5 Intriguing Potential Rule 5 Picks

Astros GM Jeff Luhnow will be scouring the list of player's eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this week - Bob Levey

The Winter Meetings bring us the Rule 5 Draft, where teams get a chance to pick through the left-overs of their competitors minor league systems. Will someone find a Dan Uggla or a Jason Werth this year? It is always possible with the Rule 5 Draft.

The Rule 5 Draft is one of the strange consequences that has evolved from baseball’s system of developing talent through the minor leagues and the need for checks and balances on the most financially powerful clubs. To prevent teams from simply stockpiling hoards of young players at the cusp of the Major Leauges, every winter Major League Baseball holds a draft where teams can select any player from another system who has exceeded his minor league service time and who has not been added to the big league team’s 40 man roster. The selecting team must keep the drafted player on their 25 man roster for a full season or return them to their original club.

While this is typically a time where second division clubs add borderline prospects or teams take fliers on utility players and relievers, more than a few stars have been culled from this discount bin auction in the past, including Josh Hamilton, Dan Uggla and Johan Santana. This season, as always, there are a number of interesting players who have been left unprotected who may find new homes soon. Here are five names that might end up on the board.

Jeff Inman: Pittsburgh Pirates

Inman is typical of the type of player that can be found through the Rule 5 draft. He has good stuff and throws hard, with a mid 90’s fastball, but he has struggled with shoulder and elbow issues and his performance has never really matched the promise of his stuff. He finished a healthy 2012 season with two promising appearance in Arizona Fall League Games, though and despite his injury history, the velocity and stuff is still there. He made one start last year but pitched primarily in relief at AA Altoona. He is a player that a team could dream on, hoping that they could turn his intriguing stuff into actual performance with shot at relief work at the major league level.

Mike McDade: Toronto Blue Jays

The 23 year old McDade is a switch-hitting 1B with limited power, so it is not surprising that he would wind up unprotected. However, he had a strong 2012 season across two levels and he is generally known as a good defender at first base. His plate approach has been improving even as he has moved up through the minors, resulting in a .275/.354/.437 line in 429 plate appearances in the difficult Eastern League (AA) environment. The move to the hitter’s paradise that is the Pacific Coast League (AAA) to finish the season was fantastic for him, as he raked to the tune of .338/.392/.493 with Las Vegas. That might just be enough to entice a team with roster space for a defensive replacement at 1B to take a flyer on him.

Jeremy Hazelbaker: Boston Red Sox

Hazelbaker has good speed and athleticism but he is the classic "tweener" type without enough defensive skill to hold down a regular job in center and without enough bat to be a corner outfielder. Still, his combination of speed, plate discipline and moderate power may be enough for a team like Houston to give him a shot at regular playing time in the majors this coming season. He hit .273/.338/.479 in AA Portland last season while swiping 33 bases. His speed is certainly enough to play in center if he can learn to read the ball off the bat better. Since he has a reasonably high floor, projecting as Gregor Blanco-type 4th outfielder, it seems entirely possible that someone would take the chance that he can improve his defense enough to play center or add enough pop to be an everyday left fielder.

Beamer Weems: San Diego Padres

There is always a market for strong defensive middle infielders, especially shortstops. Beamer Weems of the Padres fits that profile perfectly. As with many defense-first shortstops, Weems has issues at the plate. However, his recent conversion from switch-hitter to righty has yielded promising results and he has always shown a discerning eye at the plate. After the .246/.331/.415 line he put up in AA last year, he could be an option for anyone in need of shortstop depth.

Marc Krauss: Houston Astros

Marc Krauss is at the opposite extreme from a player like Weems. He can hit, no one really doubts that too much. Across three teams and two minor league levels (AA and AAA) he hit .271/.397/.491 last season. However, he is already 25 and he doesn't really fit in anywhere in the field. He has played left field, first base and served as a designated hitter in the Arizona and Houston systems and his major league future is very limited by that lack of position. At times, it seems like every system has this guy floating around somewhere. He is big and strong, he waits for his pitch and he can crush it when he gets it, but he doesn't really offer much else. Still, this is type of player that occasionally becomes a tremendous value pick. If some front office sees the next David Ortiz here, you can bet they will make a move on Krauss.

This is by no means an exhaustive look at the players exposed to the Rule 5 Draft. I am sure many of you have your own thoughts on where the value can be found in this baseball version of Storage Wars. Let us know who you are watching out for.

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