History tells us that the Kansas City Royals are big fans of finding gems via the Rule 5 Draft, and they took a chance on two more this year.
Last year, the Kansas City Royals traded to get Burch Smith and Brad Keller. We will call that one for two. This year, they are trying again with another pair of pitchers. The team drafted Sam McWilliams and traded for Chris Ellis.
By many accounts, McWilliams is going to at least make the Opening Day roster. The future for Ellis is not so certain.
Rustin Dodd of The Athletic made his projections as to what the innagural active roster might look like for the Royals, and Ellis is nowhere to be found. Dodd says that it is likely the final bullpen spot will be a battle between the two Rule 5 guys, and the youth and upside of McWilliams gives him the edge.
Ellis is a 26 year old righty and the 2014 third round pick of the Angels. In 2015, he was sent to Atlanta along with Sean Newcomb and Erick Aybar in the Andrelton Simmons trade. A year later he was dealt to St. Louis in the package for Jaime Garcia. Ultimately, he was left unprotected, taken by the Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft and dealt to Kansas City For cash. It’s been a long career so far.
One of the first things that jumps off the page with Ellis is his great frame. He is listed at 6’5″, 205 pounds, which would translate nicely into an innings eater. He has been mostly a starter, including starting 14 of 16 appearances with the Memphis Redbirds last season. In that time he went 6-4 with a 3.76 ERA.
Since 2016 Ellis has been bouncing around Double and Triple A with varying degrees of success. Without room of the 40-man roster in each of his organizations, he just has not gotten his chance at the MLB level. That is what he will be looking to earn with the Kansas City Royals.
Picking Between Rule 5 Guys
The issue here is that both Rule 5 pitchers will need to be on the active roster the entire season. If the Royals want to drop one of them from the roster, then the player will be offered back to the original club. For Ellis, that is the Cardinals.
Because of those stipulations, it becomes harder to keep both of them. The Royals were able to keep both Smith and Keller, but there were also very different circumstances. A lot has happened with the likes of Kyle Zimmer, Brad Boxberger, and even Drew Storen that will make it hard to hold on to two Rule 5 arms.
If it comes down to it, Dodd is probably right. McWilliams has the superficial edge over Ellis. But, this is why Spring Training happens. Who knows what will happen with Zimmer and Storen. And if both of them make the team, maybe Ellis out-pitches McWilliams in every sense of the word and earns his spot.
This decision is far from made for the Kansas City Royals. There will be at least one Rule 5 selection in the Opening Day roster. It is turning out to be a battle to keep an eye on.