The amateur draft in baseball doesn’t grab too many headlines. Most casual baseball fans don’t even know when it happens. Bigger fans know that it happens in June every year, but few tune in. This is probably because in baseball, being drafted in the first round doesn’t guarantee that you’ll even make it out of the minors. Not even two-thirds of first rounders make the show, and that figure drops to fewer than half for second rounders. So, only the hardest of hardcore baseball fans know that there is actually a second draft, the Rule 5 Draft, which occurs every year during the Winter Meetings. This draft actually has a more immediate impact, as all players picked in the MLB phase must be placed on the new team’s 25-man and 40-man rosters (i.e., called up to the majors) as soon as they are picked, and must remain on those rosters for the entire season, or else they’ll be returned to their old team. The pool of eligible players consists of those who aren’t on their team’s 40-man roster and have played a certain amount of time in affiliated ball (the amount of time depends on their age). There have been a number of successful players who were Rule 5 picks, most notably: Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, and Shane Victorino. In fact, Victorino was a Rule 5 pick twice!
That being said, let’s take a look at last year’s crop of players selected.
|Pick||New Team||Player||Pos||Old Team||Current Status|
|1||Philadelphia Phillies||Tyler Goeddel||OF||Tampa Bay Rays||Playing poorly|
|2||Cincinnati Reds||Jake Cave||OF||New York Yankees||Returned|
|3||Atlanta Braves||Evan Rutckyj||LHP||New York Yankees||Returned|
|4||Colorado Rockies||Luis Perdomo||RHP||St. Louis Cardinals||Traded to the San Diego Padres|
|5||Milwaukee Brewers||Colin Walsh||2B||Oakland Athletics||Returned|
|6||Oakland Athletics||Jabari Blash||OF||Seattle Mariners||Traded to the San Diego Padres|
|7||San Diego Padres||Josh Martin||RHP||Cleveland Indians||Returned|
|8||Baltimore Orioles||Joey Rickard||OF||Tampa Bay Rays||Playing poorly, injured|
|9||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||Deolis Guerra||RHP||Pittsburgh Pirates||Pitching well in relief|
|10||Toronto Blue Jays||Joe Biagini||RHP||San Francisco Giants||Pitching well in relief|
|11||St. Louis Cardinals||Matthew Bowman||RHP||New York Mets||Pitching well in relief|
|12||Philadelphia Phillies||Daniel Stumpf||LHP||Kansas City Royals||Returned|
|13||Cincinnati Reds||Chris O’Grady||LHP||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||Returned|
|14||Milwaukee Brewers||Zack Jones||RHP||Minnesota Twins||Returned|
|15||San Diego Padres||Blake Smith||RHP||Chicago White Sox||Returned|
|16||Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim||Ji-Man Choi||1B||Baltimore Orioles||Playing poorly|
Clearly, some of these picks haven’t turned out too well, including those that haven’t been returned. Take a look at the two most utilized picks from this year’s crop: Tyler Goeddel has a 45 wRC+ for the Phillies in 220 PAs this year with a -1.3 WAR, and Joey Rickard has accumulated -0.7 WAR in 282 PAs. However, there is a trio of relievers who were picked that have fared well this year. Here are their stats:
Can these guys stick around? Let’s take a deeper dive. Today, I’ll be looking at Deolis Guerra.
Background: When he was 16 years old (11 years ago), Guerra signed with the Mets as an undrafted free agent. He lasted in the Mets system as a starter for three largely uninspiring seasons (never had a K/9 above 7.05 in A/A+), and then was traded to the Twins in the Johan Santana deal. The next five years he also spent as a starter, and his lowest full season ERA was 4.69. Yikes. He pitched mostly out of the AA bullpen in 2011, and that’s where his strikeouts finally jumped, from a previous high of 7.05 K/9 to 9.0. The next year, he became a full time reliever in the minors. He signed with the Pirates as a minor league free agent before the 2015 season and saw his first taste of the majors that year, where he posted a poor ERA but a solid 3.05 SIERA in 16.2 innings. Thereafter, he was picked up by the Angels in the Rule 5 Draft.
Evaluation: Although he’s put up a nice 2.76 ERA this year, that mark is largely fueled by a .243 BABIP. Although he has a high Soft% (12th out of the 344 pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched this year), Statcast doesn’t really back him up. He’s only been decent at suppressing exit velocity (allows 88.2 MPH on average, average for pitchers with at least 500 pitches thrown this year is 89). He has a slightly above average popup rate (10.6%, league average this year is 9.7%). I don’t think that’s enough to keep a low BABIP, since he’s barely above average in both marks.
A few other things that don’t bode well for future success: Guerra is an extreme flyball pitcher (only a 38.6% groundball rate). He’s also put up a poor 6.50 K’s per nine with a whiff rate (9.5%) below the league average (10%), and his O-Swing% is down 3.1% from last year.
From looking at his pitches, I see that he has a nice changeup that he uses about as often as his fastball, and a curveball that he rarely uses. The changeup has a good 16.72% whiff rate this year, but the whiffs on his fastball are down from 8.45% last year to 3.81% this year.
Bottom Line: Unless I see an uptick in strikeouts, Guerra seems to me like a Quad-A fringe reliever. He has a good changeup with good velocity separation from his fastball, but then again, he doesn’t throw particularly hard (90.2 MPH on average for his fastball), and his fastball doesn’t have enough movement to make up for it. He’ll need to rely on his improved command to stand a chance.
Data from FanGraphs, Brooks Baseball, and Baseball Savant. Picture courtesy of MLB.com. Stats are as of morning 9/5/16.
Thanks for reading!