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Toolshed: Judging Rule 5 Draft stickiness

Orioles, Tigers selections on strongest paths; Sox pick weakest
Rony Garcia's 130 1/3 innings across two levels in 2019 marked a new career high. (Rudy C. Jones/
December 13, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The excitement of the Rule 5 Draft has passed. Now, the work begins.Eleven Minor Leaguers were taken in the the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, thus earning chances to crack big league rosters with their new clubs.

SAN DIEGO -- The excitement of the Rule 5 Draft has passed. Now, the work begins.
Eleven Minor Leaguers were taken in the the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, thus earning chances to crack big league rosters with their new clubs.

Those 11 players all must remain on their respective 26-man rosters for the duration of the 2020 season or be offered back to their original organizations. It's a better chance at reaching The Show than they had just hours before, but it's also a difficult uphill climb given those stipulations. Only three of the 14 players picked in the Rule 5 Draft last year stuck with their new clubs in 2019 -- Orioles infielder Richie Martin, Blue Jays right-hander Elvis Luciano and Mariners right-hander Brandon Brennan. Of those three, none posted a WAR higher than 0.1, per FanGraphs. Sure there are recent success stories like Brad Keller (2.6 WAR in 2018) and Odúbel Herrera (3.8 WAR in 2015), but diamonds in the rough are hard to find in the Rule 5 Draft.
Perhaps that's the reason only 11 players were taken Thursday, the fewest in a Rule 5 Draft since nine in 2013. It comes at a time when rosters are expected to go from 25 to 26 in 2020, making it slightly easier for Rule 5 players to succeed. Then again, maybe those clubs that knew the risks and still made picks are especially willing to give Rule 5 players more rope. After all, the Tigers, Orioles, Marlins, Royals and Mariners -- five of the teams with the six worst records in 2019 -- made selections as part of their individual rebuilds.
In any case, this edition of Toolshed evaluates the stickiness level of all 11 players taken in the Rule 5 Draft on a rating of one (least likely) to five (most likely).
1. Rony Garcia, RHP, Tigers (from Yankees): Simply put, the Tigers could use all the talent they can get their paws on. Detroit is coming off a 47-win season and doesn't seem to plan on contending in 2020, holding off on that talk until the likes of Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and other top prospects join the big club for good. In other words with all the talent available, the Tigers wouldn't take Garcia unless they had plans on keeping them. Garcia entered the conversation because of an improved above-average mid-to upper-90s fastball that he pairs with a solid breaking ball -- typical Rule 5 stuff. (He also has a cutter and changeup he can mix in.) He has worked as a starter in the Yankees system, but all of his stuff would work better in shorter stints. He's especially good against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .189 average at Double-A in 2019. Whether it's as a spot starter, multi-inning reliever or situational reliever, the Tigers have options with Garcia, and it's going to take some a real downturn for Detroit to let its new No. 21 prospect walk away. Stickiness level: Four
2. Brandon Bailey, RHP, Orioles (from Astros): The Orioles said Wednesday that they planned to target rotation help in the Rule 5 Draft, and they may have found someone in that vein in Bailey. Baltimore's new No. 21 prospect sports three above-average pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup and is coming off a Double-A season in which he posted a 3.30 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP while fanning 103 in 92 2/3 innings. The knocks on Bailey are two-fold. First, he's on the smaller side at 5-foot-10. Second, he has some effort in his delivery, leading to some control issues (e.g., a 10.6 percent walk rate in 2019). The overall arsenal is good enough, though, for the rebuilding O's to keep the 25-year-old right-hander around like they did with Richie Martin in 2019, even if it means extending a longer leash to make that happen. Stickiness level: Five
3. Sterling Sharp, RHP, Marlins (from Nationals): The 24-year-old right-hander led's Rule 5 preview of ranked prospects for a reason, and indeed, he was the first such player off the board Thursday. Sharp was limited by an oblique injury in 2019, but recorded a 3.99 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings at Double-A Harrisburg. He further stood out in the Arizona Fall League, where he finished with a 1.50 ERA and 24 K's in 24 frames. Even if the velocity isn't there with his low-90s fastball, Sharp's calling card is his elite ground-ball rate, and that should have some value in the increased homer environment of the Majors. The 2016 22nd-rounder doesn't figure into Miami's rotation plans right now -- the Marlins even said they'll use him out of the bullpen -- but he could be a starting option in a pinch. Considering Sharp might be the best actual prospect taken Thursday, the Marlins should do their best to keep him in the mix. Stickiness level: Four
4. Stephen Woods Jr., RHP, Royals (from Rays): Coming off shoulder surgery that knocked him out for all of 2018, Woods -- who came over from the Giants in the Evan Longoria deal -- put up a strong first season in the Rays system, posting a 1.88 ERA with 79 punchouts in 86 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced Charlotte. He was a little old for the level at age 24, but positive results are positive results. The Royals were intrigued by Woods' effective curveball, and he threw in the low- to mid-90s with his heater following the surgery. That could bump up again the further he gets from the surgery and especially if Kansas City uses him in the bullpen. It should be noted that Woods has a history of control issues. The Royals had success using Brad Keller in multiple roles as a Rule 5 pick in 2018, but there are too many "ifs" here to feel like it's slam-dunk they can do it again with Woods. Stickiness level: Two
