Final Rule 5 Draft Preview

Final Rule 5 Draft Preview
Braulio Lara

We've talked about the Rule 5 draft on and off now over the past 3 weeks.  One executive calls this Rule 5 Draft the best he's seen in terms of impact talent and depth.

The Cubs roster will be at 39 once the RHP Kyuji Fujikawa and OF Nate Schierholtz signings become official, so they have room to take one player in the draft, which takes place at 9 AM central time tomorrow (12/6).  The roster will be full, but it's December. There is plenty of room to add, subtract, and exchange players from here until April.

The Cubs have the #2 pick and have a pretty good chance of getting exactly the guy they want.  They have been getting calls from teams wanting to trade for their pick, something they said they'll contemplate, but the odds are they'll use the pick and use it on a pitcher.

Many of the best hitters in this draft are 1B, something the Cubs don't need at all.  Since the Cubs filled their OF need with the signing of Nate Schierholtz,  I basically see 3 options here.

Option #1: Select a pitcher

There are plenty of good arms with varying degree of experience and command.  The choice is between someone who can help you now or someone with raw upside.  Because the Cubs protected raw, high risk/high ceiling pitchers like Trey McNutt and Robert Whitenack -- and chose not to protect a low ceiling, high probability pitcher in Nick Struck, I'm going to assume they prefer upside.

  • Josh Fields is a RH reliever who could help right now.  He has a mid 90s fastball, a good slider, and really improved his command.  At age 27, he has some upside but it is a bit limited.  On the bright side, you'll get a cheap RP with a chance to pitch in the 7th or 8th inning for the next few years.
  • Braulio Lara is a LHP out of the Rays organization.  One of the highest ceiling in this draft. Throws 92-95 and can touch 98.  Secondaries and command need work, but LHPs who throw that hard are rare.  He's much more projection than production right now but if you're about upside, he's high on the list.
  • Ryan Chaffee is a hard-throwing RHP out of the Angels system.  Find a list of top 5 Rule eligibles and chances are Chaffee will be near the top of that list somewhere.  Throws 94-96 out of the bullpen and misses a ton of bats, but the command has been almost non-existent, including in his short stint in the AFL this year.
  • Randy Henry, RHP, comes from a deep organization in TX and put up some solid numbers at AA.  Doesn't throw as hard (91-93) as Chaffee, nor does he miss as many bats, but he throws more strikes.
  • Juan Sosa, RHP, would be a second consecutive pick from deep in the Phillies system.  Has a chance to have two plus pitches with mid 90s fastball and curve.  Upside play only.  Still raw and lacks command, though he showed average control at the A ball level.
  • Miguel Celestino, RHP, is a guy I didn't know a whole lot about but Mayo has him listed as his #2 guy and as a former Red Sox farmhand, you know Theo knows him well.  He's tall and rangy and can generate mid 90s heat.  His secondary pitches are underdeveloped but he's got better control than everyone on this list except for Shields.
  • Jose Dominguez, RHP, is a last minute addition because he's drawing lots of buzz on the strength of a 98 mph fastball with movement.  Some scouts have graded the pitch an 80.  Negative is that he will have to serve a 25 game suspension for violation of MLBs drug treatment program.

Option #2
Trade the pick.
The reason you consider trading the piece is if you don't want to use up a roster spot on a raw player and perhaps you get a young prospect or more useful player in return.  That said, there isn't much incentive for a team to trade an equal prospect whom they can keep in the minors for a guy they have to keep on the 25 man roster.  A similar problem exists as far as getting a useful MLB player.  There's little ncentive for a team to give the Cubs a young, established player with equal upside for a guy that carries a lot more risk.

That said, teams are calling and if one of those teams are in love with a player in this draft, maybe they'll give up a prospect or player that gives the Cubs the same upside with less risk.  A long shot, but team's value players differently, so maybe there's a match.

Option #3
Try to fill the 3B/utility IF hole
Much harder to do here.  Just not as much talent at 3B or IF in general but here are a couple of names, though I don't think either is good enough to go as high as #2.

