Welcome to our Rule 5 preview, which we will continue to update regularly in the lead-up to the Dec. 7 major league and minor league phases of the Rule 5 draft.
This will be the first MLB Rule 5 draft in two years, as last year’s was canceled thanks to the lockout of MLB players. It will also be the first MLB Rule 5 draft since MLB rosters were expanded to 26 players. The larger rosters could make it easier for teams to carry Rule 5 picks than it was in previous years with 25-player active rosters.
As a reminder, any players currently under contract with an MLB club who were initially signed before the end of the 2018 MiLB season and were 18 and under at the time of signing are eligible for the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft if they are not on a 40-man MLB roster. Similarly, any players who were 19 or older who signed initially before the end of the 2019 MiLB season are eligible if they are not currently on a 40-man roster.
A team must have an open 40-man roster spot to select a player in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft. The team that’s picking pays $100,000 to select a player. That player cannot be optioned to the minors during the entirety of the 2023 season, and the player must spend at least 90 days on the active MLB roster (days on the injured or suspended list do not count toward the 90-day limit).
Ronny Simon, SS/2B, Rays
The Rays traded away infielders Brett Wisely, Xavier Edwards and Miles Mastrobuoni in advance of the roster-protection deadline, while also adding infielders Curtis Mead, Osleivis Basabe and Greg Jones to their 40-man roster. But even with all those moves, the Rays still have a few intriguing infielders who are Rule 5 options. Simon, a second baseman/third baseman, who was himself picked up in a November 2021 trade from the Cubs, has solid bat-to-ball skills and surprising pop for a 5-foot-9 infielder. Scouts received additional looks at Simon in the Arizona Fall League, where he impressed (.325/.402/.550). Simon is stretched at shortstop but he’s capable of producing average defense at second and third base.
Malcom Nunez, 1B, Pirates
Acquired by the Pirates in the trade that sent lefthander Jose Quintana to St. Louis, Nunez was left unprotected by Pittsburgh despite a strong 2022 season. A victim of the Pirates prospect-driven roster crunch leading up to 40-man roster deadline day, Nunez has several qualities of previous successful Rule 5 selections. His .262/.367/.466 line across 119 games between Double-A and Triple-A surpassed the .260/.340/.400 minimum line of most successful Rule 5 picks. He’s seen upper-minors experience and will be just 22 years old for all of the 2023 campaign. Beyond just his baseball card statistics, Nunez’s offense profile is strong. He produced an average contact rate (73.3%) and an above-average chase rate (24%) while producing a plus 90th percentile exit velocity average of 104.7 mph in 2022. Nunez’s limitations come on the defensive side of the ball—he spent a majority of his time at first base in 2022. He can play third base in a pinch, but is unlikely to see any substantial time there. Bat-first, first base-only profiles are a tough sell, but Nunez’s bat might be good enough to merit the pick for some clubs.
Matt Gorski, OF, Pirates
The former second-round pick out of Indiana is coming off a 2022 season in which he hit .280/.358/.598 with 24 home runs over 81 games. He did a majority of his damage at the plate in the friendly home confines of High-A Greensboro and struck out 29.6% of the time upon his promotion to Double-A. Gorski presents a true three outcome profile, as he runs high walk rates and shows easy plus power in games. The biggest question plaguing his Rule 5 candidacy is his struggles with contact. Can a player who swings and misses at the level Gorski does be successful in the majors right away? While that remains to be seen, Gorski does provide supporting skills of note. He has a plus or better throwing arm, can handle all three outfield positions and is an average to a tick above-average runner. There are four tools present in Gorski’s profile but he’s missing a strong hit tool.
Antoine Kelly, LHP, Rangers
Acquired by the Rangers for Matt Bush on trade deadline day last summer, Kelly has had a frustrating professional career to date. Kelly underwent thoracic outlet surgery at the end of 2020, and while he returned in mid-July of 2021, he struggled with his command over nine appearances. Kelly returned to High-A Wisconsin in 2022 and pitched well over his first dozen starts. Kelly produced a 3.20 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP across 59 innings over that period, striking out 78 batters. His fastball had its power back, sitting 94-97 mph and touching 98 mph to go with his signature low-to-mid-80s wipeout slider. After that point Kelly’s command betrayed him as he struggled throughout the summer prior to the trade. He made five tumultuous starts with Double-A Frisco following the trade to the Rangers before he was moved to the bullpen to end his season. The bullpen is where Kelly’s future ultimately lies—as a high-powered two-pitch reliever. If a team believes that Kelly can throw strikes with enough consistency to be effective in one-inning spurts, he has the pitch quality and power to make it work.
Austin Shenton, 3B/1B, Rays
Some of the most successful Rule 5 position player picks in recent years have been hitters who had missed time with injuries, which helped lead to them being unprotected. Anthony Santander and Akil Baddoo are two of the most prominent examples. Shenton fits in that category, as a promising lefthanded hitter who has posted excellent exit velocities with a selective approach, but who didn’t play a game after June 22 because of a hip injury. Shenton is a fringy defender at best at third base and is better as a first baseman/DH. That’s a tough profile for a Rule 5 pick, but he hit .295/.398/.549 across two levels (High-A and Double-A) when healthy in 2021.
Andrew Schultz, RHP, Phillies
Schultz missed all of the 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Add in the pandemic-canceled 2020 season and the 2019 sixth-round pick has thrown just 55.2 pro innings over 57 relief appearances. The 25-year-old completely reworked his delivery when he was at Tennessee, turning what had been a very long-in-the-back arm action into one of the shortest arm actions in baseball. He pulls the ball out of his glove, cocks it by his ear and fires it home. Schultz’s control has generally been below-average, and he walked a batter per inning in his late-season stint with Double-A Reading. So why is he an intriguing Rule 5 pick? He has plus stuff that should play in the majors—if he can throw strikes. Schultz’s fastball sits at 96-98 mph and touches 99, but it’s his high-80s slider that is his most effective pitch. He actually commands his slider as well if not better than his fastball, and a team picking him would likely ask him to throw it extremely frequently, a la Matt Wisler.
