Will Tyler Goeddel be another Dave Hollins or a Michael Martinez? Is he Shane Victorino or David Miller? Odubel Herrera or Ryan Budde?
When it comes to finding a hidden gem in baseball’s Rule 5 draft, there are no set rules. For every time a team makes the right call when it comes to plucking guys left off somebody’s 40-man roster, there’s just as many times they screw it up.
So it's far too soon to tell when it comes to the 23-year-old Goeddel. As the top pick in last year’s Rule 5 draft, he must remain with the club that claims him for the entire season or else be offered back to his original team for a mere pittance. The early returns weren’t great, with the kid going just 4-for-25, a .160 average through April.
But since Pete Mackanin decided his offense-starved team had nothing to lose by giving him a full shot, Goeddel has thrived, going 10-for-33, hitting .303 since the beginning of May.
Not only has he been banging out hits — boosting his average to .241, — but his spectacular game-ending throw to the plate Saturday to nail the Reds’ Eduardo Suarez trying to score on a fly ball was SportsCenter’s No. 2 play of the night.
“I’ve always had a good arm,” said the 6-foot-4, 180 pound Goeddel, who heard from his family and all his Southern California buddies afterwards. “I closed in high school. I had shoulder issues that kept me from starting.”
But that didn’t keep Tampa Bay from selecting him with the No. 41 pick of the 2011 draft. He proceeded to spend two seasons at Single-A Bowling Green and one at Charlotte, before playing last year in Double-A Montgomery, Alabama, where he hit .279 with 12 homers, 72 RBIs and 28 steals.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when the Rays chose not to protect him after the season.
“I was a little disappointed when that happened,” admitted Goeddel, whose older brother, Erik, is a pitcher in the Mets’ system. "But they had a bunch of tough decisions. Getting drafted in Rule 5 made up for it. My agent, Adam Karon, explained everything to me. It was really awesome when I got picked.
“I didn’t know too much about the Phillies. I knew Andrew Knapp from working out back home. But then I came to Philadelphia for this weeklong prospect camp in January. I got to meet some of the guys and get acclimated.”
With Goeddel’s major league ticket essentially punched — since the Phils weren’t about to offer him back to the Rays — he bided his time waiting for the opportunity.
“Basically if you can’t give a guy 250 to 300 at bats you stop the maturation process,” said Phils’ bench coach, Larry Bowa, recalling how the club took speedy Ender Inciarte in the 2012 draft, but eventually had to return him to the Diamondbacks when he couldn’t crack the lineup. “So you have to take that into consideration.
“When the team’s not supposed to win, it’s easier for a Rule 5 pitcher than a Rule 5 player. You can hide a pitcher. But with an everyday player it’s tough for a kid to sit on the bench and get eight at bats a week.”
Goeddel patiently waited for his chance — and has been making the make the most of it.
“I knew going in I’d have to earn my playing time,” he acknowledged. "It definitely took a little bit of adjustment, but at the same time I’m happy to be here. Now I’m feeling more and more comfortable and my timing’s getting better. The most important thing is to try not to put too much pressure on yourself.”
It’s working so far for Tyler Goeddel, whom the Phillies hope will be their latest Rule 5 gem — and not simply fool's gold