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Wrapping up the Rule 5: Red Sox add former Roxbury Latin star Jack McGeary, lose two big arms

12.06.12 at 12:31 pm ET
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Red Sox faced a 40-man roster crunch at the end of this season, and so the team recognized that it would have to expose some impressive relief arms through other teams to the Rule 5 draft. It thus came as little surprise that the team lost a pair of right-handers through that process, as Josh Fields went to the Astros and Ryan Pressly was selected by the Twins.

(A brief Rule 5 primer: Players who started their pro careers at age 19 or later with four or more years of pro experience and who started at 18 or earlier with five or fewer years of pro experience and who are not on a 40-man roster are eligible for selection in the major league Rule 5 draft. A team can take a player, with his original team receiving $50,000. The player must remain on the team’s major league 25-man roster all season, or else be offered back (assuming he clears waivers) to his original team for $25,000.)

Fields was taken by the Astros with the first overall pick of the major league Rule 5, no great surprise given the 27-year-old’s dominant season in Double-A and Triple-A, which reflected a fastball that was often in the mid-90s and a swing-and-miss curveball that resulted in big strikeout numbers against right-handers and lefties.

The 2008 first-rounder seemed like little more than a throw-in at the time that the Mariners included him, along with Erik Bedard, in a trade deadline swap that saw the Sox part with four minor leaguers. But Fields enjoyed a breakthrough with his command this year, dominating in a year-end spell in Pawtucket (19 strikeouts, 2 walks, 0.00 ERA in 13 2/3 innings) to put himself back on the prospect radar.

It is fair to wonder whether his breakthrough in his age 26 season (Fields turned 27 in August) is sustainable, but given what he did this year, it seemed inevitable he’d be taken in the Rule 5. Still, Fields struggled in the Dominican Winter League, allowing eight runs in six innings while punching out eight and walking seven, so it remains to be seen whether he will stick. Nonetheless, it’s a worthwhile risk for an Astros team that finished 2012 with the worst record in baseball.

“You’re going to hear from this kid in spring training, no doubt in my mind,” Triple-A Pawtucket pitching coach Rich Sauveur said in September. “He’s got big league stuff.”

Pressly, who became a full-time reliever this year in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, emerged as a Rule 5 candidate with a terrific performance in the Arizona Fall League. With Portland, he had a 3.28 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 10 walks in 24 2/3 innings, but then had 18 strikeouts and just one walk while showing a mid-90s fastball in the AFL.

A scout said, ‘€œHe wowed you a little bit with his velocity. He can spin the ball with a good power curveball. I think they’€™ve got him in the right spot now in the bullpen. We’€™ll see where that goes. Whether or not he can make the jump from a couple of outings at the end of the year in Double-A to the big leagues, I’€™m not sure. But I’€™m sure he opened some minds with the 93-95, 96 he was throwing out there.’€

The Sox selected second baseman Jeff Kobernus with the seventh pick in the Rule 5 draft, but almost immediately traded him to the Tigers in exchange for utility man Justin Henry, a 27-year-old who can play any position except for shortstop. (He’s spent most of his time in the minors in center field and second base.) He’s hit for average and shown consistent on-base skills (with little power) in six minor league seasons, with a career line of .293/.372/.362/734 and a Triple-A performance in 2012 of .300/.372/.357/.729 in 131 games. He represents Triple-A depth for the Sox.

The team also took a pair of intriguing arms in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Most notably, the team selected left-hander Jack McGeary — once a heralded Boston-area prospect out of Roxbury Latin — from the Nationals. McGeary was considered a potential first-round pick in the 2007 draft when he was coming out of high school, but he made no secret about the fact that he wanted to attend Stanford. And so, he slipped to the sixth round, where the Nationals selected him and signed him for first-round money, but agreed that he could be a full-time student at Stanford while pitching for them in summers.

