With the 2021 season having come to a close, we are looking back at the year that was for members of the Texas Rangers.
Today we are looking at pitcher Brett de Geus.
I’m not sure if there’s anything in professional baseball that has a larger sizzle to steak ratio than the Rule 5 Draft.
Every offseason, for a roughly two week period between the deadline for adding players to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft until the final day of the Winter Meetings, when the Rule 5 Draft occurs, there is an inordinate amount of obsession over it. Who did each team expose? Who are teams looking at? Who could get selected?
Then somewhere between ten and twenty players end up getting selected. Most of them are returned to their original teams before the season is up. Those who do stick with their drafting teams generally don’t do much going forward. It ends up being much ado about nothing.
And then the next year, the cycle repeats.
It has gotten harder to find quality players in the Rule 5 Draft in recent years. A rule change in 2006, which added a year to the amount of time a player had to be a professional before they were Rule 5 eligible, significantly shrunk the pool of players that were subject to the Rule 5 Draft. In addition, there seems to be more homogeneity in evaluation now, more information available, which has teams having a better idea as to who in their system might be drafted, and thus should be protected, than in years past. We are well past the time when two different teams could lose five players in a Rule 5 Draft.
We are seeing fewer players drafted, and fewer success stories. Still, it is an inexpensive way ($100,000 paid by the drafting team to the team losing the player) to take a flyer on a player. And everyone once in a while, you have a success story, as the Rangers have experienced during the JD Era with Delino DeShields and Darren O’Day.
Still, there are many more misses than hits. The past few years have seen the Rangers carry Carlos Tocci, Kyle Dowdy, Jordan Romano, Mike Hauschild, Logan Verrett, Coty Woods, and Mason Tobin on the 40 man roster, with only Tocci making it to the end of the season on the 40 man — and Tocci, of course, was cut loose the next season.
The Rangers picked second in the Rule 5 Draft in 2020, and selected righthanded pitcher Brett de Geus from the Los Angeles Dodgers. For a team in full on rebuilding mode — a team that was not expecting to contend, or even be decent, during the 2021 season — taking a plunge in the Rule 5 Draft pool was a given, particularly with the extra roster spot the 26 man active roster provided. It should have been easy to stash de Geus in the bullpen for the season.
Alas, the 23 year old failed to meet those expectations. He gave up three runs in an inning of work on Opening Day — a sign of things to come. Used sparingly, mostly late in losses, de Geus plugged along for a while, keeping his head above water for the most part, other than a pair of additional three run outings in late April. In early May he had a 4.76 ERA and a 4.17 FIP in 17 innings over 12 games. Maybe the Rangers had something.
They didn’t. de Geus got hammered in a May 14 outing against the Astros, allowing 4 runs while retiring one batter in what was supposed to be a long relief outing. He saw his opportunities dwindle, going a week or more between outings, and being generally ineffective when he was used. He allowed runs in six of seven outings — multiple runs in five of those games — and from May 14 through June 22 had allowed 16 runs in 9.2 IP over just seven games. His ERA ballooned to 8.44, the Rangers needed bullpen arms that could either give them innings or at least be sent down after they were hammered to get a fresh arm up, and on June 23 the Rangers designated de Geus for assignment.
To my surprise, de Geus was claimed, albeit by the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that had an even worse season than the Rangers. de Geus wasn’t much better for the D-Backs — after giving up 25 runs in 26.2 IP in 19 games for the Rangers, he gave up 22 runs in 23.1 IP in 28 games for the D-Backs, although five of them were unearned, so his ERA for Arizona was “only” 6.56 with them.
Looking at de Geus’s Statcast page, the percentile rankings are consistent with someone who performed very poorly. His xwOBA, xERA and xBA are all in the 8th percentile. His whiff % is at the 2% percentile, while his chase rate is at the 9th percentile. His hard hit rate ranks in the 50th percentile, and his barrel rate at the 76th percentile — everything else is below average, generally well below average. It was a bad year, though because Arizona was willing to keep him around the remainder of the year, he is now part of the Diamondbacks’ organization, and can be optioned next season, rather than being left in the big leagues to get hammered again.
So the Rangers ended up getting nothing from the Rule 5 draft — less than nothing, really, since they used a 40 man spot for six months, and an active roster spot for almost half the season, on a guy they ended up cutting loose. Which isn’t really that big a deal. Or wouldn’t be, normally.
You may have noticed that the only Boston Red Sox reliever who Alex Cora seemed to have much faith in during the playoffs was a guy named Garrett Whitlock. A righthander who turned 25 in June, he put up a 1.96 ERA and a 2.84 FIP in 73.1 innings over 46 appearances in the regular season — good for a 2.9 fWAR.
He was also taken from the New York Yankees by the Red Sox in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft — selected two picks after the Rangers took de Geus.
Akil Baddoo, the Detroit Tigers outfielder who slashed .259/.330/.436, put up a 2.1 bWAR, and is one of the favorites for the American League Rookie of the Year Award? Selected by the Tigers from the Minnesota Twins in the Rule 5 Draft, one pick after the Rangers took de Geus.
In all, nine players — including de Geus — selected in the Rule 5 Draft in 2020 stayed in the majors all season. Baseball America had a piece last week saying that the number of players who fulfilled the Rule 5 requirements, combined with the quality of the players in the class (four relievers, they noted, had positive bWARs and had useful roles in the bullpens of their new teams), made this class one of the best of the 21st century.
Missing on a Rule 5 Draft is the rule, not the exception — even when you have the second pick in the Rule 5 Draft. de Geus not working out isn’t a surprise, and isn’t really a big deal.
But it is a lot easier to swallow a Rule 5 guy going bust when the two players picked immediately afterwards aren’t in the Rookie of the Year discussion, and when a number of other players drafted end up being productive major leaguers in their Rule 5 year.