The Braves didn’t make any moves to bolster their bullpen during the first three days of the Winter Meetings, but they did take a reliever from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, a player they believe has a chance to stick on the major league roster.
They selected Dominican right-hander Anyelo Gomez, 24, with the seventh pick of the draft, after seeing him pitch several times recently in the Dominican Winter League and coming away impressed by his low-90s fastball and above-average change-up.
Gomez had a 1.92 ERA in a combined 38 games (one start) at four minor-league levels in 2017, with 87 strikeouts, 21 walks and only two homers allowed in 70 1/3 innings, for a strikeout rate of 11.1 per nine innings. He gave up 51 hits and posted a solid 1.024 WHIP.
“We like Gomez, good arm,” Braves assistant general manager Perry Minasian said after the morning Rule 5 Draft, the last event at the annual Winter Meetings. “One of our major league scouts, Rick Williams, saw him multiple times in the Dominican, really liked what he saw. Plus fastball with a change-up – that plays. He’s got a chance to be a quality reliever. We’ll see how it looks in spring training.”
In 16 Dominican Winter League appearances through Wednesday, Gomez had a 3.77 ERA and .180 opponents’ average with 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 14 1/3 innings.
Teams pay $100,000 to select a player in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft, and must keep that player on their 25-man roster for the entire season or offer him back to the team they took him from for $50,000. The addition of Gomez gives the Braves 38 players on their 40-man roster.
After 10 appearances each at Single-A and advanced Single-A ball in 2017, Gomez had a 1.72 ERA in 17 Double-A appearances, with 42 strikeouts and 11 walks in 36 2/3 innings. He made one appearance at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts.
“It’s a good arm, 24 years old, good numbers,” Minasian said. “We’ll see. It’s a Rule 5 pick.”
The Braves already have one former Rule 5 pick in their bullpen, Dan Winkler, who still must be carried on the major league team for about the first three weeks of the season to fulfill Rule 5 roster requirements. But Winkler, a 2014 Rule 5 draft pick who missed most of two seasons recovering from elbow surgeries, was quite impressive in 16 late-season appearances in 2017 (2.51 ERA and 0.907 WHIP with 18 strikeouts and six walks in 14 1/3 innings).
The Braves didn’t lose any players in the major league phase of this year’s Rule 5 Draft. There had been some speculation they might lose infielder Travis Demeritte or outfielder Dustin Peterson after those two were left unprotected, but neither was selected and remain in the Braves organization.
In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft, the Braves selected catcher/first baseman Skyler Ewing from the Giants and shortstop Tyler Smith from the Rangers, and lost catcher Joe Odom to the Mariners.
There are no roster restrictions for players selected in the minor league phase of the draft, and players are typically chosen to provide depth for minor league rosters rather than selected with any major league projections in mind.