Around the MinorsMarch 06, 2007
Russian Roulette: The Rule 5 Draft
By Marc Hulet

With the implementation of new rules allowing teams an extra year of development for their prospects, December's Rule 5 draft was expected to be quiet, to say the least. However, 19 players were chosen - the third most in nine years. Under the previous rules, prospects had to be added to their clubs' major league 40-man roster after either three (if 19 or older when signed) or four years (if under the age of 19 when signed) in the minor leagues or they would be subjected to the winter draft. The new rules added another year of leeway for clubs to decide if players were 'worthy' of those coveted spots. As a result, many players that were expected to be available in the Rule 5 draft this past winter were not. Players chosen in the draft must remain on the 25-man major league roster for the entire season or be offered back to their original club for $25,000.

Below is a chart outlining the previous eight Rule 5 drafts, not including the 2006 draft. After that, you will find a more detailed analysis of those drafts in the hopes we can better understand what to expect from the recent 2006 Rule 5 draft class as we approach the 2007 season.

The History (1998-2005):
2005: 12 picks,  3 stuck (25%), Best pick: Dan Uggla
2004: 12 picks,  5 stuck (42%), Best pick: Andy Sisco
2003: 20 picks,  6 stuck (30%), Best pick: Chris Shelton
2002: 28 picks, 11 stuck (39%), Best pick: Luis Ayala
2001: 12 picks,  6 stuck (50%), Best pick: Jorge Sosa
2000: 10 picks,  3 stuck (30%), Best pick: Jay Gibbons
1999: 17 picks,  5 stuck (29%), Best pick: Johan Santana
1998: 13 picks,  4 stuck (21%), Best pick: Scott Sauerbeck
Overall: 35% of picks last the year
Most Common Positions Picked:
  C   2   2.0%   
 1B   1   0.8%
 2B   7   6.0%
 3B   7   6.0%
 SS   5   4.0%
 OF  23  18.5%
RHP  52  41.9%
LHP  27  21.8%
Not surprisingly, pitching is the position of interest. Almost 64 per cent of all Rule 5 picks in the last eight years were pitchers. Right-handers made up almost half of all those picked. Catchers and first basemen are not very popular.
Most Successful Positions to Stick:   
  C    1/2   50%
 1B    1/1  100%
 2B    4/7   57%
 3B    4/7   57%
 SS    3/5   60%
 OF   5/23   22%
RHP  15/52   29%
LHP  10/27   37%
Position players are not chosen as often as pitchers, but teams have a much better success rate with them, albeit on a much smaller scale. A 37% success rate for left-handers is not bad at all.
Likelihood Players Will Stick (By Level Pick From):
MLB    1/4  25%  
AAA   7/33  21%  
 AA  15/45  33%
 A+  12/25  48%
  A   8/16  50%
  R    0/1   0%
A-Ball, surprisingly, is the best place to find value for your dollar, with Double-A the next best options. I'm a little surprised Triple-A players don't stick more often, but I guess they would be protected by that point if they were perceived to be any good.
How Originally Acquired:
College:        13  (30%)
High School:     9  (21%)
International:  16  (37%)
Junior College:  5  (11%)
I thought there might be some more division here, with high schoolers being drafted more often in the Rule 5, simply because they take longer to develop.
Chance for a Successful Next Season:
Good:  9  (21%)
OK:   17  (39%)
Poor: 17  (39%)
As seen by the numbers above, Rule 5 picks rarely go on to have successful careers. Even those who succeed in their first MLB season tend to flame out the next year. In most cases, players are returned to the minors for extra seasoning and never return. Admittedly, the Good/OK/Poor ratings are somewhat subjective on my part. Overall, the Rule 5 draft looks like a reasonable way to fill a hole on your bench or in your bullpen for the league minimum.
Warning Signs - Injuries to Pitchers Who Stuck (1998-2004):
RHP - 7/14 (50%)
LHP - 5/9 (55%)
Yikes. If I were a pitcher I don't think I'd like to get taken in the Rule 5 draft. More than 50 per cent of the pitchers taken have suffered a serious arm or shoulder injury within six years of being drafted and usually within two or three. A lot of those pitchers were starters in the minors who were shifted to the 'pen in the majors. How does that compare to the major league average? That I don't know, but it would be an interesting study.
Top 5 Teams to Make Pick:
1. Detroit (9)
2. San Diego (8)
3. Washington/Montreal (8)
4. Colorado (7)
5. Tampa Bay (7)
If I were Washington or Tampa Bay, I'd be gambling with the draft too. It's probably a good way for Colorado to find pitchers, because the certainly don't entice a lot of attractive free agent hurlers. San Diego is gaining a reputation as a reclamation center and finder of hidden talent, so the Rule 5 makes sense for them.
Top 5 Teams to Lose Picks:
1. Cleveland (11)
2. Pittsburgh (10)
3. Los Angeles NL (10)
4. Toronto (8)
5. Seattle (7)
As far as Cleveland and Toronto go, they are two teams that heavily draft college players, which therefore means they only had three years (two-and-a-half really) to decide if a prospect deserves a 40-man roster spot. Drafting college players also tends to develop depth quickly within those systems. Pittsburgh, as a small market team, really should do a better job of identifying their own talent. Seattle, historically, has not been eager to give young players a chance to break into the majors, although that appears to be changing. Los Angeles is simply a gold mine for prospects.

