Pirates add OF Raynor in Rule 5 draft

In a somewhat surprising move, the Pirates selected outfielder John Raynor in the Rule 5 draft this morning. Raynor will be 26 next season, and has produced some pretty successful offensive seasons in the Marlins’ minor league system. He mashed in 2007 and 2008, albeit with high strikeout rates. Baseball America rated him as Florida’s 11th best prospect one year ago. He came back to earth this past season, struggling at Triple-A. His walk rate, which hovered above 12% for two seasons, dropped under 9%. He also saw a significant drop in his BABIP, which had been very high in his first two full seasons. Those two factors, along with decreased power, led to a disappointing .255/.326/.357 line in 2009. With other outfield options in the system, the Marlins chose not to add him to their 40-man roster.

Raynor has elite speed, a true 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He uses it to his advantage on the basepaths, stealing bases at an 83% clip in his minor league career. His speed allows him to cover a great deal of ground in the outfield, but erratic routes and a weak arm have limited him to left field for the most part. He should be able to play a capable centerfield, but may need to improve his breaks to become an above average defender in center. His speed allows him to hit for a solid average despite the contact issues, which gives me reason to believe that his BABIP will rebound from its lower 2009 level. Raynor’s isolated power dropped significantly last season, potentially the result of a pitch that broke his left hand during the 2008 fall season.

Raynor will have to beat out a few players in spring training to make the roster, as the bench is becoming very crowded. Three of the five spots are already taken by Bobby Crosby, Ramon Vazquez and Jason Jaramillo. That leaves two available spots for Raynor, Brandon Moss, Delwyn Young and Steve Pearce/Jeff Clement. A Pearce/Clement or Pearce/Garrett Jones platoon would be nice, and both Young and Moss are decent options off the bench. But there isn’t room for everyone, and I would assume Raynor has a leg up on the rest due to his ability to play centerfield. I wish we could just get rid of Crosby or Vazquez.

I like the selection of Raynor. He can take a walk, has solid gap power, and can run like the wind. He should be a solid bench option this year, and has the potential to become a starting outfielder down the road. There is nothing wrong with adding a player like that for $50,000.

The Pirates also selected shortstop Rodolfo Cardona in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. He appears to be an organizational player, which is usually what this segment of the draft is used for.

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