The Major League baseball Rule 5 draft of unprotected Minor League players is tomorrow. Here is my brief and humble preview.
The Braves haven't selected anyone the last couple of years, and I believe the last guy they selected (Chris Spurling) was in 2002 and they traded him away to the Tigers before the start of the season. With plenty of Pete Orrs and Willy Aybars and Matt Diazez around the Braves clubhouse there's probably no need for the Braves to take a position player and let him sit on the already crowded bench for a year. And with one of the major focal points of the off-season being the bullpen, I can't really see the Braves taking a hard thrower and sticking him in the back of the pen. So unless there's a gem that they just can't pass up we will once again not draft anyone in the Rule 5 draft. Of course, this will be the highest we've drafted in 15 years, so the prospect pool might be better than we've seen it where we usually draft 10 spots lower.
But that's not to say that our guys won't get taken by other teams. The Braves Shows Bill Shanks seems to think that two vulnerable pitchers who could be taken are Sean White and the guy Talking Chop regulars rated the 14th best prospect in the Braves organization, Dan Smith. I'm quite surprised that Smith wasn't protected on the roster; he would certainly seem to have more upside than Blanco, Bohn, or Johnson who were all added to the 40-man roster. He's still only 23, left-handed, and had a great K/BB ratio last year. I'm guessing he gets taken by someone, and they'd be right to take a chance on him. Right-hander Ryan Basner is another hard throwing young pitcher that someone might take a chance on.
The Braves were helped immensely this year by the new changes in the collective bargaining agreement that gave an extra year of eligibility to guys like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Jo-Jo Reyes, and guys that really needed another year to prove themselves 40-man roster worthy like Clint Sammons, Brandon Jones, Jamie Romak and J.C. Holt. With these new changes and the smaller player pool, this year's Rule 5 is expected to be a lot less interesting than in years past. But next year's draft is expected to be a honey pot with tons of high ceiling prospects available. One of the things to watch for as the 2007 Minor League season goes on is which prospects perform up to expectations. There will likely be a lot of players that we think are worthy of inclusion on the 40-man roster who simply don't make the cut next year.