The 2006 Rule 5 Draft:
As discussed earlier, 19 players were chosen in the Rule 5 draft. They ranged in professional baseball experience from A-ball to the Majors. Some players have high ceilings (Joakim Soria) while others are simply role players (Jason Smith), who were drafted to fill holes.

                   ERA   WHIP    K/9    BB/9     H/9     IP
Joakim Soria      2.31 | 0.63 |  8.5% | 1.5% |  3.86 |  11.2
Sean White        4.40 | 1.64 |  6.4% | 3.8% | 10.91 | 102.1
Alfredo Simon     6.75 | 1.83 |  6.1% | 3.3% | 13.15 |  52.0 
Edward Campusano  1.75 | 1.19 | 11.9% | 2.8% |  7.71 |  25.2
Jared Burton      4.14 | 1.32 |  8.0% | 3.3% |  8.64 |  74.0  
Lincoln Holdzkom  1.87 | 1.08 |  8.0% | 2.9% |  6.68 |  33.2  
Nick DeBarr       2.74 | 1.13 |  8.0% | 2.2% |  8.00 |  69.0
Kevin Cameron     2.99 | 1.20 |  8.8% | 3.5% |  7.19 |  66.1
Jay Marshall      1.02 | 0.87 |  6.4% | 1.2% |  6.68 |  62.0
Levale Speigner   3.26 | 1.29 |  5.7% | 2.2% |  9.47 |  58.0
Jim Ed Warden     2.90 | 1.08 |  7.2% | 4.4% |  5.34 |  59.0
                     AVG/OBA/SLG      BB%     K%     HR%   BABIP
Ryan Goleski       .296/.370/.528 |  9.7% | 23.5% | 4.6% | .359
Josh Hamilton      .269/.333/.365 |  8.8% | 21.1% | 0.0% | .350
Jesus Flores       .266/.331/.487 |  5.8% | 26.5% | 4.4% | .331
Adam Donachie      .191/.325/.309 | 16.7% | 17.5% | 1.8% | .222
Jason Smith        .263/.318/.424 |  6.5% | 26.9% | 4.6% | .323
Alejandro Machado  .260/.352/.346 | 12.0% | 11.7% | 0.9% | .292
Josh Phelps        .308/.366/.532 |  7.3% | 23.8% | 4.6% | .377
Ryan Budde         .233/.312/.414 |  9.1% | 22.8% | 3.3% | .276

As we know from the above analysis, about one-third of all players picked in the Rule 5 draft will stick with their new teams throughout the entire season. As such, I will look at the seven (37%) most likely 2006 picks to remain in the majors in 2007.

