Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rule 5 Continues To Be Good For Twins

The Rule 5 Draft took place at the conclusion of the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings. As teams selected players from other organizations that must stay on their 25 man roster throughout the duration of the upcoming season, Minnesota continues to reap the rewards of solid Rule 5 Draft success.

In the 2016 version, Minnesota had the first overall pick and selected a pitcher from the Brewers organization, Miguel Diaz. He was sent to the Padres in exchange for Justin Haley, a pitcher from the Red Sox organization that the Los Angeles Angels had selected with their Rule 5 pick. Haley is a tall kid with average stuff that projects as a capable back-end big league starter. He'll join the Twins organization and likely compete for a rotation spot during spring training.

When looking at previous Rule 5 success, Twins fans can easily point to Johan Santana. The club weathered two seasons (when Santana was 21 and 22 years old) in which he posted a 5.9 ERA and just a 6.4 K/9 with a 4.9 BB/9. He then went on to win two Cy Young awards while compiling a 2.92 ERA across the next six seasons. By all measures, Santana is the Gold Standard when it comes to Minnesota Twins Rule 5 Draft Picks.

There's one that's still paying dividends however.

Ryan Pressly was selected in the Rule 5 Draft out of the Red Sox organization prior to the 2013 Major League Baseball season. He's worked exclusively as a reliever, and posted a 3.55 ERA across 208 MLB innings for the Twins the past four seasons. Last year however was easily Pressly's best in Minnesota.

Healthy and contributing over 75 innings for Paul Molitor's club, Pressly turned in a 3.70 ERA that was backed by a nice 8.0 K/9 and a 2.7 BB/9. He picked up his first career save, and flashed some really strong offerings on the mound. Also in 2016, Pressly turned in his highest average fastball velocity of his career sitting at 95.2 mph. His slider and curveball also saw velocity spikes while he all but abandoned his changeup.

Going into the 2017 season, I'd hope that the Twins give significant run to internal bullpen options. Players like Jake Reed, Trevor Hildenberger, D.J. Baxendale, Aaron Slegers, and Nick Burdi should all be close to big league debuts. With that much youth in contention for relief opportunities, it will be on veterans such as Pressly to provide a steadying feeling late in games. If the returns of late are any indication, the native Texan should have no problem being up to the task.

As teams around the big leagues have placed an increased importance on relief pitching as a whole, the Twins bullpen has lagged behind. With starters failing to go deep in games, the relievers have generally been asked to do too much. Of the group, and around the big leagues, Pressly doesn't get the praise he deserves and isn't the household name he may soon turn into.

Right now, the jury is out on how good of a Rule 5 selection Justin Haley will be for the Twins. What isn't up for debate is that Ryan Pressly is one of the best Minnesota has ever taken in the draft.