The Oakland Athletics have selected RHP Mitch Spence with the first pick in Wednesday's Rule 5 draft.
Spence was the New York Yankees' 10th round draft pick in the 2019 amateur draft, chosen from the University of South Carolina Aiken. He pitched in parts of four seasons in the Yankees system, missing the 2020 season due to the Covid shutdown.
Spence is an interesting pitcher. He doesn't throw particularly hard, with a fastball that sits 90-92 mph. He uses a cut fastball and a slurve to generate swings and misses, but primarily works to limit hard contact.
He spent all of 2023 at Triple-A, throwing 163 innings, posting a 4.47 ERA with a 21.8% strikeout rate. The whiffs are slightly below average, but he has good enough control that he doesn't walk many batters.
At the beginning of 2023, Fangraphs' prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen had Spence just outside of the Yankees' top 40.
It's unclear whether the A's plan to use him as a starter, where he's primarily pitched throughout his career, or in a bullpen role. There will be heavy competition for starts at the back of the A's rotation. Depending on Spence's success in the spring, he could work his way into the conversation.
A's General Manager David Forst has some work to do yet. The A's 40-man roster is now full with the addition of Spence, but the rotation and bullpen could use some help.
It's unclear whether Ken Waldichuk, who just underwent elbow surgery, will be ready to pitch at the start of spring training. If Waldichuk isn't ready to go, it opens up more space for guys like Spence, Hogan Harris, Freddy Tarnok, and more to win a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Due to his selection in the Rule 5 draft, Spence will have to remain on the Athletics' active 26-man roster for the entire season or be subject to being sent back to the Yankees.
The A's were successful in last year's Rule 5 draft, taking first baseman Ryan Noda. If the A's can pull a rabbit out of the hat two years in a row, especially after getting dropped down in the amateur draft lottery yesterday, it would be a huge win.