The Blue Jays went outside of the box in today's Rule 5 draft, selecting RHP Glenn Sparkman from the Royals.
Sparkman, a 20th round pick in 2013, was called the surprise star of the Royals' system after a stellar 2014 in which (aided by a pitcher-friendly home ballpark) he posted the second-lowest ERA in the minors. In rating him as the Royals' 17th-best prospect after that season, BA noted:
Sparkman's success was based on a combination of his deceptive delivery and his ability to throw to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He leads with his elbow, then brings his hand and the ball forward with a quick over-the-top release. Sparkman gets more swings and misses than one would expect from a 90-93 mph fastball. He mixes in a potentially average changeup with a little late fade and a potentially average hard slider at 83-84 mph. The pitch doesn't have much depth but cuts enough to swerve away from the sweet spot of opponents' bats. His curveball is generally below-average and loopy. Sparkman's four pitches all play up because he has present above-average control and average commandSparkman's 2015 was limited to 4 starts before he succumbed to Tommy John surgery. He returned this summer, accumulating almost 60 innings over 16 starts at 4 levels, striking out 10.19/K. While it's reasonable to assume that the Blue Jays likely selected Sparkman with an eye toward turning him into a bullpen arm as they did with Joe Biagini last year, there's not a lot in his profile that would suggest that there would be a spike in velocity. Still, there is the fact that Sparkman is known for his command (his 2.55 BB/9 rate was on the high side for him, but he was coming back from Tommy John), and his ability to generate weak contact, and perhaps there is something to that deceptive delivery:
Even though he's facing a LHH in this video, it's easy to see how right-handed hitters would have difficulty picking up the ball from Sparkman.
Under the terms of the new CBA, the cost for drafting Sparkman was $100 000. He must stay on the 25-man roster for the whole 2017 season, or be offered back to the Royals for half that price. With the Blue Jays rotation likely set for next year, it's hard to see Sparkman auditioning in a starting role. The idea likely will be to see what he can do in long relief. Its's a longshot, but the combination of his command and delivery, coupled with the Blue Jays defence, could mean that the team has another bullpen revelation on their hands.
The Padres dominated the Rule 5 draft, making deals with the Twins and Reds, who owned the picks ahead of them, to select the first three players in the Rule 5, making them the first team in the 50 year history of the draft to do so.
The Blue Jays also lost three players in the AAA phase of the Rule 5. Unlike the MLB portion, players selected in the AAA phase do not have to be kept on the 25-man roster for the season.
Toronto lost LHP Matt Smoral to the Rangers, C Jorge Saez to the Yankees, and SS Jorge Flores to the Phillies.
Saez and Flores, who spent last season at AA, are likely minor league depth guys. Smoral, a 2012 compensation round pick who could never stay healthy, may one day go on to bigger and better things. His draft stock fell due to a foot injury during his senior year of high school, delaying his pro debut until late in the 2013 season. 2014 was a bit of a breakout year for Smoral, when he fanned 70 hitters in 53 innings at two short season stops, and BA was bullish on him:
Smoral was viewed as one of the top prep lefthanders in the 2012 draft heading into the spring, when he made only one start because of a stress fracture in his right foot. That allowed the Jays to grab him at pick No. 50 and sign him for $2 million. After not pitching in 2012 and being limited to 26 innings in 2013 because of a cracked fingernail, Smoral had his first healthy season in 2014, striking out nearly onethird of batters at Rookie-level Bluefield. His body, fastball and slider give him a foundation to be at least a mid-rotation starter, but the development of his control and changeup will dictate whether he stays in the rotation. His fastball sits at 90-93 mph, touching 95 with above-average life when down. Smoral's slider is a wipeout offering with plus potential and is a weapon against both lefthanders and righthanders. His mid-80s changeup improved in 2014 and flashed average but will need continued development. Smoral has an extra-large frame and lost weight over the 2014 season, gaining athleticism and flexibility while improving his delivery. He'll likely get his first taste of full-season ball at low Class A Lansing in 2015However, injuries and a nasty line drive he took just above his eye last year have limited Smoral to 40 innings over the past two seasons. A new delivery this year was supposed to help with his command issues and put him in a better position to field balls hit back at him, but the velocity never came back. For the Rangers, taking a guy who has pitched all of 3 innings since 2012 above short season ball is a risk, but it comes at a much lower price than the MLB phase. Tall (Smoral is 6'8") southpaws seem to take longer to develop, and at 22, there is still time for him to put things together.