1. Jason Smith (AAA)
Toronto from Chicago NL
IF | 6/77 | 6'3'' 190lbs
Smith is expected to serve as a utility player for the Jays. He is not your typical Rule 5 pick at the age of 29 and he has 382 career MLB at-bats. The Jays' bench projects to look like this:

C - Jason Phillips
IF - John McDonald
IF - Jason Smith
OF - Matt Stairs

It is a pretty lousy bench - especially for the American League East - but the Jays have chosen to spend their money on a handful of players, rather than spread it around. That, in turn, leads to players like Smith making the roster (and a 39-year-old fourth outfielder who has played only 18 games in the outfield the past two years). Smith is probably the least likely of the seven players to have an impact career, or even be playing in the majors in 2008. He is a stopgap.

2. Ryan Goleski (AA)
Oakland from Cleveland
OF | 3/82 | 6'3'' 225lbs
Goleski made headlines in the fall when it was discovered he was suffering from a wrist injury, which was not disclosed before the Rule 5 draft. There was some speculation that he would miss the beginning of the year, but the latest news has him being ready for the start of the year. An injury to Bobby Kielty could held land Goleski a spot on the bench. The Oakland bench projects to be:

C - Adam Melhuse
IF - Marco Scutaro
IF - Antonio Perez
OF - Ryan Goleski

The A's can get away with a fourth outfielder who cannot play center because they have Milton Bradley, and even the limp-armed Shannon Stewart could play there in a pinch.

3. Edward Campusano (AA)
Milwaukee from Detroit
LHP | 7/82 | 6'4'' 170lbs
One of the best and cheapest ways to find a LOOGY is the Rule 5 draft (Jose Nunez, Scott Sauerbeck, Javier Lopez) and Campusano could succeed in that role. Left-handed batters hit only .208 against him in 2006 (although righties also hit just .187). The Tigers' bullpen projects to include:

CL - Todd Jones
SU - Joel Zumaya
MD - Fernando Rodney
MD - Jose Mesa
LG - Zach Miner
LH - Wilfredo Ledezma
LH - Edward Campusano

Ledezma is more than just a LOOGY, so Campusano could develop into the pitcher who is called in to face the tough left-handed batter late in the game - if he can earn manager Jim Leyland's trust. I have a feeling Campusano could have a successful first half of the season.

4. Lincoln Holdzkom (AA)
Houston from Chicago NL
RHP | 3/82 | 6'4'' 240lbs
This hard-throwing, tattooed, nipple-ringed pitcher has been on the cusp of the majors for a number of years but surgery delayed his arrival. Holdzkom is back to throwing in the mid-90s and is said to have a solid work ethic.

CL - Brad Lidge
SU - Chad Qualls
MD - Dan Wheeler
MD - Lincoln Holdzkom
LG - Wandy Rodriguez
LH - Trever Miller
LH - Scott Sauerbeck

Holdzkom is still relatively raw, but his plus fastball is tough to ignore, especially given the club does not have great depth in the 'pen. He struggled in his first spring training appearance after also pitching poorly in the Arizona Fall League. He needs to show he can pitch under pressure.

5. Joakim Soria (A+)
Kansas City from San Diego
RHP | 5/84 | 6'3'' 180lbs
Soria was one of the most sought-after players in the draft and has a wealth of experience pitching in the Mexican League, which is the equivalent to Triple-A talent. In the 2006 Winter League, Soria threw a perfect game on Dec. 6. The Royals are getting better in terms of pitching talent, but let's be honest... they still have a ways to go and there aren't many players in Soria's way.

CL - Octavio Dotel
SU - David Riske
MD - Ken Ray
MD - Todd Wellemeyer
LG - Joakim Soria
LH - John Bale
LH - Jimmy Gobble

The bullpen will probably not strike fear in the hearts of many batters but there is some upside finally, with Soria perhaps possessing the most (raw) talent.

