The Twins have the second overall pick in this morning’s Rule 5 draft, which is a fun offseason event. Ever heard of Shane Mack or Johan Santana? They were Rule 5 draft picks. Of course, so was last year’s choice, Scott Diamond, or the choice in 2008, Jason Jones. Who? Exactly.
But having the second overall pick is a unique opportunity. The Rule 5 draft is a chance for the Twins to pick over other organization’s players. If a minor leaguer has a certain amount of time in that organization, but isn’t protected by being added to the 40-man roster, the Twins can grab him for $50,000. That might sound like a lot of money, but compared to what it takes to sign a free agent, or even a draft pick, it’s a pittance.
But there is a huge catch. The Twins would need to add their choice to their 25-man roster for the entire season. That means he must be on the team, at the ballpark, being used somewhere by Gardy. If the Twins don’t want to do that, they need to offer him back to his original organization for just $25,000, giving that team a nice return on their rental of the player.
Because of that rule, there are only so many places for a competitive team to “hide” a guy on the roster. Usually, it would be the last guy in the bullpen, a backup infielder or backup outfielder.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com listed some of the top names available here. He has a nice mix of starters and relievers, southpaws and dextrals. With the Twins clearly lacking right-handed relievers, the name that jumped out to me was Johan Yan, a right-handed Rangers side-armer who spend most of the year in AA and is a converted position player.
Yan’s fastball reportedly only tops out around 90, but he’s got a slider that has induced a ton of groundballs (one thing the Twins seem to value) and he’s shown decent control (22BB in 68 IP), missed a lot of bats (61K in 68 IP) and was death to right-handed hitters. You can read more about him here.
Mayo also mentions a few middle infielders, the most intriguing of whom is Drew Cumberland, a second baseman with the Padres. Cumberland was a decent prospect who was sidelined for all of 2011 with inner-ear/concussion problems, but that seems to be licked. Since he only made it to AA, he would need to be used sparingly, but that might work out well, given his recovery. And at just 22 years old, he’s still young enough that if he was stashed for a year, it would just mean he went back to New Britain or Rochester as a 23-year-old. I’m not sure he’s a great fit for the Twins, who want to be competitive, but for a truly rebuilding team, he’s an interesting option. You can read a good story about his comeback here.
Some of our local blogs have done some speculating too. Nate Gilmore at Puckett’s Pond listed middle infielders yesterday and one matched a name on Mayo’s list: Ryan Flaherty, a 25-year-old second baseman with the Cubs. Flaherty is a true utility infielder who played every position except center field and catcher last year. He also raked in AA (.907 OPS, 55K/40 BB) – and then took his lumps in AAA (676 OPS, 44K/10BB). He was drafted as a supplementary pick (41st overall), has been known to struggle against lefties, and probably isn’t good enough defensively to play shortstop except as a backup.
The day before, Gilmore examined some pitchers, drawing attention to right-handed reliever Bryce Stowell in the Indians organization. Stowell fits the mold of other recent Twins bullpen targets – hard thrower, big strikeouts, questionable control. Last year he worked his way through three levels of the minors, topping out in AA with 57K in 38.2 IP – and 21 walks. The year before he spent time in AAA, but had 17 walks in 19.2 innings (but with 28 strikeouts). He could be just another Jim Hoey, but he’s also just 24 years old. There is time for him to find his control.
Those are just four names out of hundreds available, so the chances of the Twins taking any of these guys are slim to none. But this afternoon, check your twitter feed and you’ll find the diamond in the rough that the Twins think they found. Do a google search on the name and see what you find. This time of year, every little bit of hope helps.