  • Jefry Marte, 3B, was once a top Mets prospect based on the strength of a quick bat and above average power potential.  That hasn't materialized.  Marte tends to be pull happy which has delayed his development as a hitter.  On the bright side, he destroyed LHP at the AA level, something that could make him a platoon candidate with Luis Valbuena.
  • Jonathan Galvez, IF, is a prospect that Hoyer and McLeod should be familiar with.  He's an offensive minded infielder who hits RH and can possibly platoon with Valbuena while backing up SS and 2B.   Galvez put up a .292/.364/.426 line at AA last season.

My Pick: Braulio Lara, LHP, Tampa Rays

I'd be happy with Fields if the Cubs wanted immediate help with a fair amount of upside.  And I'd be okay with one of the strong RH arms like Chaffee, Sosa, or Celestino.  But Lara is a rare commodity in that he's a LHP who can hit the high 90s.  He's pitched well in relief this offseason but there's nothing to say the can't return to starting down the road.  The potential is there for 3 pitches.

Who might the Cubs lose?

As far as who the Cubs might lose, Nick Struck is the obvious candidate and is on BA's list of top Rule 5 prospects.  Jon Sickels, however, shares my previously stated opinion that the real sleeper in the Cubs organization might be the hard-throwing Marcus Hatley.

For more names...Baseball America had a 2 part preview ( 1 and 2)  Jonathan Mayo of wrote a preview as well.

Filed under: Rule 5 Draft

Tags: Rule 5 Draft


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  • Great analysis, John. Lara's toolset reminds me that both Joakim Soria and Johan Santana were Rule 5 picks who really worked out.
    If the Cubs take a pick instead of trading it, let's hope for that kind of result. Or even anything that approaches it.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:


    Those guys are great examples of why you go pure upside on these things. The fringe, polished guys are usually the ones you can find in your own organization.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    A young LHP who can touch 98 WITH CONTROL would just mow through the NL John. Gotta love the ceiling here

  • Thanks, John. I too am hoping the Cubs take an upside arm like Lara. It's impossible to know what other teams are offering for the #2 pick, but if they can get a similar prospect in terms of upside that wouldn't have to be on the 40-man, I'd really like that.

  • If it was me I would go with Braulio Lara, you can't teach lefty with upper 90's fastball. He is still young as well so you can still develop those secondary pitches.

  • Celestino interests me the most out of the pitchers with his low BB/9 but if we don't trade the pick, I've got my money on Hazelbaker. The fact we just took Schierholtz doesn't factor into it for me since, like you said with Fields, I think we'll take the best long term fit, not the person who could best help us right now. Plus Hazelbaker could still serve as our 5th outfielder (sorry TC) and I still expect Soriano to get dealt.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    The issue I have with that is that I don't think Hazelbaker is anywhere near being the top prospect, short or long term, on the list of Rule 5 eligibles. He's probably a 4th or 5th OFer long term if he learns to make better contact. If he were the BPA, as it were, I'd have no problem taking him. But he isn't. I wouldn't even say he's top 10.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Really? With that blend of speed and power and consistently .800+ OPS I'd have thought he was better regarded. He is 25 and just barely cracking AAA though so that probably has something to do with it.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    That's part of it. He also has contact issues and he's sort of a tweener. Scouts don't think he plays CF well enough despite his speed, and he won't hit for a lot of power in the majors. So, in the end, you have a corner OF'er who doesn't hit for enough power or average.

    I think if he could play CF, he'd be worth a shot,but even then he's probably a lesser prospect than Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur. Still, he's the most intriguing of the OF'ers to me if he could have played CF(and he does have the raw abilty to do that_, you could have gambled that he could play it well and hit enough to stick. At worst he buys you a couple months until Jackson is ready.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I will say Celestino is intriguing, though. I confess he's a guy I don't know a whole lot about but the lower walk rate with the good arm is encouraging.

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    The only thing that troubles me about Lara is that he's been in the Rays organization for 5 years -- one of the better organizations in the game at developing pitchers -- and he's a 23-year-old in high A ball. Something seems not right about that.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    That is true. Peripherals aren't great either. You'd be picking him purely on his arm strength, which is risky.

