SAN DIEGO - The Phillies were an active participant in the annual Rule 5 draft even in years when they planned to contend for a division title. But it is easier for a rebuilding team to carry selected players on its 25-man roster for the entire season - one stipulation of the draft - so the Phillies added two players Thursday.
They chose outfielder Odubel Herrera from Texas and lefthanded reliever Andy Oliver from Pittsburgh. Herrera, soon to be 23, won the Texas League batting title last season. Oliver, 27, is the quintessential Rule 5 pitcher: He has a big arm with command problems.
"These were the two guys we wanted to get," said Mike Ondo, director of professional scouting.
Herrera is the most intriguing. He batted .321 with a .775 OPS in 96 double-A games and started to play the outfield at the end of the season. The Phillies have watched him in Venezuelan winter ball, where Herrera has played center field, and think he has a future there. Two rival scouts spoke glowingly of Herrera's hitting, although he lacks power.
"With what we've seen down there, with the range and athleticism and the speed, we think we have something with the bat," Ondo said. "He's going to turn 23 at the end of the month. There is some excitement to this guy with the skill set. We're taking a chance on a young guy with a chance to hit."
Herrera was a second baseman who played some shortstop before the outfield experiment. He could see limited time at second during spring training, Ondo said, but his focus will be in the outfield. Herrera should have a decent chance to impress, given the team's desire to change that unit.
Oliver joins a collection of lefthanded relievers that includes Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands, Cesar Jimenez, and Elvis Araujo. He struck out 85 batters in 64 innings at triple-A Indianapolis, but he walked 47. Opponents hit .157 against him. It was his first full season as a reliever, and his fastball sat between 94 and 97 m.p.h.
"Strike one is important to him, to be able to attack," Ondo said. "We'll put another big arm in there as an option. If some things come together, we hope we have something."
He was a second-round pick in 2009 by Detroit, which rushed him to the majors for seven starts between 2010 and 2011. He had a 7.11 ERA in those games.
"The biggest change, for me, was what we saw with him coming out of the bullpen this year," Ondo said. "The walks were still high. But you're looking now at shorter stints. Hopefully the stuff will play."
It cost $100,000 total to draft Herrera and Oliver.
Phils lose 3 in Rule 5. The Phillies lost three players - righthanders Kyle Simon and Delvi Francisco and outfielder Peter Lavin - in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft. Those players cannot be returned, and the Phillies were compensated with $36,000.