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How did Rule 5 draftees fare this spring?

March 24, 2018

The Rule 5 Draft can sometimes be an overlooked event on the offseason calendar. Oftentimes, most players selected are long shots to make their acquiring club's Opening Day roster, and they are subsequently returned to their original team. But there are the rare success cases that manifest into some of

The Rule 5 Draft can sometimes be an overlooked event on the offseason calendar. Oftentimes, most players selected are long shots to make their acquiring club's Opening Day roster, and they are subsequently returned to their original team. But there are the rare success cases that manifest into some of the sport's best stories.

This year, 18 Rule 5 Draft picks earned a trip to big league camp with their new club. And some will end the week breaking camp on the Opening Day roster. With the regular season just days away, we revisit those players, review their Spring Training performances and offer an update on their 2018 status.


Nick Burdi, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 3 (Pirates)
Burdi has as strong of a chance as any Rule 5 pick this year to make an impact for his club's big league roster, if he can get healthy. The right-handed reliever underwent Tommy John surgery last May and will begin the year on the 60-day disabled list, but remains on the 40-man roster. At the time of his injury, Burdi had a 0.53 ERA and 0.76 WHIP over 14 outings with Double-A Chattanooga. He was acquired from the Phillies for international bonus pool money, and is currently ranked the Pirates' No. 24 prospect.

Carlos Tocci, OF -- Round 1, Pick 4 (Rangers)
The Rangers believe enough in Tocci to have him break camp with the big league club. That may be an attempt to handcuff the outfielder from having to return him to the Phillies, particularly given their outfield depth, but scouts have raved about his defense despite concerns he may struggle against Major League pitching to be a legitimate bench player.

Pedro Araujo, RHP -- Round 2, Pick 16 (Orioles)
Araujo will make the rare leap from low Minors to Major Leagues as part of Baltimore's bullpen. Having never pitched at a level higher than Double-A, and only for two innings there last season, Araujo was sharp over his eight outings in camp, seven of which were scoreless. The Orioles are hoping Araujo can continue to polish what's been a blossoming changeup.


Victor Reyes, OF -- Round 1, Pick 1 (Tigers)
Reyes has played well enough, hitting .255 in 51 at-bats, to give Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire pause over whether to include the Venezuelan-born outfielder on the club's Opening Day roster. However, the Tigers face a dilemma of sorts with Reyes, who has never played higher than Double-A, as they are attempting to rebuild around young talent and Rule 5 picks must remain on the club's roster for the season or be offered back to their original team.

Julian Fernandez, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 2 (Giants)
Fernandez's triple-digits velocity has drawn comparisons to Albertin Chapman. He's struggled with command over his Minor League career -- with a 133-82 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- and likely will need to polish that before taking the next step. After a rocky start this spring, the righty has thrown scoreless outings in three of his last four appearances.

Brad Keller, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 5 (Royals)
After five seasons in the Minors with the D-backs' organization, Keller looks like he'll get his first shot in the Majors. The right-hander is expected to break camp in the Royals' bullpen. Though he has been primarily a starter, the rebuilding Royals believe Keller offers versatility.

Burch Smith, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 6 (Royals)
A few rocky outings have ballooned Smith's spring ERA to 7.50, though the righty has otherwise impressed. Smith has admittedly struggled with command in camp, and he's in the midst of a crowded competition to make the Royals' bullpen.

Jordan Milbrath, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 8 (Pirates)
The Pirates have yet to make a decision on Milbrath, who has an 8.64 ERA and eight strikeouts in nine spring outings. The club has been intrigued with the righty's retooled, sidearm delivery. If he doesn't make Pittsburgh's Opening Day roster, he'll likely return to Cleveland's Double-A affiliate.

Nestor Cortes Jr., LHP -- Round 1, Pick 9 (Orioles)
Cortes' chances of making Baltimore's Opening Day rotation have grown more slim as the club has added veteran depth throughout camp, signing Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb. A once depleted unit now has Major League experience, which will likely leave Cortes out of the rotation, however, there could be a spot for him in the bullpen.

Elieser Hernandez, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 10 (Marlins)
Hernandez has been out for over week as he recovers from dental surgery following the removal of his wisdom teeth. He's likely going to open the season on the disabled list, which will allow him to make Minor League appearances as part of a rehab assignment to keep him on the roster, thus delaying a long-term decision on whether or not to keep him.

Luke Bard, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 12 (Angels)
The Angels' bullpen may be their one glaring question mark heading into the regular season, which bodes well for Bard. The right-hander struck out an average of 13.6 per nine innings between stints at Double-A and Triple-A last year with the Twins' organization. He appears to be at the stage where most make the Major League leap. In camp, he's given up seven earned runs in 10 1/3 innings (6.10 ERA) over nine outings.

Tyler Kinley, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 13 (Twins)
Kinley is vying for the Twins' final bullpen spot against left-hander Gabriel Moya. Because Kinley has mid-to-high 90s velocity and because he must remain on the roster to stay with the organization, he's given manager Paul Molitor pause on whether to keep him.

Albert Suarez, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 14 (D-backs)
Suarez is competing for the long relief role in an otherwise uncertain D-backs bullpen. He's been pitching roughly every fourth day and for roughly two innings per outing. In his last appearance, Suarez gave up a spring-high five earned runs over 2 2/3 innings against the White Sox.

Brett Graves, RHP -- Round 2, Pick 17 (Marlins)
Graves has been out since March 6 with an oblique strain, and he will likely begin the year on the DL. That will allow the Marlins to coax him back with Minor League rehab appearances and not having to take him off the roster. Over his three outings in Grapefruit League play, Graves gave up three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Jose Mesa Jr., RHP -- Round 3, Pick 18 (Orioles)
Mesa was the odd man out when the Orioles signed Cobb. As such, the 24-year-old righty was designated for assignment and removed from the 40-man roster. He'll be placed on waivers this week and returned to the Yankees, perhaps opening the season with Class-A Advanced Tampa, where he compiled a 2.72 ERA in 21 outings last year.


Anyelo Gomez, RHP -- Round 1, Pick 7 (Braves)
Gomez was returned to the Yankees by the Braves on Tuesday. He impressed early in camp but struggled over his final week with Atlanta. The Braves paid $100,000 to select Gomez in December's Rule 5 Draft, but with the return, they received half that cost back from the Yankees. His departure also leaves the Braves with two holes in their bullpen that they must fill.

Mike Ford, INF -- Round 1, Pick 11 (Mariners)
Injuries to the beleaguered Mariners opened an opportunity for Ford to contribute at first base. Ford was competing against an impressive Daniel Vogelbach, who has been one of Seattle's surprise stories this spring, for the backup first-base job, but the 25-year-old was returned to the Yankees.

Anthony Gose, LHP/OF -- Round 1, Pick 15 (Astros)
Gose was selected by the Astros, but the club couldn't find room for him. He was returned to the Rangers a few weeks ago and made his Cactus League debut with Texas on Friday, giving up five runs (two earned) while registering just two outs. The converted outfielder has high-90s velocity, but he doesn't necessarily have strong control of it.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.