The picks were made. Soon, the work will begin.
Eighteen players were selected in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday (compared to 16 last year). The cost for such a pick was higher this year as the teams taking a player were required to pay $100,000 to the teams losing the player (up from $50,000 under the previous collective bargaining agreement). As always, those players have to remain on the 25-man Major League roster for the duration of the 2017 season or else be offered back to their original team for $50,000 (up from $25,000).
Whether the rising cost has any impact on the likelihood of a player sticking with his new club is yet to be seen, but as in years past, surely some players will stay with their new team and some will not. Below are our predictions:
Most likely to stick
Miguel Diaz, RHP, Padres -- This doesn't have as much to do with Diaz being the first pick in the Rule 5 Draft as it does with him being a solid fit for the rebuilding Padres. As things stand now, the San Diego bullpen is lefty-heavy with Brandon Maurer and Kevin Quackenbush the only other right-handed options. Diaz, 22, has spent most of his Minor League time in a starting role, but his three-pitch mix, which features a fastball in the mid-90s, should play well in the bullpen. San Diego had some success with 2015 Rule 5 pick Luis Perdomo in the bullpen before moving him to the rotation mid-season, and they could go that route with Diaz.
Armando Rivero, RHP, Braves -- The 28-year-old Cuba native pitched like someone who deserved a Major League look in 2016 but never got the chance with the Cubs. Rivero struck out 105 batters in 67 2/3 innings at Triple-A and was effective against both left-handers (.146 average-against) and right-handers (.186 average-against) thanks to a good fastball and slider. Though they're sure to improve as their young talent starts to flourish, the Braves will likely still be a step or two away from serious NL East contention, and with a reported preference to carry eight guys in the bullpen, Rivero looks like a player who could stick.
Tyler Jones, RHP, D-backs -- There's a lot you could copy from the Rivero blurb above and paste here for Jones, just moving it down a level to Double-A. Using his own fastball-slider mix, the 27-year-old missed a ton of bats for the Yankees affiliate in Trenton with a 13.2 K/9 and was solid in finding the zone as well with a 2.2 BB/9. Like the Braves, the D-backs aren't likely to push for the playoffs in 2017, making them good candidates to hold onto Jones with their eyes on a rebuild.
Justin Haley, RHP, Twins -- Unlike the other pitchers taken Thursday, Haley has a real opportunity to not only stay in Minnesota but stick in the club's starting rotation. The 25-year-old made MiLB.com's list of Red Sox Organization All-Stars after posting a 3.01 ERA and 1.12 WHIP with 126 strikeouts and 45 walks in 146 2/3 innings between Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland. Only one Twins starter (Ervin Santana, 3.38) had an ERA below 5.00 in 2016, so the club could certainly use some help, even if Haley's ceiling is the back end of a rotation. Twins GM Thad Levine also talked to MLB.com about the possibility of Haley pitching as the long man in the bullpen, signaling Minnesota is prepared to do what it needs to keep Haley.
Josh Rutledge, INF, Red Sox -- The Red Sox outrighted Rutledge off their 40-man roster last month and saw him elect free agency and sign a Minor League deal with the Rockies, only to bring him back into the fold Thursday in the Rule 5 Draft. It may seem at first blush that the Red Sox initially made a mistake, but the situation changed when corner infielder Travis Shaw was traded to the Brewers as part of the package that brought back Tyler Thornburg. With Shaw gone, the Red Sox were looking for a solid utility infielder who could also hit some, and they have that once again in Rutledge, who produced a .265/.345/.388 line over 85 plate appearances for the Sox in 2016 before left knee tendinitis ended his season in July.
Hoby Milner, LHP, Indians -- This may sound strange for a club with Andrew Miller on its roster, but the reigning AL champs could use some left-handed help in the bullpen. As things stand, the only southpaw reliever looking at a shot in Cleveland beside Miller and Milner is Edwin Escobar, who had a 7.23 ERA in 23 2/3 innings for the D-backs last season. Milner and his sidearm delivery could be the answer after holding Double-A left-handers to a .207 average with 23 strikeouts over 82 at-bats last season. There is every chance Cleveland could get more aggressive and seek left-handed help elsewhere if things get tight in the AL Central, but Milner's in a good spot for now.
Some work to do
Luis Torrens, C, Padres -- The 20-year-old catcher has a few marks against him in that he's played only 49 games at the Class A level and had a shoulder injury that kept him out for all of 2015. What he does have is a typical backup catcher profile as solid behind the plate with a plus arm, evidenced by his 40.7 percent caught stealing rate in 2016. Torrens' arrival could allow San Diego to move Christian Bethancourt, but if Torrens struggles offensively -- a real possibility after he hit .230 with a .664 OPS in 40 Class A games last season -- the Padres might be forced to go another direction.
Kevin Gadea, RHP, Rays -- The 22-year-old right-hander was good at both Class A Clinton (2.15 ERA, 72 strikeouts, 11 walks in 50 1/3 innings) and the Venezuelan Winter League (2.10 ERA, .185 average-against in 30 innings) this year and has three pitches (fastball, curve, changeup) that could be Major League offerings some day. He did start the season in the complex-level Arizona League, however, so it will likely come down to how good Gadea looks in the spring compared to his new Major League peers.
