The Rule 5 draft really isn't that exciting. Nowadays, it's quite unusual for a team to pick a player who ends up being much above replacement level. Sure, there are a few exceptions, but they're just that. More likely, a team is getting a middle reliever or a bench player.
The White Sox have the No. 3 pick in tomorrow's draft. But, unless the Marlins make a move, their 40-man roster is at capacity so the White Sox effectively have the No. 2 pick. With the White Sox 40-man roster currently at 38, they could make two selections in the draft.
A quick reminder of the rules: A player picked in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft must remain on the club’s 40-man roster for the entire 2014 season (including 90 days on the active roster in case of injury) and cannot be optioned to the minors or the team he was picked from gets a chance to reacquire the player (assuming he clears waivers). The cost is extremely minimal - the selecting club pays $50,000 to get the player.
Historically, pitchers are the most-picked players and also have the best chance to stick with a team the entire season, given that they can be stashed in the bullpen and used infrequently. Since the rule changed regarding roster protection in 2006, 88 of the 121 players picked have been pitchers. Of the 38 players who have stuck in the big leagues in the year after they were picked, 28 were pitchers.
It's likely that the White Sox will make one pick tomorrow morning, given both their high draft position and the team's current rebuilding mode. It's obviously likely that they'll take a pitcher. If not, the next most logical guess is a catcher.
Catchers are an infrequent pick - only five have been picked with just one sticking. That one was Jesus Flores, picked by the Nationals in 2006 after never playing above High-A. He carved out a decent MLB career, providing good enough numbers for a backup catcher.
The likeliest catcher target in this year's draft is Houston's Carlos Perez. He has White Sox ties through Marco Paddy, who signed him for the Blue Jays out of Venezuela in 2008. The right-handed hitter and thrower played most of last season in Triple-A and is rated as ready for the majors next season. Here's what Baseball America has to say about him:
Carlos Perez, c, Astros: Perez passed through the Rule 5 draft last year, but there’s a greater chance someone might roll the dice on him this time. Perez could be a fit for a rebuilding team with an established everyday catcher like, well . . . the Astros.
But given that Houston called up Max Stassi from Double-A and minor league veterans Cody Clark and Matt Pagnozzi late in the 2013 season, it wasn’t too much of a surprise that the Astros left Perez exposed. Perez, who turned 23 last month, is a dependable catcher who moves well behind the plate, blocks well and earns praise for how he handles a pitching staff. His arm is average and he gets rid of the ball quickly, helping him erase an impressive 47 percent of basestealers last year in Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The question scouts have on Perez is his offense. His bat speed is below-average, he has minimal power and his swing can get long. But Perez doesn’t swing and miss much and he controls the strike zone, which helped him hit a respectable .269/.328/.345 with 25 walks and 39 strikeouts in 75 games in Triple-A. If the power develops, he could be an everyday catcher, but he should at least get a chance in a backup role. When Perez originally signed with the Blue Jays out of Venezuela at age 17, Marco Paddy was Toronto’s top scout in Latin America. Paddy now runs the White Sox’s international operations as a special assistant to the general manager, and with Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley, the organization could look for additional depth. The White Sox have the third pick in the Rule 5 draft (and the Astros are at No. 1), so Perez could go off the board early.
On the pitching side, three names appear to be getting the most attention, according to Baseball America: the Cubs' RHP Marcus Mateo, the Pirates' RHP Zach Thornton and the Mariners' LHP Brian Moran.
Mateo has been pitching very well in the Dominican Winter League and this is what Baseball America has to say about him:
However, Cubs righthanded reliever Marcos Mateo is emerging as maybe the most fascinating name because of what he’s doing in the Dominican League this offseason. Mateo, who ranked three different times among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects, pitched reasonably well in the big leagues with Chicago in 2011. He then missed all of 2012 and a significant part of 2013 recovering from an elbow injury.
Mateo, now 29, has been absolutely electric in the Dominican Republic, featuring a high-90s fastball and a filthy slider that sits in the upper 80s. He’s got results to back up the stuff, having gone 3-0, 0.98 for Estrellas de Oriente, with 22 strikeouts, seven walks and 11 hits allowed in 19 innings. In his last six appearances as teams finalize their Rule 5 pref lists, Mateo has struck out 12, walked none, allowed five hits and no runs in six innings over six appearances.
Thornton is described as a "reliever with a funky delivery [who] gets loads of groundballs and features excellent control". Given Rick Hahn's preference for groundball pitchers, he may be a fit.
Moran is a lefty reliever and that is obviously an area in which the White Sox could use help. However, his lack of versatility is a negative as he is described as "probably a one-out lefty in that he’s great against lefties but gets ripped by righties".
There are tons of other names out there - the list of eligible players provided by MLB is a 66-page PDF and the above links contain most of the relevant names - so feel free to add your thoughts on who the White Sox should take tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. (Central). MLB.com will have live audio coverage but keep in mind that the major- league portion will take less than 10 minutes.