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Rule 5 targets: hitters

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Several intriguing offensive options are available if the White Sox are interested in adding someone via the Rule 5 draft

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Tampa Bay Rays
Multipositional Magic: Kean Wong is the most MLB-ready player of this year’s Rule 5 draft class.
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

How the Rule 5 draft works

When is the Rule 5 draft held? December 13, 2018

Who can make a Rule 5 draft selection? Any club with fewer than 40 players on their 40-man roster.

Who is eligible for the Rule 5 draft? Any player who signed with his current club at age 18 or younger, has played professionally for at least five years, and is not on a 40-man roster. Also, any player who signed at 19 or older, has played professionally for at least four years, and is not on a 40-man roster.

What is the selection order of the Rule 5 draft? Draft picks are made in reverse order of the 2018 standings.

Is there a cost assigned to a Rule 5 draft pick? If a club selects a Rule 5 player, it must send $100,000 to the club in exchange for the player.

Is a Rule 5 player placed on a roster? Yes, the selected player must be assigned directly to both the drafting club’s 40-man roster and 25-man, active major league roster.

What if a Rule 5 player gets demoted to the minors in 2019? A Rule 5 draft pick must be placed on outright waivers in order to be removed from the 25-man roster. If the player clears waivers, he must be offered back to his previous team for $50,000.

What if no one wants the Rule 5 player — not even his original team? Then, yep, the poor fella can be demoted to the minors.

Can a Rule 5 draft pick be traded after the draft, or during the 2019 season? Yes, but any team that acquires the player is still subject to the same Rule 5 draft restrictions outlined above.

Is there any way to throw off the shackles of Rule 5 draft restrictions? Yes, the two teams involved can work out a traditional trade — with the drafting team sending a player, cash or future considerations in exchange for the Rule 5 player — that will remove Rule 5 draft restrictions.


Hitters for the White Sox to consider in this year’s Rule 5 draft

There are a few intriguing options who actually could contribute to a major league roster on Opening Day; however, most of the available Rule 5 players are projects — guys who have plenty of talent (in some cases, unproven) who simply aren’t major league-ready yet. Those are the guys you try to hide in the roster — perhaps as a third catcher, utility infielder or outfielder who won’t be counted on for regular at-bats or innings. Below is a position-by-position breakdown as to players the White Sox could consider.

Chances are, the White Sox will select just one player, because their bullpen, catching and outfield depth are mostly in the upper levels of the system.

Players ages are as of April 1, 2019.

Catcher

Ali Sanchez (22): As the No. 25 prospect of the New York Mets, Sanchez is all about the glove, which could make him a solid backup to Welington Castillo. There are absolutely no questions about Sanchez’s ability to defend. He is a plus receiver, who blocks well and already calls a good game. His cannon of an arm has enabled him to throw out 46.9% of potential basestealers in his pro career through 2018, and grades out with a 65 arm and 60 field per MLB Pipeline. He doesn’t hit all that much (.265./294/.387, six homers, 38 RBIs, 15 walks and 38 strikeouts in 328 career at-bats in A & A+ ball). It would be easy to envision him as a backup to Seby Zavala or Zack Collins in 2020.

Jhonny Pereda (22): Pereda is the No. 20 prospect of the Chicago Cubs, and while his hitting actually ranks ahead of Sanchez’s, his framing and defensive skills are a bit behind. Pereda’s offensive numbers were solid in A+ ball this year (.272/.347/.363, with eight homers, 57 RBIs, 51 walks and 68 strikeouts in 441 AB, with similar numbers in the Arizona Fall League). Pereda’s arm is graded as a 60, but fielding grades a 50 per MLB Pipeline, his continuing improvement in fielding and framing was cited).

Max Pentecost (26): As of 2017, Pentecost was the No. 8 prospect of the Toronto Blue Jays, but his numbers have tailed off a bit. In 2018, he slashed .253/.283/.401 in AA ball, with 10 homers, 52 RBIs, 15 walks and 89 strikeouts in 368 at-bats. His arm and field tools both are graded 50 according to MLB Pipeline. He’s a better-hitting option than Sanchez or Pereda, but he doesn’t have their defensive chops — which is something the White Sox actually will need with Zavala and/or Collins potentially manning the position in 2020.

First Base

Roberto Ramos (24): Ramos is a large Colorado Rockies prospect (6´5´´, 220) who isn’t quite as well known as the next two guys on this list — but he actually may be better than them. This year in A and A+ ball, Ramos combined to slash .269/.368/.574 with 32 homers, 77 RBIs, 58 walks and 140 strikeouts in 413 at-bats. His power was graded as a 60 by Minor League Ball, and like the other first basemen on this list, is solely a first baseman. Ramos is currently Colorado’s 23rd-ranked prospect.

