What Eligible Rule 5 Candidates Should the Royals Protect this Winter?

Big Changes Are Coming this Off-season in KC

While we watch our Boys in Blue fight it out for the last Wild Card spot, we here at Royals Farm Report still have reason to be excited for 2018 and the years to follow. This 2017 team is a far-cry from the 2015 Royals that won it all, but we still see remnants of their ultimate success. Mike Moustakas grew into what we all knew he would become by breaking Balboni’s home run record. Eric Hosmer has flourished into a two-way, do-it-all type of player, and we have seen Lorenzo turn and burn while still covering CF like a map of Verizon’s cell phone coverage (…that was a little outdated). What I am trying to get at is that we believe in the process, and you, Dayton Moore.

The guys likely to hit free agency this coming winter are Jason Vargas, Mike Minor (mutual option), Melky Cabrera, Trevor Cahill, Alcides Escobar, Peter Moylan, and the aforementioned names you can see in the above paragraph; this team will search to find a new identity, both internally and externally.

With nine free agents set to hit the market, the Royals are looking at having 35 players on the 40-man roster to start next year’s Spring Training if they do not DFA those on the DL (Miguel Almonte, Brian Flynn, Kyle Zimmer, Nate Karns), or those that did not make the September call-ups list (Samir Duenez, Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, Hunter Dozier, Billy Burns). I have compiled a short-list of players that I think should be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this coming winter.

Just so we are all clear on the rules of the Rule 5 Draft, these are the players that are eligible for the draft:

  • Players who were signed when they were 19 or older and have played in professional baseball for four years

Or

  • Players who were signed at 18 and have played for five years

This all according to MLB.com. With five roster spots left, who do the Royals choose?

Pitchers

Sam Selman

The 26-year-old lefty was drafted out of Vanderbilt University in the 2nd round in 2012. In rookie ball, he pitched very well with a 2.09 ERA in 60 innings and earned himself a call-up the following year to High-A Wilmington.  He had good results there as a starter but as they moved him up further, hitters exploited him and he has had mixed results since. In 2017, the story has changed significantly as he posted a 2.66 ERA in 67 innings across AA and AAA. He throws a low 90s fastball with sink that is a real worm killer, evidenced by his .63 GO/AO this season. His slider has shown improvements and is complimentary to his fastball. Whether you are a righty or a lefty, it does not matter when facing Selman, he posted a .150 batting avg against to both sides. The Royals would be absolutely bonkers to not put this man on the 40-man roster this fall.

Eric Stout

Another lefty the Royals should protect, the 24 year old pitcher out of Butler University certainly has raised some eyebrows since finishing last year with a 3.68 ERA over 72 innings in AA Northwest Arkansas. This earned him a call-up over the off-season and in 2017, he pitched to the tune of a 2.99 ERA over 69 innings for AAA Omaha. His strikeout rate has gone down (8.6 in AA to 7.3 in AAA), but his walk rate (4.2 in AA to 3.8 in AAA) and hit rate (8.5 in AA to 7.5 in AAA) have gone down with it as well; this all while posting a .68 GO/AO and an opponents batting avg of .225 (.244 against righties). He works in the low-to-mid 90s with his fastball, uses a slider as his out pitch, and possesses a changeup that he is working to refine. Selman had more strikeouts than Stout in 2017, but they are both extreme groundball pitchers which is likely music to Dayton Moore’s ears considering he is partial to good defense.

Hitters

Frank Schwindel

Frank the Tank. Frank ended last year with a .270 avg. and 20 homers in AA. While virtually no expectations were put on him for 2017, the 25 year old played like his life depended on it. Across AA and AAA, he posted a .329 avg, with 23 homers (17 in AAA), 97 RBIs (72 in AAA), and an .890 OPS (.868 in AAA). He is a solid first baseman (he had a .996 fielding pct across both levels in 2017) He likely won’t be the tallest man at first base, but at 6’1, he will get the job done. A righty-killer, he posted a .328 avg and 12 homers to boot and a very good .292 avg against lefties with 5 homers. The shtick against Frank is he does not walk much (just 18 walks over 392 ABs at both levels). Still, his .354 BABIP across two levels was very impressive for a guy that did not even crack the Royals Top 30 prospect list.

Ryan O’Hearn

Ryan O’Hearn was an eighth round pick out of Sam Houston State University in 2014. A guy who had a big season in 2016 for A+ and AA affiliates, he posted a .275 BA and an .829 OPS with 22 homers. This earned the lefty a lofty promotion to AAA in 2017 where he posted a .252 avg with 18 homers. He ended 2017 in AA to keep getting playing time (Frank was way too hot to sit) and he added four more homers while finishing the year there with an OPS of .840. A pull hitter, he sells out for power which is why his avg isn’t top notch and he strikeouts a lot. The strikeouts have gone down from last year (31% in 2016 to 29% in 2017) and he will likely always have a high strikeout rate. He does draw a good amount of walks, however, evidenced by his .330 OBP across both levels in 2017. A 6′ 3″ first baseman with some time spent in both corners of the outfield, he posted a .990 fielding percentage at first base and a .972 percentage in the corner outfield spots over his professional career . I expect him to be called up at the same time as Frank will, so Ryan will likely DH while occasionally spelling Frank at first.

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