Rule 5 is an interesting draft because it offers the chance for MLB teams to pick up players to fill club needs, with a catch. If selected, that player must remain on the 25-man MLB roster for the entire season, or be placed on waivers. This leaves the question for the San Francisco Giants to ponder if any holes remain on the roster.
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The Giants do have needs in the bullpen, which blew 30 saves during the regular season and two during the postseason. Two of the Giants most dominant lefties have departed over the last two seasons. Jeremy Affeldt to retirement and lefty specialist Javier Lopez will likely not return.
San Francisco Giants traded for Will Smith and is assumed to take over as the new Affeldt, thus leaving a spot open for a new lefty specialist.
Every year fans are left shocked that some of their highly talented players were not protected. This year’s shock is coming out of St. Louis, as the Cardinals failed to protect a left-handed pitcher who has won pitcher of the organization three times out of the last five years. Wait, that three-in-five trend sounds familiar. Coincidence?
That pitcher is named Ryan Sherriff, a 26-year-old left handed relief pitcher on the Cardinal’s AAA affiliate team. His production over the last few seasons has been nothing short of sensational, and other organizations are sure to have noticed.
In 2016, Sherriff pitched to the tune of 7-1 with a 2.84 ERA, while striking out 55 in 66.2 innings pitched. Sherriff would be the ideal replacement for Lopez and his numbers support that. He held lefties to an absurd 0.69 ERA in 26 innings faced, while striking out 26, and holding those opponents to a .172 average. Left handed opponents additionally slugged just .194 off him, and posted a .446 OPS over 96 at bats.
From the season’s start until the end of May, he dominated AAA’s best hitting prospects to a 2-0 record, and a minuscule 1.73 ERA, with 22 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Sherriff throws a four seam and two-seam fastball, a slider that bottoms out of the strike zone, and a changeup. His fastball sits 92-94 and tops at 95. Even better news is his arm velocity has increased every year since his minor league debut. His slider sits at 80-82 and is the perfect variation in speeds from his fastball to keep hitters off balance.
“Changing my arm slot really helped add life to my fastball,” Sherriff said. “I was sitting at 88-90 with my fastball delivering over the top, then when I dropped my arm angle to release side arm, I started throwing way harder, and noticed more life in my slider, everything keeps getting stronger as I work with my changed mechanics.”
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Even more impressive about Sherriff is how he handles pressure when runners get on base. He had a LOB% of 74.3 percent, which is only four percent lower than Lopez’ best season with the San Francisco Giants in 2013, when he posted a LOB% of 78.8 and a 1.83 ERA. Sherriff’s opponents’ batting average was actually less with runners on base, further showing he can lock down.
Home runs don’t come easily at AT&T Park and that suits Sherriff very well, as his HR/9 is only 0.54. Sherriff induces many groundballs with his slider and two seam, which plays right into the San Francisco Giants’ plan with three Gold Glove winners backing him up in the infield.
Sherriff is a workhorse for his organization and led his fellow AAA relievers in innings and appearances. The California native also led starters and relievers in ERA with a minimum 35 innings pitched. He’s a gym rat who trains hard preparing himself for the long grind of the season anytime he is called upon, and it’s evident his hard work is paying off.
He was the only Cardinal to be named to the AAA All-Star game, in which he contributed a scoreless appearance in relief. His services this season nabbed him AAA Relief Pitcher of the Year honors for the Cardinals, only further adding to his resume.
The awards didn’t start this season though. In 2012 he was named Palm Beach Pitcher of the Year for the Cardinals where he posted a 10-3 record as a starter, with a 3.25 ERA in 97 innings pitched. He didn’t stop there, as he repeated and secured Palm Beach Pitcher of the Year honors in 2013 with a 4-4 record, posting a 2.31 ERA in 78 innings pitched.
His proudest achievement came this season, when he was invited to represent Israel in the World Baseball Classic. Sherriff will join them in South Korea, as Israel looks to secure a spot in the next round.
These accomplishments have somehow not even been enough to secure him a spot on the organization’s top 50 prospects list. Despite Cardinals’ LHP Zach Duke out for the season and LHP Tyler Lyons already declared out for most of the season, he was still not secured onto the 40 man roster.
“I know I’m ready to help a club win regardless of where it is, in any role they need me in I’ll be ready,” Sherriff said. “I’m just going to work even harder this offseason, the rest is out of my hands, you just trust in what’s gotten you this far and hope others notice, I’m excited for the future.”
The San Francisco Giants now have a rare opportunity to select a young, accomplished, and motivated LHP to secure a gap this season. If the Cardinals see no value in him, plenty of other teams surely will with his resume. This is just the type of move San Francisco Giants should make this Rule 5 Draft.