Josh Ockimey (23): Ockimey is the 10th-ranked prospect in the Boston Red Sox system. and he’s shown good power and patience. He’s actually more major league ready than Ramos, as he actually spent a portion of this year in AAA. Combined with AA and AAA, Ockimey slashed .245/.356/.455 in 404 at-bats with 20 homers, 71 RBIs, 70 walks and 149 strikeouts. His power grades at a 55, with all other skills below average per MLB Pipeline.

Jake Gatewood (23): Gatewood is the 10th-ranked prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers system. Like Ramos, Gatewood is 6´5´´; however, he’s a bit lankier than the Red Sox prospect, at 190 pounds. Gatewood played all year in AA ball and slashed .244/.302/.466 in 352 at-bats, with 19 homers, 59 RBIs, 28 walks and 114 strikeouts. His defensive skills are better than Ramos and Ockimey (50 field, 60 arm), but Gatewood doesn’t walk nearly as often.

Second Base

Kean Wong (23): While Wong isn’t ranked as highly as Schrock or Brito below, he would better fit the White Sox needs due to his versatility and readiness for the big leagues (in fact, when the Tampa Bay Rays failed to give Wong even a September call-up last year, older brother/St. Louis Cardinal Kolten was furious). In addition to second, Kean also played third base, left field and center field for the Rays AAA squad. He was very strong at the dish last year as well: In 451 at-bats, he slashed .282/.345/.406 with nine homers, 50 RBIs, 40 walks, 112 strikeouts and seven stolen bases.

Daniel Brito (21): Brito is a project, but he’s the best glove man available at second base — he won the minor league Gold Glove Award for second base in 2018. As the 12th-ranked prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, Brito hit nearly the same in A and A+ ball in 2018, combining for .252/.307/.342 in 421 at-bats, with four homers, 38 RBIs, 33 walks, 83 strikeouts and 16 stolen bases.

Max Schrock (24): Schrock is the No. 11 Cardinals prospect according to MLB Pipeline. He hit .249/.296/.331 in 2018, providing four homers, 42 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 24 walks and 36 strikeouts in 417 AAA at-bats. He’s pretty much a second baseman due to his limited arm strength; otherwise, he’d have good utilityman potential. Schrock is the best of a weak second-base class in this year’s Rule 5 draft.

Shortstop

Richie Martin (24): Martin just may be the best hitter available in this year’s Rule 5 draft. Currently the 12th-ranked Oakland Athletics prospect, he slashed .300/.368/.439 in AA ball in 2018, with six homers, 42 RBIs, 25 stolen bases, 44 walks and 86 strikeouts in 453 at-bats. His run, field, and arm tools all grade at 55 or higher, while his hit tool of 45 may be going up. Martin was the A’s first round pick in 2015.

Drew Jackson (25): Jackson played short, second, and center for the Los Angeles Dodgers AA team in Tulsa in 2018, and produced good power numbers: .251/.356/.447 in 342 at-bats, with 15 homers, 46 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, 45 walks and 93 strikeouts. Jackson played more at second but has the arm to play shortstop, third and even outfield. When he was the third-ranked Seattle Mariners prospect in 2016, Jackson was graded out as a 70 arm, 65 run, 55 field, 50 hit and 35 power.

Ray-Patrick Didder (24): I almost went with the Miami Marlins’ Christopher Torres for the third option here, but while Torres has more significant upside, Didder is far more advanced and wouldn’t be quite as overwhelmed if he had to play in the majors right now. In the Braves system in 2018, Didder slashed just .232/.331/.325 overall between A+ and AA ball, but his numbers were far better in the higher level (.275/.373/.374). In a combined 375 at-bats, Didder hit four homers, 39 RBIs, 44 walks, and 114 strikeouts while swiping 27-of-32 bases. Didder would make the ideal utility player, as an above-average defender with a cannon arm. Though he played solely shortstop in 2018, Didder had 32 combined assists in 2016 and 2017, in just more than 170 games in the outfield. Fox Sports praises Didder’s ability to read the ball defensively and issued him 80 grades for both his defense and arm.

Third Base

Cristian Santana (22): In A+ ball last year, Santana slashed .274/.302/.447 in 548 at-bats, with 23 doubles, 24 homers, 109 RBIs, 20 walks and 143 strikeouts. Santana is not major league ready, but appears to have a high ceiling. He’s played all four infield spots in the Dodgers system (where he ranks as L.A.’s 24th overall prospect), but he appears best suited for the corners. MLB Pipeline grades him as having a 60 arm and 50 fielding, while his power is graded at 50.

