With Wednesday night's deadline for 40-man roster decisions having passed, attention regarding prospects turns to the Rule 5 Draft, to be held at the end of the Winter Meetings in Orlando on Dec. 12.
It seems only fitting, then, to kick off this week's edition of Pipeline Inbox with a question about the Rule 5 Draft, because who doesn't love getting really geeked out on the nuances of the event? We sure do.
From there, we'll hit on a few specific prospect-related questions, including two about players who hope to play in Missouri, one in Kansas City, the other in St. Louis.
What are the rules concerning the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft?
-- Iain S., Windsor, Nova Scotia, Canada
While the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft has produced big leaguers like Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana and Shane Victorino, the Minor League phase is much lesser known (though Scott Podsednik is a product).
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There are two Minor League phases: Triple-A and Double-A. For a team to protect a player from being taken in the Triple-A phase, he has to be either on the 40-man big league roster or the reserve roster of its Triple-A club. For the Double-A phase, it's the same: A player is eligible for selection in that phase if he is not protected on the 40-man, the Triple-A or the Double-A reserve rosters. The Triple-A roster has 38 spots, while the Double-A roster has 37.
It costs $12,000 to take a player in the Triple-A phase and $4,000 in the Double-A phase. The stakes are a lot lower compared to the Major League phase. At that level, a player has to stay on the selecting team's 25-man roster all season or be offered back to his original club, unless a deal can be made. In the Minor League phases, there are no such rules. A player taken in the Triple-A phase does not have to stick in Triple-A. He can be assigned anywhere in the organization without having to be offered back to his original team.
Which pitcher(s) do you think have the highest upside out of the A's 2013 Draft picks? Opening Day level in 2014?
-- Casey H., Oakland, Calif.
The A's had 12 selections in the first 10 rounds of the 2013 Draft. They used eight of them to take pitchers and all of them signed. All but former University of Oklahoma left-hander Dillon Overton, who had Tommy John surgery, pitched last summer.
Six of the eight pitchers came from the college ranks. And while guys like Dylan Covey and Bobby Wahl are interesting, it's the two high schoolers who belong in the conversation about highest upside. Between lefty Chris Kohler and right-hander Dustin Driver, it's Driver who has the higher ceiling.
While Driver's rough spring hurt his Draft status, he's shown the ability to touch the mid-90s with his fastball to go along with a good power breaking ball and signs of a solid changeup. His stuff might be a bit raw, but there's a lot there if it all comes together. Kohler, conversely, is a better pitcher now, with more of a feel for his craft. While his ceiling may not be as high -- maybe a No. 3-type starter as opposed to Driver's potential to be a No. 2 -- his floor isn't as low, meaning the chances of him reaching the big leagues might be better.
As for where these seven healthy arms start the 2014 season, much remains to be seen, especially how they do in Spring Training. But here's a first guess:
Kohler and Driver: Extended Spring Training, then short-season Vermont
Covey, Wahl and Kyle Finnegan: Class A Beloit
Matt Stalcup and Jerad Grundy: High Class A Stockton
What's the current outlook for shortstop Raul Adalberto Mondesi?
-- Chris B., Latrobe, Pa.
I was reluctant to answer this one because Mondesi is one of Jim Callis' favorite prospects. But he gave me his blessing, so here we go.
Mondesi is currently ranked No. 46 on MLB.com's Top 100 prospects list, and No. 4 on the Royals' Top 20, and it won't surprise me if the son of former big leaguer Raul Mondesi moves up when we re-rank the prospects in 2014.
Mondesi won't turn 19 until late July and he's already shown he's able to handle aggressive assignments, so a move up to the Class A Advanced Carolina League likely in 2014. He's a switch-hitter with a good idea of what he's doing at the plate. Yes, he'll need to improve his plate discipline, but given his age, he's right where he should be. He has terrific speed, which helps him on both sides of the ball, and most believe the power will come as he matures.
With considerable upside at the plate to go along with the ability to stay at shortstop long term, Mondesi looks like he has a chance to be a true impact player at a premium position. I could see 2014 being a year during which he really starts to take off.
Do you see Marco Gonzales moving fast through the Cards' system?
-- Harrison P., Omaha, Neb.
Yes. When the Cardinals took Gonzales, currently ranked No. 5 on the team's Top 20, with the No. 19 pick in the 2013 Draft, they knew they were getting a pretty advanced college left-hander, one who shouldn't take too long to move up the ladder.
Yes, Gonzales did divide his focus in college, where he was a very good two-way player. Sometimes it can take a bit longer for that kind of pitcher to figure things out as he concentrates only on pitching for the first time. But he has grown up around the game -- his father is a Minor League coach in the Rockies organization -- and he has an advanced feel for pitching already. The athleticism he displayed as a two-way player at Gonzaga should also help him in terms of repeating his delivery and fielding his position.
The Cardinals are fairly deep in pitching, with all those young arms that helped them get to the World Series this year, so there's no rush with Gonzales. But with the chance to have three average or better pitches with above-average command, he might set a fast timetable for himself. Seeing him get considerable time in Double-A during his first full season, at the very least, seems completely reasonable.
Which hitting prospect has more promise, Jackie Bradley Jr. or Garin Cecchini?
-- Matthew M., Wesley Chapel, Fla.
It's a tough problem the Red Sox have these days. Fresh off a World Series win, they have an extremely deep farm system with many players at the upper levels, ready to help out. Bradley got his chance in 2013 after a stunning Spring Training. He wasn't quite ready to stick full time, but he showed in Triple-A his ability to hit, get on base, provide some power and play a very impressive center field.
Cecchini reached Double-A this year, going to the Futures Game and being named the Arizona Fall League Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award winner this autumn. He, too, knows how to handle the bat and get on base (think the Red Sox like a certain kind of hitter?). The question with him is whether he'll develop the kind of power teams generally like from a "prototypical third baseman."
I think both are about on the same level in terms of promise and upside, as both look like they should hit and have a good idea of the strike zone. But I'll give a small edge to JBJR, solely based on the fact that he appears to be a slightly safer bet to be an everyday center fielder than Cecchini does at being an everyday third baseman. I think both will be everyday players, though, and if Cecchini's power comes more than expected, he could flip this answer around.