Marlins' Rule 5 Draft picks to get shot at rotation

Miami selects right-handers Hernandez, Graves in Major League phase

December 14th, 2017
The Marlins selected Elieser Hernandez and Brett Graves in the Major League phase. (Ben Sandstrom/David Baker)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Marlins struck Rule 5 Draft gold at the Winter Meetings in 2005, when they selected Dan Uggla off the D-backs' roster. At the time, the franchise was going through a restructuring period, and Uggla eventually developed into an All-Star second baseman.
Did Miami uncover another Rule 5 Draft gem on Thursday? The organization certainly hopes so, with the selections of two right-handed pitchers -- Elieser Hernandez and Brett Graves -- in the Major League phase of the Draft. The Marlins' 40-man roster is now full.
2017 Rule 5 Draft results
The picks, which come at a cost of $100,000 per player, were not merely formalities. Miami plans to give both a legitimate shot at winning a rotation spot during Spring Training.
:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::
"Both selections are starting pitchers," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "We're going to give them an opportunity to start and compete."
The Marlins also selected catchers B.J. Lopez from the D-backs and Sharif Othman from the Yankees, plus first baseman Will Allen III from the Tigers and right-hander Brandon Barker from the Orioles, in the Triple-A phase, with a price tag of $24,000 on each pick.
Miami lost right-hander Tyler Kinley to the Twins in the Major League phase.
Dealing with Rule 5 Draft picks is always tricky, because players selected in the Major League phase must make the Opening Day roster and stay on the active roster the entire season. They can't be optioned to the Minor Leagues for any additional development or if there are other roster-related issues.
But with the Marlins redirecting, there will be more organizational patience. If either or both Major League phase picks shows promise, they could break camp with the big league squad. If not, they must be offered back to their original club.
"As I said, we will look to acquire talent and build depth in our organization through every means," Hill said. "The Rule 5 Draft is an opportunity where you can access players you don't normally have the ability to access and give an opportunity. Pitching and building pitching depth is something that is always at the forefront for us, and adding as much as we possibly can."
Hernandez was selected off the Astros' roster. The 22-year-old from Venezuela combined for a 5-5 record with a 3.68 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings between Rookie-level and Class A Advanced in 2017.
"We saw him late, and he finished strong," Hill said. "Three-pitch mix, very composed, clean delivery. We like his ability to maintain his delivery and repeat and throw strikes."
Graves, 24, was taken in the second round of the Major League phase. He went 1-1 with a 4.47 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A last season.
"If you look at him, year over year over year, the spin rate on his curveball ranks among the highest in Minor League Baseball," Hill said. "He got better from '15 to '16, made a big jump. From '16 to '17, he made even a greater jump, well-above-average curveball. We think it's an out pitch."