Pat Gillick famously loves the Rule V draft as a source of cheap talent with high upside. Today he struck again, as the Phillies sent cash to Detroit for relief pitcher Chris Booker after the Tigers selected him in the Rule V.
Booker, who turns 29 tomorrow, went 8-4 with 20 saves and a 2.49 ERA in 59 games for triple-A Louisville, the International League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out 91 batters in 65.0 innings (12.6 SO/9.0 IP) and held opponents to a .195 average.
In his 65.0 innings, Booker allowed only two home runs. In his first 41.0 innings of the season, he did not allow any home runs. Booker compiled a 1.88 ERA in his final 35 appearances of the season.
Booker made his major league debut this past season with the Reds. In three games, he allowed eight runs in 2.0 innings. All three appearances came against Milwaukee in September.
The team also took minor-leaguers Peeter Ramos, an infielder who had played in the Padres organization (and another Venezuelan), and catcher John Vanden Berg, a Milwaukee farmhand, in the minor-league portion of the draft. They lost outfielder Brad Correll, who played at high-A Clearwater last season, to Pittsburgh, and Batavia right-hander Fernando Quijada to Baltimore.
I love this Booker pickup, as it shows Gillick has a clue about how good bullpens are built.
Here's a guy who's no spring chicken (will turn 29 tomorrow) and has virtually no major-league experience. What he does have is a killer minor-league strikeout rate (608 strikeouts in 515 career minor-league innings, with a Wagner-esque 91 in 65 IP this past season) and a good tendency to keep the ball in the park (see here for Booker's complete pro numbers). It looks like a major injury a few years back temporarily derailed his career, but for two seasons now he's performed very well in the high minors. Frankly, I don't know why the pitching-poor Reds didn't protect him.
Booker certainly isn't a franchise savior and might not even make the team, let alone see the high-leverage, setup-type innings the Phils are evidently thinking about giving to former Mets closer Braden Looper. But at the major-league minimum, he certainly makes a lot more sense as bullpen filler than, say, Terry Adams. The upside is that the team might unearth a relief diamond in the rough, as the Angels and Braves have done repeatedly in recent years.