He finished his degree at Stanford in 2011 (he was a classics major), but in 2010, just as he was enjoying his best stretch as a professional (4-1 with a 4.62 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 15 walks in 39 innings), the left-hander blew out, requiring Tommy John surgery. He’s pitched just 242 2/3 innings as a pro, with a 4.97 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts per nine and 5.3 walks per nine innings. But the Sox had seen him throw 91 mph while showing the ability to spin a breaking ball (even if inconsistently), and so the team added a virtually no-risk flyer on a 23-year-old who was once one of the top amateur arms in the country.

The Sox also grabbed right-hander Jon Bachanov from the White Sox in the minor league phase of the Rule 5. Bachanov was a supplemental first-rounder by the Angels (under then-scouting director Eddie Bane, now a Red Sox front office member) in 2007. He was injured for all of 2008-09, but since then, he’s shown a big fastball, touching 96 mph albeit with control difficulties. He has struck out 8.9 and walked 4.6 per nine innings. In his first taste of Double-A at the end of 2012, he walked 15 and struck out nine in 8 2/3 innings.

Pressly, who became a full-time reliever this year in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland, emerged as a Rule 5 candidate with a terrific performance in the Arizona Fall League. With Portland, he had a 3.28 ERA, 20 strikeouts and 10 walks in 24 2/3 innings, but then had 18 strikeouts and just one walk while showing a mid-90s fastball in the AFL.

A scout said, ‘€œHe wowed you a little bit with his velocity. He can spin the ball with a good power curveball. I think they’€™ve got him in the right spot now in the bullpen. We’€™ll see where that goes. Whether or not he can make the jump from a couple of outings at the end of the year in Double-A to the big leagues, I’€™m not sure. But I’€™m sure he opened some minds with the 93-95, 96 he was throwing out there.’€

The Sox selected second baseman Jeff Kobernus with the seventh pick in the Rule 5 draft, but almost immediately traded him to the Tigers in exchange for utility man Justin Henry, a 27-year-old who can play any position except for shortstop. (He’s spent most of his time in the minors in center field and second base.) He’s hit for average and shown consistent on-base skills (with little power) in six minor league seasons, with a career line of .293/.372/.362/734 and a Triple-A performance in 2012 of .300/.372/.357/.729 in 131 games. He represents Triple-A depth for the Sox.

The team also took a pair of intriguing arms in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft. Most notably, the team selected left-hander Jack McGeary — once a heralded Boston-area prospect out of Roxbury Latin — from the Nationals. McGeary was considered a potential first-round pick in the 2007 draft when he was coming out of high school, but he made no secret about the fact that he wanted to attend Stanford. And so, he slipped to the sixth round, where the Nationals selected him and signed him for first-round money, but agreed that he could be a full-time student at Stanford while pitching for them in summers.

He finished his degree at Stanford in 2011 (he was a classics major), but in 2010, just as he was enjoying his best stretch as a professional (4-1 with a 4.62 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 15 walks in 39 innings), the left-hander blew out, requiring Tommy John surgery. He’s pitched just 242 2/3 innings as a pro, with a 4.97 ERA, 7.9 strikeouts per nine and 5.3 walks per nine innings. But the Sox had seen him throw 91 mph while showing the ability to spin a breaking ball (even if inconsistently), and so the team added a virtually no-risk flyer on a 23-year-old who was once one of the top amateur arms in the country.

“It was clear that he had a very bright future ahead of him,” said Mike Regan, a member of the Red Sox baseball operations department who was a senior at Roxbury Latin when McGeary was a freshman. “His poise was the biggest thing. … He was 6-foot-2 at the time, left-handed pitcher. He played football and basketball, a good athlete.”

The Sox also grabbed right-hander Jon Bachanov from the White Sox in the minor league phase of the Rule 5. Bachanov was a supplemental first-rounder by the Angels (under then-scouting director Eddie Bane, now a Red Sox front office member) in 2007. He was injured for all of 2008-09, but since then, he’s shown a big fastball, touching 96 mph albeit with control difficulties. He has struck out 8.9 and walked 4.6 per nine innings. In his first taste of Double-A at the end of 2012, he walked 15 and struck out nine in 8 2/3 innings.

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