11/17/2022 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter
Now that every team in MLB has decided who they wanted to protect in the upcoming Rule 5 draft, it’s time to dig in and get out the sifter looking for any stray nuggets that might have slipped through the cracks.
Fans tend to love their own prospects, and Rule 5 protection time a fan base will typically have a list of 5 or 6 guys many are concerned they could lose. Especially in a market where so much relies on the system.
That said, even fans in Dodger Blue hate losing a real talent for nothing.
Today, let’s take a look at who I see as the top targets in the upcoming Rule 5 Draft on December 7th. You might see a few Pirates on my list, because I’m looking at this from a global MLB standpoint and I think it’s important you see where the Bucs players I list fall in perspective to everyone else.
So at the end of the day, this piece will double as a look at who the Pirates who pick 3rd could target, AND who they should be most concerned with losing.
Sound good? Hope so cause I’ve already done a ton of research. Lets Go!
All position players will fall under this category.
1. Ryan Ward – Corner OF, 2B – LA Dodgers
Ryan resides in Double A Tulsa, he’s 24, primarily plays Left Field. Selected in the 8th round in 2019, the 5’11” Lefty hitter has displayed consistent power. In 2021 he had 439 at bats and stroked 27 home runs with his A+ season with an OPS of .876.
Not impressed? Well how about his AA year with Tulsa in 2022? 459 at bats, 28 homeruns an .805 OPS isn’t bad is it?
His issue as with many sluggers is the strike out. in 2021, 118, come 2022, 116. Thing is he doesn’t walk all that often either. The Power is more than real and tested, but to make his mark in MLB, he’ll have to work on this aspect or that OPS will crash.
If you want a Pirates spin to this, they hardly need another left handed bat, and at that, another guy who strikes out a bunch. That power is hard to pass on though. A good comp is Jack Suwinski, who started last season in AA Altoona before making the leap to MLB. Jack had less of a track record though if we’re honest.
2. Dominic Canzone – OF – Arizona
Dominic is a 25 year old left handed outfielder, drafted in the 8th round back in 2019 the 6’1″ hitter has performed every step of the way in his minor league journey. Often earning promotions early in the season and in 2022 spending the majority of his time in AAA Reno.
Numbers don’t lie, so let’s start there. In 331 at bats Canzone hit 16 homeruns with a .284 average and an OPS of .838. K rate isn’t horrible, draws walks, plays all 3 outfield positions. If you add up all his stops in 2022 his 22 homeruns show a maturing process playing out.
2022 wasn’t an outlier, his career OPS is .893 and he’s displayed power at every level.
In my opinion, Dominic is the most consistent potential offensive pick in the draft. His upside may not be as high as Ward, but if you’re purely looking for a player who can make the jump and have enough success to stick, this is the guy.
3. Matt Gorski – OF – Pittsburgh
OK, yes, I would have protected him, but I hope I’ve built up enough trust with you all to have you believe I’m shooting straight here and not trying to back up my own opinion.
Selected in the 2nd round back in 2019, Matt will be 25 before Pitchers and Catchers report. He can play all 3 outfield spots and play them well. A right handed hitter Gorski has an imposing frame at 6’4″ and 200 lbs, this isn’t a kid who is going to grow into his body and lose athleticism, he’s already there.
He played short season ball in 2019, lost 2020 to COVID, spent 2021 in Greensboro where his 17 homeruns could have easily been a ballpark result.
Then came 2022 where the Pirates decided to keep him in Greensboro for some reason and in 37 games he proved that was too low. In 126 at bats he hit 17 homeruns only struck out 39 times and racked up an OPS of 1.131. So, the promotion was due, but still that ballpark was a factor surely right?
In AA prior to being injured in 141 at bats he hit 6 more dingers with an OPS of .843 and I won’t bother talking to his 2 ABs in AAA after returning from injury.
If he has a bugaboo, it’s that the injury to his quad has been stubborn and he has very little upper level experience.
Remember, the Rule 5 draft is often not about the players with the highest ceiling, and more about the most likely to stick.
This simply isn’t a guy I’d have left unprotected, but better players than him slip through every year.
4. Jake Mangum – OF – NY Mets
From the jump, there’s no way to get around one thing with Jake, he’ll be 27 years old by Opening Day. Let’s just get that out of the way, and not hide from it.
Drafted in the 4th round back in 2019 and while he lost a year to COVID like everyone else, he also has struggled to stay healthy. It makes tracking his progress difficult, because every season he has played at multiple levels. The OPS has been ok, .760 for his career, his batting average rests at .284. He doesn’t strike out a ton, he draws a decent amount of walks, and he plays good defense at all three outfield spots.
