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Minor League Rule 5: Blue Jays select RHP Philip Walby; lose LHP Matt Smoral, IF Jorge Flores, C Jorge Saez

Why is Frank Francisco pictured? Read on to end! (Also, such ugly uniforms)
Why is Frank Francisco pictured? Read on to end! (Also, such ugly uniforms)
Brad White/Getty Images

The minor league phase of the Rule 5 was quite active for the Blue Jays, as they selected one player but lost three players (one of whom was an obvious choice to be selected, the other two not so much). As a result, they will net $48,000 that will put their bid for Edwin Encarnacion over the top defray the cost of their selection of Glenn Sparkman in the Major League phase.

The player coming into the organization is RHP Philip Walby, a 6'2", 190 pound native of San Diego taken from the Washington Nationals. He was drafted in 12th round of the 2013 draft from San Diego State by the Yankees, split time across low-A and high-A from 2014-16 before being released in late May. He signed a couple days later with Washington and finished the season in low-A, posting a 3.29 ERA in 27.1 innings out of the bullpen, 16 walks and 33 strikeouts.

The 24 year old Walby has a solid 3.66 ERA across 174.2 innings, however he's struggled mightily with control, having walked 123, for a 6.3 BB/9. He does have a decent strikeout rate at over one per inning, so this would seem to be a guy with some stuff who a scout liked and the Jays will take a crack at sorting him out. But more likely you won't ever see his name again.


Turning to the three players the Jays lost:

The most notable name is LHP Matt Smoral, whom I identified as being very likely to be selected and then was grabbed by the Rangers. Smoral has had a rough go in professional ball between injuries and ineffectiveness, and this year struggled in Vancouver in the first half and did not pitch after July 28th. In 2014, it looked like he was finally on the right path but it didn't take. Overall, he's only pitched 106.2 innings in four years, 5.91 ERA and 95 walks.

By leaving him off their AAA reserve list the Jays were pretty clearly indicating they didn't see a viable path forward. Smoral has two renewals years left on his original minor league contract, so between the $24,000 cost of selecting him and salary, Texas will try to fix him at a total cost of about 2% of the $2,000,000 signing bonus he received (and those weren't regular dollars either, it was precious slot allocation). They're one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to pursing high upside, low probability talent, and gambling on Smoral makes all the sense in the world.

SS/IF Jorge Flores was the first player taken from the Blue Jays, and he's going to continue his career with the Phillies. The 25 year old was selected in the 19th round in of the 2012 draft, and rose to AA by 2014, where he's spent most of the last couple years. At 5'5", he's very small, but is a decent defender in the middle infield and has been tried as utility type all around the diamond. He's not an impact hitter, but posted solid numbers before really tailing off his year. Between having their minor league complex next door to the Jays and affiliates in the same high-A and AA leagues as the Jays, the Phillies should be very familiar with him.

Catcher Jorge Saez was taken by the Yankees, and was the most surprising to me. The 26 year old was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2012 draft, and has been a part time or backup catcher. This is likely just filling a hole in their upper minors, but spending $24,000 seems a bit expensive for that. Like the Phillies, the Yankees overlap with the Jays in the same manner so they'd be very familiar with him.


The departure of Smoral also means the books are finally closed on the Mike Napoli / Frank Francisco trade from almost six years ago in January 2011 following the Vernon Wells deal. Matt Smoral was chosen with the compensation pick the Jays received when Frank Francisco departed, and at the time there was speculation that getting the presumptive sandwich pick was one of the reasons for doing a deal that really didn't make a lot of sense in terms of pure value (two years of platoon position player for one year of a reliever).