Ryan Fernandez, RHP, Red Sox
A 2018 23rd-round pick out of Hillsborough (Fla.) JC, Fernandez saw a spike in his velocity across his pitch arsenal heading into 2022 and found success, converting 10 saves between High-A and Double-A. He mostly uses three pitches—a four-seam fastball, cutter and slider, while mixing in a changeup infrequently. His four-seam fastball jumped from a low-to-mid-90s pitch in 2021 to sitting 95-97 mph and touching 98-99 mph at peak. His four-seamer is Fernandez’s primary pitch, but was used less than 50% of the time in 2022 as both his upper-80s slider and low-90s cutter saw heavy usage. His slider, which is often marked as a curveball on pitch-tracking devices, is an upper-80s breaking ball with slurvy shape and plus spin rates in the 2,800-2,900 rpm range. Fernandez commands the pitch extremely well and misses bats in and out of the zone with his slider at high rates. His cutter is a true cut fastball, sitting 91-93 mph and touching 95 mph with high spin rates in the 2,600 to 2,700 rpm range. Like Fernandez’s four-seamer and slider, his cutter lands in the zone at a high rate. With power and a trio of pitches that miss bats with good command, Fernandez is the type of relief arm that often finds opportunities in the Rule 5.
Erik Miller. LHP, Phillies
Dating back to his time at Stanford, injuries and subsequent fluctuations in velocity have plagued Miller. He dealt with a rotator cuff strain in 2021, making just a handful of appearances that summer. He made it through 2022 healthy, missing a month on the development list before heading to the Futures Game. Miller split his time between two-to-three-inning starts and the bullpen over the first half of the season but was converted to a full-time reliever upon returning from the development list. A tall lefthander with an arsenal that consists of four average or better pitches, Miller sits 93-95 mph on his fastball, touching 98 mph at peak with ride and heavy bore, and he shows the ability to generate whiffs when located in the upper quadrants of the strike zone. His primary secondaries are his upper-80s slider with slider-cutter hybrid shape and a mid-80s changeup that is Miller’s best bat-missing pitch. Miller has the stuff to work as a one-inning lefthanded relief option immediately, and the Phillies decision to transition him to a bullpen role down the stretch hints that the team views him that way as well.
Grant Anderson, RHP, Rangers
A 2018 21st-round pick by the Mariners, the Rangers acquired Anderson prior to the beginning of the 2019 season and have seen him blossom over the last four years. Anderson possesses arguably the best slider of any Rule 5-eligible player. It’s a low-80s pitch with the ride of a cutter but on average 9 to 11 inches of sweep, similar to a sweeping slider. Not only does Anderson possess a unique movement profile in his slider but he commands it at an elite level, throwing it for a strike over 70% of the time in 2022. He’ll generate whiffs in and out of the zone and has shown the ability to bury it for chases. He threw his slider 56% of the time in 2022, by far his most used pitch. He primarily pairs his slider with a true sinker in the 92-94 mph range with heavy arm-side run and less vertical ride than his slider. He spent a majority of his season at Double-A Frisco where he successfully navigated the treacherous parks of the Texas League relatively unscathed. Anderson finished his season with an up-and-down showing over the last month with Triple-A Round Rock—he turned in four scoreless appearances over eight games while striking out 28.1% of the batters he faced. With a signature secondary and a sinker that can drive groundball outs, Anderson may be an attractive option to several clubs.
Thad Ward, RHP, Red Sox
After a breakout 2019 season it’s been anything but smooth sailing for Ward since. Ward fell victim to the 2020 pandemic shutdown and a poorly timed UCL injury that led to Tommy John surgery, missing the majority of the last two seasons. After showing increased power and a deep arsenal of average or better pitches pre-injury, Ward emerged in July of 2022 with similar power and pitch shapes. Still primarily relying on his two-seam fastball at 91-94 mph, Ward mixes in a sweepy low-80s slider with heavy glove-side break, a mid-to-high-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup and a four-seam fastball variation. He pitched well during his four appearances with Scottsdale during the Arizona Fall League, striking out 15 over 12.2 innings pitched. Ward had back-end rotation upside pre-injury and he showed glimpses of that this season.
Ryan Noda, 1B, Dodgers
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2017 draft out of Cincinnati, Noda has never produced an on-base percentage below .372 over any of his four minor league seasons. He’s hit .264/.407/.486 with 107 doubles and 94 home runs across 555 professional games. Noda was acquired by the Dodgers prior to 2021 and hit .250/.383/.521 with 29 home runs over 113 games with Double-A Tulsa. He was left exposed for the Rule 5 draft that never happened in 2021 and despite a .259/.395/.474 line over 135 games with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2022, Noda was again left off the Dodgers crowded 40-man roster. Despite below-average contact skills, Noda manages his whiffs enough that his elite plate discipline (20% chase rate in 2022) and plus power still play. Noda’s power is notable as he’s slugged 54 home runs combined over his last two seasons and has the exit velocity data to back that up with an 89 mph average exit velocity, a 105.8 mph 90th percentile average and a hard hit rate of 44.8%—while getting on base nearly 40% of the time and keeping his strikeout rate below 30% in the upper minors. Noda is one of the better first base defenders in the minor leagues, with the ability to handle a corner outfield spot in a pinch. With lefthanded power, on-base ability and some defensive value and versatility, Noda is one of the more well-rounded Rule 5 sluggers.
Andres Chaparro, 3B, Yankees
On deadline day a small community of fans clamored for the Yankees to protect Andres Chaparro, but to no avail. While the third baseman has hit over the last two seasons, with a .279/.377/.520 line in his 172 games dating back to May of 2021, he has struggled to stay on the field, seeing less than 400 at-bats in each of the last two seasons. He performed well at an age-appropriate level in 2022, hitting .289/.369/.594 with 19 home runs over 64 games for Double-A Somerset. Chaparro has good plate skills and they are supported by the data. His contact rate of 75% is squarely in the above-average range, with an average chase rate of 28% and an above-average 90th percentile exit velocity of 104.8 mph. Chaparro’s profile is heavily driven by his bat, but he’s seen a majority of his time at third base over the last few years, hinting at defensive versatility in the infield. If a team likes Chaparro’s combination of plate skills and power enough, his defensive profile won’t be as limiting as other Rule 5-eligible sluggers.
