30 November 2015

Working Our Way Through The 2015 Rule 5 Fodder: Introduction And Infield

If you are searching for a comprehensive Rule 5 series, this is not it.  I will direct you over to Baseball America who does a decent job, but certainly makes certain conclusions that I disagree with.  For instance, it is noted that available Astro catcher Roberto Pena could improve upon his pitch presentation.  Based on the analysis I have seen, he actually rates as one of the best pitch framers in the minors.  So, yeah, don't take their word as gospel.  Likewise, think critically with my words as well.

Anyway, this series will look at areas where the Orioles might have some interest in checking out a player in Spring Training.  This means my focus will be one backup infielders and fourth outfielders.  Given the current trio of catchers on the 40 man roster, I see little need for the club to dabble behind the plate.  With the need to keep Dylan Bundy in the pen, I doubt pitchers are targeted.  The club would be interested in a starting pitcher, but those simply do not exist in the Rule 5.  This post will look at the five available infield prospects that I find most interesting.

Matt Skole, 1B
Washington Nationals
2011 21 Auburn A- 319 23 5 42 52 .290 .382 .438
2012 22 Hagerstown A 448 18 27 94 116 .286 .438 .574
2012 22 Potomac A+ 76 10 0 5 17 .314 .355 .486
2013 23 Harrisburg AA 7 1 0 2 2 .200 .429 .400
2014 24 Harrisburg AA 544 29 14 78 127 .241 .352 .399
2015 25 Harrisburg AA 365 14 12 44 92 .232 .332 .398
2015 25 Syracuse AAA 182 9 8 28 35 .238 .357 .457
Minors (5 seasons) Minors 1941 104 66 293 441 .260 .374 .452
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2015.

The Orioles need a first baseman and the Nationals' left hander could be a useful challenger for that role even if the club resigns the slightly versatile Chris Davis.  Skole started out as a third baseman, but a lack of range worked against him and the presence of Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon extinguished what meager light there was.

A high average and big power hitter in low minors, Skole has not seen as much success with the upper minors which was accompanied by a blown out knee in 2013.  Skole still shows big time power, but his profile is emerging as a strong platoon side bat with contact issues.  We could call him a poor man's Pedro Alvarez.

In my opinion, Skole is one of the more obvious selections, but whose ability to stay in the Majors in 2016 is a bit doubtful.  Skole was one of the players I identified in my "hidden diamonds" college features back in the day, which have been shown to identify players who have outperformed where they were drafted.  I still have hope in him.  Another 1B that was also identified by that process was Christian Walker.

Balbino Fuenmayor, 1B
Kansas City Royals
2007 17 Rk 197 5 1 12 68 .174 .244 .242
2008 18 Rk 197 14 3 11 48 .307 .360 .458
2010 20 A 372 20 9 20 123 .220 .266 .373
2011 21 A--A 354 18 6 22 75 .249 .305 .366
2012 22 A- 283 20 9 14 82 .282 .325 .471

2013 23 A 108 4 4 8 32 .208 .287 .396
2015 25 AA-AAA 378 28 17 12 59 .358 .384 .589
Minors (8 seasons) Minors 2324 130 57 108 606 .266 .308 .419
Foreign (6 seasons) Foreign 357 14 16 18 96 .290 .339 .483
Other (2 seasons) Other 675 43 36 33 116 .331 .370 .575
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2015.

Balbino Fuenmayor is interesting for several reasons.  He was one of the major international signings by the Blue Jays in 2006.  His batting practice power looked immense, but never quite translated into games along with a poor walk rate and little contact.  After a poor stint in single A, the Blue Jays cut him loose.  Backed up by decent winter league numbers and an explosive 675 PA in Indy ball, Balbino was given a second chance with the Royals last year.  He responded by excelling in AA and AAA before his season ended with a torn ACL.

As such, the right hander shows promise, but full of concerns.  His ACL injury may make it difficult to keep him on an active roster.  He will need to spend most of the season with the club and has only so much time to spend on the disabled list or on rehab assignment.  His game is so dependent on contact that there is concern that his low walk rate will make it struggle for him to be a positive contributor at the MLB level.  He might be one of the more exciting names out there, but I doubt anyone will give him much of a shot.

Alex Yarbrough, 2B
Anaheim Angels
All Levels (4 Seasons)20271121996389.279.313.396
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2015.

Yarbrough, perhaps, looks far more interesting than he really is.  A quick skim will find him as a switch hitting second baseman with some defensive accolades, strong gap-to-gap power, and decent contact until last year.  In reality, while he has sure hands, his range is atrocious, he was unable to do anything at the plate in the high flying Pacific Coast League, and has always swung and missed even with the less advanced pitchers at each level.

That said, the previous stretches of decent contact and doubles power might intrigued some.  Poor defensive range at second base can be somewhat mitigated by utilizing defensive shifts (a practice the Angels have been loathe to incorporate).  He could be worth a closer look to certain teams who might be able to make the most of his abilities and minimize the risk of his deficiencies.

Ronny Rodriguez, 2B/3B
Cleveland Indians
Minors (5 seasons)Minors21071125183399.256.289.412
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2015.

Rodriguez is in a similar boat defensively as Yarbrough, but is blessed with a plus plus arm that lets him competently throw across the diamond from the hot corner.  He once was a promising prospect in the Indians systems whose 2012 season has the club wondering about his ability to be a power mashing middle infielder, but two heavily depressed seasons later took a significant hit to his standing.  Last year was promising.  After missing half the season with a wrist injury, Rodriguez' third stint in AA gave a kickstart.  He showed power and decent contact while at a still reasonable age for a prospect.

With Rodriguez' ability to play third and first while being protected at second, he should be seen as valuable.  He appears to be a player similar in profile to Ryan Flaherty and can probably play shortstop in a pinch as well.  If the club wishes to save half a million, Rodriguez might be an option.

Jacob Wilson, 2B/3B
St. Louis Cardinals
2012 21 A- 179 7 6 13 33 .275 .341 .444
2013 22 A-A+ 546 28 18 57 74 .243 .336 .424
2014 23 AA-A+ 283 25 5 23 47 .302 .362 .460
2015 24 AA 141 6 7 17 25 .225 .326 .450
2015 24 AAA 342 14 11 23 68 .231 .292 .391
Minors (4 seasons) Minors 1491 80 47 133 247 .254 .330 .428
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/25/2015.

Jacob Wilson is more of a true utility player.  He can man second, third, and left field, possessing a plus arm.  He shows power and a decent understanding of the strike zone.  Contact was an issue in the upper minors and may expose a major deficiency in his profile as he faces more advanced pitching.  He appears to have a lower ceiling than Rodriguez, but a higher floor.  That floor though is as a bench player in AAA.  However, many clubs do look at that walk rate and decent defense, finding Wilson to be an uncommonly safe player to bet on as a Rule 5 acquired role player.