Yesterday I did my 1st profile of a player available in next week’s Rule 5 Draft. Last night it was Twins minor league CF-Dustin Martin. Today’s first profile, yes there should be more than one, is Reds minor league LHP-Ben Jukich.
In addition to being on my list of potential targets, he was mentioned in John Manuel’s BA Rule 5 Preview post. Since he was in Manuel’s 2nd group, he didn’t get a write up but he deserves one. That is why I’m writing about him today.
LHP-Ben Jukich (27) was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 13th round of the 2006 draft. He made his way to the Reds as the PTBNL in a trade that sent OF-Chris Denorfia to Oakland on April 27th, 2007. In addition to Jukich, Cincinnati also received RHP-Marcus McBeth in the deal. Ben was the first player selected in the June draft from Dakota Wesleyan University. Aside from that piece of triva, Jukich was born in Duluth, MN which means I have a favorable bias toward him. He is the very definition of a “soft-tossing southpaw,” and that package comes in a 6’4″ 200 pound frame.
Jukich spent 2009 pitching for the Reds AAA affiliate, Louisville Bats. He appeared in 29 games, 17 of which were starts, and finished the year with a 4.10 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 125 H, 40 BB, and 106 SO in 123.0 innings pitched. For his career, in 4 minor league seasons, he has a 3.93 ERA and 1.37 WHIP to go along with 170 BB and 399 SO in 469.0 IP. He has made 74 starts in that time and has made another 24 appearances as a reliever. Ben is currently pitching in the Dominican Winter League for Aguilas Cibaenas. In 8 starts he is 3-1 with a 1.71 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 41 H, 12 BB, and 29 SO. His latest start on November 29th was an 8.1 inning, 7 hit shutout. He struck out 3 and didn’t walk a single batter.
Jukich fits the Lenny DiNardo mold in a lot of ways. They are both lefties, are both in the 6’4″ 200 lb range, have similar minor league numbers, and are both “soft tossers.” A comparison to DiNardo probably doesn’t excite most people, but when Lenny was 27, he went 8-10 with a 4.11 ERA and 1.416 WHIP in 131.1 IP. That would look pretty good every 5th day in Kansas City right now. I’m not predicting a similar season like that out of Jukich in 2010, but finesse lefties have a tendency to put together solid back of the rotation ML seasons from time to time. Jamie Moyer is the best case, extreme long shot, scenario, but short of that, guys like Jukich and DiNardo can still be very effective in the right situation.
The Royals need to significantly bolster the back of their rotation. Spending a Rule 5 pick on Ben Jukich, or a player like him, could provide a nice return on their investment. Based on the collective performance of the Royals 4th and 5th starters last season, he’d be hard pressed to do worse. In the worst case scenario, he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, gets offered back to the Reds and the Royals are out at total of $25,000. If the Reds don’t take him back, then he can go to Omaha, provide depth, and be available for a call-up later in the season. For a cost of just $50,000 even the worst case scenario is worth the gamble.