5. Yohan Ramirez, RHP, Mariners (from Astros): Ramirez is the most volatile selection in this year's Draft. The 24-year-old right-hander can wow with his stuff, touching the upper-90s with his fastball at times and flashing two good breaking pitches. He can also frighten with his control. That's the reason his 15.8 percent walk rate was the highest among Minor Leaguers with at least 100 innings in 2019, and his 33.8 percent K rate placed eighth among the same group of 436. It's a high-upside pick the M's made here, but it's also easy to see Ramirez struggling with control in the spring and being back with Houston by March. With Taylor Guilbeau the only lefty reliever at present, Ramirez will have plenty of competition for right-handed relief roles in his new home, complicating matters further. It's a good bet he won't stick, but the possibility remains that the stuff could wow Jerry Dipoto et al enough to make Seattle want more looks. Stickiness level: Two
6. Mark Payton, OF, Reds (from A's): This is the type of pick outsiders usually root for. Payton spent all of 2019 with Triple-A Las Vegas and put up big numbers, hitting 30 homers and producing a .334/.400/.653 line in 118 games. With stats like that, he should be getting a look at the Majors soon. The Reds agreed, taking the 28-year-old and adding him to their outfield mix. But things are a bit more complicated than a club taking a Major League-ready player. Cincinnati is entering win-now mode, having already added Mike Moustakas as a free agent this offseason. They're also rumored to be circling Nick Castellanos. Another big free-agent signing, especially an outfielder like Castellanos, would threaten Payton's chances. What helps them are the left-handed slugger's splits against righties; Payton slugged .697 and had a 1.114 OPS against Pacific Coast League right-handers in 2019. With the Reds' bench looking right-heavy right now, his presence would be a welcome one, if he can come even close to matching those numbers in The Show. Right now, this is dead down the middle, but it could move either direction depending on what other moves the Reds have (or don't have) coming. Stickiness level: Three
7. Dany Jimenez, RHP, Giants (from Blue Jays): Looking for a Rule 5 reliever? One with a 38.6 percent K rate between Class A Advanced and Double-A is a good place to start. Jimenez was even better at the higher level with New Hampshire, where he finished with a 1.87 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP, 46 strikeouts and 12 walks in 33 2/3 frames. Stuff-wise, Jimenez has the mid- to upper-90s fastball, good slider and solid changeup that fits the Rule 5 stereotype, and he gets even more punchouts because of the deception that comes with his over-the-top delivery. The Giants are a team stuck in a bit of purgatory, considering they're not rebuilding but not overtly contending either. That's about the only thing holding Jimenez back from being a solid pick to stick here. Stickiness level: Four
8. Vimael Machin, SS, A's (from Cubs via Phillies): The A's traded cash considerations to the Phillies to make sure they'd get Machin, so they obviously like something about him. Start with (surprise, surprise) the on-base percentage. The 26-year-old left-handed hitter posted a .390 mark in the category over 129 games between Double-A and Triple-A, walking more times (69) than he struck out (62) in that span to boot. Listed as a shortstop, Machin saw time at all four infield spots, giving him the versatility that only helps his cause to stick on a 26-man roster. With Matt Olson the only left-handed-hitting starter in Oakland at present, A's manager Bob Melvin mentioned earlier in the week that the club would potentially add a left-handed bat to compete at second base and around the infield. They may have found one in Machin. This gets taken down a peg because higher-ceiling types Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo are out of options and will sit above Machin on the Oakland depth chart. But that combo of OBP, versatility and handedness gives him more than a puncher's chance. Stickiness level: Three 
Offseason MiLB include
9. Trevor Megill, RHP, Cubs (from Padres): Don't get lost in Megill's 4.47 ERA at Triple-A. The right-hander fanned 32.3 percent of the batters he faced in the PCL and posted a much nicer 3.46 FIP over 50 1/3 innings. Megill sports a three-pitch mix, highlighted by a mid-90s fastball coming from a tall 6-foot-8 frame. Again, a solid Rule 5 pickup for a bullpen. Where he fits in with the Cubs is the big question. The North Siders have had one of the more confounding offseasons with rumors flying that players like Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras could be on the trading block at a time when Chicago should be looking to make up ground on St. Louis and Milwaukee in the NL Central. If the Cubs really are sellers, Megill's chances at sticking are much better. Until that happens, it's more difficult to imagine a potential contender carrying an unproven talent like the 26-year-old in the Majors for an entire season. Stickiness level: Two with the potential for Three)
10. Jonathan Arauz, SS, Red Sox (from Astros): The Red Sox are only one year removed from winning a World Series. Only the A's had a better record in 2019 among Rule 5-picking clubs. Boston, in theory, should have aspirations to at least return to the playoffs in 2020. Arauz has played only 28 games above Class A Advanced. The math just doesn't add up here. The 21-year-old was picked because he's a strong defender with experience at short, second and third, and as Boston explained after the pick, the organization has at least some hope he could become a utility infielder under the new 26-man roster rules. But the bat holds too many questions to make it a likelihood that the 21-year-old can stick it out at Fenway for a full season, even with bench depth a major question. Arauz set a career high with just 11 homers in 2019, and he has produced an OPS above .700 only once in his five Minor League seasons. A rebuilding club could have a better chance to stash him. The Red Sox are highly unlikely to be that club all the way to October. Stickiness level: One
11. Michael Rucker, RHP, Orioles (from Cubs): This won't be the rotation help the O's are looking for. Rucker was previously a starter in the Cubs system, but moved to the bullpen full-time in 2019. He spent almost the entire season at Double-A Tennessee, posting a 4.28 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings there. Rucker, who throws in the low-90s with a deceptive delivery, often pitched two or three innings, so he does bring potential as a long man for Baltimore. But without blowaway stuff or killer results, it might be asking too much of the O's to carry him along with Bailey, even in their current state. Stickiness level: Two

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.