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Mets 2017 Rule 5 Draft Preview: Position Players

There are numerous intriguing position players available in the Rule 5 Draft.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets
Brad Emaus was the last position player the Mets selected in the Rule 5 Draft.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Rule 5 Draft began as a means to prevent teams from stockpiling players in their minor league systems. For $100,000, a team may select a player that has been left exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. In order to avoid exposing a player, a team must add to its 40-man roster players signed at age 18 or younger that have five seasons of minor league experience, or players that were signed at age 19 or beyond with four years of minor league experience. For the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, this means players that were signed at age 18 or younger in 2013, or players that were signed at age 19 or older in 2014.

The 2017 Rule 5 Draft will take place on Thursday, December 14. Draft order is based on reverse order of 2017 standings, so thanks to a 70-92 record, the Mets will be making the 6th selection. Players selected in the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft must be kept on a team's major league roster for all of the 2018 season or be offered back to the original club for $50,000.

C Nick Ciuffo (Tampa Bay Rays)

Nick Ciuffo was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays twenty-first overall in the 2013 Draft, one of three highly regarded prep catchers along with Jonathan Denney and Reese McGuire. Ciuffo at the time was seen as the most balanced of the three, not having the offensive upside of Denny but not having the defensive upside of McGuire.

Like most catching prospects, Ciuffo’s bat has developed slowly as a professional and now lags far behind his defense. He is a career .248/.292/.334 hitter in his career as a minor leaguer, and in 2017 hit .245/.319/.385 for the Montgomery Biscuits, Tampa Bay’s Double-A affiliate. Ciuffo generally utilizes an up-the-middle approach, sacrificing power for contact. Even if his offensive profile fails to develop beyond what it currently is, his defensive ability alone has the potential to make him a useful player. His plus arm and quick pop times have allowed him to throw out roughly 50% of all runners attempting to steal against him in 355 career games. He has made considerable strides in improving his blocking and receiving since signing, and pitchers and coaches alike are quick to praise his leadership qualities and feel for handling pitchers.

OF Ian Miller (Seattle Mariners)

Selected by the Seattle Mariners in the fourteenth round of the 2013 Draft, Ian Miler had a fairly unremarkable minor league career until this past season, when he broke out with the Arkansas Travelers, Seattle’s Double-A affiliate. Generally a solid-yet-unremarkable producer, the Wagner College product hit .326/.382/.430 with 30 stolen bases, putting together a Texas League All-Star campaign and earning a promotion to the Tacoma Rainiers.

The 25-year-old only has one plus tool, speed, but he knows how to use it. He ranked third in the Appalachian League in steals in 2013, fourth in the Southern League and eleventh in the California League in 2015, and second in the Southern League in 2016 and 2017. His speed also helps him in the outfield, where he is an above-average defender at all three outfield positions. At the plate, Miller has a below-average hit tool and very little power, but he uses the entire field, makes a lot of contact, is difficult to strike out, and draws his fair share of walks.

INF/OF Nate Orf (Milwaukee Brewers)

Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Baylor University at the age of 23, Nathan Orf has hit well for his entire minor league career, and gotten on base at a plus clip, but it was not until a breakout season with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox that the 27-year-old began hitting for power. While one can certainly attribute the Pacific Coast League to some of his power increase, Orf made a concentrated effort to change his approach, lowering his groundball rate from 42.6% in 326 Triple-A at-bats in 2016 to 34.1% in 507 at-bats in 2017. Through five seasons in the Milwaukee system, Orf possesses a .289/.385/.401 batting line, hitting left-handers for an attractive .318/.413/.481 career batting line.

Defensively, Orf profiles as a super utilityman, getting significant playing time at third base and the corner outfield positions in addition to his primary position, second base.

C Max Pentecost (Toronto Blue Jays)

Max Pentecost was drafted eleventh overall in the 2014 Draft, considered one of the best collegiate hitters available. He had been drafted as a prep catcher back in the 2011 Draft, but rejected the Texas Rangers’ offer because he had a right elbow injury that he believed was holding him back. Injury would become a recurring theme, as a torn right labrum cost him most of the 2014 season and arthroscopic surgery in the same shoulder cost him all of the 2015 season. Various injuries cost him time during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, and recent soreness in his shoulder prompted the Blue Jays to pull him from their Arizona Fall League contingent.

