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Gems can be unearthed in Rule 5 Draft

Gems can be unearthed in Rule 5 Draft

LAS VEGAS -- To get an idea of just how much of a shot in the dark the Rule 5 Draft is, take a look at the past two years.

Last year, the Major League phase produced no great impact-type players. Sure, Wesley Wright stuck with the Astros and a trio of others spent almost all season on big league rosters, but that was pretty much it.

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The Draft two years ago, on the flip side, saw both Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria go in the Major League phase, and both were All-Stars two seasons later.

Just what the 2008 Rule 5 Draft (today at noon ET) will produce remains to be seen. But by every indication, it looks like it will be a lot closer to 2007 than '06.

The buzz at the Bellagio has been that there isn't much to buzz about. There seems to be a smaller pool of talent, largely because of the change in rules allowing teams an extra year than in the past before having to protect a player on the 40-man roster.

"We do think that the transition from three to four years of control before you had to protect them to four and five years has impacted the overall quality of players out there," said Pirates general manager Neal Huntington, whose team has the No. 4 overall pick in the Draft. "I think the talent level is less than it was two years ago. Give that player an extra year of control, the extra year to explore whether you want to protect that player, and I think you know more and he's closer to the big leagues before you have to protect him."

Where the 40-man stands
Below is the draft order for Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, followed by where each team stands with its 40-man roster. A team must be below 40 to make a selection in the Major League phase of the draft.
1. Washington Nationals 39
2. Seattle Mariners 36
3. San Diego Padres 37
4. Pittsburgh Pirates 38
5. Baltimore Orioles 38
6. San Francisco Giants 39
7. Atlanta Braves 39
8. Cincinnati Reds 39
9. Detroit Tigers 38
10. Colorado Rockies 40
11. Kansas City Royals 39
12. Oakland Athletics 39
13. Texas Rangers 40
14. Cleveland Indians 39
15. Arizona Diamondbacks 38
16. Los Angeles Dodgers 38
17. Florida Marlins 39
18. St. Louis Cardinals 37
19. Toronto Blue Jays 40
20. Houston Astros 37
21. Minnesota Twins 38
22. Chicago White Sox 36
23. New York Mets 32
24. New York Yankees 40
25. Milwaukee Brewers 37
26. Philadelphia Phillies 37
27. Boston Red Sox 39
28. Tampa Bay Rays 38
29. Chicago Cubs 36
30. Los Angeles Angels 38

While the talent level might be less than in years past, it doesn't mean no teams will be active this morning. A total of 18 players were taken in last year's Major League phase, and if the talk leading up to this year's Draft is any indication, it might be a stretch to think that there could be that many selections this time around.

The player mentioned the most as likely to be taken is Cubs southpaw Donnie Veal, who has been inconsistent over the past two seasons, but he's big, left-handed and still has above-average pure stuff. A team that feels it can help him get past some command problems and use him out of the bullpen could take a shot with him.

Several teams, starting with the Washington Nationals -- owners of the No. 1 pick -- have indicated that they will be active today. Seattle, San Diego and Pittsburgh, with picks No. 2-4, have all hinted that they might take a player, with some talk the Padres will pick up multiple arms in the Major League phase. It's believed the Orioles are looking to trade their pick at No. 5. Other teams possibly looking to be active include the Tigers, Blue Jays, Brewers and perhaps the Red Sox. Just who might they be targeting? Here's a look at some potential Rule 5 picks, in addition to Veal:

Kyle Bloom, LHP, Pirates: Lefties are always at a premium, particularly in the Rule 5 Draft. Bloom, a fifth-rounder in 2004 out of Illinois State University, has had an uneven career with the Pirates, reaching Double-A Altoona and posting a 4.25 career ERA. But he opened some eyes in Hawaii Winter Baseball this fall with a 1.50 ERA over seven starts, as he held hitters to a .144 average.

Jordan Brown, 1B/OF, Indians: Taken in the fourth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Arizona, Brown won back-to-back league MVPs on the way up Cleveland's ladder, taking home the award in the Carolina League in 2006 and the Eastern League in '07. He was slowed a bit by a knee issue late in '07 and the start of '08, though he is fine now. More than anything, he's a victim of a numbers game in a system deep in first base/corner outfield/DH types.

Everth Cabrera, SS/2B, Rockies: A native of Nicaragua who was signed by Colorado in 2004, Cabrera's tool is his plus speed. The switch-hitter led all of the Minor Leagues with 73 stolen bases in 2008, getting caught 16 times. He hit .284 for Class A Asheville in the South Atlantic League. In 221 total professional games, he's stolen 104 bases.

Reegie Corona, SS, Yankees: The Venezuelan shortstop originally signed with the Bombers in July 2003. He was an All-Star in the South Atlantic League in 2006 and again in '07, this time in the Florida State League. In 2008, he played all season at age 21 in the Double-A Eastern League, hitting .274 with 24 steals.

Javy Guerra, RHP, Dodgers: After going 5-4 with a 4.07 ERA in 31 outings -- almost all in relief -- for Class A Inland Empire in the California League, Guerra struck out 28 in 23 1/3 innings in Hawaii Winter Baseball. The fourth-round pick in 2004 had been a starter, making the switch to relief this past season.

Chuck Lofgren, LHP, Indians: It was a rough year for the 2004 fourth-round pick, as he struggled to find consistency with Double-A Akron and in the Arizona Fall League. But he's just two years removed from being the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year and a year removed from being a Futures Game participant. Those who feel they can fix him may take a shot.

Zach Kroenke, LHP, Yankees: The 2005 fifth-rounder out of the University of Nebraska made it up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2008, combining for a 2.85 ERA and a .190 batting average against across two levels.

Chris Mason, RHP, Rays: Mason struggled in Triple-A and the AFL in 2008, so those who decide to take a shot with the 2005 second-rounder will be doing so based on his 2007 season, when he went 15-4 with a 2.57 ERA and was named MLB.com's Double-A Starting Pitcher of the Year.

Eduardo Morlan, RHP, Rays: If the name seems familiar, it's because he was traded from the Twins to the Rays in the Matt Garza-for-Delmon Young deal last year. The 2008 Futures Gamer is all about arm strength, with 10.7 strikeouts/nine innings throughout his career. Scouts who saw him in Puerto Rico this winter, however, thought he had lost velocity, leading some to worry about an injury.

Luis Perdomo, RHP, Cardinals: The Carolina League All-Star was traded from the Indians to the Cardinals for Anthony Reyes in July. He had gone 3-1 with a 0.92 ERA and 18 saves for Class A Kinston before getting promoted to Double-A Akron and then being dealt to the Cardinals. Overall, he saved 20 games and had a 2.36 ERA over 72 1/3 innings. He struck out 82 and held hitters to a .190 batting average against.

Robert Rohrbaugh, LHP, Mariners: A name that cropped up late, Rohrbaugh was a seventh-round pick in the 2005 Draft out of Clemson University. He had a 5.25 ERA with Triple-A Tacoma over 96 innings and missed two months of the season. Still, he's a lefty who did come back to throw well at the end of the year.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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