The likelihood of a pitcher being taken in the Rule 5 Draft and thrust right into the major league starting rotation is low. Like really, very minimal. For this reason, when trying to assess a Rule 5 pitching prospect’s chances at sticking, the most important thing to look at is not prospect ranking, or minor league stats, but one question: Does the player possess two (or one-and-a-half or even one) pitches that could play up as major league out pitches if the player was used out of the bullpen? Also in the case of left-handed pitching prospects you can look for an extreme split vs. batters of same-handedness… I guess that would be valid for right-handers as well, but the LOOGY (lefty one-out guy) is a much more prominent occurrence in the major leagues than than a ROOGY due to traditional managerial usage and stubbornness (in reality, some managers even refuse to properly use their LOOGY.) So without further exposition, here are my final takes:
Armando Rivero, RHP (drafted by Braves from Cubs)
Rivero makes the top spot of the remaining list not because of any high prospect ranking (he doesn’t have that) but because of his advanced age (27) and level (AAA) where he really dominated last year with 105 strike outs in 67 2/3 innings of relief. In fact, he has never started one game in his four-year minor league career, a fact I believe actually helps his chances of sticking in Atlanta’s pen as there will be no “conversion to the pen” process needed. On the rebuilding Braves, I would say he actually realistically already slots into middle relief, ahead of other options who would have the ability to go more than one-inning stints like Lucas Sims, Josh Collmenter, Adam Blair etc. I would say out of all players picked in this year’s Rule 5 draft, Armando Rivero has the highest chance to (in time) insert himself into a couple high-leverage situations… from there you never know what could happen on a young team like Atlanta.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 95% …Opening Day: 75% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 35%
Tyler M. Jones, RHP (drafted by Diamondbacks from Yankees)
If I was looking to be trite here, I could really call Jones “Armando Rivero Lite.” He’s almost as old, a career minor league reliever that relies on a fastball-slider combo, and finds himself on the move from a more stacked organization to a rebuilding one. As currently structured, the Diamondbacks bullpen offers more competition in terms of shaky middle relief options (Enrique Burgos, Andrew Chafin, Silvino Bracho) but I could also see them making a trade and Jones moving up the ladder with only a very limited sample of success. So his 2016 outlook is not without opportunity, but really there are a ton of unknowns at play.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 95% …Opening Day: 55% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 20%
Glenn Sparkman, RHP (drafted by Blue Jays from Royals)
Glenn Sparkman is a guy I have been following for some time as a sleeper relief prospect. He ends up in an interesting situation on Toronto, a team that definitely will look to win it all in 2016, but also could dedicate bigger money towards filling their lineup holes created by the potential loss of free agents Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders, while going cheap on the bullpen, at least to open the season. So that is where Glenn Sparkman would come in. He is however still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and would be better served as a bubble guy who could ride the shuttle between AAA and the majors as needed, than he would as a Rule 5 guy forced to remain on the major league roster all season.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 70% …Opening Day: 40% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 10%
Kevin Gadea, RHP (drafted by Rays from Mariners)
As a converted third baseman, Gadea is definitely a prospect whose stock is on the rise, and the small-market Rays are masterful at building rosters on the cheap. But he is also 22 years old, with a limited track record on the mound, and definitely needs a lot more time in the low minors. I predict the Rays will look for every avenue to strike a deal with the Mariners so as not to upset Gadea’s development by having him pitch once every ten days in the majors.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 60% …Opening Day: 15% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 5%
Dylan Covey, RHP (drafted by White Sox from Athletics)
Covey is more of a known prospect quantity than Kevin Gadea, and is much older (already 25.) Still, even the all-in rebuilding White Sox would be better off with Covey in the minors, where he would be given the best chance to reach his upside of a future #4 or #5 starter, than they would with Covey in the majors. If they decide to carry Covey and his current underwhelming arsenal, he will be getting shelled on a regular basis.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 70% …Opening Day: 20% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 5%
Mike Hauschild, RHP (drafted by Rangers from Astros)
The selection of Hauschild by the Rangers was interesting to say the least, but don’t believe for a second that he has any realistic chance of rounding out the back of the rotation for a team with playoff aspirations. Hauschild has never had a ton of prospect pedigree, relying on a fastball with remarkable movement, but one that he hasn’t mastered command of and doesn’t blow batters away. He does generate lofty groundball totals and he manages to keep the ball in the park, which could make him a nice fit for the Globe Life Park in Arlington. His effectiveness against batters from both sides of the plate could suit him well for a long relief role, but he will get hit very hard in the major leagues if he is not first allowed to master that fastball command in the minors.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 80% …Opening Day: 15% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 5%
Daniel Stumpf, LHP (drafted by Tigers from Royals)
He’s not the best lefty taken in the Rule 5 Draft, but his case is the most interesting. This is the second year in a row that Daniel Stumpf has been drafted from the Royals, after last year being picked by the Phillies, struggling mightily in a LOOGY role, getting suspended for failing a PED test, before finally being returned to the Royals and finishing out the year in AAA. It is tough to see Stumpf having a better opportunity in Detroit than he did in Philly, even with Tigers GM Alex Avila’s professed intent for a younger, cheaper roster.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 80% …Opening Day: 45% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 10%
Hoby Milner, LHP (drafted by Indians from Phillies)
Although his minor league splits showed equal effectiveness against right-handed batters last year, the Indians’ higher-ups have only one role in mind for Hoby Milner: LOOGY. He was only recently converted to a relief role, and he also saw improved deception in his delivery after dropping his arm slot. He might make a good lefty counterpart to Andrew Miller, who obviously has a much higher salary and is utilized in an expanded role as relief ace. The presence of other lefties like Kyle Crockett, Tim Cooney and Ryan Merritt may be viewed as obstacles for Hoby Milner, because he hasn’t really distanced himself from that pack, but all those other pitchers are able to be optioned.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 95% …Opening Day: 60% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 20%
Tyler Webb, LHP (drafted by Pirates from Yankees)
Webb’s situation in Pittsburgh is similar to Hoby Milner’s in a few ways. They are both older lefty minor league relievers, neither is a top prospect, and both land on teams that might utilize inexpensive players to round out their bullpen. Like Milner, Webb has some competition for the final lefty slot with Antonio Bastardo and Wade LeBlanc. Personally, I think it would be worthwhile for the Pirates to trade one or both of those names for prospects and carry Webb, but there haven’t been many rumblings, so this is all speculation.
Chances of making …Spring Training: 75% …Opening Day: 40% …2016 Fantasy Impact: 15%
Last week in Part One I covered three other pitchers drafted (and already traded) in this year’s Rule 5: Miguel A. Diaz, Justin Haley, and Caleb A. Smith. This will wrap up my Rule 5 coverage for 2016. It will be interesting to follow the career paths of all 18 of these players, both throughout 2017 and beyond. I do apologize for the delay but I have been busy putting on my own Rule 5 Draft in the ultra-deep dynasty league I run in [all of] my spare time. If any of you are interested in seeing what it is all about, comment below. We should be in touch.