Rule 5 Draft: A Cardinal Perspective

A look at players eligible for the Rule 5 draft that could be of interest to the St. Louis Cardinals

With the Winter Meetings on deck this week in Las Vegas, one of the highlights is the Rule 5 draft. Over the years such players as Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana, and Josh Hamilton have made impacts for the teams that took a chance of drafting them. Leading up to the draft, there have been many previews of this year's draft including the one done here at Scout.com.

I felt it might be interesting to take a look at the December 11 event through the eyes of the St. Louis Cardinals. It has been widely reported that General Manager John Mozeliak has pitching as the priority for his trip to Sin City. This year's draft offers a variety of interesting pitching suspects including some intriguing southpaws.

Two of the more interesting arms on the list are two former minor league pitchers of the year for their respective organizations. Donald Veal and Chuck Lofgren were once highly regarded pitchers before both coming down with command/control issues. The Yankees paid $26 million just for the negotiating rights to Kei Igawa but the Cardinals could have a potential fifth starter for only $4 million in 2009.

The organization features several young right-handers out of the bullpen but there are a few righties on this list that could catch Mozeliak's eye during the Rule 5 proceedings.

There are just not many bats that look very interesting. A few middle infield options are listed below. Two outfield candidates, Bubba Bell and Jordan Brown may become pretty good players but neither provides significantly more upside than what the Cardinals have in their system at this time.

Here is a list of candidates that could be of interest to the Cardinals during the Rule 5 draft. Left-handed pitching is listed first because that is where the team has a definite weakness in depth. The players are listed in alphabetical order, not in order of preference.

 

Left-Handed Pitchers

Kyle Bloom (Pittsburgh Pirates)

A fifth round pick in the 2005 draft out of Illinois State, Bloom had an up-and-down season at Double-A Altoona. But after a strong showing in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League, the 25 year old has made teams take notice.

In 30 innings on the island, he struck out 32 while holding his opponents to a .144 batting average against. After working on some mechanical issues that have plagued him, he has fastball topping out at 92 to go along with an average curveball and changeup.

Pedro Figueroa (Oakland A's)

Still very raw, Figueroa appears to be a late-bloomer with his fastball sitting in the low nineties while touching 95 at times. He also possesses a heavy sinking two-seam fastball to go along with his sharp-breaking slider that he throws in the mid-to-high eighties.

The 23 year old struck out struck out 77 in 68.2 innings in the Northwest League in 2008. It would be a big jump for the native Dominican but power left-handed arms like his are tough to find.

Kei Igawa (New York Yankees)

The consolation prize in the Daisuke Matzuka sweepstakes, Igawa has struggled in the bright lights of the Bronx. At Triple-A, he proved himself an interesting commodity by posting a 14-6 record and a 3.45 ERA in 156.1 innings. The 29 year old has three years remaining on his original five-year, $20 million contract that he signed with the Yankees in November of 2006.

His fastball sets at 87-90 topping out at 93. The three-time Central League strikeout leader was a swing and miss pitch in Japan but has not been as effective here in the states. He also possesses a slider that he throws to lefties.

A guy, to me, that needs to be in the National League and out of the spotlight in New York. Seems like a great fit for Duncan and a guy that organization may look long and hard at.

Zach Kroenke (New York Yankees)

The former Nebraska Cornhusker spent most of the year at Double-A before cutting his teeth late in the year at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. At Double-A Trenton, Kroenke held his opponents to a .187 average while striking out 44 in 43.2 innings.

In 10 innings in the International League, Kroenke posted a superb 3-to-1 groundball to fly ball ratio while holding opponents to a .206 average.

Chuck Lofgren (Cleveland Indians)

Coming into the 2008 season, the 2004 draft pick was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the minor leagues. Logren was coming off a so-so 2007 after a stellar 2006 in which he went 17-5 with a 2.32 ERA while earning the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year.

The Indians left the southpaw unprotected after a disastrous 2008. The 22 year old posted a 5.99 ERA and a .278 batting average against at Double-A. Then the Indians sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he was absolutely horrid. In seven innings, he allowed 40 runs, 25 of which were earned. In his 10 appearances, he walked 18 batters.

Some scouts believe that his struggles are due to poor mechanics that neither he nor the organization has been able to work out. When on, the native Californian features a fastball in the low nineties to go along with a spike curveball and a slider that has become an out pitch.