Dylan Covey, RHP, White Sox -- Previously ranked as Oakland's No. 20 prospect, Covey made only six starts for Double-A Midland in 2016 due to an oblique injury. He does, however, have two things working in his favor. First, he looked quite good at times in the Arizona Fall League, even pitching five innings in a no-hitter. Second, he joins a White Sox organization in the middle of a major rebuild. White Sox GM Rick Hahn told MLB.com that Covey could compete for a spot in either the rotation or the bullpen. But it'll be on Covey to show that the rust is gone and that his four-pitch mix (none of which grades out higher than 55 on the 20-80 scale) can play in the Majors immediately.
Tyler Webb, LHP, Pirates -- Some followers of the Yankees feared Webb was as good as gone when the team chose not to protect the 26-year-old, who held fellow lefties to a .215 average with 26 strikeouts in 79 at-bats for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2016. Those numbers might typically move him up to the "most likely" section of this column, but the Bucs already have left-handers Felipe Rivero, Antonio Bastardo and Wade LeBlanc falling in behind lefty closer Tony Watson on the bullpen depth chart. The Bucs obviously wouldn't have brought Webb in if they didn't expect him to compete in that group, but it's not an ideal situation unless more moves are made.
Daniel Stumpf, LHP, Tigers -- This makes two straight Rule 5 selections for Stumpf. The first go-round wasn't a positive one with Stumpf being suspended 80 games for PEDs while with the Phillies and being returned to the Royals after putting up a 10.80 ERA in seven Major League appearances. Still, the 25-year-old can be tough against fellow lefties and becomes Detroit's second bullpen southpaw behind Justin Wilson.
Aneury Tavarez/Anthony Santander, OF, Orioles -- It's difficult to imagine the Orioles carrying two Rule 5 picks next season, especially with both being outfielders, but each has his advantages and could give Baltimore its second Rule 5 outfielder to stick in as many years (Joey Rickard being the other). Tavarez swung an impressive bat at Double-A Portland (.335/.379/.506) in 2016 and has the speed to be a burner off the bench. Santander played a level lower at Class A Advanced Lynchburg, but the 22-year-old switch-hitter showed tons of power with 20 homers and 42 doubles in 128 games and has some experience at first base, which could give him an edge.
Glenn Sparkman, RHP, Blue Jays -- Sparkman returned to the mound after 2015 Tommy John surgery last season, but don't get fixated on his 5.22 ERA across four levels in 2016. His 3.26 FIP was much more indicative of his abilities, and demonstrating his health was a big positive. That said, Sparkman's stuff doesn't blow people away, though his fastball and changeup have earned solid reviews. The Blue Jays turned Joe Biagini from a Rule 5 pick into a solid reliever and should give Sparkman a good chance to repeat the trick.
Mike Hauschild, RHP, Rangers -- Hauschild, in the mold of Haley, is coming off a solid performance at Triple-A (3.22 ERA, 119 strikeouts in 139 2/3 innings) and seems ready for a jump, even if his ceiling is No. 4 or 5 starter. However, the 26-year-old is in a tougher situation in Texas, which is expected to compete for a third straight AL West title. Hauschild will be able to work in the open competition for the last spot in the Texas rotation come spring, but if he falters at any point, the leash could be considerably shorter than those of his Rule 5 peers.
Stuart Turner, C, Reds -- Turner built a solid reputation for his work behind the plate. The problem for the 24-year-old is that he's never quite put it together at the plate with three straight seasons of an OPS below .700, including back-to-back campaigns at Double-A Chattanooga. The Reds also already have two catchers on the Major League roster in Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart, even though the former hasn't played in more than 23 games the last two seasons. The Reds will want Turner to carve out a role among the three as a backup, but he'll have to do at least some hitting to give himself a chance.
Allen Cordoba, SS, Padres -- As we wrote in the Rule 5 preview, Cordoba would have been a great pick if clubs didn't have to worry about making him stick in the Majors. The 21-year-old shortstop is coming off a season in which he hit .362/.427/.495 with 22 steals, and that came one year after he hit .342/.401/.421. The problem is those performances came at Rookie-level Johnson City and the complex-level Gulf Coast League, respectively. As good as he's been at those levels, Cordoba is about to face a completely different animal in Major League pitching, and a successful transition is highly unlikely. Even though Cordoba has good speed and could someday stick at short, the Padres are going to have to be truly creative to keep him on the Major League roster for the entire season.
Caleb Smith, LHP, Cubs -- This isn't a knock against Smith, who posted a 3.96 ERA with 70 strikeouts and 20 walks in 63 2/3 innings at Double-A Trenton last season. It's more of a comment on the Cubs. The World Series champs needed left-handed help with Brian Duensing their only current bullpen southpaw (Mike Montgomery is expected to slide into the rotation). But choosing Smith is a bit of a head-scratcher in that he was actually tougher on righties (.247 average) than lefties (.297) in 2016. Add in that the Cubs are expected to have a packed roster with few moves to be made on the position player side, and Smith could be the first on the chopping block if a Major League move needs to be made in 2017.