Cam Devanney, SS/3B, Brewers
A 2019 15th-rounder out of Elon back in 2019, Devanney had a strong season in 2022, albeit an under-the-radar one. The infielder hit .264/.342/.492 with 32 doubles and 23 home runs, primarily with Double-A Biloxi. Devanney made adjustments to his swing to get more on time, and concentrated on refining his swing decisions. The results that followed speak for themselves. With a balanced combination of average contact, average approach and above-average raw power, Devanney has developed into a legitimate prospect. A strong defender who can handle either position on the left side of the infield, Devanney has the refined offensive profile and versatility defensively that teams value.
Jose Ramos, OF, Dodgers
One of the most highly regarded prospects left exposed to this year’s Rule 5 draft, Ramos is a power-hitting corner outfielder with the ability to handle center in a pinch. Ramos hit .249/.339/.479 with 22 doubles and 25 home runs across 123 games, primarily with High-A Great Lakes, before finishing his 2022 season with Glendale of the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .275/.326/.463 with three home runs over 20 games. Ramos ranked as the Dodgers’ 17th-best prospect after the August update, and is among the top outfielders in the system. At just 21 years old and with no experience above the High-A level, Ramos might not have the necessary polish at the plate to stick on a big league roster if selected. He will be one of the more noteworthy players available, however.
Adrian Hernandez, RHP, Blue Jays
Teams had Hernandez as a high priority Rule 5 player last season, but the MLB Rule 5 draft was canceled. The changeup-first righthanded reliever has an unusual profile but Hernandez has had success in the upper-minors the past two seasons. Prior to going down with shoulder soreness in late June Hernandez made 18 appearances for Triple-A Buffalo. He recorded seven saves over seven opportunities, going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA, while striking out 28 batters to seven walks over 20 innings of work. After returning from the injured list Hernandez struggled with his command, walking nine over 12.2 innings of work. Hernandez is an unusual relief-only prospect due to his changeup-heavy profile and the power on his four-seam fastball. His fastball sits 89-91 mph, topping out at 93 mph. The pitch does feature above-average ride and late bore but it mostly is used to play its vertical movement off the changeup. He spins a fringe-average curveball as well with plus depth and two-plane break but he struggles to command it and batters rarely chase it outside the zone. What makes Hernández an intriguing pick is his plus-plus changeup, a pitch that’s continually driven strong results throughout his career.
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Logan Davidson, SS, Athletics
Davidson’s flaws are quite apparent. He strikes out too much, and although he’s played more shortstop than any other position as a pro, he’s a fringy defender there. But the A’s 2019 first-round pick could be a useful utilityman. He’s a switch-hitter who is a capable defender at second or third and can play shortstop as a fill-in. He draws some walks and has above-average power potential (although it hasn’t always turned into productive power).
Steven Cruz, RHP, Twins
Cruz is one of the biggest arms available in this year’s Rule 5 draft. He’s touched 101 mph and sits 97-98 mph. He also has a very hard high-80s power slider. The quality of those two pitches should be enough to make him a useful MLB reliever, but everything hasn’t added up as of yet, in part because of his below-average control. Cruz does keep the ball in the park and piles up strikeouts, so he could be worth a flier for a team that believes it can help Cruz improve his strike-throwing.
Kameron Misner, OF, Rays
Misner is the type of player who could benefit from the 26-man roster rule. With 25-man rosters and teams sometimes carrying 14-player pitching staffs, it would be hard to see a team carrying Misner as the lone backup outfielder on the roster. Right now, his passivity and contact issues would likely be exposed in extensive big league playing time, but he does have some clear strengths as well. He’s an athletic outfielder who is above-average in center and plus in the corners with the arm to play right field. He is a productive basestealer as well—he stole 32 bags in 39 tries. Misner also loves to work counts. He’s posted a career .373 on-base percentage in the minor leagues. Misner is much better against righthanders (.270/.398/.445) than lefties (.188/.339/.385), which makes him a potentially useful fit as a backup outfielder who serves as a defensive replacement, pinch runner and spot starter against some righthanders.
Heriberto Hernandez, OF, Rays
Hernandez hit 24 home runs to set the Bowling Green single-season home run record in 2022. He’s likely not ready for an MLB role, but a rebuilding team could view him as a useful low-cost candidate to stash on the back of the roster to then develop further in the minors in 2024. Hernandez hits the ball extremely hard when he makes contact, but he has modest bat-to-ball skills to go with that big power. He’s a fringe-average defender at best in the corner outfield spots. Hernandez’s power potential is intriguing, but his 31% strikeout rate in High-A is a reason for some caution.
T.J. Sikkema, LHP, Royals
Sikkema is one of three pitchers the Royals acquired for outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Sikkema had been slowed by injuries before this year, but at the time of the trade, he was one of the more effective starters in the South Atlantic League. The Royals promoted him to Double-A Northwest Arkansas and his season fell apart. Sikkema’s ERA nearly tripled, his walk rate nearly doubled and his strikeout rate was nearly halved as a Royal. Sikkema developed a sweepy slider with the Yankees, which gives him a plus pitch. He mixes in a low-90s fastball and a changeup that are both fringe-average. His awful stint at Double-A (7.44 ERA, 1.7 HR/9, 4.1 BB/9, 8.0 K/9) will likely work against him getting picked, but he was excellent before the trade, and a move to the bullpen as a Rule 5 pick would allow him to rely even more on his slider.
Nic Enright, RHP, Guardians
Enright is one of the most polished available relievers in this year’s Rule 5 class. He has plenty of upper-level MiLB experience, with over 100 innings and more than 70 appearances in Double-A and Triple-A, and he has a lengthy track record of success. He posted a 2.88 ERA with a .203 opponent batting average, 1.9 BB/9, 11.9 K/9 and a 2.89 FIP in 2022. Enright has a pair of above-average pitches to work with. His low-90s fastball has modest velocity, but it has some of the best carry in the minors, which makes it a bat-misser that he can dot the zone with. His low-80s slider generates plenty of swings and misses as well, and serves as an excellent chase pitch when he gets ahead in counts. With excellent fastball life and plus control, Enright could be a relatively low-risk addition to a big league bullpen as a Rule 5 pick.
