According to history, pitching is always more appealing than position players. It seems it is easier for a team to hide a player for a year in the bullpen than taking up a position on the bench. That has not been the case in recent years for the Cardinals. Both Hector Luna and Brian Barton were chosen by the team and found valuable playing time and more importantly, at bats.
Players that are eligible for the Rule 5 draft and not protected on the 40-man roster can be selected from another for $50,000. The player must stay on that team's roster for the whole season or after clearing waivers, be offered back to the player's original team for $25,000. Looking at possible needs that could be filled through the draft, a left-handed reliever with some upside or middle infield depth appears most likely.
Please remember, everyone on this list has flaws. If they didn't, their respective organizations would have protected them. Also, Dan Uggla and Joakim Soria are definitely the exceptions to the rule. Most guys selected in the Rule 5 will not become difference makers.
Listed below are available pitchers followed by position players.
The southpaw underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 and has come back like most, as good as ever. Drafted out of the University of Kentucky by San Diego, Albers went a combined 8-2 with 80 strikeouts and 14 walks over two levels in 2011.
Recently, the Team Canada member spun five shutout innings against Puerto Rico, collecting 12 groundball outs during his impressive start.
The lefty appears to be a graduate of the Dave Duncan school of pitching. McFarland is a groundball machine who possesses a low 90s fastball with good sink. The 22-year-old posted a ground ball rate of 2.48 while striking out 103 in 137 innings at Double-A Akron (Cleveland).
McFarland played in the Arizona Fall League last month and posted an ERA of 3.18 with 22 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. He continued to collect lots of groundball outs while struggling with his fastball command. It would be interesting to see how his velocity would increase if he worked only out of the pen.
The former amateur teammate of Rick Porcello was a highly regarded Angels' prospect not long ago. But a decrease in velocity has stripped away his shine and the Los Angeles club left him unprotected.
When on his game, Reckling has a fastball that can reach the mid 90s (he is now topping out at 89) and a slurve that is a true out pitch. Reckling's issue could be health related and the Cardinals could always hide him away on the disabled list. Or it could be a matter of a mechanical flaw which Dave Duncan is a master of repairing.
Originally drafted out of Asuza Pacific, Sisk held hitters to a .148 average while working out of the Omaha (Kansas City) pen. In 25 appearances, the 26-year-old struck out 30 in 32 innings. Currently, he is pitching in the Dominican Winter League and has racked up six strikeouts in 6.1 innings of work.
The supplemental first round pick in 2007 has seen a career resurgence after the Nationals moved him to the bullpen. In 2011, the left-hander posted a 2.31 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 50.2 innings. During the season, he held lefties to a .190 average while regaining his low 90s fastball which he can dial up as high as 98. With everyone on this list, there are flaws with Smoker's being control.
If the Cardinals were to take a flier on a pitcher, this should be the guy.
Another flawed left-hander with a big arm, Valiquette is almost certain to be nabbed during this year's draft. The former Red and current Mariner sits routinely in the high 90s and will, on occasion, hit triple digits. But control has been an issue for him and his secondary pitches have never come along.
The last pitcher on this list is also the most interesting. If Venditte's name looks familiar it is because very few minor league players get the kind of press that he has received. Venditte is the only active professional pitcher that can get hitters out with either arm.
The former supplemental first round pick missed all of 2011 with an inner ear disorder that appeared to end his career. But reports are that he is now healthy but the San Diego Padres failed to protect him on their 40-man roster.
Before his illness, he showed signs of having the fluidity to stay at shortstop. Also, he had shown ability with the bat, hitting .365/.404/.542 in 60 games in the California League. A team could always hide him away on the disabled list for a while considering he is coming back from an illness. He might be gone before the Cardinals pick, but I expect someone to nab Cumberland up. It's not often someone with his pedigree is available.
The son of former Cardinal Bien Figueroa, Cole was drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth round of the 2008 draft out of the University of Florida. At Double-A Montgomery in 2011, the left-handed batter hit .283/.375/.398 with more walks than strikeouts. Figueroa is still recovering from knee surgery and can hopefully regain some of the speed that the surgery cost him.
The infielder has been a favorite of mine since his days at Vanderbilt. Flaherty plays second and third and could handle shortstop along with the corner outfield slots. A left-handed hitter, Flaherty reminds one of Daniel Descalso with a slightly better hit tool and more pop.
In Double-A for the Cubs in 2011, the 25-year-old posted an OPS of .907 though he did struggle after being promoted to the Pacific Coast League.
The Orioles' 2008 fifth round pick from the University of Virginia seems to have found his stride at the plate and in the field. Playing second base at Double-A Bowie, the switch hitter posted a line of .280/.371/.347 while stealing 50 bases in 53 attempts.
Miclat does not demonstrate the arm strength to play everyday shortstop but could fill in when needed. With plenty of speed and the ability to put the bat on the ball, Miclat could be an interesting player off the bench.
Scout.com's Tigs Town (Detroit) named Nunez the team's 19th rated prospect going into the 2011 season. In the field, he is rated above average for his prowess with his glove, range, and for his arm. In the Florida State League, the 23-year-old posted an OPS of nearly .800 but was exposed after a promotion to Double A Erie.
Though a long shot to be selected by the reigning World Champions, players with the ability to pick it like Nunez don't come along often.
Blast from the Past
Though I don't think this has any chance of happening, the Cardinals selecting their former third round pick would be interesting. The team failed to come to terms with Russell after a major power spree at the University of Texas in the spring of 2007. The powerful outfielder wanted a record breaking contract for a fourth rounder while the Cardinals had concern about his ability to make contact. It appears the Cards were right.
Russell has reached 20 or more home runs the past three seasons but has but has struck out 511 times during the period. I don't see the Cards rolling the dice on this one, but wouldn't it be a great story if they did?
Previous articles in this series:
"Cards 2011 Rule 5 Protection Lists by Level"
"Cardinals in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft: Part One"
"Cardinals in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft: Part Two"
Coming up, we will look at the organization's past history in Rule 5 Drafts in the major and minor league phases, both as a supplier and selector of players. Of course, on draft day, we will break down any Rule 5 activity that affects the Cardinals.
Dustin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Dustin on Twitter.
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