Cardinals Select Four in the Minor League Rule 5 Draft

photo: Jonah Davis (

Because of the current lockout, the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft has been postponed indefinitely. However, the minor league phase is still taking place. The minor league phase of the draft is a good way for teams to acquire organizational depth or take a shot on an intriguing young player that has not shown much in his professional career.

There are examples of minor league Rule 5 selections who have reached the big leagues and even had some success. One such example is Tyler Gilbert of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who threw a no-hitter in 2021 after being taken in the minor league phase of the draft last offseason. Four other minor league selections reached the majors in 2021 – Shea Spitzbarth (PIT), Kaleb Ort (PIT), Seth Martinez (HOU), and Yohel Pozo (TEX). Of these five only Pozo is not a pitcher, and only Tyler Gilbert had any prolonged experience in the majors.

The Cardinals have also had some success in this phase of the draft, as the team selected John Brebbia in December of 2015. He went on to throw nearly 175 quality relief innings for St. Louis between 2017 and 2019.

In 2020, the Cardinals selected one player in the minor league portion – Garrett Williams – who split the year between Double-A and Triple-A. Two years ago, the team selected three players, including Jacob Bosiokovic who showed strong strikeout stuff and reached Triple-A after a solid year in the minors.

The cost of selecting a player in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft is $24,500. After being selected, a player can be assigned to any level of the minors without risk of being returned to his original team.

The Cardinals have the 21st selection of each round.

Round 1 – OF Ben DeLuzio (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Ben DeLuzio was originally drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 3rd round (80th overall) in 2013. He was a two sport star in high school as he played football and baseball. However, he chose to focus on baseball at the next level. His athleticism made him an intriguing target, leading to the early selection in 2013. However, he decided not to sign with the Marlins and to honor his commitment to Florida State instead.

When he re-entered the draft in 2016, DeLuzio he went undrafted as he struggled to hit in his college career. His freshman year was his best season as he posted a .769 OPS, but he never cleared .700 again.

Ben DeLuzio

DeLuzio has been in the minor leagues for five seasons (not counting the lost 2020 season), and he has shown decent hitting ability. He was an above average hitter at every level of the minor leagues until he reached Double-A for the first time in 2018 and posted a 99 wRC+ (about league average).

He improved the following year and earned a promotion to Triple-A where his strong season (139 wRC+) was buoyed by an unsustainable .483 BABIP. DeLuzio has been able to sustain high BABIPs throughout his career, though, as he has never finished with below a .355 BABIP in any season.

In 2021, DeLuzio repeated Double-A and Triple-A, but he was not as successful at Triple-A in his second time around, finishing with a 93 wRC+ in 170 plate appearances.

DeLuzio is an athlete who steals plenty of bases and plays centerfield, though he has seen time in the corners as well. Scouts questioned his feel for hitting when he left college, but DeLuzio has a hit over power profile. He supplements this with typically high walk rates, although he took fewer walks than normal in 2021. DeLuzio walked in 9.8% of his plate appearances in 2019, but his walk rate at the same levels in 2021 was just 6.4%.

He has also shown an uptick in power in Triple-A, but that is not a part of his game. The 27-year-old has hit just nine home runs in five minor league seasons.

His value comes from getting on-base and providing value on the basepaths and in the outfield. DeLuzio’s .329 OBP in Triple-A in 2021 was his career low at any level and his 16 stolen bases were his fewest in a season since rookie ball. His career high was 37 swiped bags in 2018.

There is not much upside with this pick for the Cardinals considering that the team has a strong outfield depth chart at the major league level. Still, this pick will provide quality upper level to a minor league system that just lost Nick Plummer and will need someone who can play all three outfield positions. DeLuzio is a strong defender and a strong runner with some contact skills, and that should make him a dependable outfield option with Triple-A Memphis in 2022.

Round 2 – RHP Carlos Guarate (San Diego Padres)

While the Cardinals were looking for upper level depth with the selection of DeLuzio, the team found a younger prospect in Carlos Guarate. The right-hander is still just 20 years old and has been developed as a starter, though with all the competition for rotation spots in the Cardinals system, it is possible that Gaurate moves to the bullpen.

The Venezuelan signed for $300,000 on July 2, 2017 before making his professional debut in 2018.

Guarate dominated the Dominican Summer League in 2018, and then he dominated rookie ball in 2019 and earned his first taste of full season ball at the end of the season. The lost 2020 minor league season hurt Guarate as he was unable to build on his early year success. In 2021, he began the year in Single-A and compiled a 4.94 ERA and 4.59 FIP. Despite struggling at the level and being just 20 years old, the Padres aggressively moved him to High-A midway through the season.

Carlos Guarate

This may have been due to his Rule 5 eligibility, but it certainly did not help the Venezuelan. In 40 ⅔ innings, he earned a 7.30 ERA.

