Detroit Tigers Rule 5 Options: Middle Infield

Detroit Tigers, Niko Goodrum (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers, Niko Goodrum (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Tigers, Esteury Ruiz
Esteury Ruiz #3 of the San Diego Padres Minor Leagues plays in the Padres On Deck game against the Texas Ranges at PETCO Park on September 30, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres/Getty Images) /

Detroit Tigers Rule 5 target:  Esteury Ruiz

Age on Opening Day: 22.1
Bats: Right
Highest Level: High-A

Esteury Ruiz has long earned comparisons to Alfonso Soriano because of his wiry strength, plus speed, and questionable defense.

In 2018 he hit .253 with 12 home runs and 49 stolen bases as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, but his aggressive approach got the best of him in High-A in 2019, resulting in a .239/.300/.357 line.

Ruiz has plus speed, plus raw power, and the raw athleticism to play second base, but he’s error-prone and may be better off roaming the outfield

Detroit Tigers Rule 5 target:  Shervyen Newton

Age on Opening Day: 21.9
Bats: Both
Highest Level: Low-A

Speaking of stretches, taking Shervyen Newton in the Rule 5 Draft is probably a bridge too far for any team, but he has some of the most impressive tools and physicality of any middle infield prospect in the minors.

The Mets signed Newton out of Curacao in 2015, and he performed well in rookie ball before running into a roadblock in Low-A in 2019. Newton is tall and athletic, with terrific bat speed and huge raw power, but the rest of his game is fairly raw too.

He’s a patient hitter, but he has some pitch recognition issues, as illustrated by his 32.9% strikeout rate. He’s almost certain to outgrow any chance to play shortstop at higher levels, and he may outgrow second base, too, but he has the arm and power potential to profile at third or in the outfield.

Shervyen Newton batting video via 2080 Baseball

Detroit Tigers Rule 5 target: Kevin Smith

Age on Opening Day: 24.8
Bats: Right
Highest Level: Double-A

Kevin Smith was a highly regarded college shortstop coming out of Maryland, but he slid a bit and the Blue Jays drafted him in the 4th round.

He looked like a massive steal after his first pro season, when he hit .302 with 25 home runs, 31 doubles, and 29 stolen bases in 129 games between Low-A and High-A.

Baseball America even tucked him into the back of their Top 100 prospects list. But reality arrived in 2019 when Smith hit just .209 with a 32.3% strikeout rate in Double-A, and then went to the Arizona Fall League and produced an unbelievable 38-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 67 plate appearances.

Contact issues are likely to always be a problem for Smith, and while some think he’s adequate at shortstop, others project a move to second or third. His power and speed are tantalizing, but teams may ultimately be scared away by his hit tool.

Kevin Smith video via Prospects Live: