A Familiar Spring Scene
Tom Hamilton: “And it looks like they’re bringing in the lefty Hoby Milner, a Rule 5 guy from the Phillies.”
Couch Viewer #1: “What’s the Rule 5 Draft anyway?”
Couch Viewer #2: “It’s…uhh…you know. It’s a draft.”
Couch Viewer #1: “Yeah but, don’t they already have a regular draft?”
Couch Viewer #2: “Well yeah, but…”
Play on TV interrupts the discussion.
And another day goes by in the universe where we all pretend like we know what the Rule 5 draft is.
So what is the Rule 5 Draft?
The Rule 5 draft is a way to keep teams from stockpiling players who don’t have a clear path to the majors stuck in their minor league system when there are major league teams who could make use of them. In order to be eligible for the draft, a player must not be on the team’s 40-man roster, and must have spent at least 4 years in the minors.
For example, Hoby Milner has played in the minor leagues for 4 years, mostly in AA. He’s not on the Phillies 40-man roster — meaning he doesn’t have a major league contract — so he’s basically just marinating away. The Indians, meanwhile, have an immediate need for a lefty in their pen. So, during today’s Rule 5 draft, the Indians White Elephanted him from the Phillies system.
The stipulation here is that once a player is selected in the Rule 5 draft, that player has to stay on the new team’s 25-man roster for the entire season. If he fails to do so, that player must be offered back to the original team.
The Rule 5 White Elephant Exchange
The Indians picked up Milner, sure. However, they also lost 5 players in the draft.
Anthony Santander, picked up by the Orioles, is the biggest name on the list. Santander was ranked the 13th, 15th, and 30th best prospect in the Indians system for 2017 by FanGraphs, SB Nation, and MLB Prospect Watch, respectively. He made is debut in North American pro ball at 17, hitting .305 and showing promise for perhaps above average power. Now age 22, Santander’s stat line might make you think he’s lived up to the potential:
Not too shabby. Then again, he was 22 playing in A ball.
Whether that line transfers to the bigs or not, we’ll just have to wait and see. My guess is it won’t.
Santander is still very raw, has below average athletic ability, and is coming off shoulder surgery. That combination doesn’t spell success for a multiple-level jump. Even if his hitting took just a slight hit, his defense is far too below average to warrant the risk in the outfield. Most scouts prefer him at first base, but with 1B being such a premium position, I’m not sure his bat warrants that either. Santander is most likely to end up being an OF4, with some time splits at 1B, assuming he can stay healthy.
The Padres snagged right-hander Trevor Frank, a closer who threw 1K/inning and walked just 10 over 44 innings. Frank also posted a .191 BAA and a sub-1 WHIP last season, though like Santander, he’s never made it past A ball.
Jon Fitzsimmons started 2016 in the Canadian-American Association before being signed by the Indians. The 25 year old posted 25 K’s in 16 1/3 innings across 10 games last season for Class-A Lake County. Arizona must have seen some potential in his ability to miss bats, and scooped him up in the draft.
Arizona also picked up Grant Sides, a 27 year old RHP who hadn’t been able to crack the AAA Columbus roster. Consistently above average yet unspectacular, Sides went 2-1 with a 3.36 ERA in 42 games with Class AA Akron in 2016.
Last in the shopping cart is Nick Maronde, 27 year old LHP, whom the Marlins selected in the draft. Maronde threw 11.1 major league innings with the Angels between 2012-13, with little success. His minor league numbers aren’t much to discuss, either.
What does this mean for Indians Prospects?
Santander was really the only player being eyed up by scouts and fantasy hopefuls as a name to remember for your 2018 20-team dynasty draft. The wake of his leaving is minimal, especially since the Indians farm system is loaded with outfielders of similar standing.
We’ll learn all about them in the upcoming Top 50 Indians Prospect List. Stay tuned!
What is “Rule 5,” itself? And better yet, what are Rules 1-4?
“Rule 5” is just the rule in the official MLB rulebook that covers the “Annual Selection of Players,” outisde of the standard draft (Rule 4). Here’s a link to the full text of Rule 5: https://registration.mlbpa.org/pdf/2015MajorLeagueRules.pdf
Rule 1) Limiting team competition within territories
Rule 2) Active, DL, Bereavement, etc. list rules
Rule 3) Player eligibility
Rule 4) Regular draft
Rule 5) Rule 5 draft