Part one of this Rule 5 draft preview profiled pitchers who could be ready to step in and contribute in the majors next season. Those pitchers all had one elite skill whether that be spin rate or high velocity. This post is going to feature pitchers who maybe aren’t quite ready to be contributors in the Majors but have enough upside that is it worth taking a chance on and finagling their innings.
Stats from Fangraphs unless otherwise noted.
The Long-relievers/Depth Starters
Lake Bachar – RHP San Diego (Age 24)
Bachar had a strong season at AA. He struck out 126 batters in 126.2 innings. He gets a fair amount of swings and misses, his 13.2% swinging strike rate ranked 13th among AA pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. He played football in college so he doesn’t have much mileage on his arm, and is still has room to develop as a baseball player. He is a fastball slider pitcher who sits 92-93. He had difficulties with control. He walked 10.8% of batters and 4.12 per nine. He also allowed too many home runs as his 14.2% HR/FB rate would indicate. He may be better suited to the bullpen where his stuff would play up. Though he had decent success as a starter in Double-A with a 3.98 ERA. His FIP (4.82) and xFIP (4.39) were worse due to the walks and home runs he allowed.
Zack Brown – RHP Brewers (24)
Brown I think should be the top target for the Blue Jays. Brown is the Brewers #3 prospect and was their 2018 MilB pitcher of the year. So why would the Brewers leave him unprotected? Well he a pretty bad year in Triple-A. In 116.2 innings Brown had a 5.79 ERA, a 5.67 FIP and 5.59 xFIP. He walked 64 batters (11.9%) and gave up 16 home runs (1.23 HR/9). Not numbers that get you real excited for a prospect. He isn’t a big strikeout pitcher either getting only 98 this season. His 9.4% swinging strike rate ranked in the bottom quarter of the league. When looking at Brown’s stats. Context is key. The Brewers Triple-A affiliate the San Antonio Missions, play in the PCL. The PCL was already bad enough on pitchers before they added the juiced ball this season. The league as a whole had an ERA of 5.49, per Baseball Reference. Among pitchers who spent most of the season there (more than 100 innings pitched) Brown’s ERA ranked 17th. He got partially unlucky with a .342 babip. Most importantly prior to this season, Brown was really good. He never had an ERA higher to 3.39 over a full season. He doesn’t have a big fastball sitting 90-94 and topping at 95. He has a good curveball and change-up. Given what happened in the PCL this season and Browns prior history its possible this season was just a one-off and Brown could be back to being a very good starting pitcher this upcoming season. That is why he should be the top option for the Blue Jays.
— Brewers Farm (@BrewersFarm) April 13, 2018
Griffin Jax – RHP Twins (25)
Jax is unlike any other pitcher who has been profiled. He doesn’t have the big fastball. He sits 90-93. He doesn’t strike many players out, just a 6.79 K/9 and 18.6% rate in 111.1 innings at Double-A this past season. He limits walks, 1.94 per nine and 5.3%. He keeps the ball in the yard, only allowing five homers. He had a fantastic season at Double-A pitching to a 2.67 ERA 3.18 FIP and 3.52 xFIP. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A where he made three starts. He was fine in those three starts a 4.50 ERA (4.94 FIP, 5.82 xFIP), he struck out 10 walked only three. He got hurt by the home run allow two home runs in 16.0 innings. What really got him was a spike in BABIP. He had a .280 BABIP at AA and that shot up to .321 in AAA. He has a low spin fastball generating 2250 RPM’s. He has essentially the same fastball as T.J Zeuch. Jax changes pace with a good slider and change-up. The Blue Jays like their spin but they aren’t backed off by lower velocities and may be the team to take a chance on Jax.
Garret Williams – LHP Giants (25)
Williams is another decent prospect on this list. He climbed as high as number nine on the Giants list before a dreadful season at AA last season completely knocked him off the list. In his first taste at the level last season he had a 6.06 ERA, got hit around the yard and walked too many. This season was much better. In 110.0 innings he lowered his ERA to 3.60. His 3.99 FIP and 3.93 xFIP were both over a run lower than last year. He improved his strikeout rate (from 17.9% to 22.2%), and cut his walk rate (15.0% to 12.6%). While neither are highly impressive numbers it is good to see progress. Williams is a three pitch pitcher with a fastball, curve and slider. His curve is his best pitch, getting a future grade of 70 from Fangraphs. He uses that pitch to get ground balls. He has never had a season in which his ground ball rate dropped below 50%. His 55.7% groundball rate this season ranked second in AA among pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. Williams might be better suited out of the bullpen even with the new rules. He has enough of a repertoire that he can get both lefties and righties out.
The Elvis Luciano types
There are players who are really young, and are still in the low minors. They have plenty of upside, but aren’t ready for the MLB just yet. The hope is that you could manipulate their innings enough, to keep them on the big league roster all season.
Luis Oviedo – RHP Cleveland (20) (A, 87.0)
On the surface a 20 year old who pitched to a 5.38/4.41/4.46 ERA/FIP/xFIP line in A ball is rather unappealing. Remember though that Luciano in 2018 had a 4.66/4.31/4.44 line in rookie ball. So while results matter to an extent, pitchers can hold their own if their stuff is good enough. Oviedo has good stuff. His fastball touches 97, and Fangraphs rates his curve ball as a 50 pitch right now and gives his change-up an upside of a 55 pitch. Oviedo is a prospect that Mark Shapario and Ross Atkins should be at least somewhat familiar with. They were still with Cleveland when Oviedo was signed back in 2015. He is the 8th rated prospect in the Cleveland system and his ceiling makes him a very enticing option.
Sterling Sharp – RHP Nationals (24) (AA 49.2)
At 24 years old Sharp isn’t a true Luciano type pick. I put him in this section because of his upside and the success he had in AA this past season. He was only ranked as the 14th prospect in Washington’s system but that should rise this season. Sharp had a 3.99 ERA but an impressive 2.59 FIP and 2.84 xFIP. The difference between Sharp’s ERA and FIP can be attested to an extremely high .362 BABIP. Sterling is a ground ball specialist. He had a 63.3% ground ball rate, which was eighth among Double-A pitchers who threw at least 40 innings. That high BABIP can likely be from a lot of those ground balls find holes and playing in front minor league defenders. Sharp keeps the ball in the yard which is critical in this juiced ball era. Getting a chance to have major league defenders behind him could really help him as well.
The Top 5
Here is how I would rank as the top players for the Blue Jays, based on likelihood success in the majors and upside. With five players on the list it is guaranteed at least one will be there for the Blue Jays.
- Zack Brown
- Brandon Bailey
- Jordan Sheffield
- Sterling Sharp
- Daruis Valdez