Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rule Five Draft Preview

The Rule Five Draft Room

The Rule Five Draft is today and the Phillies have only 38 current players on their 40 man roster. This opens up the slight possibility that the Phillies could take a chance on a young guy with some potential tomorrow. If the Phillies do pick a guy and decide they want to keep him stashed on the 25 man active roster all season, he'll either be riding the pine on the bench or out in the bullpen only used in desperate situations or clean up duty. They probably have enough bullpen depth to hide a pitcher in the back of the bullpen and it isn't impossible to see the last bench spot reserved for a young kid (especially if you buy the rumors that with Abe Nunez on board, Tomas Perez is in danger of getting the boot).

The Baseball America Rule Five Draft Preview written by Chris Kline (not the crazy, wooden, and utterly devoid of talent Chris Klein) gives as good a look at the available talent far better than I could, so I'll leave the complete analysis to them and just try to hit on a few players that intrigue me (some with regards to the Phils, others not so much) and could potentially be selected later today.

  • OF Mitch Maier (turns 24 on June 30th) - Maier was a first round pick (30th overall) of the KC Royals in 2003 after spending three ultra productive years at the University of Toledo. His BB/K ratio during his Mudhen career was an amazing 64/57. The guy walked more than he struck out in 147 games. His BB/K ratio has fallen off big time as a professional, but he still shows signs of being a useful big leaguer. Maier has played just about everywhere since becoming a pro. He began as a catcher, then was shifted to third base, and now is an outfielder capable of playing any of the three positions. That kind of versatility is a big plus for a Rule Five guy. Maier is also versatile as an offensive player. He is a career .297 hitter, hit 15 homeruns in 2005, and is athletic enough to have stolen 43 bases in 2004 (59 over the past two seasons). He is a doubles hitting machine with good gap power (an indicator for increased homerun production perhaps) as evidenced by his 47 doubles in 2005. Sounds good enough, right? So why is he being exposed in the Rule Five Draft? Maier was given the opportunity when promoted to AA this year, but flopped. His .255/.289/.416 line in 322 at bats didn't inspire much confidence in his abilities and the Royals decided to take their chances and leave him unprotected. I know I am guilty of falling into the trap of thinking every young guy has a future in the big leagues, but I've tracked Maier's development pretty closely from when he was drafted and I remain convinced he'll have a role on a big league bench someday. He is versatile enough for a team to take a chance on him now. I'd do it if I were running the Phils.
  • SS Drew Meyer (turns 25 on August 29th) – Meyer is another former first round draft pick (10th overall) who has failed to live up to his draft status. Meyer was highly regarded coming out of the University of South Carolina in 2002 and was thought of as a potential leadoff man with good speed who could play above average defense at SS. The team who selected Meyer, the Texas Rangers, had a fairly impressive shortstop named Alex Rodriguez holding down the position for the foreseeable future. Because of this, Meyer was moved around a lot and has now developed the necessary skills to be able to play anywhere on the field (he has the most non-SS experience at 2B and CF). Versatility is a very important thing to look for in Rule Five guys – if they have to hold down a spot on the active roster all year, they might as well give you options with the other guys on your bench by being flexible enough to come in and play some late game defense anywhere. Meyer is nothing if not versatile. The problem is (and it’s a big problem) he hasn’t exactly hit enough to justify a major league job. Some scouts think he’ll never hit enough to be a major leaguer. Meyer is a .280 career minor league hitter, but can’t seem to hit for any power whatsoever – he has only 11 homers in over 1500 minor league at bats. If you are only a .280 hitter who has no power to speak of and strike out almost three times as much as you walk, you aren’t going to find yourself on a big league roster anytime soon. Meyer had a problem in 2005 much like Maier. Both players had an opportunity to prove they belonged by performing at a higher level (AAA in Meyer’s case) and both players disappointed. Meyer hit only .247/.301/.354 in 178 AAA at bats. That isn’t going to cut it. Even still, Meyer did have a very nice run in AA (.321/.372/.417) before his AAA promotion and does play good defense and run well. Those things might be enough to tempt a team into grabbing him as a defensive sub/pinch runner in ’06. That doesn’t exactly make him a great fit for the Phillies.
  • LHP Bill Murphy (25 on May 9th) – Murphy’s command has really slipped since his college days (Cal State Northridge), but he was once very highly thought of (3rd round pick by Oakland in 2002) and he is a lefty after all. You always hear he has great stuff, so maybe you can bury him in the bullpen for a year and see if you can work on his awful control (87 strikeouts to 78 walks in 2005). On a short list of guys I think might intrigued the Phillies, put Murphy at the bottom.
  • OF Jason Pridie (23 on October 9th) – Pridie is by far the youngest guy on this list and probably has the most upside as well. He was a 2nd round pick out of high school by Tampa in 2002 and was considered a raw athlete more than a ballplayer at the time. That really hasn’t changed much over the past 4 seasons. Pridie has shown glimpses of having good power and plus speed, but striking out 297 times to 97 walks has dimmed his star greatly. He is just too raw to take a chance on in 2006 and even more of a risk when you consider he missed nearly all of 2005 with an injury. A really gutsy team could take him and then let him sit on the bench all season while waiting for 2007 to come so they can send him back down to the minors where he belongs. 2006 is just his Age-22 season, so even with a year lost to sitting on a big league bench Pridie could play two minor league season (a year in both AA and AAA) and be ready for a second chance at the majors at the age of 25. He is too much of a gamble at this point and being an OF only will most certainly limit him in the eyes of the Phillies. Interesting name to consider down the road, but not now.
  • 1B Brandon Sing (25 on March 13th) - Sing was excellent this year at AA where he hit .276/.404/.538 in 127 games. He also had 26 homers, 29 doubles, and 91 walks (110 strikeouts) in 409 at bats. Sing is the most likely candidate of this particular bunch to get a call from the Phillies. He is strictly a 1B (and from what I’ve read not a particularly good one) which limits his usefulness as a bench player a great deal. Isn’t it funny how I’ve stressed versatility this whole article and yet I think Sing is the most likely Phil of the bunch? No? Not even a little? Well, you’re missing out because it cracks me up. Anyway, Sing had such an impressive year in 2005 that he might be ready to get some meaningful big league at bats in 2006. Ryan Howard’s biggest weakness going into 2006 (besides not having a full big league season under his belt) is his poor performance against lefthanders. I know he hasn’t been given a legit shot to hit lefties yet, but what could it hurt to bring in a young, righthanded power hitting first baseman who could potentially get some at bats against tough lefties so Howard doesn’t have to? If Sing is the real deal, he’d also provide the Phillies with their one and only power threat of the bench – a glaring weakness in the ’05 club that is often overlooked by many and has been ignored thus far by Pat Gillick. Sing is no savior. Players do get unprotected for a reason. Just remember that Roberto Clemente was a Rule Five pick. Same goes for Johan Santana. They are absolutely the exceptions to the rule as it is extremely rare to get a even a useful player via the Rule Five Draft let alone a superstar, but that isn’t the point. Quality players are everywhere, sometimes in the unlikeliest of places; it just takes some searching to find them.


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