The Rule 5 draft took place today (December 6th), and the general consensus was that this year had a solid crop of talent to choose from. There were 15 players selected in the MLB phase this season, compared to 12 in 2011. The Orioles selected LHP TJ McFarland out of the Cleveland Indians organization.
McFarland, 23, was drafted in the 4th round of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Indians. In his minor league career he has compiled a 3.83 ERA, 6.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. Last season he compiled a 16-8 record with a 4.03 ERA in 163.0 innings between AA Akron and AAA Columbus.
McFarland is a tall lefty at 6’3” but probably has hit his limit in terms of growth and filling out his body. He primarily worked as a starting pitcher in the minors, throwing in the upper 80’s with very solid command. In fact, Baseball America voted him as having the best command in the Indians organization in 2011.
With his stuff, McFarland has a fastball with solid movement. Some would classify it as a “heavy” fastball with some decent sink on it for a LHP. He throws a slider as well, which is probably just average right now, but could play up in the bullpen. He has decent deception, which makes you think he could stick as a LOOGY type in the bullpen for the Orioles. This is probably the plan with McFarland, even though he has predominately started in the minors. He is another Lefty that can fill out the final spot of the Orioles pen. There is speculation that maybe another LHP the Orioles have could be expendable now, as they have Matusz, Patton and Belfiore all as potential Lefties in the pen for 2013. Overall, it seems like McFarland is a decent guy to take a flier on, although it remains to be seen how his stuff plays up at the MLB level.
Robbie Widlansky was snagged by the Angels in the AAA Phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Widlansky, 28, was an 11th round selection by the Orioles in the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft.
He has been around for quite some time with the Orioles, and has never put his name on the map enough to get consideration at the MLB level. Last season at Bowie was probably his greatest minor league season to this date, as he hit .316/.404/.446 with 8 HR, 35 Doubles and 11 SB.
Widlansky has a few intangible assets going for him. He was widely considered one of the team leaders for the Baysox, and seemed to really have a solid personality and persona about him. At the plate, Widlansky has a decent swing, with average-to-above-average bat speed. He has average pop, although he can be a doubles machine. His plate discipline is average in my eyes, although repeating levels has made it seem to be a little stronger. He occasionally has trouble catching up to a true high-speed fastball, but overall is a relatively solid bat in at least the upper minors. The Angels could use a little OF depth at the AAA level, so this makes sense to bring over a leader-like player whom has been relatively solid in a pitcher friendly ballpark. I would not be surprised to see him have ridiculous numbers in the PCL, although I still think Widlansky is probably just an organizational talent at this point in his career. Maybe he gets a crack as a 4th OF/Bench bat down the line.
Lastly, the Orioles selected RHP Tom Boleska from Twins in AAA phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Boleska, 26, pitched in the independent league with Fargo-Moorehead last season and compiled a 1.76 ERA. Without hearing much about him, there is really little I can say besides he throws gas and can be viewed as a potential arm in the back-end of a bullpen in the minors.
Tucker Blair was born and raised in the Baltimore area and currently lives in Elkridge, Maryland. He graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a B.S in Entrepreneurial Studies and is currently a Project Analyst for a Management Consulting Firm in Federal Hill, Baltimore. Tucker was previously the Managing Editor at Orioles Nation, where he worked on prospect lists, reports, and analysis on the Orioles minor league system. He also previously wrote his personal blog, The EntreprenOriole.