• 2016 Rule 5 Draft results
Sparkman has the ability to hit the mid-90s with his fastball, and he also possesses a breaking ball and a changeup. He has been a starter in the Minor Leagues, but the Blue Jays will give him an opportunity to make the team out of Spring Training as a reliever.
"Over the course of the last few weeks, it was clear that he was the guy that we would like to select if he was available," said general manager Ross Atkins, who picked setup man Joe Biagini in last year's Rule 5 Draft. "We saw the upside to him potentially as a starter, but he'll try to make our team out of the 'pen.
"[I] feel like there might be some upside in the stuff there, as well. Good scouting reports, really good objective information. Looking at all of the information, it was clear he was the first pick for us. So the fact that he got to us, we were excited."
Toronto had to pay the Royals $100,000 to select Sparkman, and he has to remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season -- exceptions are made for disabled-list stints -- or he would need to be offered back to Kansas City for $50,000. The Rule 5 Draft picks used to cost $50,000 with a return cost of $25,000, but those figures doubled in the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The Blue Jays did not lose any players in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 Draft, but they weren't as fortunate in the Minor League phase. Shortstop Jorge Flores was taken by the Phillies, catcher Jorge Saez Jr. was selected by the Yankees and lefty Matt Smoral was picked by the Rangers.
Of those three, Smoral's name will be most familiar to Toronto fans. He was taken with the 50th overall pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, and he received an above-slot signing bonus of $2 million to forego college and turn pro. But the 22-year-old has yet to pan out.
Smoral's development has been slowed due to injuries, and in 2016, he was still stuck in Class A Short-Season Vancouver. In four Minor League seasons, Smoral has made just 53 appearances while posting a 5.91 ERA over 106 2/3 innings. Atkins was with Cleveland when the Blue Jays selected Smoral back in '12, but he said that he had been on the Indians' radar at the time, as well.
"I'm happy for him to get an opportunity," Atkins said. "He has been working hard. He's a great person. I've known him for a long time; we identified him in the Draft. He's had a tough run. It wasn't really about us not liking him or wanting him; it was more about the flexibility of the upper levels to have room to make adds. We want the best for him and hope he does well in this next opportunity."
The Blue Jays also selected right-hander Philip Walby from the Nationals in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Walby posted a 3.50 ERA in 36 appearances this year at Class A and Class A Advanced with the Nationals and Yankees. He's a former 12th-round selection of the 2013 MLB Draft.
"We identified as someone who could have some upside to him, and that's an area we're looking to fill," Atkins said. "It's a guy we're excited to take."