Check-up: 2009 Rule 5 picks

As all eyes turn to the 2010 season, it’s time for a look back at the 17 players picked in the major league phase of the 2009 Rule 5 Draft. These players, in short, must remain on the 25-man roster or be waived and offered back to the original club. It costs $50,000 to draft a player, and $25,000 to take him back. If he is traded, or claimed on waivers, the Rule 5 responsibilities are simply transferred to the player’s new team.

It can be more complicated than that. Sometimes a player is waived, but the original team doesn’t want him back. Other times a player has been optioned to the minor leagues once before, thereby enabling him to refuse being optioned upon return to his original team. In two cases, a player did just that—or made it known he would—and stayed with his new club. Both were pitchers who popped-up in our look at Arizona Fall Leaguers who were candidates for the 2009 Rule 5 Draft. They were also the only two from that list of Fall Leaguers who were actually selected. A slightly simpler transaction that also keeps a Rule 5 pick with his new team is a trade—the new team acquires the player’s rights in exchange for cash or other players. Such a scenario played out more than once this Spring.

Let’s catch up a little with the 17 Rule 5 selections, dispatching with the hitters first. Each player is listed with the spot his was picked in the Rule 5 draft, the team he was sent to, his originating team and a note if that team traded him to another club. In other words, “the team he was sent to” would be the team that received him in a trade from the team that drafted him. Once a team trades a Rule 5 pick, it’s out of the loop in the waiver/return process. It’s between the current team and the originating team only.

Confused? Don’t worry, the first player picked will serve as helpful example.

Position players

The first two picks of the 2009 Rule 5 draft were not pitchers. Only one more position player would be selected.

1. Jamie Hoffmann
Yankees (from Dodgers by Nationals and traded)
Returned to Dodgers (source)

Hoffmann was an undrafted free agent who was signed by the Dodgers in 2003. He was re-signed in 2009 to a one-year contract and made his major league debut in 2009. Hoffmann is likely headed to Triple-A Albuquerque to begin the season in the outfield.

Hoffmann was part of a trade that sent Brian Bruney to Washington from New York. As part of the deal, the Nationals used the first selection of the Rule 5 draft to get Hoffmann. I’m not sure if they or the Yankees ponied up the $50,000. Once selected, he was traded as the player to be named later in the Bruney deal. All obligations to keep Hoffmann on the 25-man roster were transferred to the Yankees at this point; the Nationals were out of the picture. Once Hoffmann was cut, the Yankees put him on waivers. No claims were made, so he was offered back to the Dodgers for $25,000.

2. John Raynor
Pirates (from Marlins)
25-man roster (source)

The Marlins selected Raynor in the ninth round of the 2006 amateur draft. He’s played as high as Triple-A, where he spent 2009, and was also a participant in the 2008 Arizona Fall League. Raynor landed the final spot on the Pirates’ Opening Day roster as a back-up outfielder. As long as he’s there, or on the 15-day DL, he’ll remain a Pirate.

8. Jorge Jimenez
Marlins (from Red Sox by Astros and traded)
Returned to Red Sox (source)

Jimenez, like many Rule 5 picks, hasn’t played above Double-A. He was a 15th round pick in 2006 and has played both corner infield spots while in the Boston system. Jimenez will start the season in Triple-A Pawtucket.

Pitchers who were sent back

These guys cleared waivers and were taken back for $25,000.

9. Bobby Cassevah
Oakland (from Angels)
Returned to Angels (source)

Cassevah was picked in the 34th round of the 2004 amateur draft, at least a dozen rounds later than any other player who was selected in the 2009 Rule 5 draft. He’s been with the Angels all along, topping out in Double-A so far. He’s probably the best groundball pitcher of this group, but has the worst K:BB ratio.

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What’s been seen of Cassevah in PITCHf/x amounts to 24 pitches but supports his sinker/slider reputation. He threw a mix of 89 mph sinkers and four-seam fastballs, a bunch of sliders (81 mph) and one 83 mph change-up.

10. Zechry Zinicola
Blue Jays (from Nationals)
Returned to Nationals (source)

No PITCHf/x on the wonderfully named Zinicola. His minor league record is similar to Cassevah’s, with a few less grounders and a slightly better K:BB ratio. One of six pitchers in the 2009 Rule 5 draft to have pitched at Triple-A or above, Zinicola was originally a sixth-round selection by the Nationals in 2006.

13. Armando Zerpa
Dodgers (from Red Sox by Rays and traded)
Waived and reclaimed by Red Sox (source)

Zerpa is a sinker-throwing lefty who also has a good name. With one Z, it doesn’t seem as exciting as Zechry Zinicola, but he gets points for polarized initials. He’s the most inexperienced of this group, an undrafted free agent who has progressed to Advanced-A since signing with Boston in 2007. Based on just 14 PITCHf/x recorded pitches, Zerpa throws his sinking fastball around 88, a mid-80s change-up and a mid-70s slurve. His groundball rate is above average, but not remarkably so.

