Heading into the 2013 offseason, the Angels hadn’t selected a player in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft since the start of George W. Bush’s first term in office. Now they’ve made an acquisition two years in a row: Last winter it was LHP Brian Moran from the Mariners, and this morning it was 2B/SS Taylor Featherston from the Rockies.
Like last year, the Halos didn’t actually draft the guy they ended up getting, but rather worked out a trade, for cash, with the team who selected him earlier in the process. Which teams those were doesn’t really matter, but for the sake of thoroughness, they were the Blue Jays (Moran) and Cubs (Featherston).
Featherston, 25, spent all three of his years at TCU as the club’s starting shortstop, but has received a majority of his playing time in the minors at the keystone. He’s never been young for his level, but he hasn’t been considerably older either, so it’s probably safe to read into his strong offensive numbers.
In 2014, Featherston batted .260/.322/.439 with 16 home runs in 550 plate appearances in the Texas League, leading the league in extra-base hits in his first foray into the high minors. While his .760 OPS doesn’t exactly pop off the page, it’s worth keeping in mind that the league-average OPS was .695 and that top Angels prospect Alex Yarbrough, also a second baseman, posted a .718 OPS in the same circuit. Oh yeah, and Featherston followed up his Double-A debut with a solid performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .294/.355/.456.
I think it’s safe to say his bat can play, so though Featherston’s yet to appear above Double-A, he will likely compete with Grant Green and new acquisition Josh Rutledge next spring for the openings at second base and utility infielder. Each of the trio carries some pop and strong bat-to-ball skills from the right side of the plate, so it’s tough to discern at this point who’ll end up where.
Since there isn’t much separation in the three players’ offensive profiles, a spot on the roster could come down to what they can do on defense. There’s not much information out there on Featherston’s glove, but the little we know seems to indicate that he is a much better fielder than either Green or Rutledge. According to Baseball Prospectus, Featherston has been worth 13.3 fielding runs above average in his four minor-league seasons, while Green and Rutledge are way, way in the red. Advantage, new guy.
As Featherston is a Rule 5 player, the Angels are required to keep him on the 25-man roster for the entire 2015 season if they want him to remain in the organization. If they decide to go with Green and Rutledge instead, the club must either return Featherston to the Rockies (along with $25,000), or work out a trade with Colorado so they can stash him in Triple-A. If I had to hazard a guess right now, I’d say that he’s the most likely candidate for the utility infielder gig, at least to start the year.
Featherston wasn’t the only Rule 5 acquisition by the Angels this morning. In the minor-league phases of the draft, the club selected infielder Chris Curley from the White Sox, Pedro Ruiz from the D’Backs, and outfielder Kentrail Davis from the Brewers. While Davis has first-round pedigree, none of that three are are likely to serve as more than organizational depth for the farm system.