Devin Mann, 2B/3B. Dodgers
The Dodgers helped Mann unlock his power potential, and he’s always had a solid understanding of how to work counts and have a solid hitting approach. His selectivity and upper-level minor league experience make him one of the more MLB-ready hitters on the Rule 5-eligibles list. But a team picking Mann would have to decide how comfortable it is with his defense. Mann has played everywhere other than center field and catcher as a pro, but he’s a fringy defender at second and third base and is best in left or right field.
Moises Lugo, RHP, Padres
Lugo had an excellent season at Double-A San Antonio, a difficult pitching environment where the Missions’ team ERA was 4.74 and opponents posted a 4.78 ERA. Two very rough outings after his promotion meant his ERA was much higher at Triple-A El Paso, but his overall metrics weren’t all that different at Triple-A than Double-A. A team picking Lugo would do so based on the quality of his slider. His fastball will touch 96-97, but it’s generally sitting in the low-to-mid 90s and doesn’t have exceptional movement. His sweepy low-to-mid-80s slider generates plenty of swings and misses. A team that really likes his slider could be intrigued.
Blake Sabol, OF/C, Pirates
Sabol is a lefty hitter with above-average power and a potentially average hit tool who has reached Triple-A. If he was only a corner outfielder, that probably wouldn’t be enough to make him a potential Rule 5 target. But Sabol has long been a hybrid. He’s a catcher/outfielder, which is the role he filled at Southern California as well. Defensively, he’s limited enough at catcher that it’s hard to see him as a regular there or even a No. 2 catcher, but a team looking for a lefty with some pop who could play in the corner outfield spots, DH and serve as a No. 3 catcher could be intrigued.
Blaine Crim, 1B, Rangers
A former DII product selected by the Rangers in the 19th round of the 2019 draft, Crim has performed well over his first two professional seasons, climbing three levels and finishing 2022 with Triple-A Round Rock. Crim has hit .294/.358/.513 over 240 games mostly at the Double-A level, and has struckout in just 17.3% of his at bats over his professional career. As you would expect with a strong slashline like Crim’s his underlying data is also strong with above-average contact skills, average chase rates and a 90th percentile exit velocity of 105.1 mph. Crim falls into the tricky category of first base only player who can hit, but doesn’t provide much in the way of defensive value or flexibility. While the success rate for players that fit Crim’s profile is fairly strong in the recent history of the Rule 5. If teams will take a chance on a first base/DH only player who’s shown just above-average game power is a question.
Trey Benton, RHP, Guardians
It was an unusual season for Benton, who showed improvement across his pitch mix in 2022, but struggled with command. Despite walking 14% of the batters he faced last season, Benton finished the season with a 2.08 ERA over 43.1 innings with a 28% strikeout rate. What made Benton most interesting is the improved shape and power of his four-seam fastball in 2022. Benton averaged just under 17 inches of induced vertical break on his low-90s fastball in 2021. Coming out of spring training in 2022, Benton was generating more than 19 inches of induced vertical break on average while sitting 92-94 mph. His four-seam fastball has a nearly perfect vertical axis of 12:00, allowing Benton to generate cut and ride on his fastball. He pairs his fastball with a mid-80s sweeper that is Benton’s most thrown secondary offering. His high-70s curveball with -20 inches of induced vertical break is used heavily against lefthanded batters and generates the highest rate of swings and misses in his arsenal. Benton will show a cutter and changeup, but each of those pitches were thrown rarely during the 2022 campaign.
Ross Adolph, OF, Astros
Adolph fits the archetype of Astros outfielders in recent years that have loud underlying data but fit into a tweener profile on both sides of the ball. Adolph was acquired from the Mets in January of 2019 as a part of the return for J.D. Davis. Over the past four seasons Adolph has displayed advanced plate discipline and on-base ability, flashed above-average raw power and produced a higher than average wRC+ across all of his minor league stops. While Adolph has a lot of elements that could lead to a team selecting him this season, he has some question marks as well. He’s been fringe-average in all three outfield spots over the last few seasons, shows plate discipline and power, but is often too passive to get to his power consistently. Adolph has slugged an underwhelming .426 across 126 Double-A games over the last two seasons while playing in the power-friendly parks of the Texas League. Adolph’s raw power, however, shows up in the data, with a 90th percentile exit velocity above 106 mph in 2022—a number consistent with his career average. Despite a high-end average on his hardest hit balls, Adolph saw a troubling drop in hard hit rate in 2022, as he saw a near three mph drop off of his average exit velocity that coincided with the dip in his hard hit rate. Perhaps a team views Adolph as a tweak away from finding greater impact in games, and he’s solid enough across multiple outfield spots to fit in as a bench outfielder.
Mason Englert, Rangers
Signed out of Forney (Texas) High for $1 million back in 2018, Englert had Tommy John surgery in April of 2019 and didn’t pitch in an affiliated game until 2021. Over the last two seasons Englert has performed well across both levels of Class A, finishing his 2022 with a trio of starts for Double-A Frisco. While Englert lacks powerful stuff, he does use two fastball variations and four secondaries with command. His four-seam and two-seam fastballs sit 91-93 mph, touching 95 with generic shape, but with a flat vertical approach angle due to Englert’s five-and-a-half foot average release height. His command and release traits allow both of his fastball shapes to play up and generate whiffs, as the rest of his arsenal waterfalls off of his heat. His primary secondaries are a mid-70s two-plane breaking curveball with depth that functions as Englert’s best bat misser and a low-80s changeup with vertical separation off of both his fastball shapes. He’ll mix in a mid-80s slider as a fourth pitch, but it’s used interchangeably with his curveball against righthanders and pocketed against lefthanders. Englert has a true starter’s profile with a deep arsenal of offerings, strike-throwing skills and a track record of missing bats. Englert lacks high-minors experience but could be a diamond in the rough for a team looking for pitching depth.
