Rondon, a righthander, will turn 25 in February, but is the type of interesting pitcher that the Rule 5 Draft should really be for. He’s missed almost all of the past two seasons with injury, but before that was putting together a good minor league track record, even being named the Indians’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009. His overall minor league numbers:
105 G (101 GS), 521.2 IP, 4.16 ERA, 54 HR, 9.2 H/9, 1.9 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Obviously that’s a pitcher with excellent control, striking out over four times as many hitters as he walks, although he also gives up a pretty good number of homers, especially for a pitcher with as many of his innings in the low minors as he has. In fact, in 106.0 IP in AAA, he’s given up 20 HR, which is a painfully high number even in the thin air of the western PCL … but he played for Columbus in the International League. Ouch.
Still, his numbers show that he’s a guy with talent, although it’s obviously a problem that he’s only pitched 10 innings over the past two years. He pitched over the winter in Venezuela, but that said I don’t know how the Cubs can have any real idea of what kind of pitcher they’re getting. He’s been a starter his whole career in the minors, but there’s no spot in the rotation for him in Chicago, not that they’d want to put him there anyway.
Nonetheless, the Cubs will be required to keep him in the majors, so he’ll either start the season on the disabled list, or he’ll fill the same role Lendy Castillo (last year’s Rule 5 pick) filled in 2012, which was basically mop-up man in the bullpen. Can he still be effective after two years lost to injury, and at the major leagues for the first time, no less? We’ll see.
It would be pretty pointless of me to try and recap the entire draft here – they took 42 players in all – so I’ll just link to MLB Draft Tracker page for anyone who wants to see the full list.
It was a very pitcher-heavy draft, with 22 of the 42 players taken being pitchers, but their top pick was a high school centerfielder from Florida, Albert Almora. He comes with a reputation of having a very well-developed, broad skill set, and also with the reputation of being much more polished than a typical highschooler. He’s played extensively for Team USA (i.e., wood bats), and scouts seem unanimous that his “makeup” is off the charts for such a young guy. It sounds like a good pick, so we shall see. Being a high school product, though, even under the most optimistic scenario we’re probably looking 3 years or so in the future before he makes it to the big leagues.
Like I said, the front office focused very much on pitching after that, with their next seven picks being pitchers. Six of those are righthanded with one lefty, and of them are out of high school, with two college juniors and one out of junior college (I imagine that last part would be confusing to those unfamiliar with the USA education system). The most intriguing of those is their second pick, Pierce Johnson, who comes out of Missouri State University, and is said to have great talent but slid into the compensation round because of injury concerns. If he’s healthy, though, he figures to be a good shot to be the first of the 42 to make the Majors for the Cubs.
The Cubs selected the following players in the Rule 5 Draft:
RHP Lendy Castillo
INF Ricky Alvarez
They also had the following players selected from their minor league system:
INF Ryan Flaherty
INF Marwin Gonzalez
The Cubs took Castillo from the Phillies organization. He’s an intriguing choice, in that last year was only his second as a pitcher after being converted from an infielder after the 2009 season. For a guy who’s taken up pitching so recently, he’s moved up quickly through the minors, appearing in 21 games in A-ball last season. His pitching numbers from last year for level A Lakeland:
21 games, 2 starts, 46 IP, 1 HR allowed, 3.1 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
Well, that’s not half-bad, even if he saw only a limited number of innings. Interestingly, the Cubs have two other pitchers on the staff who were converted from position players in the minors; both Randy Wells and Carlos Marmol were catchers early in their careers. By coincidence, both of them played for level-A Lansing in the same year, and both were 21 at the time. Their numbers that season:
Wells: 36 games, 15 starts, 107.2 IP, 9 HR allowed, 3.3 BB/9, 10.1 K/9
Marmol: 26 games, 24 starts, 154.2 IP, 15 HR allowed, 3.1 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
Obviously both of those guys pitched more innings in their year in A-ball than Castillo did, and both were a year younger. Like Castillo last year, both were in their second years as pitchers. So Castillo’s a year behind where these two guys were, and it’s fair to think that his upside might not be as high as either of them either.
Due to the rules of the Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs will be required to carry him on the major league roster all year in 2012, or else they’ll have to send him back to the Phillies. Presumably, if they decide to keep him, they’ll assign him to the bullpen where he’ll pitch in low-leverage situations. From there, I guess we’ll see what happens.
In the AAA phase of the draft – in which a team can take a player from the low minors of another team and assign him to AAA – the Cubs took Ricky Alvarez from the Angels. Alvarez spent last season playing for level-A Cedar Rapids, where he hit .257/.292/.388 with 10 HR in 516 plate appearances. He turns 23 in the spring and doesn’t appear to have a future in the major leagues – defensively, he played the majority of the time at 1B, making his hitting numbers plainly inadeqaute. The Cubs in turn sold his rights to Monterrey in the Mexican Leagues.
As for the players they lost, Ryan Flaherty is 25 and Marwin Gonzalez will be 23 in the spring. Flaherty split time between second and third base, while Gonzalez played short; both began the 2011 season in AA Tennessee, played very well, and were promoted to AAA Iowa during the season where they struggled. Their combined numbers between the two levels last year:
Flaherty: 530 PA, .280/.347/.478, 19 HR, 99 K, 5 SB in 11 attempts
Gonzalez: 465 PA, .288/.343/.400, 4 HR, 48 K, 7 SB in 10 attempts
Honestly, given the current roster, I’d rather have Flaherty than Castillo. There’s a good chance that Flaherty is a better option for 2012 at second base than Darwin Barney or Blake DeWitt. He certainly has more power, and although I don’t know how highly regarded his defense is, he only made 1 error last year at 2B in 63 games. I’m not saying that he’s a future all-star or even a long-term fix at second, since it was his second exposure to AA, he was old for the league, and he struggled in AAA. But the Cubs will need to make a move to get better at second base or this will look odd. Of course they could get him back if Baltimore, his new team, decides they don’t want to keep him in the majors.
Gonzalez is both younger and more valuable defensively, although of course the Cubs are set at shortstop for now. He too was in his second exposure to AA, but being 2 years younger than Flaherty, that’s not as big of a question mark. He would have started the year in AAA Iowa, and although he had a great start in AA last year before being promoted, it’s hard to see him as more than a possible utility infielder in the big leagues or perhaps a short-term starter. Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why teams would have wanted him in the Rule 5 Draft, since he’s still young and has defensive value. He was picked by Boston and subsequently traded to the Astros, where he’ll presumably have a better shot to compete for playing time.
According to The Daily Herald, he’ll receive a signing bonus of $2.4 million, and begin the season in Mesa. I was kind of hoping he’d go to Boise, but that’s a fairly advanced league for a guy right out of high school.