The Blue Jays made no selections in the Major League portion of today’s Rule 5 draft for the first time since 2014. With two roster spots open, GM Ross Atkins had said prior to the draft that the team had a list of players they were considering.
After passing on all four rounds, it’s obvious that none of them were still on the board when it came the Blue Jays turn. More importantly for the Blue Jays, none of their exposed players – Max Pentecost chiefly among them – were selected in the Major League phase.
For MLB executives, the Rule 5 comes as the Winter Meetings are ending, and for many, they’re anxious to get in, make their picks, and catch their flights home. That’s not to underscore its importance, but perhaps the roster choices teams had to make a month earlier might be the most useful part of the whole process. Roster spots are precious, and when you consider you have to keep a Rule 5 choice on your 25-man for the whole season (or admit your mistake and offer him back to his original club for half the price you paid), teams want to be sure before they commit resources and playing time in spring training to a player who basically had run out of time and chances with his previous team.
In the Minor League phase, 3B Mitch Nay was selected by the Reds. A compensation round pick in 2012, he broke his foot the week after he was drafted, and had to wait until 2013 to make his pro debut. And what a debut it was, as Nay and Matt Dean provided a powerful 1-2 punch in the heart of Bluefield’s order. Nay hit .300/.364/.426, and was named the Appalachian League’s 4th-best prospect by Baseball America. But his 2013 wasn’t finished when Bluefield’s season was over – he was sent to the Northwest League to help Vancouver’s playoff run, and he captured playoff MVP honours as the C’s earned their third consecutive NWL title. After a decent year with Lansing, he was invited to spring training, and seemed to be on his way to Top Prospect status. He had a bit of a sideways season in 2015,, but was still considered a top prospect. 2016 was when Nay’s health began to fall apart. A nasty staph infection in his knee required three surgeries, and cost him all of that season. When he came back in June of this year with Lansing, Nay was not 100%, and you have to hope that he can continue to develop with the Reds.
The Blue Jays did do some Christmas shopping in the minor league section, selecting Giants RHP Drew Muren, C Alberto Mineo from the Cubs, and IF Ivan Castillo from Cleveland. And there are interesting stories behind all three.
Muren was drafted by the Rockies as an OF in 2012, rising as far as AA before being released. Muren then played a couple of seasons of indy ball before converting to Pitching, which he did at the suggestion of a scout at a Rays free agent camp in 2014. Muren signed with the Diamondbacks in 2016, and pitched reasonably well for them, but was released in June of this year. The Giants signed him in August, and he wound up sriking out 45 in 37 innings between four teams, the highest of which was AAA. Muren regularly hits 100 with his fastball, and while he’s 29 years old, he’s new to Pitching, and well worth a gamble as a Rule 5 choice. Anyone with that kind of velo is worth following.
Mineo was signed from Italy by the Cubs in 2012, but hadn’t advanced past Low A. Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler summed up Mineo in one Tweet:
Alberto Mineo! We saw a lot of him with South Bend. Italian left-handed hitting catcher (and sometime first baseman).
— Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (@jgoldstrass) December 14, 2017
Castillo was signed by Cleveland in 2012, and is likely very familiar to GM Ross Atkins. His glove is his carrying card, and he can play three infield positions.