The Rule 5 Draft is quickly approaching and will take place at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings on December 11th. This particular draft allows players with four years or more of minor league service time, and who are not on their respective team’s 40-man roster, to be given a chance to compete in the majors. Essentially, the draft prevents players from being stashed in the minors and subject to a team when they could be playing in the major leagues for another club. As a result, several useful players are available to be nabbed in the draft under the condition they are kept on the 25-man roster for the entirety of the season.
From the Angels’ perspective, this is an opportunity to gather an inexpensive player, at a measly $50,000 price tag, who can help the club contend in 2015. Typically, Rule 5 draftees are never stars, or quality regulars for that matter, and the vast majority won’t finish the year with the club that drafted them in the first place. That doesn’t mean the Angels won’t be on the lookout however. Three areas of the roster that could use some help are starting pitching, bench depth, and a lefty bullpen arm, and it’s possible that with small cap space available, GM Jerry Dipoto will take a risk with a Rule 5 player.
Here are some notables who might interest the Angels’ front office. Note: Also listed with the player’s name and position is the current club he plays for and highest level reached in the minors.
2B/SS Taylor Featherston – Colorado Rockies (AA)
Featherston is a middle infielder who boasts impressive power from the right side of the batter’s box. Last year for Colorado’s Double-A affiliate, he hit .260/.322/.439 in 550 plate appearances while swiping 14 bases. A 109 OPS+ from an infielder who can play anywhere around the diamond could be very useful for an Angels infield that saw John McDonald as their best utility option last year. The Houston, Texas native crushed 16 home runs last season in the pitcher friendly Texas League while lacing 33 doubles, good for 3rd most in the league. Featherston didn’t walk a ton in Double-A but he does have a lifetime .342 OBP in the minors while playing at the league average age each season. There’s a chance that Featherston could be taken in the draft and have a Spring Training tryout for the utility spot against the likes of Grant Green and other minor league veterans who will be signed later on. If he doesn’t perform well enough for a bench spot, the Halos can simply return him to the Rockies. No harm, no foul.
RHP Cody Martin – Atlanta Braves (AAA)
Cody Martin played the entire 2014 season for Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate and posted a 3.52 ERA in 156 innings while making 26 starts. He doesn’t dazzle necessarily, but could fill the profile the #5 starter that the Angels are searching for. The right-hander struck out 8.12 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9, which are both solid peripherals and allowed just 1.0 HR/9. Nothing really stands out with Martin and this might make him less likely for a team like the Angels to give him a shot on the roster. Then again, Matt Shoemaker never really stood out in the minor leagues either before given a chance in the majors.
1B Mark Canha – Miami Marlins (AAA)
Although his primary position is first, the Angels could test Canha out at third during Spring Training, as he’s played the hot corner in the minors in the past. This would give the team a corner infield/outfield option with good power, as he hit 20 bombs last year in the Pacific Coast League. The Cal State Berkeley product compliments his power with a patient eye and has posted an OBP greater than .370 the past four seasons. If, and only if, Canha can provide flexibility around the field, he can certainly battle with C.J. Cron for a spot on the roster. While he might not quite fit the needs of the roster, I think giving Canha a shot to showcase his skills would be awful fun to watch and could benefit the Angels in the end.
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LHP Sean Gilmartin – Minnesota Twins (AAA)
Last year, the Angels were able to trade for Rule 5 draftee Brian Moran in hopes of using him as a LOOGY in the bullpen. Moran ended up needing Tommy John surgery and never threw a pitch for the Angels and as a result, the Halos had no southpaw to shut down tough lefties in 2014. Enter Sean Gilmartin. Born relatively close to Anaheim in Thousand Oaks, California, the lefty dominated same handed bats between Double and Triple-A last year. Lefties combined for a sub-.500 OPS against Gilmartin and struck out over 30% of the time. The Angels did trade for LHP Cesar Ramos this offseason but does not dominate lefties quite like Gilmartin. If he is stolen from the Twins, you can expect Sean Gilmartin to serve primarily as a LOOGY in the bullpen.
One major complication that is inevitable is the Angels’ draft position, last. Because they sported the league’s best record in 2014, the team will have to endure every other club choosing the player of their liking before they get an opportunity. The good news is that it shouldn’t be too hard to pry a Rule 5 draftee from another team via trade as most clubs know said draftee won’t make it throughout the season anyways. A low level prospect, international signing pool money, or cash considerations should be enough should the Angels decide to actively pursue a player. Although my list is pure speculation, Jerry Dipoto might be eyeballing the same type of players in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough.
Whether the Angels do or don’t draft a player on December 11th, you can be sure to find coverage of the day’s activities here on Halo Hangout, as we will post the results immediately following the draft.