David Thompson (25): Thompson’s luster has definitely faded after an injury-riddled campaign in the New York Mets system in 2018. Because he didn’t play much this year in AAA (due to a hand injury and a later elbow surgery), I’ll refer to his stats from 2016-17. In those two years, Thompson averaged .271/.329/.436, 14 homers, 82 RBIs, 35 walks and 91 strikeouts over 454 at-bats. He’s currently New York’s 19th-rated prospect and is considered an average defender at the hot corner.

Drew Ward (24): I almost went with Jason Vosler of the San Diego Padres here, but chose Ward because he’s a better defender and more patient hitter. Ward did pretty well in AA ball this year, but struggled when promoted to AAA. For the year, the Washington Nationals No. 29 prospect slashed .249/.363/.422 in 374 combined at-bats, with 13 homers, 58 RBIs, 62 walks and 115 strikeouts. He played both corners satisfactorily, and currently has a 55 grade arm and 50 grade fielding ability.

Outfield

Forrest Wall (23): Wall doesn’t have as high a ceiling as other guys on this list, but his floor is high, and he’s the most major league ready outfielder in this draft. Combined in A+ and AA ball, Wall slashed .263/.343/.402 in 502 at-bats, with 24 doubles, eight triples, 10 homers, 44 RBIs, 38 stolen bases, 53 walks and 135 strikeouts. He’s the 25th-ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system, and grades best with his speed, hitting, and fielding tools. Wall played mostly center field and left field this year, though he was primarily a second baseman through 2016. Wall has a relatively weak arm, so he’s probably best suited for left field and second base, although he could probably play in a pinch at center.

Travis Demeritte (24): I’m not as high on Demeritte as others are, simply because I have strikeout fatigue after watching too many White Sox flailing away this year. He’s got more upside than Wall, although his hit tool is lagging, and he doesn’t have as much speed. In 2018, the Braves No. 22 prospect slashed .222/.316/.416, with 22 doubles, five triples, 17 homers, 63 RBIs, 57 walks, 140 strikeouts and six stolen bases in 428 at-bats in AA. Actually, Demeritte’s speed actually isn’t bad — he simply doesn’t steal many bases. His throwing arm is much better than Wall’s, so Demeritte is better suited as a center fielder. He’s still a project, but he could be quite an exciting player if he puts it all together. Like Wall, Demeritte came up originally as a second baseman and would easily fit in there when needed.

Michael Beltre (23): Beltre is the 21st-ranked prospect in the Cincinnati Reds system, and enjoyed a solid season in A and A+ ball. In 2018, he combined to slash.278/.397/.402 in 353 at-bats, with five homers, 37 RBIs, 22-of-27 in stolen bases, 69 walks and 85 strikeouts. He’s got above-average plate discipline. Beltre’s only significant skill he lacks is power, which is still developing. Beltre is not as MLB-ready as Wall or Demeritte.

Pablo Olivares (21): Drafting Olivares is an outside-the-box idea, but he reminds me a bit of a younger, outfield version of Nick Madrigal. Last year in A and A+ ball in the New York Yankees system, Olivares combined to hit .322/.391/.422 in a combined 242 at-bats, with six homers, 30 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 20 walks and 46 strikeouts. The 6´0´´, 160-pounder is a pure contact hitter from the right side of the plate who won’t produce much in terms of power numbers. Olivares does have speed and is still learning how to use it. Defensively, he’s an excellent outfielder with good range and arm.

Oscar Gonzalez (21): Gonzalez slashed .292/.310/.435 for Cleveland’s A and AA squads in 462 at-bats this year, with 25 doubles, 13 homers, five stolen bases, 12 walks and 107 strikeouts. His low walk total drops him down to fifth for this listing, but his strikeouts aren’t really all that bad for someone so young. His profile reminds me of Micker Adolfo, as he has a grade-70 arm, above-average power and a big strikeout-to-walk ratio. Gonzalez ranks No. 23 among Cleveland prospects.


Summary

It seems most likely that the White Sox will opt for a reliever in this year’s Rule 5 draft, but it’s possible they could look at a different position because they already have several high-end relievers with shots at the majors in 2019. A solid defensive second-string catcher (e.g. Sanchez or Pereda) may be a possibility — especially if Rick Hahn senses he’ll be unsuccessful in landing a top catcher (Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto) via trade or free agency. Of course, an outfielder could always be in play, although that seems less likely with the tendering of Leury Garcia. A couple of third base/middle infield options look intriguing as well, particularly if the White Sox move Jose Rondon or Yolmer Sanchez prior to the draft.