    You could go with someone like Fields and get as close to a sure thing but most everyone else is pretty flawed, usually with their command. You're taking a risk with all of these guys, but Lara probably has the highest reward. The thing I hope for with Lara is that if he just throws strikes, he's going to get MLB hitters out. That's a big IF, of course.

    We'll see where the Cubs lie on the risk/reward continuum tomorrow morning. Can't wait...actually more excited for this Rule 5 than any other I can think of since I've been following it. So many great arms.

  • Assuming Mayo is right in his high ranking of Celestino, it just makes sense that Cubs would draft him. Theo knows him, he has better control than most pitchers on this list and if Mayo is right, I would guess he has high upside. If he's worth taking with #2, clearly as a Red Sox farm hand, Theo and Jed will not fall asleep on him.

  • I wonder if anybody out there is keeping stats as to how many Rule 5 players mysteriously go on the "DL" the year after they're drafted...

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    Yeah...I'm okay with it, though. At least these guys are getting their chance with an MLB team and on a 40 man roster.

  • I'm predicting that the Cubs trade the pick. John, does the picking team draft a player for another team and then trade him to that team or do they just trade the spot in the draft?

  • Usually it gets announced 'a bit later'. Within an hour, usually.

  • I'm with you 100 percent on Lara John. He does seem to have the biggest upside of the people you have listed . I'm hoping they pick him, if not him the Cubs should then try to trade whoever they pick then.

  • Thanks for the analysis John! Great job as always. Nice that we pick #2 and have a smart FO.

    On another note, after dinner last night my son (huge Royals fan) and I were discussing available FAs and I told him I thought Schierholz would be a good value pickup for the Cubs. Late last night he sends me a text that Cubs got him. He thinks I am a genius.... Thanks Cubs Den!

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    Haha! Thank you KBH!

  • what are the thoughts on Destin Hood? He is the Phillies #8 prospect, I believe highest ranked available player by prospect rankings, Does He get taken? Not nescesarily by the Cubs . Just thinking He looks like a nice player .

  • Based on what I have seen here and other places, why would the Cubs not take Lara, like John recommends?

    Lefty relievers that throw in the 92-95 and can hit 98, would be in high demand on the free agent market, let alone the Rule V.

  • I see another pitcher being mentioned as a Rule 5 possibility -- James Simmons from the A's; a big RHP with good numbers. Any thoughts there?

  • According to BA, Braulio Lara (LHP-Rays) and Jose Dominguez (RHP-LAD) Lead all Rule 5 Buzz.... Both can touch 100mph, but Dominguez is considered to have the better secondary stuff. Both have major control issues.

    Dominguez is younger (just turned 22) and made it to AA Chattanooga last year where he gave up 2 hits (1 ER) in 7 innings of work. He also has a 25-game MLB suspension waiting for him to start the 2013 season for a violation of the drug-treatment program.

    Braulio Lara of the Rays was the leading rumor to be picked first overall by the Astros.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Aaargh. Meant to put Dominguez in there too. I rushed to get this in after the winter thread/Schierholtz. I had the feeling I was missing someone.

    Will put him in as late edit.

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    Any idea on who the astros are looking at with the first overall pick? I read they were planning on adding two players through the Rule 5... I would assume arm first, bat second.

  • Pitcher Hector Rondon from the Indians roster.

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    Wow. We just lost Starling Peralta. Suck.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Yeah, that Blows....

  • Ben Badler ‏@BenBadler
    Rondon hasn't stayed healthy the last three years, but talked to scouts who saw him throwing hard in Venezuela. Not surprised he went high.

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    D'backs took Starling Peralta

  • Rondon has pitched all of 10 innings over the last two years.... hope they hacked into his medical records first...

  • Starlin.

  • Hate to lose Peralta, but how is a potential contender like AZ going to carry him on their roster all year?....

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Same trick we used with Lendy. He'll go on the DL as soon as he hits 90 days. That really sucks. Worse than my worst expectation for today.

  • Starling

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