Rule 5 draft
Dodgers pitcher Brett de Geus was taken by the Texas Rangers in the Rule 5 draft. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

With a lack of a 2020 Minor League season, or even an Arizona Fall League, the general feeling ahead of Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft was the annual event that typically ends with the Winter Meetings would be quiet, but it was not.

A total of 18 players were taken in the Major League phase, 15 of the 18 players taken in the Major League phase were right-handed pitchers, while two outfielders and a shortstop were also selected.

The Dodgers were raided the most, losing eight players total between the phases. The Rays and Yankees each lost seven players.

Rule 5 Major League Phase

Round 1

1) Pirates: Jose Soriano, RHP (Angels No. 13) – Soriano, currently 22 years old, played the 2019 season between the Angels Rookie-Ball and Low-A affiliates. In total he pitched 82.1 innings posting a strong 2.51 ERA, with a solid 1.32 WHIP and 3.65 FIP. Soriano allowed just five home runs for a 0.5 HR/9 while striking out 92 batters, placing his strikeout rate at 26.6%. Soriano’s biggest flaw was walks. He allowed 51 free passes with a 14.7% walk rate. He also had a sub-4 FIP at both levels. Although Soriano didn’t perform well at Low-A in 2018, he’s done pretty well throughout his entire minor league career. In 238 innings, he has a sub-3 ERA at 2.76 with a 3.75 FIP and 1.30 WHIP.

2) Rangers: Brett de Geus, RHP (Dodgers No. 27) – de Geus is an interesting relief prospect whose velocity has improved since he moved to the bullpen on a permanent basis. In addition to the heat, he has a pair of usable secondary pitches, in a cutter and a curveball, and he issued just 13 walks over 60-plus frames split between two levels in 2019. De Geus hasn’t yet pitched above High-A, but he seems certain to get plucked. He has a fair chance of sticking, too.

3) Tigers: Akil Baddoo, OF (Twins No. 13) – Baddoo hit .323 (65-for-201) with a .964 OPS in 53 games at the Rookie League level in 2017, all while playing center field. A year later, he compiled 22 doubles, 11 triples, 11 homers and 24 stolen bases with a .770 OPS and a 121 wRC+ at Class A Cedar Rapids. While his .243 average was low, his 74 walks resulted in a .351 on-base percentage.

4) Red Sox: Garrett Whitlock, RHP (Yankees) – An 18th-round find, Whitlock had already achieved success in Double-A before succumbing to Tommy John surgery in July 2019. He has a big frame and the making of a starter’s arsenal, as both his fastball and slider are average or better offerings. His changeup has the potential to be as well. It’s unclear if and/or how the pandemic impacted Whitlock’s recovery, but he seems like a fair bet to come off the board, perhaps within the top 10, with an eye on him turning into a back-end starter.

5) Orioles: Mac Sceroler, RHP (Reds) – Sceroler, 25, is the nephew of former Orioles pitcher and current broadcaster Ben McDonald, and must remain on the major league roster for all of 2021 to remain in the organization. A 2017 fifth-round pick of the Reds, Sceroler last pitched at High-A Daytona in 2019. There, he had a 3.69 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP with 127 strikeouts in 117 innings.

6) D-backs: Zach Pop, RHP (Orioles) – Pop, an electric reliever who was acquired in 2018 as part of the Orioles’ return in the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the sixth pick.

7) Rockies: Jordan Sheffield, RHP (Dodgers) – Sheffield, 25, pitched for Vanderbilt and is the younger brother of Seattle Mariners pitcher Justus Sheffield. The Rockies’ new reliever throws a 98 mph fastball — his arsenal includes a slider and a changeup — but he has struggled with his control. Sheffield was the 36th overall pick in the 2016 draft and the Dodgers hoped he would become a starting pitcher. The Dodgers, however, converted Sheffield into a reliever in 2018 after he struggled at low-A and high-A. In 2019, Sheffield put up a 3.27 ERA between Class-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa. He struck out 74 over 55 innings but also walked 43.

8) Angels: Jose Rivera, RHP (Astros No. 14) – Rivera didn’t sign until he was 19 years old, making him ancient by international amateur free-agent standards. More than four years later, he’s yet to throw a pitch above A-ball. Rivera can chuck his fastball into the 100s, and he complements the heat with a promising splitter and a slider. The Astros used him in a tandem role in 2019: while only 11 of his 18 appearances were “starts,” he worked at least three innings in all but one of them. He’s probably not a legitimate starting candidate — his extremely long arm action could lead to platoon and command issues — yet a team who believes in his promise as a seventh-inning type could use him in a mop-up role for the duration of the 2021 season.

