During the minor league portion of baseball's annual Rule 5 draft, the Oakland A's lost outfielder Eliezer Mesa to the Detroit Tigers and infielder Michael Gilmartin to the Cincinnati Reds. They selected two players: third baseman Tom Mendonca from the Texas Rangers and catcher Steven Hill from the St. Louis Cardinals. Unlike the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, minor league Rule 5 selections are not required to remain on any particular roster during the 2013 season in order to be a part of their new organization long-term.
Mesa was the player-to-be-named-later from the Colorado Rockies in the Mark Ellis deal in 2011. The speedy outfielder played at three levels for the A's in 2012: Low-A Burlington, High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland. The majority of his at-bats came with Burlington, where he hit .294/.326/.412. He hit .130 in 13 games with Stockton and .179 in 18 games with Midland.
Mesa has plus speed and is a solid defensive outfielder. He swiped 25 bases in 29 chances in 2012 and stole a career-best 29 bases for Low-A Asheville in 2010. Mesa is currently playing in the Dominican Winter League, where he is batting .321/.357/.434 in 53 at-bats. He is 24 years old.
Gilmartin was the A's 27th-round pick out of Wofford in 2009. The left-handed hitting infielder had spent the past two seasons with the Stockton Ports. In 2011, he was a mid-season Cal League All-Star and hit .264 with a career-best 14 homers.
Gilmartin got off to a slow start with Stockton in 2012 and hit only .256/.339/.360 in 118 games. However, he was one of Stockton's best hitters during the second half of the season, when he hit .311/.397/.453 in 212 at-bats. Gilmartin can play second, third and short. He is 25 years old.
Mendonca was once a highly regarded prospect in the Texas Rangers' chain. The Rangers' 2009 second-round pick out of Fresno State posted an 898 OPS in the pitcher-friendly Northwest League in 2009. He slumped to a 722 OPS at the High-A level in 2010 but rebounded to post an 827 OPS and hit 25 homers at the Double-A level in 2011.
The Rangers attempted to move Mendonca off of his natural position of third base to catcher during the spring of 2012, but the experiment was unsuccessful. He got off to a poor start to the season at the plate, as well, hitting only .208/.249/.329 in 63 games with Triple-A Round Rock. Mendonca was sent back to Double-A for the final six weeks of the season and hit .277/.342/.455.
Mendonca has always had good power, reaching double-digits in homeruns in each of his three full minor league seasons. However, he has struggled with his plate discipline throughout his career. In 2012, he walked only 19 times while striking out 121 times in 332 at-bats.
Hill brings a little bit of major league experience to the A's organization. The former St. Louis Cardinals' 2007 13th-round pick appeared in nine games for the Cardinals in 2012 and one game for St. Louis in 2010 (he homered in that game). Hill spent the majority of the 2012 season in Triple-A, where he hit .266/.326/.488 with 17 homers in only 87 games.
Hill joins A's minor league free agent signing Luke Montz as Triple-A depth for the A's major league catching corps. The A's graduated two of their Triple-A catchers to the major leagues in 2012 (Derek Norris and Josh Donaldson) and traded another (Anthony Recker). Hill and Montz both bring power bats to the position. Hill has reached double-digits in homers in all of his professional seasons and Montz had 29 homers last season and hit seven in 87 at-bats this winter in the Mexican Winter League.