Royals Rule 5 Draft Recap

It was a fairly uneventful Rule 5 draft for the Royals on Thursday morning, but they did select one interesting player in the Triple-A portion. Perhaps more significantly, however, the club avoided losing either Chris Lubanski or Dusty Hughes, who were both left off the 40-man roster this fall. RC takes a detailed look at the draft inside.

Citing a lack of any potential impact players available, the Royals on Thursday morning declined to select anyone in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft. However, perhaps the bigger news is that the Royals also avoided losing any players in the draft's first phase. Left unprotected on the 40-man roster this fall were a few players who stood out as potential selections, most notably 2003 first rounder Chris Lubanski and 2007 Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Year Dusty Hughes.

It was definitely something of a gamble for the Royals to leave Lubanski off the roster, given the amount of time and money the club has already invested in his development. It was feasible that another club might have been willing to take a shot on him based upon Lubanski's upside, but he's still at least a year away from being ready for Major League duty, and ultimately no team was willing to give the big outfielder a 25-man roster spot. Hughes, a southpaw whose reliance on a plus changeup probably precludes him from the type of bullpen duty usually reserved for Rule 5 picks, also found no suitors, so he too will continue his development in the Royals' system. Other Royal farmhands who profiled as possible selections but went unpicked were pitchers Blake Johnson and Jarrod Plummer.

The Royals did, however, take a player in the Triple-A portion of the draft. The club selected Ray Liotta, a big southpaw and former second round pick who missed the entire 2007 season following shoulder surgery. The White Sox farmhand burst onto the scene with an outstanding 2005 campaign, in which he split time between Kannapolis (Low-A) and Winston-Salem (High-A). That year he was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Year after going 8-3 with a 2.24 ERA in 20 starts, and he was even better upon his promotion to the Carolina League (6-2, 1.45 in eight starts).

RC actually saw him pitch a game late in the 2005 season against the Potomac Nationals, and we came away impressed. He appeared to have an easy delivery with a low-90s fastball and an excellent 12-to-6 curveball that he threw at varied speeds. He was very confident with the curve, throwing it both early and late in the count, and he showed nice control with both the curve and the fastball.


Liotta is actually a distant relative of the actor with whom he shares a name

Liotta entered the following season as perhaps the White Sox' best starting pitching prospect, but he suffered a disastrous 2006 campaign. Indeed, his numbers across the board dropped significantly, and he was demoted back to the Carolina League, where he put up truly gruesome numbers (1-6, 8.08) in ten appearances. Liotta's family fell victim to Hurricane Katrina, and the White Sox felt that experience negatively affected his concentration and preparation. He did not, however, get a chance to redeem himself in 2007, missing the entire season while suffering shoulder pain and undergoing surgery to clean it out in August.

The Royals felt that Liotta was worth taking a gamble on, and they anticipate he should be ready to pitch by June. If he returns fully healthy, he could reemerge as a significant pitching prospect.

The Royals' only loss on the day was Gabe DeHoyos, a portly sinkerballer with quality stats, who was plucked by the Padres later in the Triple-A phase of the draft. DeHoyos really emerged as a prospect in 2006, when he logged a very impressive 2.04 ERA while splitting the year between High Desert and Wichita. Indeed, over the past two seasons, his numbers were among the best of any reliever in the Royals' upper minors. However, his upside was a bit limited, and he seemed to get exposed a bit in 2007 after earning a promotion to Triple-A Omaha, where he got knocked around a bit in nine appearances before returning to Double-A.


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