Here are some more players the Astros could potentially select in the Rule 5 draft December 12, 2013. There are yet dozens more than even these, it's a fairly deep class this year:
This is the Omar Luis of position players available this year. Super young, raw, hasn't even sniffed AA yet. Perfect to suddenly thrust onto a Major League roster for the entire season, right? Clearly not, but the tools might make the Astros sorely want to. Tools, tools, tools baby. This kid spent 2013 split between A-ball and A-Advanced, and stole sixty bases in 125 games. He also hit 15 bombs, and that was as a developing 21-year-old who hasn't reached his full in-game power potential. He used to be a shortstop, but didn't have the arm accuracy necessary, so the Reds moved him to center field, where, though unpolished, his raw athleticism is more than enough to let him become a plus defender if everything clicks in the future.
He doesn't walk much and does swing and miss a lot, so he's absolutely in the high risk, high reward category, but it's hard to ignore the chance to get a guy who could be a future Gold Glove player up the middle that whacks 20+ homers and swipes 50+ bases each year. That's a rare package, and enticing enough that it wouldn't be completely laughable to see the Astros take a shot, even if it's highly unlikely.
Who needs Shin-Soo Choo anyway? Ha is a bit of a personal favorite for me, even though he lacks the sexiness that some other guys in this year's class have. In a full season, you'd be lucky to see five or six bombs and double-digit steals, and he's no Sonic the Hedgehog on the bases. He has, however, managed to man center field admirably, thanks to excellent reads and jumps, as well as solid, if unspectacular, foot speed.
As a former catcher, he also has a plus arm that can play well even in right field. His walk rate has never been excellent, but he has shown some decent patience at the plate, as well as decent ability to hit for average from time to time. There could be a little more left in the stick, and the defensive versatility could help the 23-year-old stick on the roster all season without making you cringe.
Tommy Kahnle, 24, RHP:
Much like Josh Fields last year, Kahnle is a guy with good raw stuff who doesn't always know where it's going. When he's on, he's overpowering; mid-90's heat and a decent breaking ball have been enough to rack up strikeouts at a huge rate (11.97 K/9 on his career!) The career 5.17 BB/9 lets a lot of the air out of the balloon though. That said, if he were missing bats like he does and didn't have some command issues, he probably wouldn't be available in the Rule 5, right? He's a big, strong kid, and if Brent Strom can tighten up any mechanical flaws while improving his consistency with the off-speed pitches, he could become a valuable member to a bullpen in desperate need of help.
Ronan Pacheco, 25, LHP:
Mid-90's heat from a left-handed pitcher is always a nice find, so to have a chance to get it almost for free in the Rule 5 draft is a chance you usually don't want to let pass you by. His off-speed stuff is solid as well when he's on, and Nick Melotte over at Minor League Ball likes the deception in his mechanics. Overall though, the results haven't always been pretty for Pacheco, most notably the walk rates (how about a 6.71 BB/9 for 2012 and 2013 combined? Ouch.) What he does well is miss bats and keep the ball on the ground. Boy does he ever keep the ball on the ground. He had a 66.7% ground ball rate last year. Sixty-six!
Most of his strikeouts also come against his fellow southpaws. He screams left-handed specialist, and he could possibly find success in that role in the Majors immediately His off-speed pitches need a lot of work, a lot more consistency, if he's going to be a long-term answer in the pen as a full-time reliever, but in the meantime, he could be a solid option against tough left-handed batters.
Selecting a position player and keeping them on the 25-man roster all year is always tougher than stashing a pitcher in the back of the bullpen and using them exclusively in lost-cause mop-up situations, but if the Astros are going to try it, Parker is one of the more interesting options. As far as pedigree and tools go, you can't ask for much more in a Rule 5 guy; a second-round pick in 2010, Parker showed legit 20+ home run power at Double-A this year, and has shown 30+ stolen base ability in the past.
If he puts it together at the Big League level, he's an easy 20-20 outfielder with a plus glove at the corners and at least an average glove in center. That's not a bad package at all. He hits left-handed, and draws walks at a very strong clip as well (11.5% in 2013 and 12.9% on his career in three seasons). Strikeouts have been the big issue for him; his 30.7% strikeout rate in 2013 was a 4.9% IMPROVEMENT over what he did in 2012. We're talking about severe strikeout issues.
