Rumor has it the Padres are expected to be busy in baseball’s Rule 5 draft, set to go down tomorrow morning at the Winter Meetings. Last year the Padres took four players in the Rule 5, and two of them ultimately stuck in outfielder Jabari Blash (later acquired via trade) and righty starter Luis Perdomo. So, in the spirit of wild-ass-guessing, who might the Padres grab this year?
Jairo Beras, OF, Texas Rangers
Berras is here for one reason. He was the dude involved in an age-related kerfuffle back when he signed with Texas in 2012, and A.J Preller was heavily involved in both scouting and signing him. He doesn’t necessarily make a ton of sense beyond that, but sometimes familiarity trumps all. Beras has been slow to develop after putting the suspension behind him, having just cracked High-A in 2016 as a 21-year-old. Beras did have his best offensive season last year, hitting .262/.306/.511 with 54 extra-base hits, but that performance came in the offense-friendly context of the California League. Beras has other flaws, too. He’s walked in just 6.3 percent of his professional appearances, there’s plenty of swing-and-miss in his game, and he projects as a so-so corner outfielder at best. Think of a younger version of Jabari Blash, which ultimately means he’s probably superfluous on a team with a lot of young outfielders.
But, still, Preller has history with him.
Julian Fernandez, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Everyone likes hard-throwing pitchers, but Preller really likes hard-throwing pitchers. Fernandez sits in the upper-90s and has touched 103, so maybe somebody outta check on Preller. Of course, he just turned 21 on Monday, he hasn’t gotten beyond Low-A ball, and he owns a 6.4 BB/9 in just 89 2/3 professional innings. If there’s a team that could gamble on a pitcher like this, though, it’s the Padres. As J.J. Cooper mentions in the link above (a must-read Rule 5 resource), it wouldn’t be too hard for a non-contender to stash him in the back of the bullpen and dream of a shutdown reliever in a year or two.
Andy Beltre, RHP, Miami Marlins
Look, there are a lot of hard-throwing relievers floating around in the minors, and plenty of them will be available in the Rule 5. Don’t be surprised if the Padres grab at least one of them—whether it’s Fernandez or Beltre or someone else—and see what they look like come spring training. Beltre’s probably more ready for the big leagues than Fernandez. He’s a year and a half older and has nearly double the amount of pro innings, plus he’s been better performance-wise, with a 2.61 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just 0.3 HR/9. All of these types are stretches to be effective in the majors in 2017, but the Padres are obviously one of the teams that don’t necessarily need them to be.
Calten Daal, SS, Cincinnati Reds
It probably makes a lot of sense for the Padres to snag a shortstop in the Rule 5 draft and just run with him. Sure, Luis Sardinas has post-hype prospect pedigree and the Preller/Rangers amateur connection, but he’s OPSed a paltry .593 so far in nearly a season’s worth of big-league plate appearances, seemingly limiting any remaining upside. Daal has hit a grand total of two home runs in nearly 1,000 minor-league PAs, but he’s earned solid marks for his defense and is a threat on the base paths. The best-case scenario is probably a slap-and-run defense-first guy, but that’s not a bad thing compared to what the Padres have run out at short in recent years. Plus Everth Cabrera had the last genuinely good shortstop season in San Diego, so there’s some good Rule 5 karma going on here.
Yermin Mercedes, C, Baltimore Orioles
With Derek Norris traded and Christian Bethancourt trying his hand as a two-way player, the Padres might need another catcher. Mercedes apparently has work to do behind the dish, but he is a catcher—and he can hit a little bit. After a stalled career in Washington and a .380/.420/.699 romp in indy ball in 2014, Mercedes has resurfaced as an intriguing bat-first backstop. While he’s old for his league at this point, Mercedes hit a robust .343/.404/.570 between Single-A and High-A last year. The defense is, at best, a work in progress according to various reports, but with Austin Hedges and Bethancourt on the roster, the Padres could theoretically ease Mercedes in with extra care, and/or potentially play him somewhere in a corner if the bat’s for real.
Justin Haley, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Paul Clemens appears third on the Padres.com starting rotation depth chart, which means the Padres could use a starting pitcher or six. Haley’s 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and he’s racked up at least 124 innings in each of the last four minor-league seasons (including a career-best 146 2/3 innings last year), a rare feat for any minor-league pitcher. He’s been mostly forgotten in the usually deep and talented Red Sox system, but he’s been largely reliable while receiving good marks for plus command and improving secondary pitches. Just in the form of a workhorse who can eat some innings, Haley (or someone like him) is interesting for the Padres. Oh, yeah, it wouldn’t be a stretch to consider him the best pitcher on the staff, which is kind of scary.
Johnny Field, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Field’s exclusively played outfield during his professional career, but further reading reveals that a position switch to the infield was once a possibility. Field is certainly the most developed player on this list, and he’s OPSed .776 in each of the last two seasons between Double-A and Triple-A (the rest of his line from ’15 and ’16 is also eerily similar). So there’s a workable bat with a real foundation under it, but he becomes more interesting as a super-utility type, if he can play solid defense in the outfield and also pitch in around the infield when needed. As a strict outfielder the Padres might not be interested, but he might just be a much improved version of of Alexi Amarista.
Paul Sewald, RHP, New York Mets
Unlike most of the pitchers on this list, Sewald is old (26) and truly ready for the majors right now. Then again, he’s a 26-year-old who just reached Triple-A last season, and strictly a reliever, so maybe the upside’s limited enough where he doesn’t make sense here. Still, he’s struck out nearly 11 batters per nine over his minor-league career, and even last year in the PCL he posted a shiny 3.81 K:BB ratio. With a go-to slider as an out pitch, he’s received some solid reviews from prospect hounds. Also attended college at San Diego, so there’s probably some organizational familiarity present.