The rule 5 draft used to be mildly interesting. Unfortunately with the last issue of the collective bargaining agreement, the Rule 5 was made somewhat unimportant. With an extra year tacked onto team control before players are forced for 40 man roster consideration, prospects are basically ready for the upper minors and far more projectable than with a year less of information on them.
For those who may be confused by the Rule 5 draft and who is available, here is a short primer:
A. Who is available?
It would be nice to have a simple list of players available for the Rule 5, but I can find no immediate source and it would be tedious to do this. Also, pretty worthless as most value prospects have been protected by this point. In lieu of that, I will present the rules.
1. If a player is signed to his first professional contract at the age of 18 or younger, then he is available to be drafted on the fifth year of the draft. In other words, he is protected for four Rule 5 drafts. An example would be the Orioles Steve Johnson. He was drafted by the Dodgers in 2005 and signed at the age of 17. He was protected from the Rule 5 in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. His fifth draft is this year's and he would have had to have been protected on the 40 man roster if the Orioles had wanted to ensure his place in the organization next year.
2. If a player is signed to his first professional contract at the age of 19 or later, he is protected through three drafts. In other words, one less year than if he had signed under the terms in part 1.
3. If a player has exceeded this time frame, he is once again available. For instance, Chad Moeller was signed to a MiL deal by the Orioles this past week. He is not on the 40 man and has long been protected from the Rule 5. He can be selected.
After the jump, players of some interest.
Here is a short list of some players of interest:
C Koby Clemens, Houston
There really are no truly desirable options here. Clemens presents the best situation for upside as he has power and does project as a potentially adequate defensive catcher. The problem is that he is in no way ready to handle catching duties in the Majors and his bat is wholly untested with only 17 at bats above HiA ball. He is no longer in Houston's plans, so perhaps the play would be to draft him and hope to work a deal out. Not much use.
1B Danny Dorn, Cincinnati
He is a first baseman by default as he has no true defensive position. Ideally, he would be a DH, but it is incredibly rare to find any team willing to set a rookie bat at DH. He has been able to hit the ball deep at every rung in the minors, but he stands no chance against left handed pitchers. Ideally, he would find himself hidden on the bench pulling backup duty and situational starts against right handed pitchers. Not a great talent, but certainly someone who stands a chance at being a late bloomer.
2B Ryan Mount, Anaheim
Mount has had difficulty remaining healthy during his career. This has not helped him establish himself in the Angels system as others have leap frogged him in the organizational depth chart. It might provide some incentive for a team selecting him in that injuries might force him to the DL and make him somewhat easier to hold onto. That probably is never a good reason to select anyone in the Rule 5. He profiles as a below average defensive second baseman with good power potential and the flexibility to play third base on occasion. The flexibility may make it easier for a team to keep him on the 25 man roster.
3B Johnny Whittleman, Texas
Whittleman was originally seen as a someone who could stick at third base and develop into a high average, high OBP player with above average power. What has happened in that his defense has not made great gains and he really cannot be expected to play at a MLB level there. His contact skills have also not evolved where people thought they would be. His power is about where everyone thought it would wind up with him average a homerun to every 10 hits he collects. His plate patience is off the charts good. His numbers really give the appearance of Jack Cust when Cust was suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. A simple surgery may not make Whittleman into a MLer this year. Another year in the minors and he may develop some more. He needs another season or two and it probably won't help much.
SS Blake Davis, Baltimore
He has always been viewed as an offense first shortstop. He has shown average contact skills and gap power with a decent eye. His defense has been tolerable. At Norfolk last year, he felt apart with a 542 ops in about 200 plate appearance. Every positive aspect of his game was not present and, after some internal issues, he was sent home for the year. Not exactly the kind of player to put your hopes into as a Rule 5 guy.
OF John Shelby, Chicago
If an outfielder will be selected, it will probably be someone who would be capable of playing multiple positions including center. Shelby is the player who bests fits that criteria. Until this past season, he has typically shown a good contact rate and poor plate discipline. That reversed this past season with good plate discipline and a poor contact rate. Through this, he still hits the ball hard. He has some speed and could fill in at second or third in a pinch. He might be plucked.
P Craig Baker, Colorado
Baker will be 25 next year and has never pitched in AA. That said he had one of the best slider in the California League this past season. He profiles as a late blooming back end rotation arm. He keeps the ball on the ground, does not give up hits, strikes out 10+/9 and kept walks to 3/9 this past season. He looks like a solid pickup for an extra arm in the pen. The jump from HiA will probably be daunting, but is probably possible.
P Yohan Pino, Cleveland
Pino was included in the Pavano trade last summer. He put up great numbers in AAA last season as a starter, but is a fly ball pitcher. He has a high K rate and a low walk rate, so that should be helpful in a middle relief role and perhaps an occasional start. Even though he has performed well, questions still remain. He throws only in the high 80s and is right handed. He gets by with a solid mix of good curveballs and good sliders. It just is not a profile many people give many opportunities.
P Steve Johnson, Baltimore
Johnson has performed well wherever he has thrown. He has done this with polish and pitchability. He has not down this with any impressive pitches. Add his average offerings to an extreme flyball rate and you have some questions about what Johnson could do at the Major League level. Still, he has always found a way to pitch effectively at every level he has pitched at, so maybe someone goes old school and values guts, grit, and determination. I think he would be difficult to swallow in the pen for an entire season.
P Bobby Cassevah, Anaheim
Cassevah does not strike out many. He walks about as many as he strikes outs. Basically, he walks and ks about 4 to 5 men every 9 innings. What is impressive about him is that he induces groundballs 70% of the time. He was able to do that at AA. That is impressive. In 270 MiL innings, he has only given up 6 home runs. That should be enough to make someone try to hide him for a full season. With such an extreme groundball rate and such a low homerun rate, he probably would have a lot of rope.