The last two seasons he was considered the second best prospect in the Indians system. Maybe a change of scenery and getting to work with Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan could resurrect Lofgren's career. If he could harness his control, he would become a valuable commodity for an organization in need of left-handed pitching.

Jose Lugo (Minnesota Twins) The 24 year old has not played above High Class-A but he did strikeout 76 in 69 innings during the 2008 season. His 2.34-to-1 groundball to fly ball ratio was impressive as well. Originally signed by the Oakland A's, he was selected by the Twins in the 2005 Rule 5 draft.

Lugo possesses a heavy sinking fastball that sits in the low-to-mid nineties. His changeup and curveball are works in progress but his changeup is said to have the makings of an above average offering.

Ryan Mullins (Minnesota Twins)

A third round pick out of Vanderbilt, Mullins possess an above average curveball that makes him a possible big league LOOGY. Standing 6'6, he held left-handed hitters to a .204 average at Double-A in 2008. Like many on this list, the now 25 year old struggled with his command and was hurt by the home run ball.

In 148.1 innings, he allowed 59 walks and 18 home runs. The former Vanderbilt standout throws in the high eighties with the ability to touch 91 with his fastball to go along with a solid changeup and an effective curveball.

Donald Veal (Chicago Cubs)

The southpaw started the year off well with three straight starts without allowing a run. A second round pick in 2005, the 6'4 left-hander went 5-3 with a 2.69 ERA at Peoria before being promoted to Daytona in 2006. He proved his mettle in the Florida State League by posting a 1.13 ERA in seven starts. That season he led all minor league starting pitchers with a .175 batting average against.

Played at Double-A Tennessee in 2007 where he led the Southern League in walks while striking out more than a batter an inning.

The 24 year old once again struggled with his command during the 2008 season. In 145.1 innings, he walked 81 compared to 123 strikeouts. He had trouble keeping the ball in the park with 19 home runs allowed. Veal was sent to the Arizona Fall League to try to work out his command issues but the time in the desert was not what the doctor ordered for the pitcher who would like to one day get into medicine. In nine innings, he walked 13 batters but he did hold left-handers to a .154 average

 

Right-handers

Eduardo Morlan (Tampa Bay Rays)

One of the players in the Delmon Young/Matt Garza trade, Morlan quietly put together another solid campaign in 2008. Morlan possess a big fastball and swing-and-miss slider. I know that the organization has some young right-handed arms but Morlan could be worth taking a shot on.

Loek Van Mil (Minnesota Twins)

A true pitching giant, Van Mil stands 7'1. The right-hander has hit 98 MPH on the international stage and worked in the mid-nineties during the 2008 season. The 24 year old struck out 42 in 44 innings while holding opponents to a .221 average. Signed by the Twins out of the Netherlands in 2005.

 

Middle Infielders

Jesus Guzman (San Francisco Giants)

If selected, Guzman would be joining his fourth organization in four years after being signed by the Giants this off-season. In Double-A this past season, he hit .364/.420/.560 while at Midland. During the 2007 season, the switch hitter hit 25 home runs and drove in over 100 runs.

More of a third baseman than a middle infielder, Guzman has played some second base along with taking sometime in the outfield. With the way manager Tony La Russa likes to have versatility on his bench, Guzman seems like a player of interest.

Daniel Mayora (Colorado Rockies)

Slick-fielding middle infielder finds himself on the outside looking in to a Rockies organization loaded with middle infielder prospects. Probably Major League ready with the glove, Mayora is solid yet unspectacular at the plate.

Will Rhymes (Detroit Tigers)

The diminutive second baseman might remind many of former Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein but unlike the former World Series MVP, Rhymes hits from the left side. The 25 year old hit .307/.363/.392 between Double-A and Triple-A in 2008.

Rewarded with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, the native Texan hit .287/.322/.324 in 108 at bats for Mesa. He offers little power but he plays average defense and puts the ball in play.

Corey Wimberly (Colorado Rockies)

Another casualty of the Rockies' deep system, Wimberly was a Texas League All-Star and hit lead off for the North Squad. In 2008, the electric runner hit .291/.359/.345 with 59 stolen bases in 388 Double-A at-bats.

 

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