It was a case of “win some, lose some” for the Diamondbacks in this morning’s Rule 5 draft. The team did pick up relief pitcher Albert Suarez from the San Francisco Giants. But they also lost two prospects in the first five picks. OF Victor Reyes went to the Tigers, and pitcher Brad Keller to the Reds, then was immediately traded to the Royals.
Let’s start with Suarez, who has a surprising amount of major-league experience for a Rule 5 pick, having thrown 115.2 innings for San Francisco since making his debut for them in May 2016. While the raw ERA in 2017 wasn’t great - last season, it was 5.12 - Suarez had good peripherals, with a K:BB of 34:11 in 31.2 innings of work. He could fill a role as a long reliever for the Diamondbacks, since 13 of his 18 appearances for the Giants were for more than one inning of work. He started a dozen games for San Francisco in 2016, and is also working in that role this winter, for Caracas in the Venezuelan League.
Suarez will only cost the Diamondbacks $100,000, which is quite a bargain, compared to the high price of relief pitching this winter. There is, however, a catch, as with all Rule 5 draft picks. He must remain on Arizona’s active 25-man roster (or DL) for the entire season, or be offered back to his original club for half the price paid. There can be no optioning to Triple-A for him, and history shows us that being returned is the most common fate for Rule 5 picks. Few manage to stick on the roster for the entire year, and even fewer go on to achieve long-term success - Dan Uggla, a Rule 5 pick by the Marlins from the D-backs, who became an All-Star, is a rare exception.
The same goes for the two players lost by Arizona in the draft: they are both considerably lower in the system than Suarez, so perhaps have even smaller odds of sticking. Though neither the Tigers nor Royals had winning records last season, so the players might hang around long enough to be retained. Once that first season is over, the player belongs to the new club without any further conditions, and can then be optioned as appropriate for his service time, etc.
The 23-year-old Reyes was acquired from Atlanta in the Trevor Cahill dump. Reyes spent all of last season at Double-A Jackson, hitting .292/.332/.399 for a .731 OPS, and a K:BB of 80:27. He then hit .316 and turned some heads in his time with the Salt River Rafters, in the Arizona Fall League. The Tigers outfield appears to be fairly well-set at this point, but injury could open the door for Victor to stick around: otherwise, he would be a fourth outfielder, though faces some competition even for that position on their roster
Keller was originally an eighth round draft pick by the Diamondbacks in 2013, out of high-school, so is still only 22 years old. He was a team-mate of Reyes’s in Jackson, and was a regular part of their rotation, starting 26 games. He went 10-9, with a 4.68 ERA, and a K:BB of 111:57 in 130.2 innings of work. The Royals were a bit of a surprising suitor for Keller. Having only finished one game below .500 this season, they don’t appear to be in full-on rebuild mode, but picked up both our pitcher, and another Rule 5 pick today. [Still fewer than the Padres did last year though!]
In the Triple-A phase of the draft, the D-backs lost catchers B.J. Lopez to the Marlins, and Tyler Baker to the Mariners, as well as OF Jean Selmo and RHP Kaleb Fleck. But they picked up CF Jay Gonzalez from the Orioles, and LHP Lane Ratliff from the Mariners.