Corey Julks, OF, Astros
The most significant moment in Julks’ professional career is memorialized by a somewhat obscure transaction. On June 29, 2021, Julks was placed on the Astros developmental list. Julks was hitting .272/.320/.414 for Double-A Corpus Christi at the time, so it wasn’t as if he was getting blown away by Double-A pitchers. But he also wasn’t hitting for enough power to project as a big league corner outfielder. After two weeks of work in Florida to try to unlock his power, he returned to Corpus Christi. It proved to be a very useful trip. Before that work in the cage, Julks had hit 17 home runs in 1,243 pro plate appearances (1 home run every 73 PAs). Since then, he’s hit 43 home runs in 815 plate appearances (1 home run every 19 PAs). Julks also stole 22 bases in 26 attempts in 2022 with Triple-A Sugar Land while hitting 31 home runs (third best in the Pacific Coast League). Julks has filled in defensively in center field, but he’s more of a corner outfielder, and now hits for enough power to profile there.
Jose Lopez, LHP, Rays
The 23-year-old lefty was signed back in 2016 out of the Dominican Republic and after three middling years in the lower minors, Lopez enjoyed a breakout season in Double-A in 2022, reaching Triple-A by year’s end. Coming into the season Lopez added power and improved the shape of his two primary pitches—his four-seam fastball and his slider. His fastball went from sitting 93-95 mph to sitting 95-96 mph with an added inch of vertical break and a cleaner spin axis, while his slider added a few ticks of velocity and nearly three inches of sweep on average. There were improvements to his changeup as well, as he added a few inches of run this season. The improvements in pitch shapes and added power led to a 8-3 record, nine saves and 91 strikeouts over 55.1 innings of work. Lefthanded power, two average or better performing secondaries and success in the upper minors could make Lopez an attractive candidate to a number of clubs.
Austin Schulfer, RHP, Twins
The Twins drafted Schulfer in the 19th round of the 2018 draft after four seasons at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Schulfer signed for $1,000 out of the draft and posted three solid seasons, primarily as a starter, leading up to 2022. The Twins moved Schulfer to the bullpen to start the season and saw the sidearming righthander produce strong results. Over 44 appearances, primarily with Triple-A St. Paul, Schulfer struck out 61 batters to just 17 walks over 55.2 innings in 2022, producing a 3.23 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and an opponent batting average of .206. Schulfer’s pitch mix consists of five pitches, but he primarily works off of his sinker and slider, mixing in his changeup heavily against lefthanded hitters. Schulfer’s sinker sits 95-97 mph, touching 98 mph at peak, and he mixes in a mid-80s slider and an upper-80s changeup with heavy tumble and late fade. While Schulfer is older at 26 years old, he has a combination of traits that could make him attractive as a potential Rule 5 pick. He has above-average velocity across his pitch mix, the ability to play the X-axis with his movement patterns, a deceptive arm action and posted a 58.2% groundball rate on the season. His combination of stuff, command and the ability to generate ground balls should be attractive to several teams.
Jorge Benitez, LHP, Mariners
Among Rule 5-eligible pitchers Beneitz is the only pitcher to throw 40 or more innings with a strikeout rate above 30%, a walk rate below 10% and a groundball rate of 55% or higher. Benitez throws from a low three-quarters slot with a tall-and-fall operation, creating a lot of deception and a particularly tough angle on lefthanded batters, as lefties hit just .115/.220/.154 against Benitez in 2022. He finished up his season with Peoria of the Arizona Fall League before joining up with Caguas of the Puerto Rican Winter League. Benitez sits 93-95 mph, touching 96 mph on his four-seam fastball that essentially works like a sinker, with a 79% groundball rate during 2022. Benitez’s primary pitch is a low-to-mid-80s changeup with heavy arm-side run that generates ground balls at a high rate while acting as Benitez’s best swing-and-miss pitch. While Benitez has many traits teams covet he’ll be an outlier as a Rule 5 pick, with no experience above High-A.
Adolfo Ramirez, RHP, Dodgers
Ramirez is an undersized righthander with an unusually long arm action, a deep drop-and-drive delivery and a near-sidearm slot. He mixes four pitches but works primarily off of a four-seam fastball, sitting 92-95 mph, and a mid-80s slider with above-average spin rates. He blends in a curveball and a changeup against lefthanded hitters primarily, both of which generate ground balls at a high rate. There are three pitchers eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year who threw 60 or more innings with a strikeout rate above 30%, a walk rate below 10% and a groundball rate of 45% or higher—Andrew Politi of the Red Sox, Joe LaSorsa of the Rays and Ramirez. Ramirez reached Double-A for the month of August before he was sent back down to High-A Great Lakes for the rest of the season. Ramirez has been used primarily as a piggyback starter going three to five innings behind the starter, and could potentially see an uptick in velocity and stuff out of the bullpen. Still young at 23 years old, Ramirez has multiple attributes that will be attractive to clubs in the Rule 5, but his lack of upper-minors experience could keep him from getting picked.
Dayeison Arias, RHP, Mariners
Arias has been an effective reliever for two years at Double-A Arkansas. In 2022, he went 0-1, 3.03 with 0.83 HR/9, 5.8 H/9, 4.7 BB/9 and 11.6 K/9. Arias has a low-80s plus slider that he commands better than his mid-90s fastball—which touches 97-98. Arias is effective against both lefties and righties, holding lefties to a .526 OPS and righthanders to a .684 OPS. Arias’ slider may be able to get sharper, but it’s already effective and he has two MLB-caliber pitches.
Gus Varland, RHP, Dodgers
Varland has experienced two consecutive difficult seasons on the mound finishing each season with an ERA well above 5.00. After working almost exclusively as a starter prior to 2022, the Dodgers moved Varland to the bullpen in late May. His results improved, as did the velocity on his fastball and slider. While Varland’s fastball was sitting 93-95 mph as a starter in April and May, he was sitting 96-97 mph and touching 98 mph out of the bullpen in September. His slider jumped from sitting 84-86 mph to sitting 88-90 mph by September. This jump in velocity culminated in a strong finish to Varland’s season. Over his final 14 appearances Varland went 3-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 31 strikeouts to five walks over 18.1 innings. With two major league-caliber pitches, years of high-minors experience and a defined role, Varland could fit into a major league bullpen and stick. There’s plenty of buzz around Varland as a potential Rule 5 selection.
