First, we'll start by looking at who could be drafted away from the Phillies. The Phillies have been fortunate to not lose anyone to the Rule 5 who went on to be a worthwhile pick. Last year Seth Rosin ping-ponged around out West for a few weeks before making his way back to the system after the Dodgers and Rangers both passed after brief tries. There are a few interesting names this year who I think could be taken and one who could stick on a roster.
- Willians Astudillo - Look, we love us some Astudillo here. He's a blast to follow and he's got some of the best contact skills in baseball. He also has no real position he can play and he wrapped up the year in Low-A ball. That's not to criticize him. Perhaps he can regain some ability to play passably behind the plate or he can manage to play Left Field at a slightly above awful level (Willians is capital S slow) and develop into a Ryan Doumitt type reserve Catcher who can play other positions to add value. That said, he's probably 2-3 years from that, so no one is going to take him in Rule 5 now.
- Perci Garner - Perci was a pretty high pick as a Second Rounder in 2010. Sadly he's never even come vaguely close to controlling his Pitches. If anything, he's gotten progressively worse at it. This year managing to throw more Walks (77) than K's (75). Maybe he could work in a Bullpen at some point, but he's going to be 26 a few days after the Rule 5 and his chances of sticking on a Roster are too slim for anyone to risk it.
- Zach Collier - Collier's younger than you probably realize and he has a habit of showing just enough of his potential at the end of every season to give you hope. I doubt he could hit a lick at the MLB level, but he's a good enough Defender across 3 positions that he could be a viable 5th OF for a team with no hopes of winning that hopes that they can help his hitting and get a solid JMJ type player from it. I don't think he'll be taken, but I wouldn't be entirely shocked if he was.
- Colton Murray - Murray is unlikley to be a high-leverage reliever, but of every available player in the Phillies system, he's the one guy I feel confident could hold down a Bullpen job next summer if someone takes him. He's likely to be a fairly average Bullpen arm down the road and would be pretty redundant with several current young Phillies Bullpenners and prospects. I think it's fairly likely someone takes him.
That leads us to the more fun side of who the Phillies should take. Now, not a ton of great players are available and starting with 2007, the number of years in the system was increased by one, leading to sites knowing the players even better and making it even less likely that a Johan Santana or Shane Victorino is available. That said, last year J.D. Martinez was a guy I was 100% certain someone would take. No one did, he got cut by the Astros in Spring Training and the Tigers signed him. He went on to have a 149 OPS+ season. He K'd too much and didn't Walk as often as you might like, but had he been taken in Rule 5, it would have been a clear success. There are still guys available if a team is willing to gamble $25K. The Phillies have a decent history of success (Mini-Mart be damned). David Herndon was roughly replacement level, but Ender Inciarte, who the Phillies returned to the D-Backs 2 years ago put up a roughly 3 WAR season in 2014. Is there anyone available who might be worth taking?
Worth the Gamble:
- Delino DeShields, Jr., OF Astros - He has had issues in the past with effort, leading to fairly frequent benchings, but his tools are well beyond your typical Rule 5 player. If anyone is going to have a J.D. Martinez season after being a Rule 5 pick, it would be DeShields. He can play Center, Left or Second Base adequately. He has decent pop for a middle of the field position and he's 2 years removed from 100+ steals. He has contact issues, but takes walks like few others. Probably useful as a utility guy if he keeps his act together and possibly a star if a team can fix his contact issues. Still just 22 years old, he's the biggest boom or bust guy I can think of in the Rule 5 for several years.
- Taylor Featherston, 2B/SS Rockies - A super-utility type, he has pretty good pop. Can play all over the infield and could likely run out all 3 OF spots too (though he'd need exposure to that). He's got close to a .200 ISO each of the past 3 years, but contact issues have held him back, he will take walks though. Good backup profile (think Greg Dobbs with a few more K's).
- Robby Helinger, OF Braves - Enormous guy who fits the scouting profile. Big power potential, but huge K rates too. Coming off a wrist injury, so not likely to hit for power in 2015. Not a bad guy to stash if you can, but it's kind of hard to stash Outfielders. He'd need to play and I'm not sure he can get to the half-Mendoza line if he got played regularly. Still, if his contact issues could be fixed...
- Jared Mitchell, OF White Sox - An OF in the White Sox system, Mitchell is a former First Round pick who both Walks and K's a ton. He's 26 and may be fully baked, but teams could still see the potential that made him a top pick, see the patience and think of him as a possible John Mayberry type.
- Matt Skole, 1B/3B Nationals - Can play First or Third, significant power before a 2013 wrist injury. Great patience at the plate, K rate is acceptable. If he can recapture the power he had before the injury you could be looking at a guy who could hit 25-30 HR a year with a .340-.350-ish OBP. That said, by all reports the injury was pretty bad and that power may be gone for good. Additionally, no position is harder to stash a guy at than First Base, just ask Darin Ruf (assuming you can't stash him at Third very easily either with both Asche and Franco around).
- Luis Cessa, RHP Mets - Huge Fastball, almost no experience Pitching. He's a converted position player who needs to refine a few borderline average Secondary Pitches. Not a bad select and stash guy who gets brought in during blowouts to work on his stuff and blast heat past guys.
- Cody Martin, RHP Braves - Martin is nothing to get excited about, but he could start and probably about the same quality as a David Buchanan, John Pettibone level to maybe just barely Tyler Cloyd-esque. Essentially, take him if you just want to fill a hole and have a young long-reliever.
Don't let the name fool ya:
- Kaleb Cowart, 3B Angels - He stinks. He can't hit and would be a better Pitcher in all likelihood. He made some prospect lists for the Angels a few years back, but that's mostly because almost any Minor Leaguer could be a top prospect for Anaheim. You may get excited because the name is familiar, but stop there, you don't want him.
- Ricky Romero, LHP Blue Jays - He's on a MLB contract, so he's not cheap. He's also not good enough to gamble on. Wait until he gets cut and sign him for the league minimum instead.
- Donavan Tate, OF Padres - A former #3 overall, Tate didn't play at all in 2014 and only played 23 games in 2013, which gives him just slightly more professional playing time than me in 2 years. I'm actually surprised to find out he's still in Professional baseball.
It's also possible the Phillies pick no one. If DeShields gets taken and maybe Skole or another name they might target goes before they pick, they might just sit it out, but, honestly, for me this is one of the more intriguing years when I see the available list and the Phillies can afford to grab and stash or play guys on a team headed for a protected pick again.