For the the third straight year, the Blue Jays lost a player in the Rule 5 Draft. For the second straight year, Dany Jimenez is heading to the Bay Area. After being selected by the San Francisco Giants last year, the Oakland Athletics took him this year in the second round of the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, the 16th and last player selected (in the major league phase).
Jimenez thus becomes the first Blue Jays player to be twice selected in the Rule 5 draft. The closest thing previously occurred when the Blue Jays selected catcher Ramon Lora in the AAA phase of the 1980 Rule Draft from the Phillies, and then lost him the next year to the Dodgers in the major league phase. He was returned though he never played again in the Jays system, loaned to the Mexico City Tigers in 1982 before being transacted to Campeche in April 1983. He died in a car accident in October 1985 at the age of 30.
Being selected multiple times is not as rare as I thought, with a handful this century:
Recent players who have been selected twice in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft: Dany Jiménez, Daniel Stumpf, Luis Perdomo, César Cabral, Robert Fish, Zach Kroenke, Lincoln Holdzkom, Shane Victorino, Matt White, Héctor Luna, Matt Williams (LHP). https://t.co/VLgRq5zbIU— Minor Leaguer (@Minor_Leaguer) December 10, 2020
Daniel Stumpf was the last player selected in back-to-back years, in 2015-16. One important consideration for such players is that since they have to clear waivers before being offered back to their original teams (Rule 6), and players have the right to elect free agency after a second or subsequent outright assignment [Article XX(D)(2) of the collective agreement], Jimenez will not necessarily re-join the Jays. In fact, this may be part of the strategy:
A's select RHP Dany Jimenez from Blue Jays. Also a pick last year. If he doesn't stick, he can refuse outright assignment and become a free agent (and maybe re-sign with the selecting team). Worked out well when Tigers did it with Stumpf.— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) December 10, 2020
Jimenez, 27 in two weeks, was originally signed in August 2015 out of the Dominican Republic, already 21 when he signed. He toiled for a while in the lower levels of the Jays system before making it to Lansing in 2018, but his coming out party was in 2019 when he combined for a 2.59 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 59 innings across Dunedin and New Hampshire. The stuff is MLB calibre, with a mid-90s fastball that will touch the upper-90s and a power breaking ball in the low/mid-80s.
Jimenez made two appearances for the Giants, allowing one run in 1.1 innings with three walks against one strikeout, before he was designated for assignment, cleared waivers and was returned to the Blue Jays.
As predicted, the minor league phase was more active as the Blue Jays lost four players with plenty of intriguing talent to protect and a maximum of 38 spots on their AAA Buffalo roster.
In turn the Jays did make one pick, selecting infielder Sebastian Espino from the New York Mets for $24,000. Espino signed for $300,000 in 2016 as a 16-year-old and has not played above the rookie level, though could reasonably have been ticketed for full season ball in 2020. In 2019, he hit .251/.303/.332 in 202 PA in the Appy League. He’s young, but appears to be a depth acquisition who will be a reserve middle infielder in low-A or high-A, similar to Kevin Vicuna.
In terms of losses, the first was LHP Jake Fishman, taken by Miami. Fishman, 26 for 2021, was selected in the 30th round of the 2016 Draft out of a small DIII school. He’s a low slot sinker/slider lefty who made it to AA in 2019 and was a solid performer (3.45 ERA, 74 strikeouts in 62.2 innings). He’s very tough on same handed hitters, but ultimately doesn’t profile as more than organizational depth (especially the LOOGY role now foreclosed).
The second loss was a more prominent name, as RHP Zach Jackson was a second arm plucked by the Athletics. Jackson, 26 on Christmas, was selected in the 3rd round of the 2016 Draft out of Arkansas, where he had a dominating sophomore season before a tough junior year sent him down draft boards. Jackson originally had an agreement for a near slot signing bonus for $540,000 shortly after the draft, but the signing got hung up and he ended up with $275,000 presumably due to some issues with his medicals.
Jackson performed well as he moved through the system, but struggled with control in the upper levels. He walked 51 in 62 innings with New Hampshire in 2018, and 34 in 68 innings with Buffalo in 2019. He struck out enough batters (24%+), but often worked deep counts and needed a ton of pitches. His fastball sat in the low-90s with a decent slider, but in today’s game that doesn’t stand out and he was stuck behind a lot of other upper level relief arms. This allows him a fresh start and perhaps better opportunity, though the Jays are now 0-for-2 drafting Zach Jacksons.
The third player selected was C/1B Yorman Rodriguez by San Diego, and to me the most intriguing player lost. Originally signed in July 2014, Rodriguez hit at every level as he slowly moved up the lowest levels of the chain, at least until 2018 when he struggled in Vancouver. He stormed back in 2019, with a .369 average before moving up to Lansing where he kept it was a .344 average the last month of the season.
He’s definitely a pure hitter, with a lifetime .324 average, with he’ll also turn 24 next year having barely made it to full season ball. At the end of the day, he’s a likely first baseman with little power and little on-base beyond the high averages, so one can understand why he was left available for $24,000. It would have been really interesting to see what he could have done in 2020 though.
Finally, the Mets avenged the loss of Espino by taking RHP Justin Dillon in the second round. Dillon, 27, was selected in the 10th round of the 2017 as a senior sign ($5,000 bonus) out of Sacramento State. He moved quickly to the upper levels of the system when those teams needed pitchers given his experience, and performed competently. Nonetheless, this is a depth type selection, as the Mets can have his rights for another three seasons.
All in all, it was a ruinous day for Ross Atkins: while the Jays gained a net of $172,000 in cash, they lost a net of 24+ years of control, or under $7,000 per year of control.