I had a conversation recently with Lee MacPhail, the Orioles’ director of pro scouting, who was heavily involved with the club’s preparations for the Rule 5 draft, among other projects.
Here is what MacPhail said about the club’s prep and plans going into that Rule 5 draft:
“We discussed some strategies going into the draft and we put together two lists: a need list based on needs and short-term help. Those players didn’t offer the same ceiling that some deeper projection, more risky guys might require, like Rosario.
“We worked on a philosophy that, is this a guy that a year from now we would regret not including in our mix? Could he be on a big league roster next year?
“We had players that we liked in the short-term that were lower risk, one that we particularly liked, but unfortunately he was not available. So option B was to roll the dice and take a risk.
“Johan Santana is an example of a guy that was not ready, but adapted quickly. There is a risk. I was with the Twins then. He did stay up all year and had a 6.50 ERA and we thought he’d be in Double-A the next year, but he made our club then, too,” MacPhail said of the Rule 5 draft in 1999 when Florida selected Santana Houston and Minnesota acquired him in trade.
Make no mistake, MacPhail is in no way comparing the two pitchers, only pointing out how Santana surprised some people.
Meanwhile, in the minor league phase of the Rule 5, the O’s selected three players.
Keep in mind these players were not protected by their previous club on either their Triple-A or Double-A rosters. Not to knock them, but they were not considered top prospects by those clubs, obviously or they would have been protected.
Dale Mollenhauer is a 24-year-old, lefty-hitting infielder they took from the White Sox. Last year, in 101 games with Double-A Birmingham, he hit .262-1-27 with 17 steals. He hit .348 after the All-Star break. In his four-year career, Mollenhauer has hit .271-9-151 in 421 games with 73 steals and a .692 OPS.
Here is MacPhail’s take on Mollenhauer:
“He is a guy that our scout, Todd Frohwirth, has liked. One of those guys that plays above his tools. From a scouting standpoint, probably does not grade out with anything beyond average, but is just a baseball player.
“He is principally a second baseman, taken to add inventory. Let’s see if he comes into our system and forces his way onto our Double-A or Triple-A club. He is more of a second baseman, but we think he is athletic enough to play around the diamond. Probably limited usage at short, but a second and third-base type.Todd’s comparison is he is a Mickey Morandini type.”
Lefty pitcher Casey Lambert, who is 25, was taken from the Cubs. Last season, less than a year removed from surgery, he went 2-0, 3.60 in 30 innings, most of them with Single-A Daytona of the Florida State League. Lambert, a sixth-round pick in 2007, has a four-year career mark of 13-11, 3.53 in 235 innings.
Here is MacPhail on Lambert, who throws a fastball in the high 80s with a solid curve:
“Lambert is a guy we’ve had a lot of history on. A University of Virginia lefty that underwent Tommy John (surgery) nine months ago. We’ve seen him as an amateur and as a pro. We had a number of people see him during his road back from surgery.
“We project him as a starter, but we have to see where he is now arm strength-wise. One of our scouts, Chris Gale, played with Casey at Virginia. We feel like a change of scenery (could help him) and also he can help us in adding a lefty. We think he can pitch his way back to prospect status.”
How is Lambert’s progress from the Tommy John surgery?
“Our guys saw him in July and August and felt it was rather aggressive to have him back that quick. We are usually a little more conservative. His key is his ability to spin the breaking ball. That second year (after surgery) is really when the touch and feel pitches come back and we felt like this could be a good year for him,” MacPhail said.
Jacob Rasner pitched between 90 and 94 mph in recent seasons, but his velocity fell off a touch to 89 to 92 mph last year.
Here is MacPhail’s take on Rasner:
“We have a family history on this one with Jesse, his brother, in our system this year. Jesse was released last month due to our contraction of Bluefield club.
“This will be Jacob’s third organization. He has always had a good arm, good arm strength and a good breaking ball. His issue has been command and strike throwing. He can be a deep-count guy.
“We wanted to make sure he would play for an organization that released his brother and all indications are he will. We hope that a change of scenery can help, he’s always had a good arm. Maybe the light will go on and you have something. We still feel he’s a prospect, but that window of opportunity is narrowing.”