Mets Rule 5 Draft Ruminations

With the Rule 5 Draft scheduled for tomorrow afternoon, I thought it a good time to take a look at some of the Mets' most attractive Rule 5 candidates as well as some interesting guys for Sandy to potentially pluck.

For reference, the Rule 5 Draft is a check that disables teams from hoarding talented, major league-caliber players in their minor league system when other clubs could use them in the bigs. Any player that has basically spent four years (in some cases five) in an organization without currently being on the 40-man roster is eligible. However, the stipulation is that if you select a player you must keep him on the major league 25-man roster all season long (with the exception of injury). If you don't, he is offered back to his original club. But if said player spends the entire season with his new club, he is then eligible to be sent down into their minor league system.

Top In-House Rule 5 Candidates:

1) RHP Nick Carr

Before TJ surgery in '09 the 23-year old righty could hit triple-digits and when he got back on the field in 2010, he was already back up in the 96-97mph range. Problem is the kid has never pitched above Hi-A nor has he ever posted a really impressive ERA (or FIP) all because he has serious command problems (as evidenced by his twelve walks in sixteen AFL innings in October). However, you rarely get opportunities to acquire rocket arms like this, especially at a price of basically free (each draftee costs $50,000) so Carr might be the perfect chance for a lower tier club to hide at the back-end of their bullpen, allowing him to develop in short spurts in 2011 then hoping for him to blossom at some point in the future; think Evan Meek.

2) RHP Jose De La Torre

De La Torre doesn't bring a rocket arm or nasty stuff or even the promise of projectability (the guy is 25 and stands 5'11", 165lbs). But what he does bring is a pretty sure bet to provide solid, middle relief innings all for a league minimum salary. De La Torre has posted very strong ERA's at each level of the minors since becoming a full-time reliever with the FIP's to match. Though pitchers of this ilk usually don't hear their names on draft day, a team looking to round out their 'pen on the cheap would be wise to look his way.

3) LHP Roy Merritt

Merritt is on this list for one reason: he throws with his left hand. Though he's had more and more trouble with righties as he's climbed the ladder, he's always handled lefties extremely well. This season he held them to a .228 average with zero homers and did so between Double and Triple-A. There are lefties to be had on the market this offseason but Merritt represents a league min. option that could look very good in that second LOOGY role for any teams in a lefty-heavy division (including the Mets). 

4) RHP Brant Rustich

The Mets '07 second round selection out of UCLA may garner some interest for two reasons: One, his mix of a strong arm, good velocity/stuff and very strong results since being drafted represent a top-tier relief prospect. The second is usually his weakness: his inability to stay healthy. But for a shrewd GM the big 25-year old righty could represent a chance to stash away a top-round talent on the cheap since the only exception for Rule 5 guys to leave the 25-man roster is the DL.

5) LHP Eric Niesen

A complete disaster in 2010, Niesen would only garner interest as a reclamation project. As recently as summer 2009, Niesen looked like a dominant LOOGY waiting to happen with his hard fastball and wipeout slider. But in 2010 he lost any semblance of command and clearly lost his way mechanically. This profile isn't a stranger to the draft as many a dominant LOOGY seems to bloom late (see, Matt Thornton) but once again a pick like this requires a non-contender to likely hide him in their 'pen in 2011 and then work with him going forward; think Donnie Veal.

 

As far as names Sandy might select, the Rule V usually lends itself mostly to relief pitching which is a good thing as the Mets need to fill out their spotty bullpen. So I've focused on relievers and found more than a few interesting names; here are handful of them: 

A personal favorite from last year's draft, RHP Aneury Rodriguez from TB went undrafted then had a strong season in Triple-A highlighted by a sub-3 ERA in relief and a strong 8+ K/9...Former Indians top prospect RHP Adam Miller was known for his triple-digit velocity before arm & hand injuries torpedoed his once lofty chances. But he can still reach the mid 90's and if he can regain his form he has the highest ceiling of any draft prospect...The Redbirds first-rounder back in '06, RHP Adam Ottavino posted a solid 3.70 FIP as a starter in Triple-A in '10. He has swing-and-miss stuff (including a fb that hits 95mph) and though he showed some promise in the Cards' rotation this September, inconsistent secondary pitches and spotty command make him a good candidate for late-relief...Possibly the best fit for the Mets is Rangers lefty (and former first-rounder) Beau Jones. He was acquired as part of the Teixeira trade and in 2010 posted a 1.90 ERA as a reliever in Double-A with a 10.7 K/9...Another good lefty option is Atlanta's Scott Diamond who posted a 3.36 ERA as a starter in Triple-A this year. However, the Binghamton U. product doesn't have tremendous stuff and profiles more like a fifth starter than a LOOGY...Former Mets draft-and-follow (that got away) and Orioles '06 first-rounder RHP Pedro Beato was dominant after converting to relief full-time this year to the tune of a 2.11 ERA in Double-A with a .225 average against.

--UPDATE-- 

According to Adam Rubin & Buster Olney, it looks as if the Mets actual top in-house candidate is 23-year old RHP Elvin Ramirez; shows what I know. In actuality it shows how tough the Rule 5 draft is to gauge as it so heavily reliant on organizational scouting reports and thus so unpredictable for us fans. Either way, I considered adding Ramirez to this list but decided against it for a couple of reasons: he's struggled with back problems in the past, he seemed to regress after converting to relief but mainly because he’s never really had a very good season. He’s shown defininte flashes but even after moving to full-time relief in 2010 he only posted a 4.17 ERA with the highest BB/9 of his five-year pro career (5.28). And that was only at Hi-A.

But what teams see in him is a great build and especially a plus fb which during the season sat around 93mph but apparently is currently topping out at 99mph out in winter ball (suspiciously, that figure seems to inch up with each new report). And walks aside, he isn't easy to hit (see, .212 average against in '10) and has always had good GB rates (see, 0 hrs allowed in Hi-A). All in all, I don't blame the Mets for leaving him unprotected; if he proves them wrong and works out for someone, great that's the reason for the draft but I still don't think he'll fare well in the majors. But hey, maybe he gets a nice taste of the show and comes back to the system hungry for more.

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