After much speculation about who the Detroit Tigers would select in the Rule 5 Draft, the consensus was that they would take a catcher or an outfielder to help plug the biggest holes on the roster. When the time actually came to make a selection, however, they ended up choosing players no one expected.
The Tigers’ first selection in this year’s Rule 5 draft was left-handed pitcher Daniel Stumpf, a reliever from the Kansas City Royals’ system. Originally picked up in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, Stumpf was converted to the bullpen in 2014. His most successful season was his first while pitching with the Royals’ High-A affiliate, posting a 3.77 ERA. That doesn't tell even close to the whole story, however. He put up an impressive 9.61 strikeouts per nine innings and 2.31 walks per nine, resulting in a 2.37 FIP over 74 innings.
More recently, Stumpf was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. He performed poorly, posting matching strikeout and walk rates (3.60 K/9 and BB/9) and allowed 1.80 home runs per nine innings. He also got nailed for PED use and served an 80-game suspension. After he was returned to the Royals, he pitched 21 innings in Double-A. He struck out over 10 per nine innings and walked just 1.69 per nine. The Tigers must keep him on their 25-man roster all season or he must be offered back to the Royals.
The next selection that the Tigers made — right-handed reliever Sean Donatello — was in the Triple-A round. While Donatello was with the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins in 2016, he pitched to a pitiful 12.4 percent strikeout rate and 5.7 percent walk rate. He doesn’t throw high heat, either, sitting in the 89-92 mile-per-hour range. However, if he is able to get his act together, Donatello could end up becoming a very useful piece. He has a 47 percent ground ball rate to go along with a career 18.6 percent strikeout rate and 6.6 percent walk rate.
This makes him a very similar player to Alex Wilson, one of the Tigers’ most effective and consistent relievers. It is possible that Donatello’s lack of strikeouts were an anomaly and that he will have another good season. However, it is equally possible that he is simply unable to pitch to more advanced batters. Additionally, because he was selected during the Triple-A phase, there is no obligation to keep him on the 25-man roster.
The Tigers’ final selection also came during the Triple-A phase of the draft. That player is Elvis Rubio, a corner outfielder. Spoiler alert: he is not a good ballplayer. Rubio has some speed and defensive acumen, but calling him a poor batter would be as generous as giving $100 to a five-year-old. Rubio spent 2016 hitting a pitiful .216/.268/.293 with Milwaukee’s Advanced-A affiliate.
It is hard to find a minor league RF with worse offensive numbers than Elvis Rubio.— Lee Panas (@tiger337) December 8, 2016
The Tigers only lost two players — catcher Mario Sanjur and pitcher Edward Paredes — to opposing clubs. Sanjur posted numbers as bad as Rubio’s, hitting .221/.294/.253, but at the Low-A level. Paredes doesn’t even show up on FanGraphs. Neither of them will be missed too badly.
For a refresher on how the Rule 5 Draft operates and the rules that apply to players selected, click here.
All in all, this draft did little to help the Tigers. The roster, as it stands, has glaring needs in center field and behind the plate, and these could have been addressed. Catcher Tyler Heineman, the player who could have been the Tigers’ most appealing option, went undrafted. While one either Stumpf or Donatello may be able to step up and take the place of an ineffective reliever at some point in the season, that is unlikely. The Tigers already have Joe Jimenez and Blaine Hardy in Triple-A. They also seemingly wasted a pick on Rubio. In fact, that could go for all three players the Tigers selected. They simply were not the best choices.