The 2011 MLB Rule V Draft is being held on Thursday - the A's have the 11th pick but some teams ahead of them such as the Pirates, Royals and Marlins seem to have full 40 man rosters so if it stays like this then the A's could pick 8th. Everyone knows all about the big success stories such as Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana and Dan Uggla, but the truth is it is very unlikely you will be able to unearth an All Star through the Rule V these days, especially since the eligibility was tightened in 2006 to four or five years of minor league experience depending on how old the player was when signed.
More likely teams will be looking to add a role player or an extra arm in the pen but some teams will still target raw prospects with potential in the hope of catching lightning in a bottle. This year there are a few names that will be familiar to a lot of you including former Giants 1st round pick and BA top 50 prospect Tim Alderson and Ethan Martin the Dodgers 2008 1st round pick who has struggled with his command since being drafted. Of the available A's minor leaguers Travis Banwart and Shane Peterson maybe most at risk of being drafted. The A's haven't had the best record with their Rule V picks to put it kindly but we have one spot free on their 40 man roster as long as no more signings are announced between now and Thursday so here are five players that I think we may target.
LHP Cesar Cabral - Redsox
Cabral is described as having a solid frame and smooth delivery with a fastball that sits in the 89-92 range which he can dial up to 95. His arsenal also includes a plus circle change which produces a lot of swings and misses, a slurve/curve and a slider. He has shown good control in the minors, walking 2.8 per nine over his career. In 2011 in 55 innings split between AA and AAA Cabral had a 11.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. He was taken by the Rays in last season's draft but failed to stick and after a solid campaign in 2011 he seems certain to be taken again this year. Cabral doesn't turn 23 until next February.
RHP Diego Moreno - Pirates
Sickels ranked Moreno as a B- prospect and 7th on his Pirates list prior to the 2011 season - he has a fastball that can reach 98 mph, along with a mid-80s slider, and has shown good control throughout the minors (2.3 BB/9) which is quite a rare combination. In 2011 he split time between A+ and AA combining for a 9.36 K/9 and 2.5 K/BB. He was suspended in 2010 for a week for 'unprofessional conduct' which may have been a factor in him repeating A+ despite putting up a 1.71 FIP and 11.4 K/BB ratio in 2010. The Pirates have a full 40 man roster hence why he is available but I would assume he would have been in the conversation for their final spot. Moreno is 25 now and with only 18.2 inning above A+ ball would be a bit of a risk but his combination of velocity and control could make it worthwhile.
OF Erik Komatsu - Nationals
Komatsu won the Brewers 2010 Minor League Player of the Year hitting .323/.413/.442 with a 68/61 BB/K ratio .399 wOBA and 152 wRC+. He doesn't have much power (24 HR in over 1500 career PA) but Komatsu's major calling card and what will probably get him noticed by the A's front office is his plate discipline - he has a career 172/185 BB/K ratio. In 2011 he split his season between the Brewers and Nationals AA affiliates after being traded for Jerry Hairston. In 379 plate appearances for the Brewers AA team he hit .294/.393/.416 with a 53/44 BB/K ratio before slumping to a .595 OPS in 142 plate appearances with the Nationals. The Nationals have a full 40 man roster and that along with Komatsu's struggles are possibly why he is available now.
OF Kyle Russell -Dodgers
There are plenty of red flags for Russell - in AA this year he struck out in 32.2% of his plate appearances against a 10.1% walk rate. He only hit .259 this season and .245 in half a season at AA in 2010 and he is already 25. The reason he is on this list is as an outfielder with power he combines the two things this team is currently sorely lacking. He put up a .374 wOBA and hit 19 HR in 394 at bats in AA this year and 83 HR in his minor league career in just over 1,600 at bats. He will strike out a ton in the majors and will never hit for a high average but he could provide this team with some power off the bench.
CF Jiwan James - Phillies
James is a athletic centerfielder who was converted from the mound three seasons ago and still is turning his undeniable athleticism into skills. Kevin Goldstein states that James' tools 'borders on ridiculous', BA rated him as the 9th best prospect in the Phillies system recently while Sickels ranked him 20th and gave him a C grade. His performance as a 22 year old in the Sally League (A+) show that he is still incredibly raw and his power has yet to develop (0.93 ISO, 7% BB%, 20.5% K%, 93 wRC+) but he is described as having excellent speed (rated 70 on the 20-80 scale), plus range and a plus arm in center - a rebuilding team like the A's with an a dearth of outfielders could probably afford to stash him on the 25 man roster all season as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
There we go - five players I think that the A's should and could target - Jefry Marte was originally on the list due to his potential but he is a lottery ticket and I felt these five present more realistic options. There are other intriguing players like outfielder Angel Moreles (Twins) and pitchers Nick Barnese (Rays) and Jay Jackson (Cubs) but I thought previewing five players for the Rule V Draft had a certain symmetry to it. My preference would be for taking Jiwan James but his combination of speed, defense at a premium position and large untapped potential means he probably won't be available for very long - I would look into trading up and do so if it could be done cheaply enough. If James is no longer there when the A's pick I would be inclined to take Cesar Cabral - a lefthanded reliever with above average velocity, a good array of pitches and success at AAA level wouldn't be a bad return - or Diego Moreno. If we want an outfielder then Komatsu and Russell are options.
Thoughts? Or is there anyone else you think we should target?