9) Mets: Luis Oviedo, RHP (Indians No. 25) – The Mets used their Rule 5 draft to wheel and deal Thursday, selecting right-hander Luis Oviedo from the Indians for the purpose of trading him to the Pirates for cash considerations. Oviedo, a 21-year-old Venezuela native, was ranked by MLB.com as Cleveland’s No. 25 prospect. Given his age and inexperience (he pitched at the Class A level in 2019), he’s a better fit for a rebuilding club like Pittsburgh than the Mets, who are hoping to contend in 2021.

10) Mariners: Will Vest, RHP (Tigers) – Vest, 25, only got to pitch in the fall instructional league in 2020 because of the cancellation of the minor league season. He was not invited to be a part of the Tigers’ summer camp or player pool. He last pitched in a busy 2019 season that saw him climb the Tigers’ organizational ladder. He opened the season with high Class A Lakeland, was promoted to Class AA Erie and finished the season with a brief stint at Class AAA Toledo. He made 37 relief appearances, posting a 3-5 record with eight saves and a 3.27 ERA in 55 innings. He struck out 58 and walked 18.

11) Phillies: Kyle Holder, SS (Yankees) – The Phillies, facing uncertainty at shortstop, added some depth to the position when they selected Kyle Holder with the 13th pick in the Rule 5 draft Thursday afternoon. Holder, 26, was plucked from the New York Yankees organization. He was a first-round draft pick (30th overall) by the Yanks in 2015 and has not played above Double A. Defense is Holder’s strong suit and he projects as a utilityman. Though he is primarily a shortstop, he has played second and third base during his time in the minors.

12) Giants: Dedniel Nunez, RHP (Mets No. 18) – Nunez, 24, is a native of the Dominican Republic. Nunez split his 2019 between Class A St. Lucie and Class A Columbia, totaling a 4.39 ERA in 16 games, 15 of them starts, totaling 80 innings. MLB.com ranked him as the Mets’ 18th best prospect.

13) Marlins: Paul Campbell, RHP (Rays No. 24) – Campbell has turned out to be a heck of a find by Tampa Bay area scout Joe Hastings. He was originally a 21st-round pick who suffered through three lean years at Clemson en route to a 7.85 ERA in 30 appearances (three of them starts). Now, Campbell is a legitimate back-end starter prospect thanks to an arsenal that teems with average or better offerings. Campbell is on the smaller side, and he’s never seen his strikeout rates align with his above-average spin rates. He also had some forearm issues earlier in the year.

14) Cubs: Gray Fenter, RHP (Orioles) – Fenter in the seventh round of the 2015 MLB Draft, out of West Memphis High School in Arkansas. He worked his way up from rookie ball to the Single-A South Atlantic League, where he pitched in 2019. That year, the last season he played, Fenter went 8-2 and recorded a 1.81 ERA in 22 games. Of those, he started 17 and finished three.

15) Indians: Trevor Stephan, RHP (Yankees No. 24) – Stephan has been on the radar since he was drafted in the third round in 2017. The Yankees have allowed him to develop as a starter, but he seems like a good candidate to join another team’s bullpen and contribute either in a traditional role or as a multi-inning type. Stephan’s mechanics are deceptive, as he combines crossfire action with a low and deep release point. He also has two above-average offerings: a high-spin fastball that plays up in the zone and a sweeping slider. His changeup and his command have lagged, stalling his starting career.

16) A’s: Ka’ai Tom, CF (Indians) – Tom was selected from the Indians’ organization and upon glancing at his stats, Tom could be the best hitter in the draft this year. Across Double-A and Triple-A teams in the Indians organization in 2019, he slashed .290/.380/.532 with 23 home runs and 139 hits.

Rule 5 Round 2

17) Orioles: Tyler Wells, RHP (Twins) – Wells, a 15th-round pick in 2016, impressed on his climb through the Twins’ system but missed all of 2019 after Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. In 2018, pitching for High-A Fort Myers and Double-A Chattanooga, Wells struck out 121 batters in 119 1/3 innings with a combined 2.49 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.

18) A’s: Dany Jimenez, RHP (Blue Jays) – Jiménez was selected from the Triple-A Buffalo roster from the Toronto Blue Jays organization in the second round. He also was selected by the Giants last year in the Rule 5 Draft before they returned him to Toronto. Jiménez has an advantage having played with the Giants in spring training and pitching in two regular-season games this past season.

Now that the Rule 5 draft is complete, hopefully free agents will start to fall like dominoes as clubs continue to fill out their rosters.

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