The Blue Jays have selected Royals’ RHP Elvis Luciano with the tenth pick of this afternoon’s Rule 5 Draft.
It’s a bit of a head scratcher. Luciano is only 18, and the highest level he’s played in his career thus far is rookie ball. This season, he threw just 67 innings with a 4.16 ERA, striking out 70 and walking 23.
All of this would be fine and well if he was just placed into the Blue Jays system, but because he was acquired via the Rule 5 draft, the Blue Jays have to keep him on the major league roster all season. We saw that with Joe Biagini in 2016, who successfully made the jump from double-A to the show. The major difference between those two pitchers is that Biagini was 26 in the 2016 season and Luciano wouldn’t be able to buy himself a beer in most road games he doesn’t pitch in.
There’s definitely upside in Luciano, but there’s also a ton of potential for shit to go terribly wrong for a guy that young and inexperienced. It would also be incredibly unfair to keep an 18-year-old up with the team just to avoid losing him, stunting his growth in the process. Who knows, maybe they had their eye on him and/or only made this pick to gain leverage in a trade…OR they could work out a trade at a later date. Baseball hot stove! Weeeeeee!
Ross Atkins has since said that he thinks Luciano can stick out of Jays camp, but he also said this about Troy Tulowitzki. So uh, I guess we’ll find out!
Atkins was pretty clear. Luciano was picked because #BlueJays think he can make the team out of camp and stick. There is no side deal with Kansas City for the rookie league righty.
— Gregor Chisholm (@gregorMLB) December 13, 2018
“We wouldn’t have taken him if we didn’t think he had the stuff to do that.”
— Keegan Matheson (@KeeganMatheson) December 13, 2018
At the very least, it would be kind of intriguing to see what he can do out of the pen. He has a 55-grade curveball according to both the MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs earlier this year, and he throws in the mid-90s starting games. Him potentially getting a few ticks on his fastball and working an above-average curve in short spurts could be fun.
Or, I don’t know, maybe Judge hits a ball off of him so high and far that Luciano is back in the Royals system before it lands.
In other Rule 5 news, the Blue Jays have lost RHP Jordan Romano to the White Sox and LHP Travis Bergen to the Giants. The 25-year-old Romano has come a long way since Tommy John surgery in 2015 and has been steadily climbing through the organization, showing flashes of brilliance at times. He was a darkhorse to be a part of that 2019 rotation. Bergen, on the other hand, was a pretty good reliever for the Dunedin Blue Jays, and then the New Hampshire Fisher Cats this season. The 24-year-old posted a 0.95 ERA with a tidy 4.95 K/BB ratio.
The team next year is going to be young, but I don’t think you can fret too much about losing those guys. The team has a pretty deep prospect pool, with a lot of them falling in the Bergen and Romano range. You can’t really say they’re MLB ready, but there’s no harm in taking a flier on them.