Nothing exemplifies the Hot Stove season quite like worrying about the Rule 5 draft. Most of the players don't stick it out all year; most of the ones that do are eventually traded for Ronnie Belliard or Blaine Boyer; and most of the time it would be completely absurd to spend time thinking about this. Fangraphs won't return my calls, but according to my new WARP/seconds-in-your-limited-lifespan converter most of these guys peak around fifteen, twenty seconds. (Brian Barton, simply because his nickname was briefly "Enunciate It", broke the curve at forty-five.)
But it is November, and I already did a VEB Theater, and though it kills me to say it there is no baseball going on at Busch Stadium. So let us take solace in the dim light of this good news: the Cardinals will probably not lose a useful player to the Rule 5 draft this year. In approximate order of near-term usefulness:
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM: He doesn't really have a position; he's a minor league slugger who played in the PCL, so his numbers are vaguely suspicious; he strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough.
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: He's looking more likely every day to spend significant time in left field in 2010, and there's a non-zero chance that he has a hot month while David Freese burns and Tony La Russa is suddenly convinced he can play third. He's never crushed a league, but he's also been extremely consistent level to level—in his three full seasons he's always hit .300, always hit 20 home runs, and always managed an OBP over .365. If the Cardinals find a left-handed outfielder they're comfortable with he is the ideal short side of a platoon.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM: He might be the platonic representative of the Cardinals' more conservative draft inclinations—he's almost guaranteed to be a likable fourth outfielder, but he's almost guaranteed not to be a likable third outfielder.
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: He cowrote the Federalist Papers, and every dollar the Cardinals don't have to spend on a fourth outfielder who can play great defense and get on base a little is a dollar they can spend on the player who is consigning him to the bench. If pressed into service on a full-time basis he probably wouldn't hit much worse than Harold Ramis did last year, although the only thing we have to suggest his defense would be as good—I have the distinct impression that he was drafted as a defensive "tweener"—are a year and a half of minor league numbers.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM: His career minor league ERA is 4.15, and his career minor league BB/9 is even higher. In the high minors he's basically been Todd Wellemeyer.
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: He's a first rounder, so we have to think about him, up to and including the moment in which he crushes our dreams. We were only allowed to stop thinking about Chance Caple last June. In addition to that, Ottavino's always been a Stuff Guy, and not a Results Guy; this is good for him, and bad for us. lboros's expert scouting report set me back about three years, as far as forgetting about him as a front-line guy goes.
In any case, he's too good a Rule 5 pick to not put him here. He's exactly the kind of starter who gets drafted, pitches fifty innings for a non-contender in the Brad Thompson role, and spends a third of the season on a rehab assignment for Rule 5 Syndrome. In fact, if he were playing for another team, we would be including him on a list of players for whom the Cardinals should dump Brad Thompson on the eve of the Rule 5 draft.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM: The Cardinals have Trever Miller and the Diner signed through 2010, so for once we don't need to worry about LOOGY free talent. He walked nearly seven batters per nine innings last year.
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: He's probably better than Carmen Cali. Against lefties, his strikeouts-to-hits ratio was 2.5, which is awesome. His first name is Floyd, which is awesome, too.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM: He followed up 2008's breakout campaign with a breakdown campaign, treading water in AA Springfield. He's not a good 2010 option, even though we were hoping he would be.
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: He's DJ Tools! He runs like a gazelle! He leaps like a gazelle! He no longer hits like a gazelle! He's the top hitting prospect on a team that doesn't have any, and he's got a skill-set that's become more popular in the outfield corners in recent years. He's not nearly as MLB-ready as Brian Barton was, but somebody might grab him anyway.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM: I don't think anybody's thought about him since last March.
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: You remember Charles Cutler, who we all watched fly up the prospect lists this year with a great high-average low-power season in the low minors? Bryan Anderson is five months younger than Charles Cutler. Anderson was rushed through the system, but until going down with injuries this year he had displayed his one tool, hitting for average, at every spot. So far he's stuck at catcher.
He probably shouldn't be Molina's back-up this year, if the Cardinals have any long-term plans for him—because he's still only 23—but he's interesting enough at a position where offense is at such a premium that if keeping him on the roster were contingent to, ah, keeping him on the roster, some club would do it.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM: Adam Ottavino's career walk rate, which is a concern, is a little more than half of Francisco Samuel's walk rate. I have nothing else to say about that.
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: It takes exactly two good weeks for our opinion to change about middle relievers, and the Cardinals traded every single righty relief prospect who was ahead of him on the depth chart before 2009.
WHY WE SHOULDN'T BE THINKING ABOUT HIM:
WHY WE WILL ANYWAY: After threatening to join Mike Ferris in the annals of great college sluggers who didn't do anything in the Cardinals system he was nearly as impressive as Allen Craig in an abbreviated season spent between AA and AAA. It seems like we've been thinking about Hamilton a lot longer, but they're the same age, and Hamilton's hitting prowess is less BA dependent. He might be the most underappreciated player in the Cardinals' system.
If something were to happen to—no. No. For the Cardinals Hamilton will never, ever, ever, ever play regularly, ever, don't even consider the possibility, but for another team in the Rule 5 draft he could be Chris Shelton.