LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If you were looking for potential Major League arms, the 2017 Rule 5 Draft was the place to be.A total of 18 players were taken in the Major League phase of the annual draft that closes the Winter Meetings, and 15 of those were pitchers.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- If you were looking for potential Major League arms, the 2017 Rule 5 Draft was the place to be.
A total of 18 players were taken in the Major League phase of the annual draft that closes the Winter Meetings, and 15 of those were pitchers. Now that group will head to big league camps across Spring Training to try and make a 25-man roster. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player, and if that player doesn't stay on the roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.
:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::
While this year's Rule 5 Draft was decidedly pitching-heavy, it all started with a position player. The Tigers used the No. 1 pick to take Victor Reyes from the D-backs. The outfielder was No. 18 on Arizona's Top 30 list and is coming off a solid year in the Double-A Southern League. The 23-year-old hit .292 with 18 steals and is now hitting .298 with a .347 on-base percentage in his Minor League career. Reyes has a contact-oriented approach that might work at the Major League level and has shown the ability to play all over the outfield.
"We'd seen him for a while," Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said. "He's a good-looking center fielder, can play all three [spots], a switch-hitter that gets on base. He's still a projection with the bat, but very athletic. And with our situation as it is, it seemed to be a very good fit.
"Strength is the major issue. He's a younger guy and kind of a slender build, but has a good idea of the strike zone, works the count well. He just needs strength for the most part, and I think that's why he was probably available."
After the Giants took right-hander Julian Fernandez from the Rockies, the Phillies selected Nick Burdi from the Twins, but he was quickly sent across Pennsylvania to the Pirates for $500,000 in international bonus pool money in one of four trades announced right at the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft. Burdi has closer stuff, but he is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and won't be ready to pitch until late in the season, giving the Bucs ample time to see what they have in him. Burdi will have to serve 90 days on the active roster to have Rule 5 Draft restrictions removed, something that could end up carrying over to 2019.
"We fully expect that he will not be able to compete to make our club in Spring Training, but we do like the arm, we like the upside and are willing to carry him on the DL for a while if need be," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "We're going to go through that process with him.
"The challenge is we've just selected an injured pitcher. We know the risk that goes along with that. We're optimistic that, like a good handful of Tommy John surgeries, he'll bounce back from it. We'll be patient with him."
The Royals picked up the next two selections, both right-handed pitchers, in the other trades that followed the Rule 5 Draft. The Reds took D-backs prospect Brad Keller (No. 13 on Arizona's list) and the Mets took Burch Smith from the Rays, with both being sent to Kansas City for a player to be named/cash considerations in the deals.
The final trade of the day came with one of the two other position players taken. The White Sox took Carlos Tocci from the Phillies and traded him to the Rangers. Tocci, No. 23 on the Phils' Top 30, is similar to Reyes in that he has struggled to add strength, but he has solid contact and defensive skills. He hit .307 in Double-A and earned a promotion to Triple-A for the first time in 2017.
"He is a center fielder and a plus defender, really good baseball instincts, good baserunner," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He has a good swing and bat to ball skills. Not a lot of power. He is a good baseball player: plus defender, plus runner, the makings of a good hitter."
The most recognizable name taken came at the end of the first round of the Major League phase, when the World Series champion Astros took former big league outfielder Anthony Gose as a left-handed pitcher. He was a highly-regarded two-way player as a high schooler heading into the 2008 Draft; some teams thought of him as a first-rounder as a pitcher. Gose wanted to hit and went in the second round to the Phillies.
In 2017, Gose got on board with the Tigers to give pitching a try and went down to the Class A Advanced Florida State League and threw the first 10 2/3 pro innings of his career. It was understandably rough, as he gave up nine earned runs on just seven hits and six walks. Gose did strike out 14.
"We thought he had the best stuff in the Draft," Astros special assistant to the general manager Kevin Goldstein said. "Obviously, because of his lack of experience, it's going to be a bit of a long shot, but we decided to take the gamble because the upside was so good."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.