Rule 5 Draft Targets for the Royals: Pitchers

On December 14, MLB teams will have the opportunity to vulture each other’s farm systems for players not protected from the Rule 5 Draft. Players who are eligible for the draft are as follows:

  • Players who were signed when they were 19+ and have played in professional baseball for 4 years
  • Players who were signed at 18 and have played for 5 years

This includes players in the Royals system like Ryan O’Hearn and Frank Schwindel. The way it works, teams can draft eligible players from each others farm systems, and then that player must remain on the big-league 25-man roster for the entire 2018 season, or else be returned to his original team.

Last year, RHP Glenn Sparkman was selected from the Royals organization by the Toronto Blue Jays. After a couple of dreadful big-league appearances, Sparkman was let go by Toronto and was returned to KC’s farm system. He’s once again eligible for this year’s draft.

Now that you know how the draft works, let’s go through each team’s system and look for viable pitchers that are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December. These are guys that I think would be worthy of a selection and roster spot for the 2018 season in Kansas City.

1.) Jose Almonte, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Jose Almonte is a 22-year old RHP from the Dominican Republic that stands 6′ 2″ and weighs 185 lbs. He’s had a steady climb through the D-Backs organization, leading to a full year at High-A this past season.

Therein lies the problem for Almonte. A 22-year old that has never thrown a pitch at the AA level would be one heck of a challenge to keep on a big-league roster for 162 games, especially with the extra off days that are built in to the 2018 MLB season.

The reason that I’m listing Almonte here is this: in 27 starts at High-A last year, Almonte posted an ERA of 3.55, a WHIP of 1.40, with 162 K (to just 66 BB) in 139.1 IP. Almonte lead the league in strikeouts despite only coming in at 7th in IP. He’s got an electric arm with a developing arsenal of breaking pitches, and his fastball was incredibly tough on opposing hitters in 2017.

This would be a bit of a challenge for Kansas City to pull off. Almonte is no where near ready to be a big-league starter. He probably couldn’t even effectively relieve at the moment. But what you might be able to do is hide Almonte in the bullpen for a year, if you believe that he’s worth it. In my opinion, Jose Almonte would be a top 2-3 (if not the number 1) pitching prospect in KC’s organization right now. If the Royals could find a way to hide him in the bullpen, give him 10-12 relief appearances this season, and let him throw every 5-6 days in simulated games during the season, they could have an awesome SP prospect on their hands for their rebuild. It’s certainly not likely, but boy oh boy would that be exciting.

2.) Osmer Morales, RHP, Los Angeles Angels

Osmer Morales would be much easier to add to the 25-man roster for KC, as he made 9 starts in AAA last season. Morales isn’t the same kind of prospect that Almonte is, but he could very feasibly pitch effectively in a major league rotation in 2018.

Morales split time between AA and AAA last year in the Angels organization. Morales, who recently turned 25, stands 6′ 3″, weighs 196 lbs., and hails from Villa de Cura, Venezuela. In 16 starts (76.1 IP) at AA last year, Morales posted an ERA of 4.83 and struck out 81 batters compared to only 29 BB. Not bad, not great.

However, the reason I think KC could benefit from drafting him, was his performance at AAA toward the end of the season. In 9 AAA starts (50.1 IP), Morales posted an ERA of 3.22 with 40 K compared to 21 BB. Again, not great, but not half bad either.

Morales’ FIP tells a funny story too. His 4.08 FIP suggests that he was rather unlucky in AA, but his 5.51 FIP suggests that he was rather lucky in AAA. Either way, I’d be willing to roll the dice on Morales given that he’d be pitching in Kauffman Stadium and to the Royals defense, including four-time Gold Glove winner Salvador Perez.

If nothing else, Morales would provide a younger, cheaper option to the starting rotation than Jason Hammel, should the Royals find a trade partner for Hammel. Morales will be 25 for the entire 2018 season, and could be a potential starter for KC for the duration of the impending rebuild. Honestly, I’d much rather have Morales in the rotation next year than Hammel, should the Royals choose to rebuild.

3.) Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Kohl Stewart is a former 4th overall pick out of St. Pius X High School in Houston Texas. After being drafted in 2013, Stewart threw 20 innings between the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League, posting a combined ERA of 1.35. Stewart’s early performance was good enough to land him as the number 3 prospect for the Twins to begin 2014, trailing only Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.

In 2014 Stewart threw 87 innings across 19 starts at Low-A. He struck out only 62 but posted an ERA of just 2.59. In 2015 he posted an ERA of 3.20 at High-A. In 2016 his ERA was a combined 2.88 across High-A and AA. Stewart found himself ranked as the Twins number 9 prospect to start the 2017 campaign, in an organization that has a plethora of young talent.

Stewart struggled a bit in 2017. Injuries held him to only 82 IP across 17 starts, and he posted a career worst 4.28 ERA between AA and one AAA start. What’s more concerning for Stewarts is that he struck out merely 57 batters in those 82 innings, and walked 46. Stewart would normally need at least one more year of seasoning in AAA before he’d be ready for a big-league debut, but I think he’s a guy the Royals ought to be willing to reach for if he’s available on Thursday.

The Kansas City Royals thinned themselves out in SP prospects since 2015. They traded Brandon Finnegan, Cody Reed, Jake Lamb, and Sean Manaea on their way to a World Series title. Then before the 2017 season started they traded RHP Alec Mills for a talented young outfielder named Donnie Dewees. Dewees found himself ranked number 7 in our rankings, and he’s a really solid ballplayer. The curious part of that trade is, “Why would an organization who is in need of good SP prospects trade one of their better SP prospects for another outfielder?” Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Dewees’, but the Royals could really use some more SP depth in the organization.

I think Kohl Stewart could provide just that for Dayton Moore and the Royals front office. Stewart had never posted a BB/9 over 3.31 until he reached AA in 2016, so I believe that his current walk issues can be fixed. He’s certainly not yet ready for full-on major league action, but he’s the type of guy KC needs to start taking chances on if they want to expedite their rebuild. A long-term investment to be sure, Kohl Stewart could be a guy who learns to thrive in KC’s ballpark.

Regardless of what the Royals decide to do in this year’s Rule 5 Draft, there’s really only three pitchers that I’d be excited about them drafting. Anyone else would just be another guy. However, the three pitchers that I’ve listed above, especially Kohl Stewart, would be a nice addition of young and talented arms that the Royals are lacking throughout their system.

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