15. Steve Johnson
Giants (from Orioles)
Returned to Orioles (source)

Johnson is a flyball pitcher who gets a lot of pop-ups. It isn’t surprising that his bread-and-butter pitch is a “rising” low-90s four-seamer. He also throws a slow curve (73) and a pair of low- to mid-80s pitches with a change-up and slider. He’s back with Baltimore, which acquired him from the Dodgers last year. He was originally selected by Los Angeles in the 13th round of the 2005 amateur draft. He’s back in Double-A Bowie now, which is also the highest level he’s seen to date.

16. Ben Jukich
Cardinals (from Reds)
Returned to Reds (source)

Jukich, like Johnson, was a 13th-round pick. The A’s took him in the 2006 amateur draft and traded him to the Reds a year later. There’s no PITCHf/x available for Jukich, but his record shows he’s another groundball pitcher who now has more than a full season of Triple-A under his belt. He’ll get more seasoning there—he’s been assigned to Louisville.

Pitchers who didn’t make a 25-man roster but stayed with their new teams

These are the complicated cases.

3. Ben Snyder
Rangers (from Giants by Orioles and traded)
Rights traded to Rangers (source)

Snyder didn’t make the team, but he was traded to Texas and assigned to Double-A Frisco. The Giants selected Snyder in the fourth round of the 2006 amateur draft, one of two 2009 Rule 5 picks who were picked that early in their entry drafts.

Snyder’s walk rates have gone up since reaching Double-A, but he’s otherwise been among (and still is) the owners of a healthy K:BB ratio. Similar to Johnson, with less velocity, Snyder is a left-handed flyball pitcher who relies on a four-seam fastball. From what PITCHf/x has seen, it averages only around 88 mph, and comes with an 80 mph change-up and a 75 mph overhand curveball.

4. Edgar Osuna
Royals (from Braves)
Refused by Braves (source)

Osuna wasn’t going to stay with Kansas City, but he cleared waivers and the Braves didn’t want him back. He’s been outrighted to Double-A Arkansas. Osuna started his professional career with Atlanta, signing as an undrafted free agent in 2004. While in the big league camp with the Royals this spring, Osuna worked in several A games captured by PITCHf/x in Surprise, Ariz.

Osuna’s record suggests a flyball pitcher with good stuff. A closer look shows a low walk rate, a declining strikeout rate and a high pop-up rate. He’s perhaps not overpowering, but effective at lower levels of organized ball. PITCHf/x shows the left hander averages just 87 mph on his fastball but with movement. It’s likely he’ll add velocity as the season opens and the weather warms. His secondary pitches include a curveball (71), slider (80) and change-up (77). As best I can tell, he’s throwing all four-seam fastballs, but gets a lot of tailing action.

6. Zachary Kroenke
Diamondbacks (from Yankees)
Refused by Yankees (source)

Kroenke cleared waivers and was optioned to Triple-A Reno. This was his second trip through Rule 5 and he had been returned and optioned once before. He didn’t want to return to the Yankees. Knowing that he’d refuse the assignment to the minors, the Yankees “refused” to accept him back and he’s remained with Arizona. He’s rotation depth and may not be far away.

The Yankees originally drafted Kroenke in the fifth round in 2005. He was a Rule 5 pick for the Marlins in 2008, but returned to the Yankees and worked on his Triple-A portfolio. Kroenke is a groundball pitcher with some control issues—not exactly a rare bird in this group. His stuff can be appealing. He’s left handed and throws a 91 mph sinker and an 80 mph splitter. After the sinker, his most used pitch is a slider that comes in around 84 mph but seems flat. He’ll also throw some four-seam fastballs, just a notch hotter than the two-seam sinker.

11. Chuck Lofgren
Brewers (from Indians)
Rights traded to Brewers (source)

Lofgren has stayed with Brewers via trade and been assigned to Triple-A Nashville. Milwaukee drafted the lefty out of high school in the fourth round in 2004. After looking good in the lower levels, Lofgren has been mostly unimpressive in Double-A and Triple-A since 2007. While his walk rate recovered in 2009, his strikeout rate has continued its general decline.

His only PITCHf/x data is from a 2007 Futures Game, where he threw a 91 mph fastball, a slow 76 mph change-up and an overhand curveball at 77. One inning nearly three years ago—take it for whatever that’s worth. He looks a little like Snyder, based on the PITCHf/x glimpses and minor league batted balls. Lots of stuff in the air, not enough strikeouts.

12. Michael Parisi
Cubs (from Cardinals)
Refused by Cardinals (source)

Parisi ended up signing a new minor league contract with the Cubs. He’ll start 2010 in Triple-A Iowa. Since he had been optioned once before, and the Cardinals were going to do that upon his return, Parisi made it clear he’d refuse and become a minor league free agent. That’s essentially the same situation as Kroenke’s.

