This morning, 42 players changed hands as a result of the Rule 5 Draft, and four of them are coming to the Astros- Josh Fields, Nathan Freiman, Michael Burgess and Cameron Lamb. What did the Astros pick up today?
Updated: TCB Astros Afterburners Podcast discussion of the Rule 5 selections in the player below:
Josh Fields, RHRP, Red Sox, Age 27
I wrote up Fields in my Rule 5 preview article, and if you read what I had to say there you can probably guess that I really like this pick. Fields was a 1st round selection of the Mariners in the 2008 draft out of the University of Georgia, where he struck out 63 hitters in 37.1 IP and was considered by many to be the best reliever in college baseball. Fields was expected to move quickly through the Mariners system and was pushed directly to AA, where he struck out 36 in 33.1 IP but struggled with his command. He returned to AA Jackson the next year and had similar command woes, and his strikeout rate slightly dipped.
In 2011, his statistical profile remained the same and the Mariners got tired of waiting on him, including him in the Erik Bedard trade at the deadline. The Red Sox may have tried something new with Fields, or perhaps he just really did not want to play in Seattle, but in the Red Sox organization his K rate jumped to over 12 per 9 innings. In 2012, he carried his improvement over and built on it, maintaining his superhuman strikeout numbers and cutting his walks down to around 3 batters per 9 and showing the statistical markers that were expected of him when he was drafted in round one.
It took him longer than expected, but to me it really looks like Fields figured things out last season, and scouts are still high on his mid-90s fastball and sharp curveball that got him drafted so highly. I definitely think that Fields will stick in Houston, and I think the Red Sox made a mistake not protecting him.
Nathan Freiman, 1B, Padres, Age 25
A 6'7" monster, Freiman has big raw power and a patient approach that could make him a future DH in Houston. Drafted out of Duke University in 2009, Freiman has hit 46 home runs in the last two seasons between High-A Lake Elsinore and AA San Antonio, while striking out in just 15.7% of his PAs. Freiman hits an absurd number of fly balls- sending 35.2% of his batted balls to the outfield- a full 7% over the league average mark.
To me, Freiman has the look of a guy who could have major league success as a DH as soon as 2012 if injuries don't crop up. He has real raw power, good batting averages that aren't inflated by luck and he draws walks in 8% of his PAs. I think he has a good chance to stick with the team.
A 5'11" left handed hitter, Burgess went from the Nationals to the Cubs in the Tom Gorzelanny trade in 2011. Burgess's best skill is his knack for drawing walks- he has never posted a walk rate below 9.9%, and last season he drew bases on balls in 11.8% of his plate appearances at AA Tennessee, a campaign that also saw him cut his previously high K rate all the way down to 16.5%. He has shown some power in the past, including 20 home runs in the pitching-friendly FSL in 2011.
Burgess fits the stathead profile- a stocky guy who lacks foot speed and arm strength, but gets on base and generates deceptive value as a result. He's not a guy to get overly excited about, but he's a guy who could help a major league club in a 4th outfielder role if he carries the improvement he showed in 2012 over.
Cameron Lamb, RHP, Giants, Age 23
A fairly highly touted international signing out of Australia in 2007, Lamb has consistently struggled with injuries as a minor leaguer. He had Tommy John surgery in 2008 and has had trouble getting his feet under him since, but he settled into a bullpen role in 2012, though it saw him throw just 25.2 innings. He showed good command and didn't allow a single home run while posting excellent ground ball numbers, but it's very difficult to judge him based on a sample of that size. There are things to like here, but it's very difficult to determine what exactly the Astros have here. He's a reclamation project, but one worth taking on.
Overall, I think Luhnow and co. deserve a round of applause for their performance this morning. I thought Josh Fields was the best available player and would've been disappointed had the Astros not jumped on him, and Freiman is a guy with really underrated offensive potential. I think both can help the team in Houston this season.