At the end of the Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday in Nashville, comes an event that might seem as niche as they come. And yet all 30 teams, as well as scores of players, will be paying close attention come Thursday.
The Rule 5 Draft commences at 10 a.m. ET that Thursday. It might lack the bright lights and cameras that are a part of the First-Year Player Draft in June, but the results of this Draft are just as important. Major League organizations will be selecting players, trying to find that diamond in the rough while seeing which players from within might be moving to a new location. You can check out the top potential candidates. They are on MLB.com’s Rule 5 20 names to know list, but note – they are in alphabetical and not ranked order.
These days it’s rare to find a superstar in the Rule 5 Draft. Since the rule change back in 2006 that gave each team an extra year to evaluate, fewer standouts have slipped through. Nonetheless, the chance to uncover a Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla or Shane Victorino, will still make this an interesting draft. In all truthfulness, there’s also a low-risk aspect of the transaction. It frees teams up to make at least one or two selections.
During the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, an eligible player left unprotected from his club’s 40-man roster may be selected for $50,000. He must then remain on his drafting team’s active Major League roster during the following season or be sent back to the original club for $25,000. Last year, only a dozen players were taken in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. None of them approached the upside of the quartet above. Nonetheless, 2011 Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty collect 11 postseason at-bats for the Orioles. How many hits did A-Rod collect?
Of course, just because a player is sent back doesn’t mean he won’t eventually be a quality Major Leaguer. Victorino was actually taken twice in the Rule 5 Draft, in successive years. Miguel Batista, Fernando Vina and Frank Catalanotto are all examples of players who were returned to their original team after initially being selected. A dozen transactions were made a year ago, and as of Thursday, eight teams were full, with 40 on their rosters. Some teams told MLB.com that they are unlikely to participate in the Major League phase because of roster issues.
Teams looking for pitching depth, especially out of the bullpen, might find exactly what they need. “The list is better, teams had tougher decisions,” one AL executive said to MLB.com. “The teams that have open roster spots will be in good position to get good players. There are less open roster spots in general — that’s why there are some good players on there — and it’s a better list than it has been as a result.”
The list of 20 names to know has 13 pitchers on it, nearly all of whom have the profile to fill a bullpen role. Red Sox right-handers Ryan Pressly and Josh Fields, Rockies righty Coty Woods and Royals lefty Jon Keck are among the potential relievers who have been mentioned in the early run-up to the Rule 5 Draft.