The Rule 5 Draft takes place tomorrow and, once again, the Astros have the first overall pick. The club will definitely use that first pick, but may not take a player in the second round this time. So, who might the Astros have in mind?
The first question you have to ask yourself is: How many Jeff Luhnow draft picks are available? Well, there’s at least one notable name on that list.
Boone Whiting • RHP
Last year, in his age 23 season, Whiting got off to a quick start at AA and climbed to the AAA level for the final four months of the campaign. In 21 starts for the Memphis Redbirds, Whiting posted a 4.09 ERA (3.84 FIP) and a 1.39 WHIP.
At 6′ 1″ and 175 pounds, Whiting isn’t going to overpower hitters. But he knows how to pitch — and the numbers show it. In 345 career innings in the minors, Whiting has struck out more than a batter per inning and has an outstanding 4.41 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Whiting might be a guy that could actually help the Astros bullpen. Jeff Luhnow might be willing to take a chance on his former pick and see what happens.
Marcus Hatley • RHP
A hard thrower from the Cubs organization, Hatley was converted into a reliever after his age 22 season. At 6′ 5″ tall and 220 pounds, Hatley uses his size to “throw downhill”. He has allowed only 22 homeruns in over 300 minor league innings and only eight since becoming a reliever.
Hatley has been pitching in the Mexican Pacific League this winter but recently landed on the disabled list. He has missed considerable time with elbow injuries in the past, so that is something to be wary of. If healthy, Hatley and his mid-nineties fastball could be a plus for the Astros bullpen.
Marcos Mateo • RHP
Not only does Mateo have previous big league experience, he is currently dominating in the Dominican Winter League — as a closer! The 29-year old has nine saves and three wins in 17 appearances for Estrellas de Oriente. Mateo has used a high-nineties fastball and a nasty slider that stays in the upper-eighties to wreak havoc in the DWL.
Mateo had good strikeout numbers with the Cubs in limited action in 2010 and 2011 and sports a 3.41 xFIP in 44 & 2/3 big league innings. Much like the Astros, the Cubs have more than one player that is sure to attract interest in Thursday’s draft. Mateo could be the one that is most ready to help a big league club. If selected by the Astros he could be a sleeper for the closer’s role.
Zach Thornton • RHP
The 25-year old Thornton struck out 90 and walked only twelve while pitching across three levels of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in 2013. That included a 31/4 K/BB total at AAA Indianapolis. Overall, Thornton produced a 0.93 WHIP and a 2.63 ERA in 75 & 1/3 innings.
Thornton has consistently struck out more than a batter per inning in the minors and has late game experience. Continuing with the theme, Zach appears to be someone who could pay immediate dividends for a club in desperate need of bullpen help.
After less than stellar results from the last two Rule 5 Drafts, I fully expect Jeff Luhnow to select a bullpen arm that can have an immediate impact. As for the second round pick, I would only expect the Astros to take a player that they feel they will be able to trade.
This could also be the first time the Astros lose a player to Rule 5. In addition to J.D. Martinez, righty Jake Buchanan and catcher Carlos Perez could be on the radar of several teams.