Watching Moran pitch reminded me a bit of Jamie Moyer from a decade ago - it just seemed like Moran should be hit harder than he gets hit. There's something electric about watching a phenomenal arm like Taijuan Walker toy with inferior talent - but on the other end, there is something charming about watching a guy like Moran fool guys with stuff that seems like an approximation of the slop you or I would throw at the plate. Maybe that is the real magic of Moran - his way of pitching seems so approachable and tangible, in a way most professional pitching is not.
Brian Moran is now Angels property, via the Blue Jays, thanks to the Rule 5 draft conducted today. The Rule 5 draft is a chance for teams to comb over players left off of 40-man rosters that are three years removed from their draft class, or five years removed from signing as international free agents. The intent of the draft is to give polished players a chance to make the majors if they are stuck behind a glut of other players in an organization. Brian Moran is the perfect example of this. He stayed buried behind the likes of Charlie Furbush, Oliver Perez, and even Bobby LaFramboise. The Mariners decided they only needed so many bullpen lefties on the 40-man roster, which might be a smart decision.
Still, at the end of the day, Moran was one of nine players picked in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 draft. The Mariners are a team that's lacked talent for several years, as evidenced by all the losses they have piled up. They shouldn't have the kind of loaded roster that produces excess players that other teams covet. Yet here they are, a franchise that had one of nine players plucked away, by a division rival no less.
I get that there's a non-zero chance Moran's deceptive style doesn't fool MLB hitters at all. He could get tattooed. What irks me is that the Mariners never found out for themselves. They had more than enough lost games in lost seasons the past few years to take a gander. Brian Moran earned his chance. He might not make it out of spring training with the Angels, but I'd say he's more likely to make the team and make some appearances. I guess, as a fan, I'm in a win-win situation - he either gets drilled and helps the Angels lose, or does well so all of us Moranimal fans can say to the Mariners "I told you so!"
Here are quick looks at the other MLB Rule 5 picks, plus one minor league pick of local (and national) note:
- Patrick Schuster, LHP - Another southpaw reliever, Schuster put up great numbers...in high A. The Padres will ask him to make a quantum leap if he sticks on the roster. I'd say the odds are doubtful, but Padres GM Josh Byrnes was the guy that drafted him when he was in Arizona and Petco is the kind of spacious park that can hide mistakes.
- Adrien Nieto, C - Nieto looks a tad toolsy as a switch-hitting catcher that either developed some power in the past year or just had a fluky season, depending on how optimistic or pessimistic you want to be. The White Sox didn't get much production at catcher last year, so maybe a hot spring training keeps Nieto around. He's got an uphill climb though as a young catcher that will have to learn an entirely new pitching staff while attempting to jump from hi-A straight to the majors.
- Kevin Munson, RHP Phillies - I remember kind of liking Munson out of college, and he has struck out lots of batters at every stop in the minors. He's got a real chance to stick with the Phillies and be a decent bullpen arm. There are some command issues, but most rule 5 picks come with some sort of wart. Munson, in my eyes, has one of the best chances to stick in this year's group.
- Tommy Kahnle, RHP Rockies - Similar to Munson, but a bit more extreme. Kahnle is now Rockies property. He allows about as many hits as walks, which speaks both to how many bats he misses and how often he misses the strike zone. The control issues might be too much for him to succeed in the majors, but the Rockies are intrigued enough by Kahnle's strengths to find out. He probably won't be effectively wild, but he could be. He's one of the more interesting Rule 5 "prospects" this year.
- Seth Rosin, RHP - Rosin is a tall, strong pitcher at 6'6", 250 pounds. He was a durable, productive starter at the University of Minnesota and has plodded up the minor league ladder in the Phillies system. I have no idea how he fits into the Dodgers plans, but he's now their property, and they even acquired him from the Mets via a Rule 5 trade.
- Wei-Chung Wang, LHP - This is a heck of a mystery pick by the Brewers. Wang has only 12 professional appearances to his name, all in rookie ball, but his numbers are sparkling. He will be just 21 years old on opening day. If there is a home run pick in this year's group, a la past Rule 5 guys like Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, and Josh Hamilton, I think Wang is the guy. I'm guessing the Brewers also scouted Wang when he was in Taiwan and have been interested in him for years. I highly doubt they would make this move based only on 47.1 innings in rookie ball.
- Marcos Mateo, RHP - Mateo is a nice story, at least potentially, as a 30-year-old minor-leaguer with a chance to now make the Diamondbacks. I'm not sure what the D'Backs see though. I see a AAAA reliever. For what it's worth, Mateo has some MLB experience, and has struck out over a batter an inning in the majors over 44.2 innings. Perhaps I'm being too harsh.
- Michael Almanzar, 3B Orioles - Baltimore has had an extremely quiet offseason, despite losing some key players. So, maybe Almanzar has a chance simply by default. He got pushed very aggressively through the Red Sox system early in his career, but has sputtered and stalled in hi-A and AA the past few seasons. With that said, Almanzar seems to be developing some power and better base running. Either that or he's finally a bit older and taking advantage of that in AA. Age plays a huge role in success at minor league levels. I'm guessing the Orioles lean more on the side of seeing tools that are finally developing. Almanzar's gap power and speed, depending on his defensive ability, could make him a decent utility infielder.
MINOR LEAGUE PICK OF NOTE: Russell Wilson - Yes, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson! He was still property of the Rockies, who drafted him as a second basemen. Wilson isn't about to play baseball, but the Rangers like his athleticism and character so much that they simply want him around. It sounds like Russell will show up to spring training, at least for the sake of hanging around baseball. My reaction, from both the Texas and Russell Wilson perspective: why not? It will be an amusing spring training story when it happens.
Seriously, Brian Moran is one of the more polished Rule 5 picks this year and might have the best chance of anyone to stick. Long live the Moranimal.