While the front office has been making moves with trades and signings that have nearly turned the baseball world on its’ head, they’ve also been preparing for a far less heralded tradition during the Winter Meetings. The Rule 5 draft takes place every December, where teams can poach players who aren’t protected on 40-man rosters from other organizations. It’s rare to find a guy who can help the major league club immediately, though the Dodgers have found a few in the past that have helped, such as DJ Houlton and Carlos Monasterios.
This year, as the Dodgers’ 40-man roster was full (read: overflowing), the team skipped out on the major league phase of the festivities. However, they were very active in the Triple-A phase, taking four players to stash in their system with the hopes of contributing to the major league club one day. Let’s take a look at who they got.
Peter Lavin, OF (Phillies)
The Dodgers’ first selection was Peter Lavin of the Philadelphia Phillies. The soon-to-be 27-year-old has spent his entire career with Philly, a la Jimmy Rollins, but never made it to the show. In four seasons, the outfielder has batted .275/.326/.403 with 21 home runs and 45 stolen bases. In 2014, Lavin reached Double-A and posted a .756 OPS. He’s played all three outfield spots and is a good defender with speed. Here’s what the Phillies’ prospect site PhuturePhillies.com had to say about him:
He plays above-average defense in center…possesses good speed…arm is fringe-average, but it’s accurate…understands the strike zone…decent bat speed…power is gap to gap…high baseball IQ
Peter fits the new front office’s mold of a defensive-minded player with versatility. He’s exactly the type of guy you want in the minors for depth. While he doesn’t profile as anything more than a backup, Lavin is the type of player you expect to have on the farm so you don’t have to scramble to deal with an injury.
Alexander Santana, RHP (Orioles)
If that name sounds familiar, it’s because the Dodgers already have an Alex Santana in their system. However, there’s no confusing these two players. The newest Santana is a small relief pitcher who, stop me if you’ve heard this before, began his career as a hitter. Just 23 years old, Alexander pitched just two games above Low-A last season but put up solid numbers overall, finishing 2014 with a 3.20 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39.1 innings.
Orioles-Nation has a 2013 scouting report on him, describing his fastball as being “87-88 mph with late life and some explosion. Deceptive and looks a tick faster than it really is.” His changeup is “78-81 mph with fringe fade, exposes pitch on delivery.” His curveball may be his best pitch, “with 11-5 spin and good drop.” The below average velocity hasn’t prevented him from missing bats in the low minors, but it remains to be seen how effective he’ll be against more advanced hitters.
Randy Fontanez, RHP (Mets)
The Dodgers’ third pick was the 25-year-old reliever out of the New York Mets’ system. Fontanez was drafted twice, once by the Reds in the 23rd round in 2010 and again in the 27th round by the Mets in 2011. He signed and split time between the rotation and bullpen, though he’s solely a reliever now. Randy broke out in 2013, with a 3.41 ERA in 45 games in High-A, striking out 83 batters in 60.1 innings. He moved up to Double-A in 2014, seeing his ERA increase a little to 4.86 but still posted solid peripherals.
Fontanez pitched for the Puerto Rican team in the World Baseball Classic in 2013, and gave an in-depth interview later that year to MetsMinors.net. He also has at least one big fan currently in the Dodgers’ system.
Nate Samson, UTIL (Diamondbacks)
It’s fitting that the Dodgers closed with a utility player, as the organization continues to build depth throughout its affiliates. Samson was a 34th round pick in 2006 by the Cubs and has had a long minor league career. In 781 games, Nate has batted .267/.334/.342 with 20 homers and 47 stolen bases. Now 27, the Florida native has bounced back and forth between Independent Ball and the minors in the last two seasons, finishing 2014 with Arizona’s Double-A affiliate, where he hit .274/.363/.444.
Samson was named the Midwest League’s best defensive second baseman in 2008 and has since played plenty of games at shortstop as well. He’s even seen time at third base and in left field. Here’s an interview he gave with the Ocala Star Banner earlier this year when he signed with the Diamondbacks.
Again, defense and versatility seem to be the name of the game with the new regime. Picking up players to fill multiple roles and offer value in different ways only goes to show how dedicated Friedman and company are in carefully crafting the organization into a well-oiled machine.