The catch of MLB's Rule 5 Draft: If you can't keep a pitcher or position player on your active roster all season long (excepting injuries), they you can't have them at all. They must be returned to the team you claimed them from initially. That's how Gus Varland wound up in the Dodgers' bullpen after being claimed by Milwaukee in 2023.
The flip side of MLB's Rule 5 Draft: If you see the fourth overall pick from the 2020 MLB Draft sitting unprotected, and said pick is a left-handed pitcher, you probably choose them, get them in your program for the winter, and ask questions later.
If the Dodgers claim and must return former top pick Asa Lacy in March? Call it a hunch that didn't work out. But if Mark Prior and Co. opt not to take advantage of Kansas City doubting their own recent scouting, then that's on them (and the Rays probably won't be so kind).
Lacy was selected fourth overall during the abbreviated COVID draft, entering the Royals' farm system off a flat-out filthy career as a power-slinging lefty in Texas A&M's rotation. Now, he's available to the entire league for a song after he failed to develop, with the wheels falling off in 2022 and back problems landing him somewhere in The Vortex in 2023, a season he missed entirely. Lacy is not big-league ready, by any means, and the Dodgers might not want to fix Lacy, then expose him back to his previous organization after he's absorbed their tips and tricks. But ... if it works and works quickly ... they can keep him.
Dodgers could target Royals top pick Asa Lacy in Rule 5 Draft
Caveat: While crazier things may have happened over the course of recent baseball history ... they can't have been much crazier than this. Lacy slipping to the Dodgers, reinventing himself over the winter, and sticking all season long would be an unmatched underdog story. The lefty faces long odds of returning to the player he used to be, let alone doing it in December and January under cover of darkness.
But ... it was pretty improbable Lacy even landed in the "up for grabs" pile in the first place, right? So, while we're writing about unrealistic things, it's worth getting a positive spin on Dodgers fans' radar.
Lacy could very well be past the point of saving. He ... doesn't even have any positive minor-league tape to fall back on; since being drafted, he's posted ERAs of 5.19 and 10.61, sandwiched in between two empty seasons (he didn't debut in 2020 and missed '23). A stint in the Arizona Fall League went remarkably smoothly in 2021 (7.2 innings, 5 hits, 2 earned runs, 6 walks, 15 Ks), but other than that, it's been all choppy waters for a pitcher who was supposed to be a fast mover with electric stuff (think Brandon Finnegan with the World Series-bound 2014 Royals).
Lacy's the longshot of all longshots right now. It's more realistic he stays in KC on the shelf than rejuvenates himself in Los Angeles. But we couldn't pass up the chance to flag this unique opportunity for the Dodgers' development crew when we saw it float down our timelines.