McKinley Moore, RHP, Phillies
Acquired from the White Sox in late March for outfielder Adam Haseley, Moore is a tall righthander with a powerful one-two punch in his fastball and slider combination. He made 39 appearances with Double-A Reading in 2022, striking out 71 batters over 49.2 innings. His four-seam fastball sits 95-97 mph, topping out at 100 mph, and generates both ground balls and whiffs at an above-average rate. His primary secondary is a high-80s sweeper, sitting 86-88 mph with around 9-10 inches of horizontal break on average. While Moore’s slider generates ground balls and whiffs at a better than average rate, it’s his ability to generate swings out of the zone with the pitch that makes it unique—35% of all swings against Moore’s slider were chases. With upper-minors experience, a powerful two-pitch combination and the ability to generate whiffs, chases and ground balls, Moore has several attributes that make him a Rule 5-worthy selection.
Cody Laweryson, RHP, Twins
Despite sitting just 89-91 mph on his fastball, Laweryson had one of the most successful four-seamers in all of the minor leagues in 2022. He balanced both command and bat-missing ability, generating whiffs on over 40% of swings while throwing the pitch for a strike nearly 70% of the time. His fastball doesn’t have heavy riding action or velocity but he has unique release characteristics and a heavy east-west profile. He pairs his fastball with a sweepy upper-70s slider and a changeup at 79-81 mph with heavy arm-side run. Laweryson generates whiffs almost exclusively on his fastball as his slider and changeup work off the fastball as chase pitches. It’s an unusual profile but a different look that could be attractive as a change-of-pace option out of the bullpen.
Anthony Maldonado, RHP, Marlins
Upper-minors success has proven to be a desirable trait for potential Rule 5 picks and Maldonado is coming off a strong 42-appearance season between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022. Primarily a two-pitch reliever who found success leaning into an improved slider this season, Maldonado had primarily thrown a cutter and a four-seam fastball prior to 2022, using a slider as his third pitch. Maldonado found a more classic slider shape and a more refined cutter this season and it led to improved results as Maldonado saw his strikeout rate jump over 25% year over year. While Maldonado technically threw five different pitches in 2022, his primary mix consists of his four-seam fastball, which sits 93-94 mph and touches 96 mph at peak, his mid-80s slider and an upper-80s cutter that now acts as Maldonado’s third pitch. While a breaking ball-first righthander would typically be susceptible to split issues against their primary pitch, Maldonado’s slider is as effective against lefthanded hitters as it is against righthanders. The numbers support this as well, as the slider produced an expected wOBA below .200 against both handedness. He’s a potential relief option with a signature pitch and an unusual lower slot righthanded look.
Elvis Alvarado, RHP, Tigers
Selected in the minor league Rule 5 draft in 2021, Alvarado pitched well across three levels in 2022, reaching Double-A in late July and making 20 appearances for Erie. A converted outfielder, it took five seasons for Alvarado to find his footing as a pitcher, but in his first season in the Tigers organization Alvarado saw a sizable jump in his ability to command his powerful arsenal. Alvarado has never been short of stuff, as he sits 96-98 mph, touching 100 mph with a pair of fastball shapes. He mixes in an upper-80s slider with cutter-like shape. Alvarado’s improvement to his control and command not only resulted in a significant decrease in his walk rate but also his ability to miss bats with his powerful fastball and slider mix. With two powerful pitches and improved strike-throwing ability, Alvarado reached the upper minors and altered the trajectory of his career. The question is, was it enough to convince a team that Alvarado’s plus stuff can play out of a major league bullpen in 2023?
Travis Kuhn, RHP, Mariners
A 19th-round pick out of San Diego in 2019, Kuhn is a pitcher who has better control of his slider than his fastball. His mid-90s fastball is an effective pitch, but he doesn’t control it consistently, which helps explain his 5.3 walks per nine innings. His 85-88 mph slider does generates a surprising number of taken third strikes as he can throw it in and out of the zone.
Pedro Pages, C, Cardinals
Considered by many to be the best defensive catcher in the Cardinals system, Pages has enough offensive upside to possibly intrigue some clubs as a potential backup catching option. With the offensive bar for backup catchers fairly low, Pages’ .227/.312/.381 slash line still is well below-average. Underneath the poor overall line, Pages does have some offensive skills. His 11.3% walk rate is above-average, his 88 mph average exit velocity and 104 mph 90th percentile exit velocity point to average or better raw power, and his 36% hard hit rate and 15 degree hard hit launch angle in 2022 show the consistency of his contact quality. Pages’ aggressive approach and fringy bat-to-ball skills led to a high strikeout rate and limited production in 2022. If Pages can make improvements to his swing decisions, he may provide enough offense to stick as a backup catcher with defensive value. His chances of getting picked as a catcher are fairly low, but he’s a name that has generated some interest.
Ryan Walker, RHP, Giants
A classic two-pitch sinker-slider reliever, Walker was a 2018 31st-round pick out of Washington State. An older prospect at 27 years old entering 2023, Walker found success in 2022 with Double-A Richmond in his first extended upper-minors experience. His sinker sits 92-94 mph, touching 96 mph at peak with heavy sink and arm-side run. He pairs that with a low-80 sweeper that averages between 14-16 inches of horizontal break that acts as his go-to put away pitch. While Walker got roughed up in his seven appearances with Triple-A Sacramento, the underlying expected stats are strong. Walker’s command is fringy at times, but he proved in 2022 that he throws enough strikes to be effective with his sinker and slider mix. He’s another relief option that clears historical performance benchmarks but perhaps doesn’t have the stuff or upper-minors experience to warrant selection in the Rule 5 draft.
Kevin Kelly, RHP, Guardians
There’s one pitcher available in the Rule 5 draft that meets the following qualifiers—50 or more innings pitched, a strikeout rate of 29% or higher, a walk rate of 9% or lower, a groundball rate above 50% and a FIP below 3.00 in 2022. That pitcher is the Guardians righthander Kevin Kelly. While he’s not a player popular in prospect circles, his skill set likely has him on a few teams’ radars leading up to the Rule 5 draft. Kelly is a 2019 19th-round pick by Cleveland out of James Madison who didn’t make his full-season debut until 2021. After a strong season in 2021, Kelly was assigned to Double-A Akron, where he made 16 appearances over the first two months of the season, striking out 32 batters to nine walks while allowing three earned runs over 24.1 innings. He saw a promotion to Triple-A Columbus, where he made 32 appearances, striking out 28.9% of the batters he faced while generating ground balls at a rate of 62.2%. Kelly uses four pitches and two fastball shapes, but primarily relies on his sinker and slider mix. His low-90s sinker is his most thrown pitch, driving groundball contact at a high rate and average whiffs for a sinker. His slider is a mid-70s sweeper with between 15-17 inches of horizontal break on average. None of Kelly’s pitches have power or generate a high rate of swings and misses, but he throws strikes and generates lots of weak contact.
