The Toronto Blue Jays have selected pitcher Glenn Sparkman with their first round selection in the MLB Rule 5 Draft on Thursday morning.
Sparkman, 24, has been with the Kansas City Royals since being drafted in the 20th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-2 right-hander is coming off a Tommy John surgery in 2015.
His numbers after returning from the surgery last year were down, posting a cumulative 5.22 ERA in the minors and topping out at double-A. Sparkman did maintain strong control over those 60.1 innings, though, walking just 1.5 batters per nine and striking out 9.7.
The 2014 season stands out as Sparkman’s beacon of potential, where he pitched at advanced-A Wilmington as a 21-year-old. That year Sparkman made 18 starts and 11 relief appearances covering 121.0 innings with a very impressive 1.56 ERA.
Baseball America ranked Sparkman as the Royals’ No. 17 prospect following that season, the only time he has been ranked in his minor-league career.
FanGraphs had the following to say about Sparkman in early 2016:
“He has a lot of deception with his delivery, using a slow-to-fast tempo that is tough for hitters to time up. The Royals prefer pitchers focusing on one breaking ball during development, though there is ongoing discussion over whether his slider or curve is more projectable. He’s not a big power guy but commands his fastball very well. Assuming he comes back fully healthy, there’s a chance he turns his deception and command into middle to back-end starter role.”
Joe Biagini remains the gold standard of Rule 5 picks in recent Blue Jays’ memory, though that expectation is a little steep for any minor-league pitchers entering the organization. With strong command, however, Sparkman could make a dark-horse run this spring since his strong control doesn’t put him in much self-created trouble.
The right-hander throws a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup according to his FanGraphs report.