Jayson Langfels
IF Angelys Nina
IF Kiel Roling
IF Joey Wong

OF Delta Cleary Jr.
OF Tyler Kuhn

A+ Modesto:
RHP Russell Brewer
RHP Ryan Buch
RHP Tyler Gagnon
RHP Nelson Gonzalez
RHP Jefri Hernandez
RHP Bruce Kern
RHP Geoff Parker

C Drew Beuerlein

IF Jose Rivera

OF David Kandilas
OF Tyler Massey
OF Jared Simon

A Asheville:
RHP Alving Mejias

IF Juan Ciriaco

OF Francisco Sosa

A- Tri-City:
IF Wilson Soriano

OF Jose Monzon
OF Julian Yan

RK Grand Junction:
RHP Manuel Montilla

C Jose Briceno

I will be following the draft live tomorrow morning. If any of you crazies are up at 9e/7m tomorrow, the broadcast will occur live on MLB.com.

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