The Rule 5 Draft in Major League Baseball is an interesting idea–you get to take a presumably talented player from another organization, but only if you can keep him on your major league roster all year. But a few years back, the rules changed, giving teams an additional year of protection for their players, and that limits the amount of talent teams are willing to take a chance on. Instead, many teams elect to pass when their turn comes up to pick and use the 40-man roster spot on a player they will never have to give back. That what was the Rays elected to do on Wednesday.
But then there is the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft, where teams can select players that were not placed on their minor league teams’ reserve lists. Each Major League team can only reserve a certain number of players from each of their affiliates, leaving some potentially interesting players available. Best of all, those players never have to be returned to their original team. With the more lenient structure, the Rays made a selection and had a player selected from them, and let’s see who those players were.
The Rays’ pick was right-hander Enderson Franco from the Houston Astros organization. Franco, who will turn 21 later this motnh, was signed by the Astros out of Venezuela back in 2009 and worked his way up to the Greeneville Astros in the Advanced Rookie Appalachian League for 2013. His numbers did not look so impressive–he went just 2-5 with a 5.05 ERA in 12 starts and 51.2 innings pitched–but on the positive side, he managed a 7.1 K/9, a 3.1 BB/9, and a 0.7 HR/9. Franco throws a fastball around 90 MPH but is more interesting for his changeup, which shows some potential. He also throws a breaking ball. Franco has plenty of work to do getting his career on track, but the Rays are acquiring him for nothing and will see what he can do.
Omar Narvaez, meanwhile, is a catcher out of Venezuela who will turn 22 in February. He had middling results with the Rays’ Short Season-A Hudson Valley affiliate in 2013, managing a .267/.311/.333 line in 162 plate appearances. The good news is that he does have an excellent arm, throwing out 45% or more of attempted basestealers his first five years in the minor leagues, but he is listed at just 5’10″, 172 and currently lacks the durability necessary to be a catcher. Narvaez does have decent eye at the plate, but he has very little power at this point. The Rays did not see a future catcher or a player with the ability to profile offensively anywhere else, so they let him go if a team wanted his services. The Chicago White Sox did indeed give him a flier, and they will try to get Narvaez to build up more strength and see if that could change his career trajetory.