When Pentecost is able to get on the field, he still has the ability to punish the ball. In 74 games in 2016, he hit .302/.361/.486 and in 72 games in 2017, he hit .274/.330/.431. His short, compact stroke generates hard contact to all fields, and though he can get too aggressive at times, he still brings a good approach to the plate. Though he still might be able to play behind the dish thanks to his athleticism, the multiple surgeries have diminished Pentecost’s arm strength, and the missed time has stalled his development as a catcher. In the 171 career games he has under his belt, most have been at DH or first base, rather than catcher, and thanks to his offensive profile and athleticism, Pentecost could also be a fit in left field.

OF, Franmil Reyes (San Diego Padres)

In 2011, the Padres signed the 16-year-old Franmil Reyes to $700,000 signing bonus, and the Dominican quickly became one of the biggest power threats in their entire minor league system. After looking exceptional in Rookie ball, he struggled in 2014 and 2015 with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Padres’ Low-A affiliate. After receiving a promotion to High-A in 2016, he thrived in the hitter-friendly California League. Reyes spent his entire 2017 season with the San Antonio Missions, San Diego’s Double-A affiliate, and while his offensive numbers dipped a bit, he did slug 25 homers as a 21-year-old while playing half his games in a power-suppressing park.

Numerous mechanical flaws in swing combined with an aggressive approach at the plate and below average pitch recognition has left Reyes with a below average hit tool, though he has shown a great deal of improvement in 2016 and 2017. Thanks to above-average bat speed and the pure physicality of his 6’4”, 240-pound frame, he has above-average power. Defensively, Reyes is slow to get a read on the ball and start tracking it, but once he gets going, he shows enough route awareness to not be a complete liability in the field. He is slow to release the ball when he gets to it, but has a plus arm, making him a right field option.

OF, Wes Rogers (Colorado Rockies)

Originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the twenty-eighth round of the 2012 Draft, Wes Rogers decided against signing, instead attending Spartanburg Methodist College. Two years later, he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the MLB Draft. A solid producer, Rogers put everything together and had a career year in 2017, hitting .319/.377/.488 for the Lancaster JetHawks, the Colorado Rockies’ High-A affiliate.

While Lancaster is a hitter’s paradise, the environment was not the main reason for Rogers’ breakout. The 6’3” outfielder put on a lot of weight, adding muscle to his lanky frame, focusing on CrossFit and other forms of training that increase endurance. It has allowed him to cover the plate better, and hit the ball with more authority to all fields. Getting stronger has done little to limit his speed, as the 23-year-old stole a career high 70 bags in 2017. It did little to interfere with his ability to roam center field, where he displays plus range.

OF, Carlos Tocci (Philadelphia Phillies)

Carlos Tocci was signed out of Venezuela in 2011 for a little under one million dollars and after impressing during extended spring training in 2012, was put on an extreme aggressive career path. As a 16-year-old, he was assigned to the GCL Phillies, and a year later, made his debut in full-season ball as a 17-year-old. Given his age, it took him a few years to get promoted past Low-A, but Tocci this past season hit .307/.362/.398 with the Reading Fightin’ Phils, the Phillies’ Double-A affiliate.

Tocci has an above-average hit tool, making a lot of contact, using all fields, and rarely striking out. Though 6’2”, Tocci doesn’t have all that much muscle to speak of, limiting the amount of power he displays in both batting practice and in-game situations. When and if he puts on more muscle, it should translate into extra base hits into all fields, but for now, his extra base hit capacity is limited. What he lacks in offensive capacity, Tocci more than makes up in defensive ability. The 21-year-old is a plus defender in center field, seemingly able to glide to anything in the outfield. He takes long strides and seems to glide to both his left and right with ease. His routes are still raw at times, but what he lacks in that regard he makes up with pure speed and a plus arm.