Rule 5 draft produces few fantasy prospects
For the most part, the Rule 5 draft is about teams drafting players that could be potential middle relief arms, situational lefties or bench depth, and that was the case again this year. None of those categories is very appealing to fantasy players, and it's very rare for Rule 5 players to be used in late-inning relief or to get significant at-bats in the first year after they are drafted.
Rule 5 players need to be on the big league club all season long or be offered back to their original team. The latter is the likely outcome for most of the players drafted unless they really impress during the spring.
With that in mind, here are a few names to have on your radar screen:
Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres: The internal candidates for the Padres' open shortstop job aren't that exciting, and though the club is expected to add a cheap veteran such as Omar Vizquel, or add a shortstop in a potential Jake Peavy trade before camp starts, Cabrera's speed makes him worth watching. The 22-year-old stole 78 bags in the Sally League last season, and is also a plus defender with a strong arm. He doesn't hit for much authority, but the switch-hitter's glove could allow him to stick, allowing his legs to be a potential asset in fantasy play. The Rockies didn't want to lose him, but their 40-man roster was full.
Lou Palmisano, C, Astros: If you play in a league that requires you to play two catchers, Palmisano might be a viable play. He missed most of the season with a torn meniscus, but can swing the stick a little bit. Astros assistant GM Bobby Heck knows Palmisano from his days with the Brewers, and he'll have an opportunity to win part of the catching job. He knows the strike zone, could hit for a batting average that won't kill you and should add some modest pop. Given the depth of the catching pool in recent seasons, that might be useful in deep leagues if he gets some at-bats.
Eduardo Morlan, RP, Brewers: The Brewers' bullpen is unsettled, and Morlan has shown closer-type stuff in the past. This year he missed two months with shoulder problems, and his velocity -- which was in the mid-90s when I saw him at the AFL in 2007 -- was down quite a bit when he returned. It has reportedly come back a little bit in winter ball, and if he's 100 percent entering spring -- and though he's projected in a seventh-inning role right now -- he could become a deep sleeper for saves depending on the other moves the Brewers make this offseason. He throws strikes and can miss bats when he's right.
Ben Copeland, OF, Athletics: I think Copeland has an uphill battle to win a roster spot, but if he winds up getting some at-bats as a fourth outfielder, he has a little bit of speed and might be able to hit enough to have some value in deep AL-only play.
James Skelton, C, Diamondbacks: Skelton is absolutely devoid of pop, but he controls the strike zone and can make contact, having posted a career .418 OBP in the low minors. The diminutive backstop is not suited for an every-day role, and if he makes the club, he would serve as a third catcher, but if an injury or trade occurs to give him some more playing time, he could be a second catcher option in deep NL leagues who won't hurt you. Sometimes that's all you're looking for, even if there's very little upside.
Although there are other arms that I liked that were taken in the draft, such as Luis Perdomo, David Patton and Miguel Gonzales, none of them are expected to be much more than extra bullpen arms in the short-term, limiting their utility for fantasy owners.
Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.