In all likelihood, he'll get eaten up by good pitchers right now in the Majors, and he has very high bust potential, but the raw tools and defensive versatility could well be enough to help him find a bench role at the Major League level. He's still fairly young, brings a nice combination of speed, power, glove work and walk-drawing to the mix and, honestly, can anyone provide less on offense than Brandon Barnes did last season? For what it's worth, I've seen some mention of him working to shorten his stroke, and we did see a significant improvement in strikeout rate (albeit from horrifying to very bad) against Double-A competition, and he looked even better in a small Arizona Fall League sample size not two months past. He's not likely to break out, but the potential is there. You never know.
Tyler Kelly, 25, UTIL:
"What the heck? 24 career homers in five seasons? No big steal numbers to speak of either. Kind of old at 25 already, why does Tim want somebody to research this- holy Moses, is that a 20.2% walk rate!?"
That was the first thirty seconds or so of my research into Mr. Kelly. I thought I had pulled up Nolan Fontana's page at first, but then I noticed the significantly lower strikeout rate against significantly better competition too! (Darn it, Nolan ... ) If Jarrett Parker is the toolsy guy with big holes in his swing who's high-risk but high-reward, Kelly is the safe pick; massive walk rates, strikeout rates that have ranged from above-average (in a good way) to fantastic, and the ability to play multiple positions. As a switch-hitter, he strikes out a little more against right-handers but also walks more against them, and there's a mere .016 OPS difference in his batting splits.
He doesn't really have the range for shortstop full-time, but he's solid at second and has enough arm for third as well, and given that, he probably wouldn't embarrass himself in left and right field. And the more I look at his numbers, the more I see a tiny bit of potential for further growth; in terms of home runs and stolen bases per plate appearance, if you want to really dream on him, maybe think he finds something extra thanks to Luhnow's saber-minded, cutting edge coaches or whatever, you can see possibly a 10 HR, 10 SB super utility man with plus plus plate discipline.
When you think about him like that, he's definitely a Luhnow-type guy, right? The infield is a tough place to crack on this roster with Altuve locked in, the Astros apparently committed to Dominguez for the near future and Villar deserving a real, legit look at shortstop, but I think there's enough defensive versatility in Kelly's game that you can make a strong case for giving him a bench spot and seeing how the disciplined bat translates to the Major League level. He's 25 years old and hit .320/.456/.406 in Triple-A this year, so there's no where left to go but The Show.
Michael Freeman INF:
Similar in many ways to Ty Kelly, Freeman brings something extra to the mix; some real plus ability on the base paths. He's flashed real 35+ stolen base ability in the past, and along with the walk rates he's posted, there's some potential for a potent threat at the top of a lineup. Batting left-handed helps, and he could be a solid option as part of a platoon, but he has no power. I mean, like, virtually none. He's not even a huge doubles hitter, nor do you see a lot of triples, despite the speed.
He's a second baseman who could probably handle shortstop passably enough for a bench player, but I haven't seen anything about his arm strength that makes me believe you'd want to play him there or at third if you could help it. He has, historically, struck out a little less than Kelly, but he also has much more limited experience against upper-level competition, with 2013 being his first year in Double-A, and he's never played in Triple-A before. He's also actually a little older than Kelly as well.
Considering the age, lack of experience and, worst of all, being much more of a single position player (and that position happening to be occupied by the guy who is as close to entrenched as you can get on the Astros right now), I don't see him as nearly as good of a fit as Kelly. Someone is probably going to take a flier on him, but unless Luhnow's scouts are telling him something special we don't know about, I doubt that team will be Houston.
Marcus Hatley, 26, RHP:
Hatley was originally a starter, but after his 2010 season was largely scrubbed for Tommy John surgery, he returned in 2011 exclusively as a bullpen arm. He features a plus fastball that tops out around 95-96 MPH, though he sits around 93 mostly, as well as a pair of solid breaking balls. Not throwing a change up might be a barrier for the Astros drafting him, as Brent Strom has come out as a big proponent of the pitch. Then again, perhaps they think he could bring more to the table in the future if they can add one to his repertoire. Strikeout rates as a full-time reliever have been strong, but he's also walked too many (9.86 K/9 and 4.73 BB/9 for the 2011-2013 seasons).
The profile is similar to a lot of other guys you'll find in the Rule 5, draft, and this year is no exception. One possible separator that could work in his favor is that he has significant experience in the upper levels of the minors, as he's seen time in Double-A since 2011 and Triple-A since 2012. Overall, he's not one of my favorites, but Luhnow and his crew are probably going to be looking much more at scouting than they are statistics when evaluating relievers, so if their scouts tell them they like what they see, he could certainly be reporting to Kissimmee two months from now.
What do you all think? Any other names we may have missed? Who do you want to see us nab?
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