Diamondbacks 2008 Rule 5 Draft Eligibles

The Arizona Diamondbacks have set their 40-man roster and have left a few prospects vulnerable to selection in the December 11th Rule 5 Draft. One in particular should draw serious interest from other organizations.

Kyler Newby, Jose Marte, and Leyson Septimo were surprise additions to the D-backs' 40-man roster on Thursday, as none of the three relievers have enjoyed success above A-ball.  While this represents a strong show of support from the Arizona front office, it also leaves other, more likely Rule 5 selections vulnerable this winter.  The team also elected to leave one of their roster spots open so as to have the option of selecting a prospect from another organization.

High Risk: RHP Matt Torra

Torra represents one of the organization's best combinations of stuff and pitching acumen.  It is shocking that the 31st-overall draft pick of 2005 would be left unprotected in this draft.  He used three solid-to-plus pitches to handle both Double-A and Triple-A hitters as a starter, and it's likely that he could handle major league hitters with those three offerings next season as a reliever.  The stuff isn't quite as good as it was before he tore his labrum in '05, but he would not be a liability as a roster spot for 2009 and has good upside for the future.   

In fact, Torra is one of the leading candidates to step into the 2009 Diamondbacks rotation n mid-season should something happen to one of their front five.  We were nearly certain that a team would nab Jaime D'Antona last year, so hopefully we are similarly wrong about Torra for this draft.

Moderate Risk: C Frank Curreri, RHP Matt Green, LHP Evan MacLane, 1B Bryan Byrne,  RHP Jason Urquidez, OF Trent Oeltjen

Frank Curreri, a teammate of Torra's at UMass, is a big catcher who can hit from the left side.  He has recently added first base and left field to his repertoire, making him a very viable option for a third catcher/pinch hitter/utility player on a major league roster.  Although right now Curreri is a contact hitter with an opposite field stroke, his size gives him the potential to develop noticeable power down the road.

Evan MacLane

The D-backs selected Torra 31st overall in 2005 and Green 49th.  Like Torra, Green has struggled with injuries in his pro career.  Green throws a nasty slider and enjoyed a great season as recently as in 2007, so he could generate some interest despite his advanced age and poor showing this year.

Evan MacLane was eligible for the Rule 5 draft last year, but drew little interest coming off easily the worst season of his career.  MacLane rebounded to perform well in 2008, and the fact that he throws left-handed makes him a commodity.  A deceptive changeup is MacLane's signature pitch, but he is not a strikeout pitcher by any means. He would do well on a team with a good defense and/or a pitcher's park, as he allows a lot of balls in play. 

Bryan Byrne is a terrific contact hitter and defender at first base, but his inability to play other positions make him an unlikely use of a roster spot.  Additionally, Byrne's lack of thump from a traditional power position will help him fly under most teams' radar screens.  Still, he is nearly .300/.400 for his career batting average and on-base percentage, so an organization that emphasizes such things could take a look at him.

Trent Oeltjen

Jason Urquidez pitched successfully at three different levels last year.  He missed the entire 2006 season with a torn labrum, but has a 2.59 career ERA to go with three solid pitches.  He would be used as a reliever next year if drafted, but had been mostly a starter at Arizona State and would welcome a return to that role if a team were willing to give him that opportunity.

Trent Oeltjen hit .317 last year, easily the best offensive performance of his career. He could have filed for free agency earlier this month, but instead chose to re-sign with the Diamondbacks.  His speed, solid left-handed bat, and ability to play all three outfield positions could entice a major league team to swipe him away from the desert.  Either way, the Aussie is likely to star for the Australia team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.   

Slight Risk: LHP Clint Goocher, RHP A. J. Shappi, RHP Cody Evans, IF Rusty Ryal 

A.J. Shappi

Goocher was turning some heads in spring training as a non-roster invitee, but didn't quite make the squad.  He then struggled mightily in April before suffering an injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  Because he is left-handed, there is always a chance that one of the teams he fared well against last spring will take a flyer on him.

Shappi performed well at Double-A for the past two seasons before hitting a wall at Triple-A this year.  He could probably hold his own against major league hitters next year, but already 26, his upside isn't as high as players who are generally selected in Rule 5 Drafts.

Evans worked at three levels last year and oddly performed the best at the highest one.  Scouts that saw him in Triple-A might have been impressed enough to talk him up to their front office.  he is a former 10th-round pick who stands at an imposing 6-foot-5.

Rusty Ryal

The Diamondbacks don't appear ready to give the second base reigns over to Ryal even with their gaping hole there and minimal budget, so it's unlikely that another team would give him that vote of confidence.  The fact that he also plays third base at a high level and hit well last year pegs him for some risk, however

Minimal Risk: C Richard Mercado, RHP Vince Bongiovanni, 3B Brandon Burgess, RHP Matt Elliott, RHP Adam Howard, OF Chris Rahl, 3B Cesar Nicolas

Mercado works very well with a pitching staff, but doesn't hit nearly well enough to draw interest from a major league club.  Bongiovanni is a big reliever who has dealt with intermittent control problems throughout his pro career.  Burgess is a legitimate power prospect, but suffered through an injury this year and is not ready to contribute to a major league team in 2009.  Once considered one of the top relief prospects in the organization, Elliott has not been able to conquer Double-A hitters.  Howard has a nice curveball, but the swingman hung it too often at Mobile.  Rahl has good speed and plays exceptional defense, but hasn't hit in two seasons now.  Nicolas swings the bat well, but is still a neophyte at the hot corner.

Also Eligible: 3B Ricardo Sosa, C Josh Ford, C Orlando Mercado, OF, Jo Jo Batten, OF Greg Thomson, RHP Kyle Wright, RHP Daniel Vasquez


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