A Review: The 2007/08 Rule 5 Draft
It's safe to say last year's Rule 5 draft was not as profitable as it has been in other years. There were no Johan Santanas, Joakim Sorias, Josh Hamiltons or Dan Ugglas selected in the winter of 2007. Some rule changes by Major League Baseball have helped clubs hang on to their minor talent.
One such rule alteration allows clubs one more year to appraise their players before exposing them to the Rule 5 draft. Clubs are now allowed to wait an extra year - four years for college players and five years for high school players - before either adding them to the 40-man roster (and beginning the count down of their three option years) or passing them under the noses of 29 other clubs in the Rule 5 draft.
What this means is that fewer raw, but talented, players are making it to this draft - which was already hit or miss to begin with. The Rule 5 draft is becoming more and more about looking for a cheap 12th arm for the staff or an inexpensive 25th man - which could arguably be said for 15 of the 18 selections from one year ago (83 percent), than it is about finding a raw gem and/or future star.
For a refresher on the rules of the Rule 5 draft, click HERE.
The 2007/08 Rule 5 draft:
1 Tim Lahey RHP Tampa Bay Minnesota
2 Evan Meek RHP Pittsburgh Tampa Bay
3 Randor Bierd RHP Baltimore Detroit
4 Jose Capellan LHP San Francisco Boston
5 Carlos Guevara RHP Florida Cincinnati
6 Sergio Valenzuela RHP Cincinnati Atlanta
7 Matt Whitney 3B Washington Cleveland
8 Wesley Wright LHP Houston Los Angeles (NL)
9 Fernando Hernandez RHP Oakland Chicago (AL)
10 Brian Barton OF St. Louis Cleveland
11 Randy Wells RHP Toronto Chicago (NL)
12 R.A. Dickey RHP Seattle Minnesota
13 Steven Register RHP New York (NL) Colorado
14 Michael Gardner RHP San Diego New York (AL)
15 Travis Blackley LHP Philadelphia San Francisco
16 Garrett Guzman OF Washington Minnesota
17 Callix Crabbe 2B San Diego Milwaukee
18 Lincoln Holdzkom RHP Philadelphia Boston
Those Who Stuck:
Bierd, 24, was grabbed by the Orioles out of the Detroit organization after the 2007 season when he struck out 10.25 batters per nine innings at Double-A. The Orioles used him sparingly in 2008 and he appeared in just 29 games and pitched 36.2 innings. He allowed 48 hits and posted rates of 4.66 BB/9 and 6.14 K/9. He'll likely head back to the minors in 2009 for some more seasoning.
Guevara was attractive to the Padres because of his screwball, which he had had a fair bit of success with in the Reds organization. Guevara stuck with the Padres but he appeared in just 10 Major League games and 16 minor league games after struggling with injuries throughout the season. He was outrighted to Triple-A in July and the Reds worked out a deal to allow him to remain in the Padres' organization. He could show up in San Diego for some injury relief in 2009.
Wright had one of the biggest impacts of any of the 2008 Rule 5 draft picks. He appeared in 71 games after being nabbed out of the Dodgers organization. In 55.2 innings, Wright posted rates of 5.50 BB/9 and 9.22 K/9. The Astros' minor league system is pretty barren at the upper levels so he is likely to get another chance at the big league bullpen in 2009, with a strong spring.
Barton was one of the "bigger names" available in the 2007 Rule 5 draft. The former Indians prospect flirted with top prospect status at one point but was always considered a bit of a tweener - not enough range for center field and not enough power for the corner outfield spots. After hitting .268/.354/.392 in 153 at-bats (82 games) with the Cardinals in 2008, that is still where his future appears to lie.
Technically, Dickey did not stick with the Mariners at the end of spring training but he was able to remain in the organization thanks to a minor trade with the Twins (with whom he had signed with as a minor league free agent earlier that winter). The most "experienced" Rule 5 selection, Dickey was 33 when he was drafted and had spent 11 seasons in the minors and had appeared in 77 big league games. So what was the big deal? After years of toying around with it, Dickey officially added the knuckleball to his arsenal. In 112.1 innings this season with Seattle, Dickey posted a 5.21 ERA and allowed 124 hits. He posted rates of 4.09 BB/9 and 4.65 K/9. Despite the lackluster numbers, he makes an interesting 12th pitcher on a staff.
Meek originally stuck with the Pirates but was designated for assignment in May and was allowed to remain with his new organization. He has always had solid stuff, but Meek has never been able to command it, having posted a career minor league walk rate of 5.66 in six seasons. He posted solid minor league numbers for the Pirates in 2008 (with the best control of his career), but struggled in nine Major League games where his control deserted him again when he walked 12 batters, with seven strikeouts, in 13 innings.
Those Who Were Returned and Flourished:
Wells, 26, originally made the Blue Jays out of spring training but appeared in just one game before injuries struck the club and required the organization to seek more experienced help. Wells returned to Cubs organization and had a nice year in Triple-A. He was rewarded with a late-season call-up and in four Major League appearances overall he allowed no hits in 5.1 innings. Wells walked three and struck out one.
Register failed to make the Mets out of spring training and was returned to the Colorado organization, where he settled into the Triple-A bullpen. He allowed 57 hits in 59 innings and posted rates of 2.90 BB/9 and 7.93 K/9. Register received a brief call-up to the Majors where he posted a 9.00 ERA in 10 games, in part due to four home runs allowed.
Those Who Returned and Took A Step Back:
The selection of Valenzuela by the Reds out of the Braves' organization was a head-scratcher from the start. His stuff was OK, but he posted ERAs above 6.00 in both 2006 and 2007 in A-ball. In his career, the reliever posted poor rates of 10.56 H/9 and 4.48 K/9. He did not stick with the Reds and, in fact, was not even good enough to pitch with the Braves' organization and he was sent to the Mexican League.
The first overall pick in the draft, Lahey bounced around on waivers and through a couple of organizations without appearing in a Major League game before being sent back to the Minnesota Twins. He spent 2008 in Triple-A and allowed 69 hits in 63 innings. The former catcher posted rates of 3.29 BB/9 and 7.57 K/9.
Whitney has had an up-and-down minor league career. After a solid debut season in professional baseball, he broke his leg in the off-season playing basketball and missed the subsequent season. A few seasons later, he slugged 32 homers in A-ball, which got him drafted in the Rule 5 draft by the Nationals. With too many infielders on the roster, Washington was unable to keep him so he was sent back to the Indians where he hit just .268/.356/.404 with 10 homers in 463 Double-A at-bats.
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A few of the players listed above could still turn in a few good Major League seasons but there definitely are not many players that appear capable of having a major impact in the coming seasons. That said, one of the best things about Major League Baseball is that you never know when a player might surprise you.
The 2008/09 Major League Rule 5 draft will be held on Dec. 11, 2008 at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.