A quick analysis of players picked in the major league portion of the 2004 Rule 5 draft held Monday.
Each selection costs $50,000. Players selected must stick on the 25-man roster of the selecting team for the entire 2005 season, or be offered back to the original club for $25,000.
1) Arizona selects Angel Garcia (RHP, Minnesota). His rights were then traded to Tampa Bay for cash. Garcia was a fourth-round pick in 2001 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He has an excellent arm, capable of throwing 93-95 mph, but he had Tommy John surgery in 2003 and is still recovering. Garcia has very high upside, but he is still trying to refine his command and control, and the injury set him back. He has a high ceiling but will have to be protected with a low-profile role if he sticks on the Devil Rays roster.
2) Kansas City selects Andy Sisco (LHP, Chicago Cubs). Sisco is a 6-foot-9 giant, and as recently as seven months ago was considered one of the top lefty prospects in the game. But a mediocre 2004 season (4-10, 4.21 ERA in the Florida State League) hurt his reputation. He still struck out 134 in 126 innings, and the only reason he wasn't protected is that the Cubs farm system is so deep. Sisco has immense potential, with a 92-94 mph fastball, a good curve and an improving changeup. His biggest need is for more consistent command, but he likely has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the draft.
3) Washington selects Tyrell Godwin (OF, Toronto). Godwin is a speed-and-defense outfielder who was once one of the top prospects in college baseball at North Carolina but hasn't developed any offensive consistency as a pro. He hit .253 with a .326 OBP and .355 SLG for Double-A New Hampshire this year, with 42 stolen bases. Godwin can run and has a good glove, but he doesn't have much power and his on-base abilities are mediocre. At best, he will be similar to another TG, Tom Goodwin.
4) Milwaukee selects Marcos Carvajal (RHP, Los Angeles). Carvajal has an excellent fastball, hitting 95-96 mph consistently. He posted a 1.88 ERA in 36 games for Columbus in the South Atlantic League this year, fanning 72 in 72 innings. He also has a good slider, and he keeps the ball down, suppressing the home run. In 184 pro innings, he's allowed only three homers. His control is erratic at times, but he could slot in nicely as a middle reliever and possible future closer.
5) Colorado selects Matt Merricks (LHP, Los Angeles). Merricks would have been protected by many clubs, but the Dodgers have an increasingly deep farm system and couldn't find room on the 40-man roster. Merricks split the season between the Braves and Dodgers farm systems after being involved in a July trade. Merricks is a classic three-pitch lefty with good control. He's not a big guy, standing just 5-11, but he gets his fastball into the low 90s and has a good changeup. His biggest challenge will be pitching in the thin Colorado air.
6) Baltimore selects Luke Hagerty (LHP, Chicago Cubs). Like Andy Sisco, Hagerty is a tall lefty with good stuff, who projects as a possibly dominant starter but was trapped behind other pitchers in the Cubs farm system. Hagerty's development was slowed by 2003 Tommy John surgery. Reports are that his stuff (90 mph fastball, good slider) is back, but his command is lagging behind. This is normal after Tommy John. Hagerty is a long shot to stick, but the reward could be great if he does get his control in gear.
7) Philadelphia selects Shane Victorino (OF, Los Angeles). The first pick that, to me at least, doesn't make much sense even on a traditional baseball level. Victorino is a good defensive outfielder with speed, and he hit .327 with 16 homers in Double-A this year. But he hit just .235 in Triple-A, which is really lousy for Las Vegas. He is the kind of guy you could probably pick up in a minor league trade or on waivers at some point if you really want him, so using a Rule 5 pick is strange. He will compete for a reserve outfielder job.
8) Oakland selects Tyler Johnson (LHP, St. Louis). Johnson will get a shot at earning an anti-lefty bullpen job in Oakland. He has the skills to handle the role. Although his 4.79 ERA in Double-A this year was ugly, he also struck out 77 hitters in just 56 innings. His fastball is average, but he has an outstanding curveball. Handled carefully, he could do good work for the Athletics.
9) Minnesota selects Ryan Rowland-Smith (LHP, Seattle). A 6-3, 21-year-old Australian southpaw, Rowland-Smith allowed 107 hits in 100 innings this year for Inland Empire in the California League. But he also posted an excellent 119/30 K/BB ratio, and his 3.79 ERA was credible given the park and league environment. Rowland-Smith might not be the next Johan Santana, but mechanical refinements have boosted his velocity, and if he continues to throw strikes he could be quite successful. He pitched for Australia in the 2004 Olympics.
10) Los Angeles selects D.J. Houlton (RHP, Houston). Houlton does not wow scouts. His fastball is only average, and he succeeds with aggressive use of a variety of junk pitches. But succeed he does, as he went 12-5 with a 2.94 ERA and 159/47 K/BB ratio in the Double-A Texas League this year. Houlton profiles as an inning-eating fifth starter, and he has a better chance to succeed in Los Angeles than in other, less pitching-friendly parks. If he stays confident and continues to change speeds and throw strikes, he could be a pleasant surprise.
11) Boston selects Adam Stern (OF, Atlanta). A University of Nebraska product, Adam Stern hit .322 with 27 steals for Double-A Greenville this year. A line-drive hitter, Stern doesn't have tremendous power but will hit some doubles. He is a very good defensive outfielder and could slot in nicely in a reserve role. A severe 2003 hamstring injury slowed his development, but he has fully recovered.
Washington selects Tony Blanco (OF, Cincinnati). At one time a top prospect in the Boston farm system, Blanco has good power but has been dogged by frequent injuries. Poor plate discipline also hampers his development. He hit .306 with 17 homers this year in 216 at-bats for Class A Potomac but slumped to .245 (though with 12 homers) in 220 Double-A at-bats. At age 23, he still has time to develop, but better strike-zone judgment is a must.
John Sickels is the author of The 2005 Baseball Prospect Book, which will ship on Feb. 1, 2005. You can pre-order this book at Johnsickels.com. His other book Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation can be ordered through online book retailors or your local bookstore. John lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife Jeri, son Nicholas, and two happy cats.