Rule 5 Draft 101

Every year at the Winter Meetings, one of the last orders of business is the Rule 5 Draft, an event that leaves many of us – even those of us in baseball – scratching our heads and asking once again, “What exactly is the Rule 5 Draft?”

This question became even more relevant for us when we found out that the Royals selected right-hander Joakim Soria with the No. 2 pick of the Rule 5 Draft Thursday morning.

Enter Dean Taylor, the Royals assistant general manager, with an insider’s perspective on interpreting the clause-filled rule.

“This draft is put into place to give players who have not had an opportunity to play at the Major League level a chance to possibly play with another club,” Taylor says. “It’s all about the evaluating and re-evaluating of players based on the needs of each individual club.”

It’s also about keeping teams from hoarding all their talent in their minor league systems, not to mention forcing each club to protect those on the 40-man roster.

On the most basic level, there are three phases of the Rule 5 draft: the Major League segment, Triple-A and Double-A. For the major league phase, a player falls into Rule 5 Draft eligibility if (a) he is on a minor league roster and signed his first contract prior to the 2002 Rule 5 Draft for players who were 18 or younger on June 5th, prior to signing their first contract or (b) prior to the 2003 Rule 5 Draft for players who were 19 or older on June 5th prior to signing their first contract. Clear as mud, right?

Here’s an example. Royals left-hander Andrew Sisco was a past Rule 5 selection for the Royals. He was picked by Kansas City from the Cubs roster in December 2004. Sisco, who went 2-5 with a 3.11 ERA as a rookie in 2005, needed to stay on the big league roster all season or be offered back to Chicago.

This year many teams, including the Royals, benefited from a recent rule change that included the addition of an extra year before a player becomes Rule 5 eligible. The change resulted in the protection of a handful of top Royals prospects – including pitchers Tyler Lumsden and Billy Buckner, and outfielder Chris Lubanski – without adding them to the 40-man roster.

“I have a feeling because of the added year in the eligibility requirements, there will be fewer players available in the major league phase,” Taylor adds the night before the draft. “Fewer guys need to be protected this year.”

A team is only able to pick up any of these eligible selections if it has an opening on the 40-man roster. The night before this year’s draft, the Royals were staring down a full 40-man roster, causing them to release right-hander Runelvys Hernandez in order to open a spot.

For teams with a selection, the Rule 5 Draft isn’t just a wide-open farmer’s market of talented ballplayers. There’s a kicker that forces each team to really consider their draft selection. Each Rule 5 pick must be kept at the major league level the entire following season or be offered back at a bargain price – half of the $50,000 selection price – to his former team.

When it is time for a team to select, Taylor breaks the evaluation down into two categories.

“There are generally two types of players a club is looking for. Sometimes a club is looking for a role player, someone to fill a specific spot such as backup catcher or a left-handed pitcher,” Taylor says, “but, more than not, a club is just hoping to find a diamond in the rough.”

The new question: Did the Royals find a Roberto Clemente (1954) or a Johan Santana (1999) "diamond in the rough" player with this year’s Rule 5 pick?

5 Comments

Either way I think it was a good move. Nothing against Hernandez, but for a player the staff and fans had so many expectations for, showing up out of shape, overweight, and not performing, I think it isn’t much of a gamble letting hime go.

I would agree with”cfb6xc”. Except I had a lot against Hernandez. I think he was one of those that was just happy to have a major league contract.

Regarding the Winter Meetings, I want to offer my congratulations to Mr.Moore and the entire staff! IF these signings result in only 20 fewer losses, then this team will be at least .500 for 2007. I feel that would be a great improvement! As skinny as the farm system was when Mr.Glass bought the team, it’s no surprise it has taken some time to re-build it. Allard Baird managed to start the re-build… I think Dayton Moore is the right guy to put this team into contention.

At least with the talent coming up through the Minors, and these signings, we can have some hope for the future! It clearly shows that Mr. Glass made the right move hiring Dayton Moore, and props to Mr.Glass for giving him the financial resources to work with!

I apologize, I didn’t really try to give my opinion on the question:
Did the Royals find a Roberto Clemente (1954) or a Johan Santana (1999) “diamond in the rough” player with this year’s Rule 5 pick?

Maybe, Maybe not.

I think even the Royal’s crystal ball has been defective over the last several years.

Should he be better than Hernandez?? Sure! But I don’t think Hernandez was in the picture for 2007 with or without Soria. My return question is: If this guy was so good, why was he left unprotected?

I do agree with taking a flyer on him though.

Another question: Have the Royals improved their instructional staff enough to bring the Johann Santana out of this guy… if he’s in there!
:-)

Dayton and Dean have a beter eye for talent than past regimes. It is obvious they have identified a plan to revamp the minor league system, add an affiliate, and put new programs in place for development.
The Royals have had a history of not being able to develop pitching. Throwing too many pitches, and focusing on power arms instead of good pitchers. Bannister is a good indication that has changed, and I applaud. The willingness to cut loose most of the former prospects like Affeldt, Hernandez, Bautista, Howell etc, also says the have a better idea of what constitutes a good pitcher.

Now, I just hope their is someone paying atention to some of the stats about how pitchers fail when they take major jumps in innings pitched.

Some have said I’m too optimistic about he changes. But I see not only .500, but I see us having just as good a chance to win the division as anyone else. We might not have the 2 or 3 starters that take you deep into the playoffs yet, but we have the talent to get there and get the experience. GO Royals, and get your 90 wins in 2007!

You heard it here first. The Royals will be the talk of baseball in 2007. Alex Gordon will be chasing Rookie of the Year, and the Royals will play meaningful games for the first time since ’94. I hope we are looking to add an Ace at he trading deadline who is a FA at the end of the season, like Colon, Jennings, Livan Hernandez, Smoltz or Carlos Zambrano.

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