6. Jesus Flores (A+)
Washington from New York NL
C | 10/84 | 6'1'' 180lbs
As witnessed by the numbers above, there aren't many teams that are willing to take a catcher in the Rule 5 draft. Catchers are the field managers - they direct fielders, keep the pitchers focused, call the pitches (although not always) and control the pace of the game. As such, young and inexperienced catchers just don't cut it most of the time... unless they are bursting with offensive or defensive skills. And teams also do not usually want a young catcher to develop rust sitting on the bench. But the Washington Nationals are no ordinary team. They quite frankly should lose 100 games this year, so why not take a risk on the player with arguably the highest upside in the Rule 5 draft? In fact, they only have two catchers on the 40-man roster: Brian Schneider and Flores. The team's bench projects to include:

C - Jesus Flores
C/OF/1B - Robert Fick
IF - Ronnie Belliard
OF - Dmitri Young
OF - Ryan Church

OK... that is one hard bench to predict, especially given that Washington has 19 batters on their spring invitee list and they could all conceivably win a spot on the roster. I do, however, expect the team to carry three catchers and Fick is the most versatile of the bunch (that also includes Danny Ardoin, Juan Brito and Brandon Harper).

7. Jay Marshall (A+)
Oakland from Chicago AL
LHP | 2/83 | 6'5'' 185lbs
Another LOOGY in the making. Marshall was death against left-handed batters in A-ball for Chicago with a line of .096/.113/.115. Unfortunately, right-handed hitters raked him over the coals to the tune of .313/.358/.426.

CL - Huston Street
SU - Kiko Calero
MD - Jay Marshall
MD - Jay Witasick
LG - Chad Gaudin
LH - Alan Embree
LH - Ron Flores

Justin Duchscherer's injury problems open the door for Marshall to perhaps make the opening day roster if Oakland wants to carry three lefties. Witasick also had problems in 2006 with injuries. Street and Calero should be the two key players in the pen for Oakland. Embree adds stability from a veteran standpoint. If having three lefties is not desirable, then Flores could be on the hot seat after an inconsistent 2006.


Fantastic article, Marc. I think the reason for so few Rule 5 catchers is that anyone at that position with even ordinary skills is going to be protected.

Great article, but for Jay Marshall, wouldn't you want to look at his competition in Oakland since he's coming from the White Sox?

Also, after his performance so far in spring training, what do you think of Josh Hamilton's chances of sticking with the Reds?

Great piece. Thanks.

A few notes on players I've followed for one reason or another:

Jay Marshall:

GB% vs. TOT: 71.5%
GB% vs. LHB: 81.6%
GB% vs. RHB: 63.5%

Nick DeBarr:

According to The Eagle-Tribune's Rob Bradford..."DeBarr came back last season with the added enhancement that often accompanies those who undergo Tommy John Surgery. The righty had the surgery on April 18, 2005, was ready to start pitching again by last year's spring training, and in the middle of last year found his fastball had jumped to 96 mph after previously topping out at 92. "They built me a brand new arm," he said."

Presumably Rule 5 draftees have a high injury rate because teams are less likely to protect a player seen as injury-prone, whereas another team might be willing to take a chance with minimal risk.

As a Reds fan, I would be absolutely shocked if Hamilton doesn't stay up the entire season. The team seems to have some sort of vendetta against Denorfia (Not gritty enough?), so Hamilton's versatility could be useful when Griffey and Freel get injured.

Another reason for Rule 5 draftees' apparent high injury rate is that teams are happy to hide "injured" Rule 5ers in the minors on "rehab assignments" for phantom injuries. The Red Sox did this with Adam Stern a few years back.

Isn't the fact that the Pirates sit in 2nd place among teams to lose players skewed a bit by the fact that they lost five players in one draft a couple of years ago? I guess that just confirms the statement that they ought to do a better job of identifying their talent.

Wow, that injury rate for pitchers is incredible. It hardly seems worth the risk of taking a pitcher.

Josh Hamilton definitely sticks with the Reds. His good Spring Training start aside, you have to understand that when Reds management becomes enamored with a player, that player can whiff in 50 consecutive at bats and still be a darling. Look for Hamilton to be starting in centerfield for the Reds before the days start getting shorter.

Oh, and he has the entire Reds fandom rooting for him, too - me included. Karma is on his side! :)

Yeah, Marshall should be facing competition in the Oakland pen... That's what happens when you are finishing an article quickly to make your trip to Arizona on time.