Yovanny Cruz, RHP, Cubs
It’s fairly accurate to say that Cruz is a far out pick, with just 8.1 innings above the now defunct short-season level. He’s older at 23 for a player with so little experience due to the pandemic and having Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2021. Cruz returned this season, making 10 appearances between the Arizona Complex League and High-A. While we have just 13.2 innings to go off of, Cruz flashed plus stuff, sitting 98-99 mph and touching 101 mph per Trackman. He pairs his fastball with a tight mid-80s slider that was dominant in his limited time on the mound in 2022. With one of the highest average fastball velocities of any Rule 5-eligible pitcher, Cruz is worthy of mention, but his lack of full-season experience makes this an extremely risky pick.
Danis Correa, RHP, Cubs
Correa is a hard-throwing undersized righthanded reliever with two bat-missing secondaries and some command woes. Correa’s four-seam fastball sits 96-98 mph, touching 100 with average command. However, it’s Correa’s pair of bat-missing secondaries in his upper-80s changeup and his low-80s two-plane curveball with raw spin rates in the 2,600-2,700 rpm range on average that stand out. Each of Correa’s secondaries generated whiff rates above 50% and contributed to his 52.4% groundball rate in 2022. While his command and walk rate leave something to be desired he offsets many of his walk issues with whiffs and bad contact. Correa should be an attractive option to clubs as he’ll be just 23 years old for a majority of 2023 and has a season’s worth of upper-minors experience. Factor in his plus fastball velocity, two bat-missing secondaries and ability to generate ground balls and you can easily see Correa selected.
Andrew Politi, RHP, Red Sox
The pride of Long Valley, N.J., Politi is an undersized righthander with a high-effort delivery. He features a three-pitch mix led by an average four-seam fastball that sits 93-95 mph and touches 97 mph at peak with cut and a flatter approach angle and an upper-80s slider. Politi features a low-80s curveball with good depth and two-plane break. All of Politi’s pitches play as average but he’s seen success in the upper minors over the last two seasons, proving he can miss bats, throw consistent strikes and generate ground balls. Politi made 38 appearances for Triple-A Worcester in 2022, compiling a 4-0 record with four saves, a 2.41 ERA, a 28.3% strikeout rate and a .191 opponent batting average. Politi looks ready for a major league role in some capacity in 2023, it’s just a matter of a team feeling he has enough upside to carry him for the entire season.
Greg Cullen, 2B, Orioles
A 15th-round pick of the Braves out of Niagara in 2018, Cullen was traded to the Orioles in the Tommy Milone deal. He’s shown an ability to hit for average, make contact and get on base for the O’s, and he’s already reached Triple-A. He doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard, but he makes pitchers throw strikes and has excellent bat-to-ball skills. Cullen plays second and third base, but he’s a fringy defender at both and he’s battled hamstring issues that have slowed him down.
Kyle Brnovich, RHP, Orioles
Brnovich missed almost all of 2022 due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. That may be enough of a medical risk to scare off some teams, but for others it could be an opportunity, as it means he could spend nearly half of next season on the injured list as he continues his recovery. An injured player can then go out for a month-long rehab assignment in the minors as they work back into game shape. In the case of Brnovich, that would mean he could spend just 90 or so days on the active roster next year while still fulfilling the Rule 5 roster requirements. Brnovich isn’t a dominating pitcher, but he knows how to spin a breaking ball and he can manipulate its shape to mess with hitters. He has plus control and uses his breaking ball and changeup heavily, sneaking in a low-90s fastball when hitters don’t expect it.
Josh Breaux, C, Yankees
Breaux is a catcher with home run pop and a big arm, although his throwing motion means his arm doesn’t play to its plus-plus arm strength—he threw out 12 of 87 basestealers last season (24%). Breaux has averaged 21 home runs a season the past two years, but his receiving is fringy. A team liking his power production could look at him as a candidate to be a third catcher, and there’s an added bonus—he sporadically pitched in college with a fastball that reached the high 90s. If a team needs a position player to pitch, Breaux is an excellent candidate, even if he’s never thrown an inning as a pro.
The First-Round Picks
There were 10 first-time-eligible first-round picks who were left unprotected. The chances of any of them being picked is small if past history is an indication. Since the 2012 draft, there have been 41 previous unprotected first-round picks. Only two have been selected, and only one (Richie Martin) has stuck with his new team.
Anthony Seigler, C, Yankees
Siegler has made some strides at the plate, and he’s considered a solid receiver. But he’s also a catcher who has yet to catch a game above Class A and he hit .236/.405/.369 between his two Class A stops last season. With modest power and a lack of upper-level experience, he’s a tough player to project as being taken and then sticking with a new team.
Connor Scott, OF, Pirates
Scott was a first-round pick of the Marlins, and the fact that he was shipped to Pittsburgh in the Jake Stalling trade was a sign the Marlins were cashing in before his trade value dipped further. Scott can play center field, but there’s very little impact in his bat, and his basestealing prowess disappeared in 2022.
Jordyn Adams, OF, Angels
The Angels 2018 first-round pick turned down a football scholarship to sign with the Angels. His speed has translated well to pro ball, and he stole 33 bases in 36 tries in 2022. But his strength and power have not made the transition. Adams slugged just .332 between High-A and Double-A in 2022, and he’s hit just 17 home runs in 332 games. He can play center field and he can run, but it’s hard to see a team picking Adams this year as he continues to try to become more consistent at the plate.
Ethan Hankins, RHP, Guardians
Hankins is a somewhat sneakily interesting pick, but a team selecting him would do so based on very little information. Hankins threw exactly one inning in 2022 in an appearance in the Arizona Complex League. That is one more inning than he threw in 2021, as he injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. That comes after missing 2020 because of the pandemic. Add it up, and the Guardians’ 2018 first-round pick has thrown just 64 innings as a pro, 60 of which came in 2019. He’s in no way ready for the majors, but a team willing to stash him in the back of the bullpen could decide to take a gamble. He had a mid-90s fastball and promising secondary offerings pre-injury, but there’s precious little to go on.