Guarate has never been a pitcher who strikes out a lot of hitters. Rather he keeps the ball in the zone and limits walks. He has walked just 2.27 hitters per nine innings in his career, while fanning just 7.21 hitters per nine innings.

According to Matt Thompson of Prospects Live, the 20-year-old’s arsenal consists of a low-90s fastball, a 12-to-6 curveball, and a changeup. The curveball is his best secondary pitch right now while his fastball velocity may tick up if he adds weight to his 6’2” frame. He is listed at just 178 pounds, so that is certainly a possibility.

It appears that Guarate may also throw a slider which has plenty of horizontal break and differs significantly from his curveball, which dives toward the ground. The slider-looking pitch and the curveball both had a lot of movement while Guarate’s changeup gets a decent amount of arm side run.

Guarate is still a work in progress. He has at least three viable pitches (maybe a fourth), and good control. With some more refinement and a stronger frame, Guarate may be able to increase his fastball velocity and rack up more strikeouts. This would give him a higher ceiling, but this is still an upside pick from the Cardinals.

Round 3 – OF Jonah Davis (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Jonah Davis is the second outfielder that the Cardinals have taken in the minor league Rule Five draft, and he is the exact opposite of Ben DeLuzio. Davis hits left-handed while DeLuzio hits right-handed. Davis is a power guy while DeLuzio is more of a contact and speed guy. Davis strikes out a lot, while DeLuzio has an average strikeout rate. The one thing the pair has in common is position – they both play center field.

Davis was the Pirates 15th round selection in 2018 and he signed for $125,000. His best tool is his plus raw power despite his 5’10”, 181-pound frame. He has hit double digit home runs in each of his professional seasons. The outfielder hit 15 in 2021 between High-A and Double-A, hit 19 in Single-A in 2019, and hit 12 in rookie ball in 2018. The problem with him is astronomically high strikeout rates.

The 24-year-old struck out in over 36% of his plate appearances in Single-A, and he struck out in over 43% of his plate appearances in High-A and Double-A this past season. He has an enticing profile as a power hitter who can play center field, but he will need to cut down on the swing and miss in his game if he wants to continue progressing through the minors.

Jonah Davis

Davis is someone who can provide depth at High-A or Double-A next season while also providing upside if he ever figures out how to make more consistent contact. Despite his high strikeout rates, he has been an above league average hitter at every level that he has reached. This is largely due to his prodigious power and ability to draw walks (12.7% walk rate in 2021).

Like Guarate, he is also someone who was promoted aggressively due to his eligibility for the Rule Five Draft. He would benefit from  a more patient approach from the Cardinals.

This season, he was promoted from High-A despite batting below .200 (with a crazy .196/.348/.439/.787 slash line) with a 43.9% strikeout rate. It would not be surprising to see the Cardinals return him to the level and see if he can iron out his contact issues.

As a side note, Davis was invited to Spring Training in 2019 and he hit two home runs in five at-bats.

Round 4 – LHP Nelfri Contreras (Los Angeles Dodgers)

The Cardinals were one of just four teams to select at least four players, and only the Marlins selected five. Unlike Guarate, Contreras has been a reliever in his entire professional career, though he is also inexperienced.

The 22-year-old reached Single-A this season and tallied a 3.80 ERA, but his 5.88 FIP paints a bleaker picture. In rookie ball in 2019, Contreras found his strikeout stuff as his K/9 ballooned to 10.09. This number dropped down to a still decent 8.94 in 2021, but his BB/9 was still high at 4.75.

Nelfri Contreras

Contreras did improve as the season progressed. In the final three months of the season, the southpaw earned a 3.20 ERA in 33 ⅔ innings. However, nearly all of the runs that he allowed were surrendered in three appearances. Without those appearances, he posted a 1.23 ERA in 29 ⅓ innings.

This is likely something that attracted him to the Cardinals. He will need to improve his control, and there is a little projection left in his 6’0”, 177-pound frame. Ultimately, it seems likely that he will spend the 2022 season in the Single-A or High-A bullpen.

Players Lost

Round 1, Pick 25 – SS Moises Castillo, Chicago White Sox

Moises Castillo is the only player leaving the Cardinals system after the minor league Rule Five Draft. He reached Double-A at the end of the 2021 season, but he has not been an above average hitter in any level since rookie ball in 2017.

Moises Castillo

Castillo signed with the Cardinals in July of 2015 and made his professional debut in 2016. He first reached full season ball in 2019.

The 22-year-old is a strong defensive player with positional versatility that can fill a variety of roles in an organization. This is a common type of pick in the minor league portion of the draft.

Castillo is more of a slap hitter with a limited walk rate. He was young for his level this year, so there may be improvements ahead for Castillo. Still, the Cardinals clearly did not think enough of him to protect him on the Memphis roster ahead of other players, and the organization clearly feels confident in its depth at shortstop after not selecting a shortstop later in the draft.

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