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A’s select OF Ka’ai Tom and RHP Dany Jimenez in 2020 MLB Rule 5 draft

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Plus two more players in the minor league portion of the draft

MLB: FEB 19 Cleveland Indians Photo Day
Ka’ai Tom
Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Major League Baseball held its Rule 5 draft on Thursday, giving teams the opportunity to steal players from each other’s minor league systems. The catch is that the team must keep the player in the majors for the entire next season or else send him back to his old club. Click here for more details on how the draft works.

The Oakland A’s made two picks in the MLB portion of the draft this year. In the first round they selected outfielder Ka’ai Tom from the Cleveland Indians, and in the second round they took pitcher Dany Jimenez from the Toronto Blue Jays. Nobody in the A’s system was lost to another team in the MLB portion. Click here for full results from the draft.

Tom and Jimenez now join Oakland’s 40-man roster, where there was plenty of open space so no corresponding moves were needed. In order for the A’s to keep them, they will need to remain on the 40-man for the rest of the offseason, then they’ll need to make the Opening Day 26-man active roster straight out of spring training, and they’ll need to stay on the 26-man throughout the 2021 season without being sent down to the minors — and if they miss too much time on the injured list then the probation period extends into part of 2022.

Failing any of that, they would need to be offered back to their old teams, who could accept the player back for a nominal cash sum. That said, sometimes teams work out deals to bypass these rules — last summer, the Reds returned outfielder Mark Payton to the A’s, who then simply turned around and traded Payton back to Cincinnati permanently. He didn’t satisfy the full Rule 5 laws, but at the end of the day he still ended up in the Reds system.

While players from this draft tend to be long-shot lotto tickets, there are certainly occasional success stories. Mark Canha is the most famous recent example for A’s fans, as he was acquired by Oakland under Rule 5 stipulations for 2015 (another team technically picked him and then traded him here). Also on the current roster is Vimael Machin, who came here by way of the 2019 draft and stayed in Oakland for all of 2020.

Will either of these two newest picks stick? One detail worth noting is the possibility that active rosters could end up with more than 26 slots, as they did in 2020 due to the pandemic, as that would offer extra space to stash Rule 5 picks and thus make them easier to keep. As for their own merits, here’s a quick look at Tom and Jimenez, with full scouting reports coming in future posts today.

Ka’ai Tom | OF

Age 27 for 2021 season

A 5th-round pick in 2015, he’s spent his entire pro career in the Indians’ system. He’s a lefty hitter who has flashed potential in every area of the offensive game, with a consistently high walk rate, not too many strikeouts, and above-average batting lines at every stop. In the upper minors in 2019 he saw a spike in both BABIP and power, resulting in excellent small-sample performances in both Double-A and Triple-A split over one full season. He even stole some bases in the lower minors.

On defense, he’s split time roughly evenly at all three outfield positions. The available metrics are a bit wobbly, and they suggest he might be a stretch in CF, but there are signs for hope in his numbers in the corner spots.

  • Tom, 2019 AA: .285/.386/.512, 162 wRC+, 14 HR, 12.5% BB, 21.3% Ks
  • Tom, 2019 AAA: .298/.370/.564, 132 wRC+, 9 HR, 10.0% BB, 25.1% Ks

Quick report from Jeff Ellis, an Indians radio host with knowledge of their minors: “Honestly, Tom should have gotten a chance last year, he did not and I could see him sticking with the A’s easily. He plays all three spots and hits at every stop. He isn’t the best athlete and is way undersized [5’9], which has been the knocks but he just kept performing.”

Dany Jimenez | RHP

Age 27 in 2021

Signed by the Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, this is his second time being chosen in the Rule 5 draft. The Giants took him last winter, and he made his MLB debut for San Francisco in 2020, but was later returned to Toronto. His one career strikeout in the majors so far is of Mookie Betts.

Jimenez enjoyed a 2018 breakout in Single-A after a rough start to that season, and then posted monster strikeout rates in 2019 between High-A and Double-A. In his MLB cup of coffee this summer for the Giants, he pitched in two games and faced eight total batters, recording four outs and allowing one run (plus another inherited runner scoring) on a single and three walks.

  • Jimenez, 2019 A+: 3.55 ERA, 25⅓ ip, 47 Ks, 9 BB, 2 HR, 1.69 FIP
  • Jimenez, 2019 AA: 1.87 ERA, 33⅔ ip, 46 Ks, 12 BB, 4 HR, 3.14 FIP

Insider Martin Gallegos offers the following introduction: “A’s like Dany Jimenez’s 98 mph fastball and good slider. Feinstein says they’ve identified things they can tweak with his mechanics that could help him really take advantage of his stuff. Will be competing for a bullpen spot this Spring.”

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The A’s lost switch-hitting left fielder Robbie Grossman to free agency this winter, along with four relievers from their bullpen. It’s easy to see how Tom and/or Jimenez could fit into the mix and help address those vacancies. There’s still a lot of offseason left and we don’t know what the depth chart will look like when spring training begins, but right now there are certainly paths to the majors for both of these players if they can prove they belong.

Minor league portion

There’s also a minor league portion to the Rule 5 draft, in which teams pick from even deeper pools of players to help fill out their Triple-A rosters. These players do not go on the 40-man roster.

The A’s made two picks in this portion, and also lost one player. These picks rarely ever affect anything at the MLB level, but it does happen (Corban Joseph is one recent A’s example) so they’re still worth mentioning.

In the first round, Oakland chose RHP Zach Jackson from the Blue Jays. He pitched in Triple-A as a reliever in 2019 and put up completely decent numbers across the board, including exactly a strikeout per inning and two Ks per walk. His birthday is Christmas Day and he’ll pitch at age 26 next season. He played for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2017 (soon to be an A’s affiliate), and their broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler described Jackson to me as a “high-ceiling, potential-bust over-the-top fastball/hammer-curve guy.”

  • Jackson, 2019 AAA: 3.97 ERA, 68 ip, 68 Ks, 34 BB, 10 HR, 5.12 FIP

In the second round, Oakland chose RHP Brett Graves from the Miami Marlins. He was originally an A’s draft pick (3rd round, 2014), and was taken by the Marlins in Rule 5 in 2017 and stuck with them on their 2018 MLB roster — though he posted subpar numbers in the bigs that year. He spent 2019 mostly in Double-A, with a little Triple-A action, and found mild success as a reliever including lots of strikeouts and a low hit rate. However, he’ll turn 28 in January, so he’s too old for true prospect status and is now out to prove he’s more than org filler.

  • Graves, 2019 AA: 2.20 ERA, 45 ip, 52 Ks, 21 BB, 3 HR, 3.39 FIP
  • Graves, 2019 AAA: 3.63 ERA, 17⅓ ip, 21 Ks, 10 BB, 3 HR, 5.35 FIP

Also in the second round, the Houston Astros chose RHP Seth Martinez from the A’s. Martinez was a 16th-round pick by Oakland in 2016, and worked his way as high as Double-A in 2019, where he quietly posted excellent numbers in nearly 30 innings. He’ll turn 27 next August.

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Welcome to the four newest A’s players, and best of luck to Martinez in the Astros system!