Nick Schnell, OF, Rays
Schnell rocketed into the first round in 2018 on the basis of an extremely strong senior season that saw him hit 15 home runs in just 31 games. That power has not come through in pro ball with a wood bat, and he’s battled injuries. Schnell has yet to make it to High-A and is not at risk of being selected.
Mason Denaburg, RHP, Nationals
Denaburg had a shoulder injury in 2019, was sidelined like all minor leaguers by the pandemic in 2020 and missed 2021 with Tommy John surgery. Because of all that, he’s thrown just 59 innings. His fastball has taken a hit because of his maladies, but he will still touch 95-96. He struggles to find the strike zone these days and is not a realistic candidate to be picked.
Hunter Bishop, OF, Giants
The 10th pick in the 2019 draft, Bishop is the highest pick in either the 2018 or 2019 draft to be left unprotected. Bishop had struggled with making contact as a sophomore at Arizona State, but he seemed to alleviate those concerns with a breakout junior season. As a pro, those concerns have returned. He’s a career .223 hitter who has yet to reach Double-A. A shoulder injury in 2021 didn’t help his development, but he’s now more of a right fielder than a center fielder.
Will Wilson, INF, Giants
Like Connor Scott, Wilson has been traded since the draft, as the Angels sent him to San Francisco along with Zack Cozart in return for lefthander Garrett Williams, who was then lost in the next year’s MiLB Rule 5 draft. Wilson spent a good chunk of the 2022 season on the injured list with a fractured hamate bone. He’s a pretty well-rounded middle infielder who can play second or third base, but he doesn’t have a clear carrying tool.
Kody Hoese, 3B, Dodgers
Hoese found Double-A to be diabolically difficult in back-to-back seasons. He hit .232/.281/.332 in 2022, and he has a sub-.300 on-base percentage for his pro career. But it’s the lack of power that has truly been a surprise. Hoese hit 23 home runs in his draft year at Tulane. As a pro, he’s hit five and has a .105 career isolated power.
Trevor Brigden, RHP, Rays
Brigden was a 17th-round pick out of Okanagan College in British Columbia in 2019. In 37 appearances and 59 innings in 2022, he walked only nine batters. His 1.4 walks per nine innings compares extremely favorably with his 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings, especially when you consider he spent all year in Double-A and Triple-A. Brigden doesn’t have dominating velocity (he sits 90-93 mph with his fastball), but he has excellent fastball characteristics with exceptional life and a flat plane to his fastball. It’s a hard pitch to hit and one that he locates with plus-plus control. Brigden’s hard 85-87 mph slider can also be effective, as he controls and commands it well.
Jake Mangum, OF, Mets
Instead of signing as a late-round pick, Mangum kept coming back to Mississippi State, which ensured he is remembered as one of the greatest players in Bulldogs history. A senior sign fourth-round pick in 2019, Mangum reached Triple-A for the first time last year in a season that got off to a late start because of a spinal injury. He’s a contact hitter with modest power, and he doesn’t walk enough to profile as a top-of-the-order hitter, but he’s an above-average defender in center and is an above-average runner. History shows that the most productive Rule 5 picks are players who can contribute in their rookie season. Mangum, 26, lacks the upside of some of the other Rule 5 candidates, but he’s MLB ready and has the skills to be a useful backup outfielder.
Jake Slaughter, 2B/3B, Cubs
Matt Mervis wasn’t the only Cubs prospect to have a power surge in 2022. Slaughter had only 18 extra-base hits in 102 games in 2021 and he had hit eight home runs in three pro seasons. This year, Slaughter hit 23 home runs and stole 36 bases while spending most of the year at Double-A Tennessee. Slaughter has played first, second and third base as well as left field so he has some positional versatility. He doesn’t hit the ball exceptionally hard, but he puts together solid at-bats and his newfound power helped boost his walk rate as well.
Matt Sauer, RHP, Yankees
Sauer was a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2017. He missed most of the 2019 season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery and showed some rust in his return to action in 2021. He was better this year in a return to High-A Hudson Valley. Sauer throws four pitches as a starter, but if picked in the Rule 5 draft, he’d likely rely much more on his promising slider and low-90s fastball. The hope would be that his fastball would gain a tick or two in a move to the bullpen.
Logan Porter, C/1B, Royals
Porter fits more as a corner infielder/DH bat who can also catch some rather than a pure catcher who could be considered for a No. 2 catcher role. Porter caught more than he played first base at Double-A Northwest Arkansas last year, but he didn’t catch a game after his promotion to Triple-A Omaha. Porter has a solid arm and can post a 1.95-2.0-second pop time, but he’s challenged blocking pitches. He only allowed two passed balls in 36 games as a catcher last year, but he also allowed 22 wild pitches. What makes Porter interesting as a Rule 5 candidate is his bat. He’s hit over .300 in three of his four MiLB seasons and is a career .293/.428/.497 hitter. He hit .301/.442/.476 between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Porter’s power potential is average, but he makes tons of contact. He gets on base consistently. His 87 walks were 25th most in the minors last year and his .442 on-base percentage was third-best in the minors. First base is a tough profile for Rule 5 picks, but Porter’s ability to also serve as a team’s third catcher provides extra value.
Michael Stryffeler, RHP, Giants
Stryffeler was traded at the deadline, going from the Mariners to the Giants in the swap that sent Matthew Boyd and Curt Casali to Seattle. Stryffeler was Arkansas’ closer at the time, and was posting dominating numbers (1-3, 2.27, 14.4 K/9, .195 opponent batting average) thanks largely to an 85-87 mph slider that grades out as plus. He also has a 93-97 mph fastball with solid life. Stryffeler has averaged 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings during his pro career. His control is shaky, which is an argument against him getting picked. Stryffeler’s dominance hit a detour after the trade. His numbers with Triple-A Sacramento were awful, but that’s largely because of a very poor first month after he was traded. In August, Stryffeler walked 15 batters and struck out 12 in eight innings. In September, he walked two and struck out 13 in eight innings.
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