Around the MinorsOctober 15, 2008
A Review: The 2007/08 Rule 5 Draft
By Marc Hulet

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:

  • Randor Bierd
    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.

  • Carlos Guevara
    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.

  • Wesley Wright
    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.

  • Brian Barton
    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.

  • R.A. Dickey
    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.

  • Evan Meek
    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:

  • Randy Wells
    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.

  • Stephen Register
    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:

  • Sergio Valenzuela
    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.

  • Tim Lahey
    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.

  • Matt Whitney
    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.

    * * *

    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.

  • Comments

    Why are the majority of players picked in the Rule 5 draft pitchers?

    Has it always been that way?

    You can't find minor league/prospects reporting of this caliber anywhere else.

    Thanks, Al.

    Jeff, it's all about value - the majority of picks last year were pitchers, no doubt, because that is the most expensive (and sought after) commodity. The Rule 5 draft is a great way for teams to find cheap pitching that can hopefully an 11th or 12th spot on a Major League roster. As I mentioned in the article, most of the pitchers chosen last year had lower ceilings than some of those selected in the past as teams looked for more MLB-ready hurlers.

    Santana wasn't exactly effective as a Rule 5 pick either. It took 3 years.