Preview of the 2011 MLB Rule 5 Draft: December 8th

Friday December 2, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  With the MLB Winter Meetings just around the corner, we can all get excited about the draft that takes place there.  The Rule 5 draft is a very important draft for teams, as they can find their diamond in the rough that may be undervalued by his current team.  The Rule 5 Draft was created as a way for more players to have a chance at the big leagues, rather than spending more years in the minors.  It forces a team to “protect” its minor leaguers by placing them on the 40-man roster.

The Rule 5 Draft is not simply for any minor leaguer, the players who are eligible must fall under certain criteria.  The criteria are as follows:

If a player was signed at age 19 or older, and has been in the same organization for four years.

If a player was signed at age 18 or younger, and has been in the same organization for five years.

What this means that if an 18-year-old signs with a team, plays in the minor leagues for five years, and is not added to the 40-man roster, he will be put in a pool of eligible players for the Rule 5 draft.  This forces teams to make a decision on their prospect and if he is ready to be added to the 40-man roster.  The order of the draft is the same as the Amateur Draft that takes place in June, in reverse order of standings from the season prior. 

Since many international players sign at the age of 16, they are eligible for the Rule 5 draft after their age-20 season.  If not picked up on the team’s 40-man roster, an opposing team can take a big chance on a player in selecting him. 

The draft is different from any other in that it costs the team $50,000 to select a player, which is paid to the team losing said player.  Also, this player must be on the 25-man roster for the entirety of the season.  If he is taken off the 25-man roster, he must then be offered back to his original club at half the price ($25,000). 

There are two other phases of the Rule 5 Draft: AAA and AA.  In the AAA phase, teams can select eligible players from AA and lower who fit the same criteria, and pay $12,000 for the selection.  In the AA phase, players from A and lower are chosen at a cost of $4,000. 

While it is pretty rare for a Rule 5 draftee to become a superstar, it does happen- and there are plenty of players who become useful with their new teams.  Some of the most notable players chose in the Rule 5 draft are Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente (the Rule 5 draft was drastically different in 1954), Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, and, in my opinion, the best Rule 5 selection of all, Johan Santana

The Rule 5 Draft can take some interesting turns, and players are often offered back to their original team.  Trades are made for other Rule 5 selections or money can be exchanged.  Johan Santana was left off the Houston Astros 40-man roster before the 1999 Rule 5 Draft, and was selected by the Florida Marlins.  The Marlins then trade Santana to the Minnesota Twins for cash and Jared Camp.  After a lacklustre 2000 season, he went on to have a great career with the Twins, and has won 2 Cy Young Awards. 

Bautista also represents an interesting case, as he was selected in the 2003 Rule 5 draft, and became the only Major League player in history to be on 5 ML rosters in one season.  The Baltimore Orioles selected him in the Rule 5, was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2 months into the season, and then traded to the Kansas City Royals less than a month later.  A month after that, he was traded to the New York Mets, who then flipped him to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were his original team.  He has since gone on to blossom into one of the finest hitters in all of baseball, leading the MLB in home runs in 2010 and 2011. 

Josh Hamilton was selected in the 2006 Rule 5 draft by the Chicago Cubs, but was returned to the Cincinnati Reds before the season began.  He was traded to the Texas Rangers after the 2007 seasons and won the 2010 American League MVP. 

Other notable players taken in the Rule 5 Draft:

Bobby Bonilla, Jeff Nelson, Joakim Soria, Dan Uggla, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Kelly Gruber and George Bell.

Most teams have between 15 and 30 eligible players, meaning that there are hundreds of players available.  However, the Rue 5 draft has lasted no more than 21 picks in the last 9 years.  Over this time, 40 or so players are selected in the AA and AAA phase combined per year. 

Will a team strike gold and find the next MVP or CY Young in this year’s Rule 5 Draft? Probably not. But some teams may find some useful bullpen arms, or even a utility player or two that may stick around for a full season. 


***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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Posted on December 2, 2011, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Preview of the 2011 MLB Rule 5 Draft: December 8th.

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