The Rule 5 Draft is coming up and the Detroit Tigers have some important decisions to make regarding who to take. Here are some possible options.
The 2019 Winter Meetings are underway and things seem to be moving quickly. We have already seen Stephen Strasburg sign, and there are reports are that Gerrit Cole will sign soon. Because Detroit is not going to be in the sweepstakes for top tier free agents, the last day of the meetings will be the most important for the Detroit Tigers’ front office. The Rule 5 Draft is held on the last day of the winter meetings and the Detroit Tigers have the #1 pick.
Rules For Eligibility
To be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft a player must have either been drafted in 2016 if they were at least 18 years old the day they were drafted or in 2015 if they were younger.
To draft a player a team must pay just $100,000 to their former team and keep the player on the 26-Man Roster for the entire season. If the team does want to remove them, they must offer the player back to their original team for $50,000. If their original team declines the offer, the player may then be optioned to the minors.
Players of Interest for Detroit
There are a lot of options for the Detroit Tigers with the first overall pick. And, now that their 40-Man Roster is down to 37, they could conceivably draft 3 players. Detroit could select a player that could step right into a role in 2020, such as pitchers Sterling Sharp or Jordan Sheffield.
Detroit could choose to draft a younger infield prospect instead that could be sent back to the minors in 2021 to finish developing but has a chance to become an impact player after a few years. Wander Javier and Shervyen Newton could reward Detroit’s faith in them in the future. However, in the meantime, they would likely have significant struggles in the Majors, hopefully not stalling their development.
Detroit’s minor league system is full of power pitchers. Matt Manning’s fastball can hit 98; Casey Mize hits 97; Beau Burrows can hit 98 when he is healthy; Tarik Skubal has 95 in the tank as a lefty. So why would a right-hander that rarely touches 93 be of interest to Detroit? In the Rule 5 Draft, you take value wherever you can get it. And, Sterling Sharp oozes value as a ground ball pitcher. The #13 prospect in the National System, Sharp is ready for a Major League role in 2020.
Sharp is originally from the Detroit Area and started his college career at Eastern Michigan before transferring to Drury. Sharp is still linked back to the Detroit area with charity work. He has partnered with the Detroit PAL and created the “Sharpest Player of the Year Award” which helps teens pay for their summer-ball teams and buy new batting gloves, shoes, and cleats.
Sharp has found success by limiting hard contact and getting batters to hit the ball into the dirt. He had a game in late April this season that he didn’t record an out via a flyball and finished the season with a 63% groundball rate! He followed that with a 1.50 ERA over 24.0 innings over six starts in the Arizona Fall League.
Sharp won’t be able to blow his 90mph fastball by Major League hitters. But, he has a video game quality sinker and a deceptive delivery that will fit into the back end of Detroit’s rotation or as a valuable multi-inning reliever.
The Met’s #8 prospect per MLBPipeline, Shervyen Newton may have the highest ceiling of any Rule 5 eligible player. Standing at 6’4” with a frame that should fill out as he develops his power, he is an imposing presence. With a violent swing that generates a ton of loft on his balls, Newton flashes plus power. But, his swing does have the tendency to get long leading to a lot of swings and misses.
Newton exploded onto the scene last season when he hit .280/.408/.449 in 56 games in the Appalachian League. Because of his success in 2018, Newton started this season in Single-A but struggled mightily especially early on while adapting to the new level.
After acclimating to the level, he began to perform better, if a bit streaky, batting .240 with seven home runs over his last 50 games. Newton would struggle in the Majors next year but could be a major contributor in 2021 and after. The Detroit Tigers could use more bats in the future.
Jordan Sheffield is the Dodgers #26 prospect and the older brother of Seattle’s Justus Sheffield. Sheffield has had only mild success in the minors as a reliever. But, he is nearly unhittable, averaging just five hits per nine innings in 2019.
Sheffield’s trouble has always been his control, and that has never truer this season with seven walks over every nine innings! If he can cut down on the walks though, Sheffield is a late-inning strikeout machine that could anchor down the late innings in Detroit for years to come. The Detroit Tigers have always been good at developing arms, maybe they could help him out.
By selecting Wander Javier of the Twins, not only do the Tigers get a new prospect but they also take him away from a divisional rival. Javier is the Twins #7 prospect, as ranked by MLBPipeline.
Javier missed the entire 2018 season after tearing his labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. He has had a rough time finding his groove after returning in 2019 batting just .177. He only played in 80 games in 2019 but his OPS did improve each month of the three full months that he played in. His power was on display though, hitting 11 home runs.
Javier will turn just 21 years old this month. If the Tigers do draft him, they must be patient with him and make sure that his development does not stall out while he is in the Majors.
There are a few intriguing outfielders that are available but the Detroit Tigers already have a log-jam in their 2020 outfield. With the addition of Daz Cameron and Derek Hill, Detroit has 7 outfielders on their 40-Man Roster. It is unlikely that Detroit drafts another outfielder onto their crowded roster. But, some high-risk high-reward players like TJ Friedl of the Reds and Ronnie Dawson of Houston could interest Detroit.
Now that Miguel Cabrera has moved to full-time DH, first base looks to be an open competition in Spring Training. Detroit might look to add another option for the vacancy in this draft. Either of Roberto Ramos of Colorado or Jose Rojas of the Angels would instantly become one of the better bats in Detroit’s lineup.
Both players will struggle with strikeouts but have tremendous power. Currently, they are struggling in winter leagues with batting averages under .200 making them less likely to come off the board first for Detroit’s selection.
With the 2020 roster moving to 26 players I could see Detroit drafting two or three players. If one player contributes right away, Detroit could afford to use a roster spot stashing another that needs more development.
Shervyen Newton could be a franchise cornerstone player once he finishes developing and learns to cut down the strikeouts. I believe that his potential warrants Detroit’s pick in the first round. Sterling Sharp, the hometown pitcher, will most likely be drafted sometime before Detroit’s second pick.
I think Detroit would have a pre-arranged trade in place for Sharp after another team drafts him. Baltimore did this last season, drafting Richie Martin first overall and then trading for Drew Jackson after Philadelphia drafted him 11th.
Newton would become one of Detroit’s top 20 prospects. Sharp could be a contender for Rookie of the Year if he holds onto a spot in Detroit’s rotation for the entire year. The Detroit Tigers’ rebuild isn’t even halfway done, but if the front office hits on a free prospect, it can only speed up the process.