What is the Rule 5 Draft?
The Rule 5 Draft is Major League Baseball’s way of insuring that teams don’t stash good players in their minor leagues that another Major League team would be willing to call up to “the show”. There are criteria that must be met in order for a player to be exposed to the draft. Because I couldn’t explain it any better, here is what Wikipedia says the criteria are:
Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft who are not on their major league organization’s 40-man roster and:
– were 18 or younger on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft upcoming; or
– were 19 or older on the June 5 preceding their signing and this is fourth Rule 5 draft upcoming.
November 20th was the deadline for clubs to add players to the 40 man roster in order to protect them from the draft. Teams now know which players have been left unprotected by every other team and are making plans for the draft coming up on December 12th. Teams can only draft a player if they have open spots on the 40 man roster. They do not have to draft a player at all.
You may be asking yourself why every team wouldn’t just take a player for the heck of it. Well, the catch is that if you draft a player in the Rule 5 Draft, he has to stay with the big league club for the entire season. If the team was to try to demote him to the minors, he would be returned to his original team. If the player is traded or picked up on waivers, he still has to stay in the big leagues all season. These rules do not scare teams away from drafting players. Just like Everth Cabrera (pictured above), a Rule 5 draft pick can blossom into an MLB All-Star in the right circumstances. In the rare case of Roberto Clemente, they could blossom into Hall of Famers.
What types of players typically get drafted during the Rule 5 draft?
In the case of the aforementioned Everth Cabrera, a good utility infielder with some speed is always sure to draw some interest in the draft. He could be a defensive replacement or pinch runner for most of the year, while working with the big league hitting coach on whatever it was that had him stuck in the minors. In the case of Cabrera, he was the Opening Day Shortstop the year after he was taken in the draft.
A starting pitcher who has struggled in the minors but possesses plus speed or nasty stuff could be drafted in order to pitch out of the bullpen. If the pitcher is a lefty, he probably has an even better chance as long as he is very effective against lefties. Utility men are always of interest for the simple reason that one player who can be a defensive replacement for numerous positions takes up less space on the bench than two or three. The last position I would single out as having a stronger likelihood of getting drafted would be a catcher who is very good defensively but may struggle slightly with the bat. As long as the team has a very good starting catcher, coaches could work to develop the Rule 5 pick’s bat while he spells the starter occasionally.
What percentage of Rule 5 Draft Picks make it through the season without being returned?
If a player is deemed to not be completely ready for some reason, the team who drafted him can always return him to the team who originally held his rights. To get a better sense of how many players make it and don’t make it, let’s take a look at the first seven picks of last year’s Rule 5 draft:
#1 – Houston Astros – Josh Fields (RHP) – Stayed with the Astros all season pitching out of the bullpen (4.97 ERA, 4o K, 18 BB in 38 IP)
#2 – Chicago Cubs – Hector Rondon (RHP) – Stayed with Cubs all season pitching out of the bullpen (4.77 ERA, 44 K, 25 BB in 54.2 IP)
#4 – Minnesota Twins – Ryan Pressly (RHP) – Stayed with the Twins all season pitching out of the bullpen (3.87 ERA, 49 K, 27 BB in 76.2 IP)
#6 – Miami Marlins – Alfredo Silverio (OF) – After a devastating car accident in 2011, Silverio has had two Tommy John surgeries. He remained on the Disabled List all season, therefore he now officially belongs to the Marlins and has been outrighted to AAA.
#7 – Boston Red Sox – Jeff Kobernus (2B) – Traded to the Tigers during the draft for a Minor Leaguer (teams will often trade Minor Leaguers for guys that they were targeting in the draft who were picked prior to their slot). Kobernus was returned to the Nationals near the end of Spring Training and ended up making his ML debut in May.
As far as the Padres go, they did not pick anyone in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft. The Friars did lose a player in the draft, First Baseman Nate Freiman. Freiman was originally selected by the Astros but did not make the team out of Spring Training. He was passed through waivers prior to being offered back to the Padres and was claimed by the A’s. He spent the season with the A’s, appearing in 80 games producing a slash of .274/.327/.389 with 4 HR and 24 RBI.
As you can see, a good percentage of players will make it through the season with the club that selects them. If you are a pitcher, you clearly have a better chance of hanging in because of the selectivity the team can show in the situations that it exposes the pitcher to.
The Rule 5 Draft is a great way to pick up guys who may have been overlooked by their own team. I hope this article has helped to explain the intricacies of the draft process.
Stay tuned for the FOB preview of the players who are eligible for the draft this year. The Padres have the 13th pick and most likely will not find anyone to fill any hole that they may have. But, you never know, there could just be an Everth Cabrera hanging around out there.