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Milwaukee Brewers potential Rule 5 Draft targets

They didn’t make a pick last year, but hey, they have four open spots.

Oakland Athletics Photo Day
Richie Martin.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This year’s annual Rule 5 Draft is scheduled to take place tomorrow morning during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is the second winter under the new Rule 5 Draft rules in the most recent CBA; remember, the AA phase of the minor league portion of the draft has been eliminated and the cost for a pick in the MLB phase of the draft is now $100,000. Here is a refresher on how a player becomes eligible to be selected in the MLB portion of the draft:

  • Players who signed at age 18 or younger (as of June 5th of the year they signed) are eligible for the draft after five years.
  • Players who signed when 19 or older are eligible after four years.
  • Player is not on the 40 man roster.
  • In order for a team to retain a drafted player’s rights, that player must stick on the 25 man roster or the MLB disabled list for the entire season.

Our Milwaukee Brewers didn’t make a selection in last year’s Rule 5 Draft. In 2017, they selected lefty Caleb Smith in the MLB portion of the Rule 5 Draft from the New York Yankees but immediately traded his rights to the Cubs for cash considerations. Two years ago in 2016 they made a pair selections, infielder Colin Walsh and reliever Zack Jones, though both players were eventually returned to their original organizations.

This year, the Brewers have four spots available on the 40 man roster with which to make a selection. Their pick in the draft is all the way down at #26, however, after finishing with the best record in the National League in 2018. So they’d likely have to work out a trade with a team ahead of them in the draft order if there’s a particular player that they want to select.

Now that the franchise is firmly within its competitive window, it is more difficult for Milwaukee to keep a Rule 5 player on the roster all season than it has been in years past. There hasn’t really been any chatter in regards to whether or not Slingin’ David Stearns and company will make a selection. Still, with so many spots open, there’s a chance that the Brewers may grab a player they like and at least bring him to Spring Training to compete for a job. If the Brewers do decide to pick a player, here are a few of the more compelling options:

IF Richie Martin || Oakland Athletics

We know the Brewers are looking for a second baseman, and appear to have their eyes on some of the stopgap options on this year’s market. But if they can’t find someone who will sign a one-year deal at a price they like, why not make a Rule 5 pick as an attempt to bridge to Keston Hiura? The team basically punted on offense at shortstop, catcher, and second base for most of 2018, so even if a high-upside Rule 5 pick falls flat and can’t hit, it’s not like that is something that held the team back much last year. Plus, with the 90 days active rule for Rule 5 picks, an org can get through the first two months of the season with a guy on the roster, then maybe he gets “injured” in mid-June and unfortunately isn’t able to return from the DL until when rosters expand in September, when he can be hidden on the bench (or bullpen, for that matter) while accruing the rest of his “active” time.

With that in mind, there is Richie Martin. The soon-to-be 24 year old was a first round pick by the A’s back in 2015, and after meniscus surgery in 2017, he returned to AA and enjoyed a bit of an offensive breakout in his second full season at the level. Martin batted .300/.368/.439 with 6 homer and 25 steals in 509 plate appearances, good for a 104 DRC+ and 121 wRC+. He grades out well defensively at shortstop and though some scouts think his range has diminished a bit, he should have no trouble handling regular action at second base, where he made 21 appearances in 2018. Martin puts the ball in play (16.8% K rate in 2018), will take his share of walks (8.6% in 2018), and showed some improved pop in his bat (career-high .139 ISO), even if it didn’t show in balls over the fence. If the hit tool translates to useful against MLB pitching, it’s not tough to envision Martin keeping the seat warm for Hiura before slotting into a utility role, and then serving as controllable, optionable infield depth going forward once his rights are secured.

2B Max Schrock || St. Louis Cardinals

Schrock has hit at every level since being selected in the 13th round by the Nationals in 2015, until he got to AAA in 2018. He never hit lower than .308 or posted a DRC+ below 114 when receiving full playing time at any level, then fell down to a .249/.296/.331 slash in 457 plate appearances last season. Some scouts are willing to look at 2018 as an outlier due to a low BABIP, his track record, and offensive profile, which is one that features an extremely high rate of contact (he’s never struck out in even 10% of his plate appearances) and a hit tool that projects as above-average to plus. His throwing arm generally limits his utility but he did play some third base and left field in 2018. Though Schrock doesn’t offer much power, perhaps his left-handed bat has a few .300 seasons in it.

RHP Reed Garrett || Texas Rangers

Garrett, 26 in February, was a 16th-round pick by the Rangers back in 2014 and pitched solely out of the bullpen for the first time in his career in 2018. He made 35 appearances for AA Frisco and saved 16 games as the club’s closer while posting a 1.69 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched. He whiffed 46 and walked only 14 en route to a DRA- of 78 (meaning 22% better than league average) and a promotion to AAA Round Rock. At the highest level of the minors, Reed held opposing lineups to a 2.84 ERA (84 DRA-) in 19 innings, punching out 15 against 6 walks. He induced grounders more than 50% of the time on the season and only three batters took him deep in his 61.2 innings between both levels. He reportedly possesses a mid-90s fastball and a firm slider, and it is believed that the positive steps forward that he took with his command this year make it all but certain he’ll be chosen at some point in the draft. It is arguably easier to hide a Rule 5 draftee in the bullpen than it is a position player on the bench.

LHP Luis Gonzalez || Baltimore Orioles

Gonzalez spent a lot of time in the lower minors but his career path finally started to look a bit more promising once he moved to the bullpen full-time in 2016. This past season marked his first exposure to both the AA and AAA levels. For AA Bowie, Gonzalez worked 45.2 innings across 28 appearances with borderline dominant results, posting a 2.17 ERA and 70 DRA-. He punched out 58 batters against 14 free passes on his way to earning a shot with AAA Norfolk. His run prevention totals took a hit after the promotion as he yielded a 5.09 ERA in 14 outings and 25.0 innings, but a DRA- of 78 saw his actual performance as on-par with what he produced at AA. He struck out 27 batters, and though his walks were elevated a bit (12), he was mostly stung by a .385 BABIP despite his fly-ball tendencies (as fly-ball pitchers tend to have lower BABIPs). Not much of the contact against Gonzalez was loud, either, as he allowed only five homers on the year and held batters to a line drive rate well under 20%. His fastball sits 92-96 and he mixes in an above-average slider and solid changeup, though he’s a bit older as a hurler who will pitch next season at age 27.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus