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December 14, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Rule 5 Recap: Sox nab Gomez, Schwaab; Ockimey undrafted

The 2018 Rule 5 draft has come and gone, and the Red Sox were once again not involved in the MLB phase. The organization's action came in the Triple-A phase, in which they grabbed right-handed relievers, Anyelo Gomez and Andrew Schwaab, from the Yankees and Tigers organizations, respectively. They also lost outfielder Tyler Hill, who was picked by Detroit and then flipped to the Yankees in a trade. 

Boston not making a pick was not much of a surprise – their only major league Rule 5 pick this decade who was not part of a pre-arranged trade was infielder Josh Rutledge. Rutledge was something of a special case, as the Red Sox drafted him from Colorado just weeks after he'd departed the Boston organization for the Rockies as a minor league free agent. There was some feeling the team might take a flier on a reliever this year, with a spot open on the 40-man roster and the 2019 bullpen still a work in progress, but the team decided the talent pool did not have what they were looking for. Most teams seemed to agree: only 14 players were selected in the MLB portion, the fewest since 2014.

The Red Sox did not lose anyone in the major league portion for the second consecutive year. Josh Ockimey (pictured, above left) seemed to have the best chance of being taken. Currently ranked 17th in the system by SoxProspects.com, the 2015 fifth-round pick is coming off a 2018 campaign that saw him hit a solid .254/.370/.473 with Portland but struggle to a .215/.305/.398 line after an early August promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket. Ockimey totaled an organization-leading 70 walks from his plate approach that is patient at its best but occasionally veers into passivity, letting hittable pitches by as he works a deeper count. Though he is tapping more into his plus raw power tool (his career high 20 home runs in 2018 placed him second behind Bobby Dalbec among Boston's minor leaguers), it is not yet playing up in games enough for a team to take a shot on him. With a first base-only profile with below average defense and significant platoon splits, Ockimey needs to really mash right-handers to be a major leaguer. Few teams have a roster spot available for a left-handed hitting platoon first baseman, so Ockimey went unselected.

Other prominent Red Sox players went unselected as well. Probably the most well-known available player was right-handed reliever Austin Maddox, whose strong finish to the 2017 season earned him a spot on Boston's playoff roster for its ALDS series against the Astros. Maddox missed all of 2018 with a shoulder injury (save for a few rehab stints) that ultimately required rotator cuff surgery in September. Outrighted off of the 40-man roster after the season, some reporters, including Chirs Cotillo of MassLive, speculated that Maddox could be a target. However, Maddox would have to take up a spot on that team's 40-man roster throughout 2019 and then still be in the majors to meet a 90-day roster requirement in 2020, after missing two full years. Given his spotty performance record before his strong MLB showing, teams passed on Maddox as well. The only other players in the SoxProspects.com top 40 who were eligible were pitchers Jhonathan Diaz (ranked #30), Roniel Raudes (#35), and Yoan Aybar (#37).

Traditionally, the minor league stage of the Rule 5 draft is more for players with a very long shot who may be selected to fill organizational depth needs: none of the 17 players the Red Sox have taken in the minor league portion over the last 15 years have reached the majors. With that in mind, Anyelo Gomez may be the most interesting player selected by Boston in the minor league phase in a couple of decades. A skinny right-hander out of the Dominican Republic who originally signed with the Yankees as an international free agent back in 2012, Gomez posted a strong performance record climbing the ladder and was taken by Atlanta in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft a year ago. Gomez got a long look in spring training, appearing in seven games and impressing Braves coaches and manager Brian Snitker with a live fastball. He did not make the roster of the eventual National League East champions, and he was returned to the Yankees. Assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he appeared in seven games, striking out eight and allowed three runs in 7 1/3 innings before hurting his shoulder.  After initial indications that Gomez would miss only three or four weeks, Conor Foley of the Scranton Times-Tribune reported Gomez underwent surgery in June. 

Gomez's ticket is his velocity, sitting in the 95-97 mph range with his fastball. The above link from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows him throwing 98, and Baseball America included him in 2016 among their list of pitchers who touched 100. Unlike many of the hard throwers traditionally left unprotected at this stage, Gomez is able to command the pitch. He walked only 10.2% of batters he faced in 2016, and further cut that rate to 7.5% across four levels in 2017. He also mixes in a slider and changeup, both of which are works in progress. If Gomez is able to regain his velocity post-surgery, he is a potential future contributor to the bullpen. Video of Gomez from 2080 Baseball from 2017 with Trenton is available here

Andrew Schwaab, the team's second pick yesterday, was an occasional teammate of Gomez in New York's system. The right-hander uses an unorthodox sidearm delivery that looks like he is tripping over his back foot. He produced high ground ball rates through 2017, but that ratio plummeted—along with his control—in 2018. He struggled at Double-A Trenton, and even more so after getting moved down to High-A Tampa. He posted a 5.28 ERA between the two stops, carrying a 13.9% walk rate. Released by the Yankees in August, Schwaab latched on with Detroit, giving up five runs in 7 2/3 with Double-A Erie.  Schwaab was significantly better in 2017, posting a 3.43 ERA in 57 2/3 innings between Trenton and Tampa, striking out 53 and walking only 20. Schwaab went undrafted out of the University of Missouri, where he was a staff mate of Tanner Houck. The team at 2080 baseball also has video available of Schwaab and his unusual mechanics

While Schwaab's path brought him from the Yankees to the Red Sox with a short stopover in Detroit, Tyler Hill (pictured, right) goes in the opposite direction, with an even shorter connection. Hill was a 2014 19th-round pick out of Delaware Military Academy in Wilmington, Delaware. He had risen steadily through the system at a level per year, reaching High-A Salem this season. Hill has a strong batting eye, pairing high walk rates with good contact numbers. In 498 plate appearances with Salem, he drew 54 walks (and was hit with another 10 pitches), while striking out only 60 times. Despite an athletic, muscular frame, Hill's power is minimal – he homered only once this season and has just 14 in 351 games as a professional. The lack of power is particularly an issue since he profiles defensively as a left fielder. Hill's best season came with Lowell in 2016, when he hit .332/.400/.487 in 61 games with the Spinners. He peaked in the SoxProspects.com rankings at #30. 

The other familiar name taken in yesterday's proceedings was Taylor Grover, who originally was drafted by the Red Sox back in 2013 and subsequently released in 2017. Always a hard thrower, a video recently made its rounds of Grover dialing up 102 in the American Association. The Reds signed Grover to a minor league contract last month, but the Orioles snatched him with the first pick in the minor league phase.

Photo Credit: Josh Ockimey, Tyler Hill by Kelly O'Connor