Scouting the Rule 5 Picks

Major League Baseball’s Rule 5 Draft took place Wednesday, the final day of the 2023 Winter Meetings in Nashville.

The big-league phase of the Rule 5 Draft dictates the selecting club must keep the player on their 26-man roster all season or offer the player back to his prior club for $25,000.

Each selection costs $100,000 (to the prior club) and the player is immediately added to the 40-man roster.

Notable Rule 5 picks incude OF George Bell, OF Bobby Bonilla, OF Jose Bautista, OF Josh Hamilton, RHP Joakim Soria, LHP Johan Santana, 2B Dan Uggla, OF Shane Victorino, IF Marwin Gonzalez, OF Anthoany Santander, OF Mark Canha, RHP Trevor Stephan, LHP Nestor Cortes, RHP Jordan Romano, RHP Ryan Pressly and 1B Ji-Man Choi.

Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente was a Rule 5 pick, as were fellow HOF legends RHP Christy Mathewson, and OF/1B Hack Wilson.

Oakland 1B Ryan Noda went No. 2 overall a year ago and posted a 2-fWAR season in 128 games in the East Bay, including a .229/.364/.406 triple-slash with 16 homers, so while the Rule 5 itself has outlived its usefulness, it’s better than clubs hoarding players and limiting major-league opportunities.

Here are this year’s selections:

1Oakland AthleticsMitch Spence (NYY)RHP
2Kansas City RoyalsMatt Suer (NYY)RHP
3Colorado RockiesAnthony Molina (TB)RHP
4Chicago White SoxShane Drohan (BOS)LHP
5Washington NationalsNasim Nunez (MIA)SS
6St. Louis CardinalsRyan Fernandez (BOS)RHP
7Los Angeles AngelsPASS
8New York MetsJustin Slaten (TEX)RHP
9Pittsburgh PiratesPASS
10Cleveland GuardiansDeyvison De Los Santos (AZ)3B
11Detroit TigersPASS
12Boston Red SoxPASS
13San Francisco GiantsPASS
14Cincinnati RedsPASS
15San Diego PadresStephen Kolek (SEA)RHP
16New York YankeesPASS
17Chicago CubsPASS
18Miami MarlinsPASS
19Arizona DiamondbacksPASS
20Minnesota TwinsPASS
21Seattle MarinersPASS
22Toronto Blue JaysPASS
23Texas RangersCarson Coleman (NYY)RHP
24Philadelphia PhilliesPASS
25Houston AstrosPASS
26Milwaukee BrewersPASS
27Tampa Bay RaysPASS
28Los Angeles DodgersFULL ROSTER
29Baltimore OriolesFULL ROSTER
30Atlanta BravesPASS

There were 10 total players selected in the big-league phase, eight pitchers and two infielders. The New York Yankees lost three players, the Boston Red Sox lost two.

The Oakland Athletics selected right-hander Mitch Spencer with the No. 1 pick. Spence, 25, spence the 2023 season making 29 starts in Tripe-A for the Yankees. It’s a fringe-average fastball and average curveball, but an above-average slider and improving control give Spence a chance to help the A’s while developing in some role.

He was a 10th-round pick by the Yankees in 2019.

Right-hander Matt Sauer went from the Yankees to the Kansas City Royals with the No. 2 pick. Sauer was a second-round pick in 2017 and finished 2023 at Double-A.  He’s 25 in January and touches 95 mph, pitching with average command at 92 to set up an average slider with a chance to be plus. He also throws a curveball and slider.

Colorado took right-hander Anthony Molina from the Tampa Bay Rays at No. 3. He’ll be 22 in January after splitting 2023 between Double-A and Triple-A. Molina uses a low-90s fastball and plus changeup to keep hitters off balance, but he doesn’t miss bats, thanks to a lack of a quality breaking ball.

At No. 4, the Chicago White Sox tabbed Shane Drohan, a left-handed pitcher from the Boston Red Sox organization. It’s an average fastball, but he’s flashed command of four pitches, led by a plus changeup and a shot at two average breaking balls. Consistency in his delivery is one scout’s priority for Drohan if he’s to stick in the majors.

Drohan, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, was a fifth-round pick by the Red Sox on 2020 and will be 25 next month.

The Washington Nationals selected shortstop Nasim Nuñez from the Miami organization, He’s 23 and carries big-time defensive tools and plus speed, but the bat has a way to go.

Nunez finished 2023 in Double-A, where he batted .224/.311/.286 in 125 games. He’s a 5-foot-9, 170-pound glove-only option whom the Marlins picked in Round 2 back in 2019.

Right-hander Ryan Fernandez went No. 6 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The 25-year-old was a 23rd round pick in 2018 and spent last season in the bullpen for Boston’s two upper-minors affiliates.

Fernandez throws throws with a low-90s fastball and one of the better sliders in the minors, but there’s no quality third pitch, limiting Fernandez to a relief role.

After the Los Angeles Angels passed, the New York Mets selected righty Justin Slaten, a third-round pick by the Texas Rangers in 2019. Slaten reached Triple-A in2 023 and is a pure reliever into the mid-90s and flashing a 70-grade slider. More strikes gives Slaten a real shot to stick.

‘He’ll tease ya with 95 and that slider,” one scout said of Slaten’s inconsistencies. “But all it takes is one word, on tweak, one thing, and pop!”

Following a pass by the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cleveland Guardians took Arizona 3B Deyvison De Los Santos, a 20-year-old infielder who may end up at first base, but hit 20 homers in Double-A in 2023.

He’s a right-handed stick just starting to figure out his swing, but he’s all bat and appears to be among the longer shots to stick among the 10 players selected.

After four teams passed (DET, BOS, SF, CIN), the San Diego Padres selected right-handed reliever Stephen Kolek from the Seattle Mariners. Kolek is built like a big-league arm and has touched the upper-90s, but his slider is below average and the fastball shape doesn’t help him take advantage of the velocity.

Kolek, 27 in April, has starting experience in pro ball, but spent all of 2023 in relief. He was drafted in Round 11 back in 2018 by the Dodgers.

The final player taken in the big-league phase is right-hander Carson Coleman by the Texas Rangers, the third player from the Yankees to come off the board. Coleman is 26 in April, but has a big fastball into the upper 90s with an average slider and much improved command and control since he debuted in 2021. He missed all of 2023 due to UCL surgery last April, suggesting he starts 2024 on the 60-day IL.

Jason A. Churchill
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