Fellow Maniac Dennis sent me an email recently with some suggestions for the Marlins to look into for the Rule 5 draft coming up at the end of the annual Winter Meetings. As a rule, I don’t make it a big deal to cover the Rule 5 draft, if only because so rarely do teams unearth real finds out of the draft. However, of course, the Marlins have had their share of history with the draft. Not only did the team unearth one of the biggest Rule 5 gems of all time, two-time All Star second baseman Dan Uggla, but the Marlins also made a 1999 deal that involved eventual two-time Cy Young winner Johan Santana going to the Minnesota Twins after being drafted in the Rule 5 draft by the Fish. If you’re interested, the Marlins received Jared Camp in return. In retrospect, not the best of moves.
Nevertheless, let’s take a look at some names that Dennis mentioned in his email and some others that I have seen that might be of interest to the Fish, who draft 14th this season. Remember the rules of the Rule 5 draft:
If chosen in the Rule 5 draft, a player must be kept on the selecting team’s 25-man major league roster for the entire season after the draft—he may not be optioned or designated to the minors. The selecting team may, at any time, waive the Rule 5 draftee. If a Rule 5 draftee clears waivers by not signing with a new MLB team, he must be offered back to the original team, effectively canceling the Rule 5 draft choice. Once a Rule 5 draftee spends an entire season on his new team’s 25-man roster, his status reverts to normal and he may be optioned or designated for assignment.
OK, let’s examine some names.
Jeremy Horst, LHP
Horst is a name from the Cincinnati Reds organization who has been mulling around for four years. After spending some time as a starter in 2008 and 2009, the lefty Horst returned to the bullpen in 2010 and put up some excellent numbers. In 72 innings, 43 of them in Double-A, Horst struck out 75 batters (24.8%) while walking just 18 (5.9%). While his time as a starter was not terrible, it seems like his velocity and average-at-best stuff plays better in the bullpen. As a potential LOOGY, the Marlins could certainly do worse, especially if Horst continues to display the solid control he showed this season. I’d label him someone to watch for sure.
Marquez Smith, 3B
Smith is an intriguing name as well. He has just come off a monstrous season in Triple-A for the Chicago Cubs affiliate, batting .314/.384/.574 in 342 PA. He has also rated pretty well in terms of defensive statistics, as Minor League TotalZone liked his glove at third base in 2008 (+15 runs) and 2009 (+22 runs). In each of his three full seasons at a given minor league level, (Low-A in 2008, Double-A in 2009, and Triple-A last season), he has posted solid wOBA compared to the league average (wRC+ of 146, 119, and 143 respectively). This is what prospect maven John Sickels of Minor League Ball had to say about Smith for 2011:
Marquez Smith, 3B, Grade C+: Not young, but ready to help at the major league level and can catch people off-guard.
Sickels ranked him 14th in the Cubs system despite his advanced age (he will be 26 in 2011). One of the things the Marlins have been looking for is a stopgap at third base, and Smith could very well be that guy. If he can hit decently and pick it as well as TotalZone seems to suggest, he would be an excellent selection for a short-term plan at third base. He would be one of the players I would be most interested in for 2011.
Kasey Kiker, LHP
Kiker was a former first-round pick of the Texas Rangers who had seen some limited success the past three seasons as a starter. In particular, a 2009 season with a 3.86 ERA (4.20 FIP) seemed promising enough, with the caveat that he needed to improve on his control. Going into the 2010 season, Sickels rated him as the eighth best prospect in the Rangers organization, while FanGraphs’ Marc Hulet ranked him fourth. However, the 2010 season was a mess for Kiker, who only went 40 innings in Double-A before succumbing to elbow and shoulder injuries. He lost all semblance of control and would be an absolute reclamation project. He has decent velocity and always had good strikeout rates (career 22.8% K% as a starter), and he could benefit from working out of the pen, but the Fish would be sacrificing a spot on the 25-man roster on a project rather than playing someone they could use strategically.
I fished out a few other interesting names from this comprehensive list provided by Dave Gershman on his MLBlog. I think it is the best resource for available Rule 5 draft players, and anyone interested in finding an interesting player should look into it. If you find someone, do make a mention of it in the comments section.
Brad Emaus, 2B/3B
Emaus is an intriguing name in terms of plate discipline. He is the proud owner of a career minor-league BB% of 11.7%, which is even more impressive when considering his career K% of 12.1%. In other words, it seems as if Emaus has a handle on how to approach hitting, at least up to Double-A so far. After a struggle in his first go-around in Double-A (.253/.336/.376, 99 wRC+ ), he ripped off a stellar 2010 campaign between Double- and Triple-A. Emaus batted .272/.403/.434 (137 wRC+) in 170 Double-A PA before taking a promotion to Triple-A and hitting an excellent .298/.395/.495 there (wRC+ 131). With the Marlins interested in an infielder versatile enough to fill in at either second or third base, a player with Emaus’ plate discipline and approach would be perfect, even he lacks power (career minor league ISO of .150).
Wilkin Ramirez, OF
Ramirez was Sickels’ 10th-ranked prospect in the Detroit Tigers organization before being dealt to the Atlanta Braves in a mid-season deal for a player to be named later, a move that usually means bad things for a prospect’s future. Ramirez has a high-powered bat, with a career minor league ISO of .178 (over .200 in his last three seasons), but he has a terrible approach at the plate. His career BB% is a paltry 7.1%, which is made worse by his propensity to strike out at a 28% career clip. Also, by the simple fact that he was listed as a DH/OF on FanGraphs, I made the assumption that he probably is not the best defender in the outfield, which is definitely something the Marlins don’t want.
Steven Hill, C/1B
Hill is only interesting to me because of his status as a potential catcher. He only recently began catching full-time in the minors, as prior to that he was playing a lot of first base and outfield as well. He was relegated to primarily catching in 2009, and while he did not rate very well there (caught 21% of runners trying to steal, TotalZone had him at -3 runs in 40 games), he seems like he improved this season (CS% up to 34% in Double-A repeat). At the plate, he seems to flash one major tool, which is power; Hill has a career .221 ISO in the minors and just wrapped up an impressive .280/.352/.543 line (143 wRC+) repeating Double-A. Of course, 25-year olds should be owning Double-A pitching, so this does not seem terribly surprising. His downside is that he has only drawn 109 walks in 1578 PA (6.9% BB%) in the minors and doesn’t look like the type of guy who can hold up a .334 BABIP as he has in the minors. He feels like he has all the makings of a Rod Barajas or Bengie Molina without the defensive reputation, but I suppose you could do worse as long as he can still catch; lest we forget that our very own starter, John Buck, is a player of similar mold, complete with power to spare and middling at best discipline.
Those are just some of the names you can expect to see around in the Rule 5 draft tomorrow. Again, keep your expectations low and who knows, maybe the Marlins can surprise us with a decent name.