On Thursday, December 12th, 2019, an event took place that even some of the most hardcore baseball fans don’t pay attention to, and for pretty good reason. The Rule 5 draft was started as a way for the MLB to attempt to give players buried in the minors, usually on strong teams or teams deep in their position, a chance to earn a role on another team. They attempt to accomplish this by allowing anyone not on a 40-man roster to be selected by another team, as long as they stay with that team in the Majors all year. This sounds great in theory, but when the 40-man rosters are all sorted out, that’s around 1,200 players that get protected, so it’s very rare that a gem slips through the cracks. For this reason, most teams will pass on their picks, and most of the ones that do get picked end up being returned to the team that they’re selected from. There are scattered success stories, with guys like Brad Keller, Odubel Herrera, Ryan Pressly, Marwin Gonzalez, and Mark Canha being some notable recent ones, as well as plenty of other intriguing names like Delino DeShields Jr., Hector Rondon, Josh Fields, etc., but for the most part there usually isn’t much to come out of the Rule 5 Draft. As a fantasy player you’re not worried about who’s going to get returned, you just want to know if there’s any fantasy value in the draft. Most of the guys taken are big arms with command issues, or bench players at best, but here are 3 names who could make an impact.
With the 1st pick in the Draft, the Tigers took Rony Garcia, a 6’3″ RHP from the Yankees 2015 International Class which was absolutely loaded. Garcia signed for $100k then, and has slowly been working his way up the minors since, posting solid numbers but never flashing a ton of potential. Garcia has good control, and his stuff is decent, but he hasn’t been able to miss bats very well in his time in the minors, and still shows very little feel for the changeup, which is likely why the Yankees left him unprotected. I got the chance to see Garcia in Trenton this year, and he didn’t look all that great, but he does have a lot going for him. As I mentioned before, Garcia’s feel for the changeup is severely lacking, but his other two pitches are both solid. His fastball sits 91-94 with excellent spin rate (2400 RPM+), with an excellent curveball that can get a bit slurvy at times. This two pitch mix is brutal against righties, who hit only .197 against Garcia, with a 27.6 K%, and a 8.4 BB%. This two pitch mix, along with the success I’ve seen from him in short stints, lead me to believe in Garcia’s potential as a reliever. Garcia’s biggest issue this year was missing bats, with only an 11.1 SwStr% in AA. As a reliever, I’m confident that Garcia’s stuff would play up a bit, with his fastball likely sitting more in the 94-96 range where he tops out, and he would also avoid the struggles he’s endured going through lineups a 2nd and 3rd time. The Tigers could also use him situationally against righties where he excels, but with the new Three Batter Minimum rule that will be significantly harder now. Unlike most of the players selected in this draft, Garcia also has the added benefit of still being fairly young at only 22, so he has time to develop significantly. The Tigers haven’t yet indicated whether they intend to use Garcia as a starter or a reliever, but I’m hoping they try him out in the bullpen.
Garcia isn’t a guy I’m overly excited about in fantasy, and I’m definitely not going out and picking him up right now, but he’s definitely a name worth monitoring. In a bullpen as shallow as Detroit’s, I could definitely see him getting some high leverage appearances later on in the season, so there’s definitely a chance for some fantasy value there.
Brandon Bailey is by far the name from this draft that I’m most excited about. If you recognize his name, it’s likely because he was the player that the A’s traded to the Astros for Ramon Laureano. While few could’ve predicted that Laureano would become the player he is now, he was still a solid prospect at the time, so that alone should show you what the Astros saw in Bailey. Along with the next guy on this list, Bailey also probably has the best chance to stick on an MLB roster out of anyone in the draft. Despite performing at every level he’s played at, people continue to doubt Bailey. After posting a 3.28 ERA in college and a 3.03 ERA in summer ball, Bailey has posted a 3.07 ERA in his minor league career, but he still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
True to Astros tradition, Bailey is a big spin rate guy, with elite spin rates on both his fastball and his 2 breaking balls. Bailey has never been a velocity guy, sitting 87-91 coming out of college, but he put in a ton of work to get that up to where he is now, at 91-94. He does this while constantly posting spin rates of 2,500+ RPM, which allows him to work up in the zone in a way most pitchers without premium velocity can’t. Bailey’s major selling point is his well rounded arsenal of pitches, as he has a plus changeup, as well as a curveball that flashes plus at times. He also has a slider/cutter which he started using this year which provides a great alternative to his curve to use against lefties. Both of his breaking balls post elite spin rates, hitting 3,000+ RPM on a regular basis. This is why despite being undersized at 5’10” and lacking velocity, Bailey can miss bats on the same level as some of the best pitchers in the minors, posting a 15.3 SwStr% in AA in 2019. Bailey’s control isn’t great, with a BB% over 10.0%, but his command can be very good at times, so I’m hoping he’ll be more consistent this year.
If you follow me on twitter (which you should, it’s @willscharnagl), you would’ve seen that I tweeted out that I think Brandon Bailey will be the Orioles best pitcher this year. While that might be a bit bold, I am pretty confident that he’ll end up being a decent starter for the Orioles this year. There isn’t really a pitcher in the majors with a similar profile to Bailey, so it’s hard to predict how his stuff will play in the majors, but with a solid 4 pitch he has the profile of a starter. The Orioles have some promising prospects in Dean Kremer and Keegan Akin knocking on the door, but with guys like Alex Cobb and Asher Wojciechowski still getting starts for them, if Bailey pitches well there’s no reason he wouldn’t stay in the rotation.
Again, if you’re not in a really deep league there’s no reason to be going out and picking up Bailey right now or drafting him, but definitely keep an eye out for him as the season starts. If his command improves a bit, I think Bailey could be a great streaming option, and could end up being a top 100 SP this season, while contributing a solid amount of strikeouts.
Dany Jimenez was possibly the name I was most surprised to see unprotected this year. While he isn’t a top prospect or anything, he has pretty electric stuff which allowed him to dominate AA in 2019, and it’s not like the Blue Jays bullpen is all that deep. Jimenez’s big issue is that he’s pretty old, as he’ll be 26 at the start of 2020, but that’s due to signing late rather than struggles in the minors. Since he signed in 2015 at 21, Jimenez has been fairly impressive, with 2019 easily being his most complete year. Jimenez came out absolutely dominant in A+, with a 43.9 K% in 25.1 IP before he got promoted. His 3.55 ERA doesn’t look amazing, but that was mostly due to a ridiculous .429 BABIP. His K% dropped a little bit in AA to 34.3%, but luck was much more on his side, as his BABIP plummeted to .254, which helped him to a 1.87 ERA.
Dany Jimenez is a prototypical reliever, he’s big and athletic with a high effort delivery and electric stuff. His fastball touches 97 with above average spinrates, and he has a big power curve. Jimenez was surprisingly even more effective against lefties in 2019, which makes me much more confident in his ability to transition to the majors this year.
With Reyes Moronta out for most of the year, there isn’t exactly a clear option at closer for the Giants. I can’t see Jimenez being in that conversation at the beginning of the year, but as the season goes on he has a solid chance to work his way into some high leverage outings. The chances of him being the Giants closer by the end of the year are definitely non-zero at this point. I could see Jimenez being a big strikeout guy, while posting decent ratios as well. Compared to Garcia, I’m way higher on Jimenez, and I think everyone should be paying close attention to him.