High Five for the Rule Five

The Royals have made it through an entire season carrying two pitchers who were picked in the Rule 5 draft. That, in itself, is a bit of an accomplishment, though not so much so for a team as bad as the Royals. But still, they made it and now they have team control of both those pitchers. Of course, one of the two had an excellent rookie campaign while the other is a possibility to be DFAed, in the process undoing a whole season of having to watch him pitch in various situations. You know I’m talking about Brad Keller and Burch Smith, who represent the wide spectrum of what the Rule 5 draft can bring.

Before I get to the pitchers, a quick note on the Rule 5 hitters, the Royals have selected. They’ve played nine and only four of them have accumulated 100 or more plate appearances. Jon Nunnally was probably the best with a .244/.357/.472 line and .280 TAv with 2.4 WARP. Tony Solaita was up there too, hitting .268/.361/.406 with a  .288 TAv and 1.5 WARP. He also probably had the best career with Endy Chavez a close second.

But the pitchers are where it’s interesting.

The Royals pitching history in the draft is actually pretty interesting (though maybe only to me) and now that we’ve embarked on the offseason, I wanted to look back at the pitchers they’ve selected, whether they’ve stuck or not and how they fit into categories. I’m just looking at how they did in their Rule 5 season, not their career. I’ll get to a career ranking at the bottom.

The Good (in enough ways)

Pitcher Year G IP W L ERA DRA WARP
Brad Keller 2018 41 140.1 9 6 3.08 4.88 0.6
Joakim Soria 2007 62 69.0 2 3 2.48 2.49 2.3
Andrew Sisco 2005 67 75.1 2 5 3.11 5.71 -0.2
DJ Carrasco 2003 50 80.1 6 5 4.82 5.45 0.0
Billy Brewer 1993 46 39.0 2 2 3.46 5.51 -0.1
Jim Wright 1981 17 52.0 2 3 3.46 5.42 -0.6

These are the guys who put up really solid seasons based on ERA really, but all of them also did well on runs allowed. So for most of them, the peripherals didn’t look good, and that caused some short careers, but Brewer did last through 1999 even though he was pretty bad after his second season in the big leagues. Sisco was surprisingly good on the surface in his Rule 5 year, striking out more than a batter per inning and was generally actually pretty good other than the walks. He had an affinity for tacos. Between that and some other factors, this was the best he ever was.

Of all the Royals Rule 5 picks other than Soria, Carrasco is the one who had the best career. His ERA is clearly the highest of anyone on the list and even higher than a couple guys on the list below, but he was above league average in 2003 and had a league average ERA in 2004 for the Royals and was just a few ticks below league average in 2005 when he spent most of his time as a starter. He stuck around for a few more solid seasons before petering out a bit at the end of his career with the Mets, which is a little bit redundant, but that’s okay. He’s probably the second best Rule 5 pitcher the Royals have taken.

The obvious best pitcher here was and might still be Joakim Soria who got himself a big strikeout to help hold off the Cubs and get the Brewers the NL Central just on Monday. It remains to be seen how Keller’s career shakes out, but one thing I find encouraging is that in the second half, he upped his strikeout rate and swinging strike rate while lowering his walk rate and still managing to not allow a ton of homers. The DRA isn’t terribly pretty for Keller, but it improved as the season progressed and makes me hopeful for him.

The Okayish (in some ways)

Pitcher Year G IP W L ERA DRA WARP
Nate Adcock 2011 24 60.1 1 1 4.62 5.64 -0.6
Kanekoa Texeira 2010 27 42.2 1 0 4.64 6.89 -1.0
Miguel Asencio 2002 31 123.1 4 7 5.11 8.93 -4.6

It drops off pretty quickly, which is sort of what you’d expect for a group of players defined by the fact that they weren’t really wanted. Adcock was sort of okay in 2011 and actually ended up posting a silly good ERA in 2012 (even though the peripherals were garbage). Texeira threw some innings, so there was that. And Asencio is on here because he was so awful early that his ERA was skewed somewhat. The Royals inexplicably gave him a start on May 21st after he’d spent nine appearances being generally horrible and he posted a 4.63 ERA through the end of the season. Sure he walked more than he struck out, but hey, this is 2002 we’re talking about. He did only allow 12 homers in those last 22 games, so that’s something. That WARP, though, man, I thought about putting him in the next category, but 123.1 innings from a Rule 5 guy of a nearly league average ERA is enough to keep him off the next one.


Pitcher Year G IP W L ERA DRA WARP
Burch Smith 2018 38 78.0 1 6 6.92 6.31 -1.1
Ken Wright 1970 17 52.0 1 2 5.23 5.50 -0.5

The game changing makes a difference here. Wright in 1970 posting a 5.23 ERA was good for an ERA+ of 72 while Asencio’s 5.11 above was good for 97. So that’s why they look relatively close and one is up there and one is down here. He lasted through his age 27 season with the Yankees, but was never especially good. And we know the Smith story. I’m still surprised he ended up here and Keller all the way at the top based on my spring training expectations, but it quickly became apparent that I (and many others) was way too optimistic about him. Could he still have a solid career? Sure. Will he? I’m not betting on it.

If I had to rank them based on their rookie seasons, there are two clear guys at the top, but I’ll go:

  1. Soria
  2. Keller
  3. Carrasco
  4. Sisco
  5. Brewer
  6. Wright
  7. Asencio
  8. Adcock
  9. Texeira
  10. Wright
  11. Smith

Yeah, Burch is at the bottom of the barrel.

If I’m ranking them by their careers, obviously Smith and Keller are incomplete, but my ranking is:

  1. Soria
  2. Carrasco
  3. Brewer?
  4. Wright
  5. Adcock?
  6. Asencio
  7. Sisco
  8. Texeira
  9. Wright

In all, here’s the line for Royals Rule 5 pitchers throughout their history:

450 813.2 31 40 4.26 5.70 -5.8

I guess for guys who were basically free roster adds, that’s really not all bad. A couple guys have had decent or better careers and there’s a possibility for that with Keller as well. For a bad team, it’s obviously a great way to add potential talent and if it doesn’t work out, you’re only out the time and a small amount of money. It’s interesting to me that they’ve had so many pitchers outperform their peripherals as rookies. Maybe it’s being put into mostly low leverage situations, but whatever it is, the Royals have gotten a fair amount of in the moment bang for the buck from this draft. Hey, it’s something.

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