If you research Baseball America’s Rule 5 Draft Preview, you’ll find a Houston Astros pitcher on the lead art of the page. That player, widely considered one of the top two pitchers available in this year’s MLB Rule 5 Draft, will now be wearing #OurColores on Opening Day.
With the 4th overall pick on Thursday, the Miami Marlins selected RHP Riley Ferrell. They passed on their pick in the second round of the draft’s major league phase and sat out the entire minor league phase.
To keep it brief: this is a good-to-great pick for the Marlins brass. Maybe they read Fish Stripes to prepare?! Ferrell was featured as the top available pitching prospect in my breakdown of Marlins Rule 5 targets, originally published in late November after MLB 40-man rosters were set. The excerpt on this 25-year-old can be seen below:
Consider me shocked that Ferrell was unprotected by the ‘Stros. But even more so, I would be astonished if Ferrell makes it through the Rule 5 without being drafted. I won’t have to sell you too much on Ferrell, as his tools and profile speaks for itself: plus-plus fastball that reaches the high-90’s and a plus-plus, “put-away slider” which has long had scouts amazed.
So then why was he unprotected? He showed signs of serious limitations in 2018, upon reaching the AAA level, where advanced hitters were suddenly catching up to his fastball at higher rates and laying off of the slider. Nonetheless, this is an arm that an organization is going to take a chance on, and I wouldn’t be upset if it were the Marlins.
More from Baseball America, who had Ferrell as their 3rd-best overall prospect:
Ferrell had a rocky return this season in his second year back from shoulder surgery, but he has the same swing-and-miss stuff he had when the Astros drafted him in the third round in 2015. What he doesn’t have is the control to know where that stuff is going--he walked nearly six batters per nine innings this season. When they were rebuilding years ago, the Astros had success nabbing Josh Fields in the Rule 5 draft with a similar profile (big stuff, poor control). Now someone could try to do the same thing to the Astros.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline was on the same page: strong arm, tough to hit, Triple-A struggles.
Ferrell has an obvious flaw, but the ceiling of MLB closer. Makes him a good fit on a pitching staff that dealt with plenty of ninth-inning heartbreak in 2018. There’s a high probability of him sticking with his new club; they can afford to be patient during a non-contending year.
Look for him to immediately rank among the Marlins’ Top 20 prospects (Pipeline had him at No. 17 in Houston’s system entering the day).
But wait, there’s more: beyond adding this solid piece, the Marlins avoided losing any of their unprotected MLB-phase players. LHP McKenzie Mills, SS Christopher Torres and OF Brayan Hernandez highlighted the group that was in limbo. All will remain a part of the Marlins organization.
With that being said, they did suffer a casualty as the New York Mets selected OF Braxton Lee in the AAA-phase. Lee was on the 2018 Opening Day roster, but didn’t stick around long. Slowed by a hamstring injury, he slashed .233/.316/.294 in 84 minor league games, never really threatening for another call-up given the many talented alternatives at his position.
Overall, the Marlins added a Top 20 prospect to their farm system, who will immediately be a solid piece in their bullpen, and lost an outfielder who had fallen in the OF depth while retaining all of the other Top 30 prospects in their system. The Rule 5 treated the Marlins well today.