The Rule 5 Draft is one of the bigger agenda items at the Winter Meetings. Big in the sense that it’s in the biggest room they have here, everyone goes to it and, unlike so many of the other official events, it’s one of the things that people may talk about throughout the season when discussing actual baseball. As opposed to, you know, a seminar about how to maximize bobblehead promotion days. Of which there are many similar events this week.
But it’s also a pretty nothing-event in person. There is no Rule 5 Mel Kiper. There is no equivalent to those crazy Jets fans who scream at their team’s picks.I just left it. The Major League portion lasted less than 15 minutes. About half the teams passed, either because they already had 40 men on the roster or else because they didn’t see anyone who they thought could make the team. The minor league portion lasted another 25 minutes tops. The whole thing began at 9 AM. People started leaving the room at 9:38.
The Rule 5 is explained nicely here, but I think the most important thing for casual fans to know about it is that if you take someone, they have to stay on the big club all year or else they must be offered back to their old team for a pittance. Which is why so many Rule 5 picks wind up on the disabled list with phantom injuries in the middle of the season: “we don’t want this guy on the major league team anymore, but we sure would like to keep him around,” the teams think. And then suddenly the guy has tendinitis or dead arm or some non-specific bone bruise someplace and gets stashed on the DL. It’s uncanny, really.
As for the picks, I know stuff about exactly two of them: Scott Diamond, a lefty on the Braves AAA team went to the Twins. He was kind of nice to have around, but really, if he was anything special the Braves wouldn’t have left him unprotected. Also, the Nationals took the Mets’ Elvin Ramirez, a pitcher who supposedly throws really hard but doesn’t know where he’s throwing it. There are a lot of guys like that in this thing.
Later on someone who knows more about non-elite AAA roster talent (i.e. the guys who get picked) will do a summary and we’ll point it out for you. The upshot, though: no one around here thinks that there’s any kind of real talent in this year’s Rule 5, and almost everyone who gets picked will be forgotten about by everyone except the hardcore prospect trackers by the time we all get to the Orlando airport.
It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.
Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.
“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”
Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.
The Brewers acquired prospects Jake Nottingham and Bubba Derby from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for slugging outfielder Khris Davis. The hope is that Nottingham will develop into the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so you could say that the club is planning for life after Jonathan Lucroy. However, Brewers general manager David Stearns said today that the trade doesn’t change Lucroy’s immediate status.
The Brewers are in rebuild-mode and Lucroy is an excellent trade chip if healthy, as his contract includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017. It’s likely just a matter of time before he’s shipped elsewhere, but yesterday’s trade shouldn’t change the timeline for a potential deal. Nottingham doesn’t turn 21 until April and has yet to play in Double-A, so he’s still a ways off from the majors. The Brewers can afford to wait on the right offer for Lucroy, whether it’s in spring training or at the trade deadline or perhaps later.
Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Nottingham batted .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs over 109 games last season between Class A and High-A. He was traded from the Astros to the Athletics as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last July. It’s worth noting that Stearns was the assistant GM for Houston when Nottingham was drafted in the sixth round back in 2013, so he’s clearly a fan.
Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”
Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”
“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”
Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.
After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.
Baseball America unveiled their top 100 prospect list Friday night during a special on MLB Network. It should come as no surprise that Dodgers infielder Corey Seager came in at No. 1.
This makes Seager the consensus top prospect in the game. He was also ranked first by MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN’s Keith Law. Twins outfielder Byron Buxton was ranked second on all four lists.
Baseball America has the most aggressive ranking of Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada from the Red Sox, who checked in at No. 3. He was followed by pitching prospects Lucas Giolito from the Nationals and Julio Urias from the Dodgers to round out the top five.
You can see Baseball America’s full top 100 list here.