In the major league phase of the 2016 Rule 5 Draft, the Blue Jays selected RHP Glenn Sparkman from the Kansas City Royals. They did not lose any of their unprotected players in the major league phase, marking the sixth straight year this has happened since Brad Emaus was selected in 2010.
The 6'2", 210 pound Texas native was selected by Kansas City in the 20th round of the 2013 draft out of Wharton County (TX) Junior College shortly after his 21st birthday, signing for $100,000.
He moved quickly through the Kansas City system, debuting in the rookie short season Pioneer League (equivalent to Bluefield). He dominated out of the bullpen with a 1.72 ERA in 36.2 innings over 20 games and excellent components (47 strikeouts against 10 walks).
That earned him an aggressive promotion in 2014, not just to full season ball but skipping low-A all the way to the Carolina League, where he again was excellent. Starting out of the bullpen before transitioning to the rotation, he posted a 1.56 ERA in 121 innings, with 117 strikeouts against just 25 walks.
Unfortunately, after four AA starts in 2015, he suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery in June 2015 after unsuccessful rehab. He was back in game action this past June, and made a handful of starts in complex ball, low-A, high-A, and AA. The results were ugly (5.22 ERA), but the components remained strong (48 strikeouts against 9 walks in 43.2 innings). Of course, even by the end of the season, he was still only 15 months removed from the surgery.
In terms of stuff, Kiley McDaniel wrote this prior to 2015 in ranking him 13th in the Royals system:
He sits 90-92 mph that gets on hitters quick and plays up due to his deception. Sparkman is only 6’2/210 but is confident and aggressive with a four pitch mix. His curveball is solid average, his changeup is average and his slider is fringy. Some scouts think Sparkman should throw his off-speed more to develop those pitches further, but he has lots of success with his fastball.
Sparkman is also interesting in that he hasn't been pitching for that long. In high school, he was a shortstop and didn't focus on baseball. An Astros scouts saw him throw off a mound at an event and suggested Wharton JC, where he redshirted his freshman year since he was so raw and more of the thrower than a pitcher. He's touched as high 96, so there might be a bit of a velocity bump as a short reliever.
Like Joe Biagini last year, Sparkman an under the radar pick (I had never heard of him), but the minor league numbers are very intriguing. Presumably the Jays saw him last year after he was back, and there's no concerns over health going forward. He only has eight starts AA, so it's a bigger leap than for Biagini who had a full season in AA, but he could fit at the backend of the bullpen as the long man/mop-up guy, at least to start and he see how he does.
Ross Atkins says Glenn Sparkman was prime target for #BlueJays in Rule 5, has starter potential, chance to make team as a reliever.— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) December 8, 2016