NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Heading into Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, the buzz was that this year's crop was deeper than it had been in recent years. For the 15 players taken in the Major League phase of the Draft, they'll now get the chance next spring to make a big league roster and show just how good this class really is.
As is usually the case, the Draft was pitching-heavy, with nine of the 15 players taken in the opening phase hoping to stick on a Major League pitching staff. The first four selections were all pitchers, starting with No. 1 pick Josh Fields. The former first-round pick was taken by the Houston Astros and has always had more than enough pure stuff to be an effective short reliever at the highest level. Command has been elusive, but the 27-year-old improved tremendously in that regard in 2012 while reaching Triple-A.
"We liked him at 1-1 all along," Astros director of pro scouting Kevin Goldstein said. "We had scouting stuff and analytic stuff, and Fields was at the top of both lists. In the end, there wasn't a long conversation at all about 1-1. We kind of sat in the room and said, '1-1 is Fields' and everyone kind of nodded their head and moved on. We think he can pitch in our bullpen right away, and that's something we needed."
The Cleveland Indians took the first position player in the Rule 5, snagging Arizona Fall League MVP Chris McGuiness from the Texas Rangers. The first baseman drove in 27 runs in 25 games in the AFL after a solid season in the Double-A Texas League.
"We spent a lot of time discussing whether to put him on the roster or not," Rangers pro scouting director Josh Boyd said. "He came off a strong season and was the Fall League MVP. We like the player a lot."
During the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, an eligible player left unprotected from his club's 40-man roster may be selected for $50,000. He must then remain on his drafting team's active Major League roster during the following season or be sent back to the original club for $25,000.
The Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals were raided the most, each losing two players in the Major League phase. Along with Fields, the Red Sox lost right-hander Ryan Pressly, who made a successful transition to the bullpen in 2012. Cleveland lost Hector Rondon, who went No. 2 overall to the Cubs, along with lefty T.J. McFarland, who has the chance to be a solid lefty specialist out of the Orioles' bullpen.
Washington lost two members of its Top 20 prospects list. Daniel Rosenbaum, ranked No. 12, was the third overall pick by the Colorado Rockies. No. 10 prospect Jeff Kobernus, a second baseman, initially was selected by the Boston Red Sox, but he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Minor League utility man Justin Henry.
That wasn't the only move the Tigers made. They also sent cash to the New York Mets in return for lefty Kyle Lobstein, taken from the Tampa Bay Rays. In essence, Detroit got two Rule 5 picks without actually making a selection. The previously stated rules apply if the Tigers decide to remove these players from their Major League roster.
Detroit thinks the speedy Kobernus can play the outfield as well as second base and feels Lobstein might have the package to eventually be a starter, while also being looked at as a potential second lefty out of the bullpen.
"You want to improve all the time," Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "You want to be as good as you can at any position all the time. And a lot of times, you don't get the [Miguel] Cabreras, the [Prince] Fielders, the [Torii] Hunters. In some areas, you improve your roster by little bits. And we think that these guys have a chance to do that for us.
"It's a combination of both. I tip my cap. Our scouting department has done a tremendous job for us. You try to get better whatever way you can, no question. That's your job."
The Tigers join the Astros and Marlins as the two teams to have multiple selections in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. In addition to Fields, the Astros took Padres first baseman Nate Freiman, who starred for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic Qualifying Round. He has combined to hit 46 homers and drive in 116 runs over the last two Minor League seasons.
"We figured there was a strong chance that someone might take him," said Randy Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting. "He's had success during his Minor League career. Selfishly, we'd like to see him come back to us."
The Marlins took Dodgers outfielder Alfredo Silverio, a former Futures Game participant who missed the 2012 season following Tommy John surgery, then took hard-throwing lefty Braulio Lara from the Rays, who reportedly was touching triple digits in winter ball.
"Big arm. If he throws strikes, I think we may have something," Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said. "You take a chance on a lefty. I think it's a good opportunity. We'll take a look."
A total of 27 picks were made in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, picks that only cost $12,000 to make, and there were some interesting selections. The Astros took Cubs outfielder Michael Burgess, a one-time supplemental first-round pick of the Washington Nationals, with the first selection in that portion. Burgess has always had significant raw power, but his tendency to swing and miss at the plate have not allowed him to tap into it consistently.
The Red Sox took left-hander Jack McGeary, allowing the Massachusetts native to return home. The Nationals drafted the southpaw in the sixth round of the 2007 Draft, then gave him a bonus way over slot and allowed him to attend Stanford during the school year in order to get him to sign. He's had Tommy John surgery and has thrown just 25 1/3 innings over the past two seasons.
It's not often a player with Major League service time gets taken in the Minor League phase of the Rule 5, but that's what happened with Eric Farris. The Brewers second baseman has appeared in 14 games in the big leagues, all but one coming in 2012. But there was no opportunity for him in Milwaukee, so the Brewers agreed to drop him down to the Double-A roster to help ensure his selection, thus giving him an opportunity elsewhere. That opportunity will come in Seattle, where GM Jack Zduriencik knows Farris well, having drafted him as Milwaukee's scouting director in 2007.
Results of the 2012 Rule 5 Draft:
Acquiring teams in bold; former organizations in parentheses
HOU: Josh Fields, RHP (BOS)
CHC: Hector Rondon, RHP (CLE)
COL: Daniel Rosenbaum, LHP (WAS)
MIN: Ryan Pressly, RHP (BOS)
CLE: Chris McGuiness, 1B (TEX)
MIA: Alfredo Silverio, OF (LAD)
BOS: Jeff Kobernus, 2B (WAS)
NYM: Kyle Lobstein, LHP (TB)
ARI: Starling Peralta, RHP (CHC)
PHI: Ender Inciarte, OF (ARI)
CWS: Angel Sanchez, INF (LAA)
BAL: T.J. McFarland, LHP (CLE)
TEX: Coty Woods, RHP (COL)
HOU: Nate Freiman, 1B (SD)
MIA: Braulio Lara, LHP (TB)
HOU: Michael Burgess, OF (CHC)
MIN: Mark Sobolewski, 3B (TOR)
MIA: Tyler Kehrer, LHP (LAA)
BOS: Jack McGeary, LHP (WAS)
TOR: Sawyer Carroll, OF (SD)
SEA: Eric Farris, 2B (MIL)
SD: Diego Goris, 3B (KC)
PIT: Ethan Hollingsworth, RHP (KC)
PHI: Brendan Lafferty, LHP (KC)
LAD: Elevys Gonzalez, INF (PIT)
STL: Matt Cerda, 3B (CHC)
DET: Eliezer Mesa, OF (OAK)
LAA: Robert Widlansky, 1B (BAL)
BAL: Tom Boleska, RHP (PIT)
TEX: Marquez Smith, 3B (CIN)
OAK: Thomas Mendonca, 3B (TEX)
SF: Scott Shuman, RHP (TB)
CIN: Ryan Dennick, LHP (KC)
HOU: Cameron Lamb, RHP (SF)
BOS: Jon Bachanov, RHP (CWS)
TOR: Alvido Jimenez, RHP (CHC)
SD: Federico Castaneda, RHP (KC)
LAD: Hector Nelo, RHP (WAS)
STL: Jay Voss, LHP (DET)
OAK: Steven Hill, C (STL)
CIN: Michael Gilmartin, 2B (OAK)
TOR: Efrain Nieves, LHP (DET)