Scout.com has a Rule 5 Draft Preview. This is particularly helpful for those of us who can’t keep tabs on all other teams minor leagues.
In case you’re not familiar with the Rule 5 Draft, players who are typically 3 or 4 years removed from their signing(although due to the CBA it’s 4 years this year) either need to be protected on the 40 man roster or they’re left exposed for other teams to draft them. As compensation, teams that lose a player are compensated $50,000. In other words it’s a cheap way to add talent. The catch is that the player must remain on the 25 man roster of the drafting team the entire season, or they need to be returned to the original club. (Here’s a more complete breakdown of the Rule 5 draft.)
The Tigers have one spot open on their 40 man roster meaning they could participate. The most likely need they’d target is a replacement for Jamie Walker. There are 2 interesting names who the Tigers could pursue.
1. Charlie Manning-27
Manning is a left-handed reliever who has posted a career mark of 45-29 and has averaged over eight strikeouts per nine innings in his six-year career. He doesn’t throw particularly hard, sitting around 86 MPH with his fastball, but he has a very good cutter and the development of his slider has made him a devastating opponent for left-handed batters. He held Double-A lefties to a .163 and his strikeout ratio against them was over 11 batters per nine innings this past season. Manning could be well worth the small financial risk in the Rule 5 Draft and find a home as a left-handed specialist on a big league roster next season.
2. Dan Smith -23
Smith was a non-drafted free agent signed the summer of 2003 after he missed his senior season in high school with an injury. The lefty was extremely successful as a reliever in the minor leagues, but the Braves moved him into the Double-A rotation in Mississippi late last summer to allow him to work on his pitches. Smith’s performance over eight starts was scary: 2.27 ERA, 24 hits in 39.2 innings pitched, 16 walks, and 53 strikeouts. The Braves still believe he can be a big league reliever, but the work as a starter may get him another chance in that role. He’s a kid that some scouts may feel is worth sticking in a big league bullpen.
Of course if the Tigers were going to try and fill Walker’s spot they could have just protected one of their own in Cory Hamman. The Scout article lists Ryan Raburn as another possibility to get drafted while Baseball America says Sendy Vasquez could get snagged(premium content).