On December 14, MLB teams will have the opportunity to vulture each others 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.
This year, the Kansas City Royals traded for two selections shortly after the draft ended. It was just announced that the Royals have traded for RHPs Brad Keller and Burch Smith, who must remain on the Royals 25-man roster for the entire 2018 campaign. Let’s break ’em down.
Brad Keller, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
I am a big fan of this trade for the Kansas City Royals. Keller is a 22-year old RHP that stands 6′ 5″ and weighs 230 lbs. Last year at AA, Keller made 26 starts, throwing 130.2 innings and posting an ERA of 4.68. The former number 12 prospect in the Diamondbacks organization, Keller struck out 111 batters in his 130.2 IP and walked only 57. Not much of a power pitcher, Keller’s fastball sits in the low-mid-90’s.
The ERA wasn’t fantastic for Keller in 2017, but the advanced metrics favored him in a much more positive light. Keller’s FIP last season was 3.58 and his xFIP was 3.86, suggesting that he was incredibly unlucky last year. Put him in Kauffman Stadium with the Royals defense and he has a real chance to be successful in the Royals rotation in 2018. Does this hint towards a Danny Duffy trade……?
Burch Smith, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Burch Smith will spend most of the 2018 campaign as a 28-year old who returned to baseball in 2017 after not having pitched in the minor leagues since 2014. Starting out in rookie ball and advancing all the way to AAA, Smith posted a combined ERA of 2.40 in 13 appearances (12 starts) with 56 K in 56.1 IP. This could be a sneaky little pickup for the Royals.
I don’t know much about Smith. After injuries derailed his career in 2015 he didn’t pitch in affiliated baseball for two full seasons. He made a fantastic comeback last year in the Rays minor league system but ultimately never reached the big leagues. The Royals are going to give him a chance this spring. It’s hard not to root for a guy like that, who fights back from injury to continue chasing his dream. I’m excited to see what Smith can do.
Two totally different types of guys here. Keller is still 22 with a lot of upside as a prospect. Smith is past his prospect days but could add some intriguing value either in the rotation or the bullpen in 2018. Either way, this could very well hint at a trade coming in the very near future on Kansas City’s big-league roster, as they now have 23 pitchers on the 40-man roster and around 14 pitchers that you would normally figure to be on the big-league roster.