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The Cardinals' Rule 5 Machinations

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None of the players left off the 40-man roster came as a particular shock, and I don't think we'll be seeing any of them plucked in the Rule 5 draft, which will be held December 9. Adam Ottavino was a few weeks away from shoulder surgery when last we met him, and had about as bad a Major League debut as you can have prior to the revelation about his shoulder. I'm not sure his upside is high enough or his risk low enough for a team to try to keep him around all season. Daryl Jones, the best prospect of the four, hit .244/.335/.361 in Springfield and is no longer young for his level; the breakout season is now two years old.

As for Nick Stavinoha, there must be some team for which he'd be an interesting hitter, but the more he struggles in increasingly lengthy Major League stints the more I'm convinced it might be in Japan. I can see him making another team at some point—John Gall did it, though he eventually ended up in Korea—but so long as he remains in Memphis he's behind too many better, similarly defensively challenged hitters.

Which brings us to better, differently defensively challenged hitter Steve Hill, who would make an interesting Rule 5 pick if only there were a team that valued the traditional backup catcher as little as I do. Hill is only kind of a catcher, and he doesn't have the minor league numbers to match his traditional comp, Todd Greene, but what does a team like the Baltimore Orioles gain from keeping Craig Tatum around, or the Washington Nationals Wil Nieves, instead of Hill, who has one skill that isn't "owns his own catching equipment"?

As Rule 5 catching prospects with bad gloves go he's no Chris Shelton, but I'm afraid even the PIttsburgh Pirates have gotten smarter since those halcyon days. If he gets taken, and the team who picks him realizes the average backup catcher looks, well, like Craig Tatum or Wil Nieves, he's the one I could imagine sticking. 

As for the players the Cardinals added to the 40-man last week, Adron Chambers—who looks something like a finished product and has randomly started stealing bases as much as he was reputed to be able to in the Arizona Fall League—would definitely have stirred some interest from teams looking for a fifth outfielder who might someday become a fourth outfielder, as would Eduardo Sanchez and Adam Reifer, whose roster credentials were never in doubt.

Blake King's seems like a little too common a narrative for a team to bite—fastball/slider right-hander with serious control problems strikes out a metric ton of AA hitters and walks a regular ton—but as that narrative goes his strikeout rate was especially metric, and his walk rate's moving in the right direction, for what that's worth. That's right: The Cardinals find themselves with a surplus of right-handed minor league relievers, which means it's time to trade the best of them for Khalil Greene and Mark DeRosa

I'm worried Tony Cruz, the most recent 40-man addition, might have the honor of being the next player to job Bryan Anderson for no reason. The Cardinals are convinced he's a catcher, he jumped all the way to Memphis, kind of, and he had a nice 40 games in Springfield after having a terrible 110 games there the year before. He's also been excellent in the AFL, hitting .342/.393/.500. 

I hate that we can still play this game, but he's also four months older than Bryan Anderson, whose descent into snake-bitten prospectdom started the year after Tony Cruz was drafted. I'm under no illusions about Anderson, and I'm always happy to report that I was one of the first people to dump him from the top of my prospect lists—I think that was actually before I moved to VEB, which shows just how long the Anderson bandwagon has been emptying. But he's free, he's offense-oriented, he's got nothing left to do in Memphis except get jumped by additional Pagnozzi nephews, and he even offers Tony La Russa yet another platoon advantage to over-exploit.

The role of back-up catcher is so unimportant, relative to the other 24 spots on the active roster, that I'm beginning to feel like La Russa is using it as some kind of weirdly targeted psychological experiment designed to show me how unpredictable life is.