Parisi was not your typical Rule 5 pick. A ninth-round selection in the 2004 entry draft, Parisi pitched in the majors in 2008. Not long after that, he underwent Tommy John surgery and made it back to the Gulf Coast League and the Arizona Fall League at the end of 2009. Much of that post-rehab time was spent working on a cutter, an addition to his sinker (92 mph) and curveball (79 mph). He also throws a change-up (87, same as his cutter) and a few four-seam fastballs (94). He’ll continue to refine his stuff with the Cubs, which is where he wants to be. Given the young arms in the North Side bullpen, Parisi may be a veteran reinforcement by midseason. He’ll work on his updated repertoire and try to bring down the walks and continue to increase the ground balls.

Pitchers who made it—for now

To stay with the new team, a player must be on the 15-day DL, on a rehab assignment or on the active 25-man roster. The group of pitchers who were refused by their original teams may actually have a longer career with their new organizations—they’re now free and clear of Rule 5 restrictions, while the picks who are on the major league rosters could be back where they started before long. Just ask Randy Wells. Here are the four pitchers who join Raynor as Rule 5 picks still in play.

5. Hector Ambriz
Indians (from Diamondbacks)
15-day DL (source)

Ambriz is one of four Indians starting the season on the DL. Taken in the fifth round in 2006 by Arizona, the UCLA product spent most of 2009 in Triple-A. He’s shown good control and decent strikeout rates throughout his pro career, almost all as a starter.

Featuring a 92 mph fastball, Ambriz rounds out with what looks like a plus curveball (big 12-6 movement) at 74 mph and two pitches at 83—a slider and a change-up. He’s been a bit of a flyball pitcher, so moving him off a path to Chase Field may be to his advantage. We’ll see what happens when he’s activated.

7. Carlos Monasterios
Dodgers (from Phillies by Mets and traded)
25-man roster (source)

Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Yankees in 2004, Monasterios made his way to the Phillies in the Bobby Abreu trade. The Mets plucked him in the Rule 5 draft, shipped him to Los Angeles and now he’s in Joe Torre’s bullpen. Circle complete. The right hander from Venezuela had been a bit below average coming up the ranks—until last year. That was his second run through the Florida State League, and his improved performance eventually earned him a trip to Double-A. It’s no coincidence that he was also moved to the bullpen in 2009.

Monasterios got his first PITCHf/x look during a late spring tune-up in Chavez Ravine. He showed a 91 mph fastball along with a 78 mph change-up and 76 mph curveball. We’ll find out if he can provide effective middle relief in the NL West.

14. Kanekoa Texeira
Mariners (from Yankees)
25-man roster (source)

Originally a Brewers draft pick, Texeira spent two years at Saddleback College and was taken by the White Sox in the 22nd round in 2006—a nine-round improvement. Traded to the Yankees along with Nick Swisher, Texeira impressed the Mariners with his 90 mph sinker—backed up by a strong groundball rate in the minors and an above-average K:BB ratio.

Texeira’s sinker is complemented by a slightly faster four-seam fastball, an 84 mph change-up and a 78 mph curveball. Don’t mistake this for a starter’s arsenal, as he’s only made six career starts along with 148 relief appearances. He’s from Maui, so he may be following the Rule 5 footsteps of Shane Victorino.

17. David Herndon
Phillies (from Angels)
25-man roster (source)

A fifth-round pick by the Angels in 2006, Herndon converted from starter to reliever in 2008> He’s pitched a full season at four levels up to Double-A. He was picked in the amateur draft two other times (the Royals and the Twins) so, counting the Rule 5, he’s been drafted four times by four teams. He’s 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and throws a 93 mph sinker with a lot of tailing action. His change-up, at 87, is complemented by a breaking ball. I’ll call it an 80 mph slider for now.

Herndon has been very good at getting ground balls—no surprise—but has not struck out many batters. Since he walks so few his K:BB ratio is actually well above average. The lack of strikeouts may be the strike against him, as he’ll always be relying on his defense to succeed. But did I mention that he’s 6-5, 230, and throws a 93 mph sinker?

Stay tuned

The Rule 5 story remains open on the “survivors”. They can all end up with a new fate similar to some of their fellow 2009 Rule 5 picks. All 17 are still prospects on someone’s radar screen—and will likely be on ours again, too.

References & Resources
PITCHf/x data from MLBAM and Sportvision. Batted ball data from MLBAM. Pitch classifications by the author. Amateur entry draft information from The Baseball Cube. Some non-drafted free agent signing dates culled from Google News searches, some from The Baseball Cube.

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Kanekoa is actually Shane Victorino’s cousin, funny that you mentioned Shane being a fellow rule 5