The Pirates picked John Raynor, an outfielder from the Marlins' organization, in today's Rule 5 draft. It's always hard to predict this draft with so many players available, but I'm really surprised to see the Pirates take a position player.
That doesn't make Raynor a bad pick. He's coming off of an ugly year with Triple-A New Orleans in which he only hit.257/.327/.360, but before that he hit well in both the Sally League (A) and the Southern League (AA). In both 2007 and 2008, he had an OBP over .400 in both seasons with nice gap power and really, really good speed (54 and 48 stolen bases with eight and six triples). He's mostly played left field, but the speed obviously puts him in Huntington's preferred mold of a corner outfielder that can fly. Vlad mentioned him in his Rule 5 preview as a potential Nyjer Morgan-type player (he runs an incredible 6.3 in the 60 yard dash) and pointed out that he had an unusually low BABIP in 2009 and suffered a hand injury in the AFL in 2008 that both could've contributed to his poor numbers last year.
He'll be 26 in January and Huntington says he'll have to compete to make the club in Spring Training, and the Pirates already have Delwyn Young, Brandon Moss, and Steve Pearce around to compete for the last couple spots in the outfield, and Garrett Jones could be in the mix, too, depending on how the Jeff Clement situation at first base shakes out. Raynor is probably fast enough to back up 'Cutch in center, though, which is something the other guys really can't do and that might give him a leg up in any job competition.
As much as I was surprised to see the Pirates not take someone like Pino or Rodriguez, it's worth noting that no one took those guys. Raynor is far from a sure thing, but as position players go he's good a lot of talent for a Rule 5 pick and because of his speed, it's possible that he could be a bench contributor in 2010.
MORE: John Sickels had him as the Marlins tenth best prospect prior to 2009, but after his rough season said the grade was "too high," though he thought he could still be a bench contributor. He also points out that he's got some contact issues.
EVEN MORE: I think it's worth noting that he had his best month of 2009 in August, the last full month of the season, where he hit .306/.388/.459 with nine of his 26 hits going for extra bases. So there may be something to it when he says he took a while to adjust last year.