Tony Lastoria/IBI

Padres Make Potential Splash in Rule 5 Draft

The biggest news the San Diego Padres made during the Winter Meetings was in the Rule 5 draft on the last half-day, when General Manager A.J. Preller landed right-hand pitcher Miguel Diaz of the Brewers, catcher Luis Torrens of the Yankees and shortstop Allen Cordoba of the Cardinals in the major league phase and RHP Trevor Frank from the Indians in the Triple-A.

In order for the club to keep players from the major league phase, they must stay on the 25-man major league roster the full year.  

The Padres were able to obtain the first overall selection of the draft, Diaz, in a rather complex trade with the Twins. First, they acquired right-handed pitcher Justin Haley from the Los Angeles Angels, the number 10 selection in the Rule 5 draft, for a player to be named later or cash.  They then sent Haley to the Twins, who had selected Diaz with their first pick, for a player to be named later or cash for Diaz.

Haley was involved in a unique trade that involved two players to be named later with two different teams for the same player.

For the second pick, Torrens who was selected by the Reds, the Padres also trade a player to be named later or cash.

“Diaz has a chance, but I would be very surprised if the other two are able to make a major league roster,” said Kyle Glaser of  Baseball America on the Padres’ activity today. “They are the types of players that A.J. Preller has shown that he is all about; young, raw, projectable with lots of tools.”

“But at the same time it’s really hard to see how they could stick, especially Cordoba, on a big league team for a full year. Anyone that spent four years in Rookie Ball should have a bit of a red flag on him. Everth Cabrera [a player San Diego selected in the Rule 5 draft in 2008] at least had a full season in the Sally League [Low-A] before he played with the Padres.”

“Cordoba was playing in the Appalachian League, which is mainly just a bunch of very raw 17- to 18-year old Latin kids learning how to play baseball.  Frankly, I thought some of the high level high school ball I saw in southern California was of a better quality.”

Diaz threw  94 innings with a 3.71 ERA in the Low-A Midwest League. Torrens had 40 games in the Low-A Sally League where he hit .230/.348/.317. Cordoba spent the season at an even lower level in Johnson City, Tennessee of the Appalachian League, where he hit .362/.429/.495 in 50 games, which led the league.

Both the Appalachian and Pioneer Leagues are considered to be lower on the talent spectrum than the Northwest League, where San Diego's short-season affiliate Tri-City plays.

“Torrens has a lot of defensive skills that you like to see in a catcher, but he’s also a .250 hitter so far in the minors,” said Glaser.  “He could develop into a Rene Rivera type of catcher one day and as I said, Cordoba is a talented guy, he just hasn’t really played in high level league so far.”

Glaser’s colleague at Baseball America, J.J. Cooper thought all three were the most talented players in the draft, and noted the Padres passed up a few Triple-A arms that could have helped them this year on the big league level in exchange for upside; but it’s going to take a different scenario for all three to stay in the organization.

“In a normal world – and this is a big point – it would be very difficult to keep one of these guys let alone three,” said Cooper from the Winter Meetings. “Diaz has the easiest path because he has solid stuff and decent control.  It’s a massive jump but you can move him to the bullpen and he can survive.”

“When you start to look at the other guys, it gets a bit trickier.  I’ve done the Rule 5 draft for a while and no catcher in the 50 years that they have had the Rule 5 draft has made the type of jump that they are asking Torrens to make. Hernandez was picked in 2014 by the Diamondback from the Rays and hit .161 and spent most of this past year in the minors with Arizona.”

The selection of Cordoba has even more interesting possibilities.

“He has a lot of talent, but I can’t see him being on a big league team, as I said, in a normal circumstance.  However, this is not really a normal situation.  I don’t see the Padres being big spenders in the free agent market, or making significant trades and they don’t have a lot of options in the upper minors at shortstop.” 

“There is a chance they might be willing to use a 22 or 23- man roster to keep some of these guys and try to work and develop them on the major league level.  Because trading Cordoba back to the Cardinals is going to be different than the trade they did last year with Blash and the Mariners.  Blash had been out there before and was essentially a Triple-A free agent.  The Mariners knew what he was and wasn’t.’

“Cordoba is a prospect, if San Diego doesn’t keep him on the big league roster but wants to keep him in the organization, St. Louis is going to want something pretty good back.”

Diaz pitched against the Padres Midwest League affiliate in Fort Wayne and was impressive.  He has a solid fastball that sits 93-96 mph and can touch 98.  When Rule 5 selections stick, as Luis Perdomo did last year, it can be as a last man in the bullpen. Of the three selections, he has the best chance.

The most interesting part of the day may be the one that gets the least attention, with the selection of Trevor Frank, who was originally drafted in the eighth round of the 2013 amateur draft by the Cleveland Indians via UC-Riverside where he threw for four years.

“That was my favorite pick,” said Glaser. “He’s pitched well at every level that he’s been in. Has a fastball in the mid-90s with a good mix and should be a very good bullpen arm at the Double-A level.”

Last year with the Lynchburg Hillcats in the High-A Carolina League he posted a 2.47 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 43.2 innings against 10 walks for a 2.47 ERA.

“The fact that he is a minor league pick and doesn’t have to be on the big league roster immediately is really big.  In the end he may be the player that will have the most impact that they selected today.”

***

The Padres were able to hold onto two right-handed pitchers that they thought they might lose in Yimmi Brasoban and Michael Kelly.  Brasoban, as reported by Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune in late November, has received stem-cell platelet-rich plasma injections in his elbow which probably scared quite a few teams away.

Kelly, a former first round pick in 2011, finally put injuries and some mechanical issues behind him and had his best year yet with some very good numbers in Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A El Paso.  Other clubs’ problems with Kelly may have been that scouts see the big six-foot-five Floridian as much more of a starter than a relief option.

Kelly should be ticketed for the starting rotation in El Paso for 2017.

 

 


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