Not a lot of power there, unless you believe minor league doubles turn into major league homers, but at 27 that’s a bit of a reach for me.
Now if you want to cherry pick, he caught on in AAA last year, in 148 plate appearances he hit .333 with an OPS of .836.
Mangum is a switch hitter who hits for better average as a right handed stick, but has far more at bats against righties so sample size probably plays a role.
The first thing to think about with pitchers in the Rule 5 draft, rarely is a team going to select a guy, regardless of what he’s done in the minors, no matter what role he filled, the likelihood is he’ll be used as a bullpen arm at least for his Rule 5 year. Luis Oviedo was a perfect example. He was a starter and the Pirates knew he wasn’t ready for MLB, so they stashed him in the bullpen and barely used him. Let’s just say, guys on my list you hopefully won’t want to hide but nobody is plopping a Rule 5 guy straight into their rotation. No, not even a Nutting team you insufferables out there.
1. Jayden Murray – SP – Houston
Jayden was drafted by the Rays in the 23rd round back in 2019 and I’m sure you’re tired of hearing he didn’t play in 2020 but it’s a reality that is still with a ton of players and this year’s Rule 5 draft is the peak of it’s effect on the system.
He was moved to the Astros as part of a 3 team deal at the deadline so his stats are really split up for 2022. The vast majority of his playing time was in AA between Montgomery and Corpus Christi sandwiched around one start in Durham.
The 25 year old right hander throws a Fastball, Changeup and Slider and is known as a strike thrower and for his career has found the zone 67% of his pitches. He’s not just a guy who gets it in the zone though, his fastball rests in the low to mid 90’s but he can ramp it up to 96-97 when he needs it and gets a ton of tail movement on it too.
The slider is really developed and the change is deceptive but a distant third in his mix.
For 2022, he started 22 games with one relief appearance and posted a 3.50 ERA in 108 IP, with 99 Ks and a WHIP of 1.21.
Again, if he’s selected, he won’t start, but in the bullpen you could expect that top end velocity more often and the slider is a weapon.
2. Thad Ward – SP – Boston
Thad was drafted way back in 2018 in the 5th round out of college and as a result he’s going to be 26 years old by the time Pitchers and Catchers report.
Ward possesses a mature 5 pitch mix with a Fastball that touches 94 a Slider, Cutter, Changeup and Curveball although he rarely uses the Curve. He profiles as a back end starter but is likely to land in the pen anyway, especially at his age and he’ll need to probably focus on the pitches that really work for him. The slider has the most potential to wind up a plus pitch.
He wasn’t healthy last year as he worked to return from a June 2021 Tommy John surgery, and only pitched in 13 games spread across 4 different stops and then suffered a strained oblique causing more missed time.
This is a project to be sure, but could net a successful bullpen pick up and results haven’t been his issue nearly as much as health.
In 2022, he posted a 2.28 ERA in 51.1 IP with 66 Ks and a 1.15 WHIP.
3. Moises Lugo – RP – San Diego
Moises is a big right hander signed out of the Dominican by the Padres back in 2017. He’s 23 now and sits as the Friar’s 28th ranked prospect.
He’s been a starter, but in an effort to accelerate his path and I’m sure acknowledgement that a third pitch has simply not developed, the Padres moved him to a multi inning reliever role. His two main pitches grade out well, a fastball with a 60 grade and a Slider at 50, without sacrificing the control grade of 45.
In 2022 he pitched in 39 games, all relief save one outing, amounting to 72.2 IP. He totaled an ERA of 3.22 with 97 Ks and a 1.25 WHIP.
The fastball lives in the 93-97 MPH range and the slider is enough to keep hitters honest, but lacking a 3rd pitch lefties can give him issues.
4. Erik Miller – RP – Philadelphia
You knew I had to get a lefty in here right? How about Philly’s 4th round selection in 2019 and their current number 7 prospect?
Erik is a big boy, 6’5″ and 240 lbs, to be precise. He offers a 3 pitch mix with a Fastball, Curve, & Slider. The Slider is his best pitch (60 Grade) but the fastball can reach 95 and has life grading out at 50 as did his Changeup.
The slider is MLB ready right now, but he’ll need to work on command to really make a go of it in the Bigs.
Overall his 22 was a mixed bag. In AA he posted 36 innings with a 2.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 44 Ks, but in AAA he didn’t fair nearly as well, pithing in only 12 innings he put up a 7.50 ERA, 2.33 WHIP and 18 Ks.
Small sample sizes to be sure. And he missed most of 2021 due to injury as well. But a lefty with this body type and three established pitches might be too tempting to pass up.