Every Rule 5 Draft pick in Blue Jays history

December 10th, 2020

TORONTO -- The Rule 5 Draft has been kind to the Blue Jays over their four-plus decades as a franchise, netting them Major League contributors, everyday starters and even their first American League MVP Award winner.

Formats and eligibility have changed over the years, but Toronto frequently dipped into the Rule 5 pool early in its existence, making 17 selections over its first 10 seasons.

Here’s a look back at each Rule 5 pick in Blue Jays history:

2018: Royals RHP Elvis Luciano
Luciano was just 18 years old at the time, but this surprise move turned into one of the Blue Jays' savviest transactions of the entire offseason. Despite Luciano never pitching above Rookie level ball, Toronto believed in his delivery and upside, so it found low-leverage spots for him throughout the season. The teenager posted a very respectable 5.35 ERA over 33 2/3 innings, the risk paid off and it gave the Blue Jays a high-upside pitching prospect at a low cost.

2016: Royals RHP Glenn Sparkman
Sparkman pitched in just two big league games with the Blue Jays in '17 before he was returned to the Royals in July. He has stuck with Kansas City, though, where he pitched 136 innings in '19 and made four appearances in '20.

2015: Giants RHP Joe Biagini
Part right-hander, part Saturday Night Live skit, Biagini broke through with an excellent season as a rookie, posting a 3.06 ERA in '16. Swinging between the bullpen and rotation hurt him in the following years, but he was pitching well back in a relief role in '19 before being dealt to the Astros in the Aaron Sanchez deal. Biagini's postgame scrums may never be equaled.

2013: Mariners LHP Brian Moran
Moran was selected then sent to the Angels for cash, but he took a roundabout way back to Toronto years later, signing as a Minor League free agent prior to the '20 season, in which he made five appearances.

2009: Nationals RHP Zech Zinicola
Zinicola was coming off a 5.33 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in '09 when the Blue Jays selected him, though he never pitched in the Majors for Toronto.

2007: Cubs RHP Randy Wells
Wells pitched one game for the Blue Jays -- throwing a scoreless inning of relief -- before he was returned to the Cubs midway through the first month of the season.

2006: Cubs SS Jason Smith
Smith appeared in 27 games with the Blue Jays in 2007, batting .212 with a .537 OPS. That May, he was selected off waivers by the D-backs and went on to finish that season with the Royals.

2003: Rays RHP Talley Haines
The big right-hander made plenty of sense as a Rule 5 pick at the time, coming off a season at Triple-A in which he posted a 2.53 ERA over 50 relief appearances with impressive peripherals. He spent only the '04 season in the Blue Jays' organization, pitching at Triple-A, where he put up a 3.87 ERA over 79 relief innings.

2002: Mariners RHP Aquilino Lopez
The Lopez pick worked well for the Blue Jays in '03, when he pitched to a 3.42 ERA over 72 relief outings as a rookie. He made 18 appearances (6.00 ERA) in '04 then was granted free agency.

2002: White Sox RHP Gary Majewski
Majewski didn’t make it to the regular season with the Blue Jays and instead was returned to the White Sox in March. Majewski went on to play parts of six seasons, including a stop in Montreal.

2002: Cubs OF Jason Dubois
Like Majewski, Dubois was returned to his original club in March of the following Spring Training, so he did not pitch for the Blue Jays.

2001: Royals RHP Corey Thurman
Thurman pitched in two Major League seasons with Toronto in '02 and '03, compiling a 4.75 ERA over 45 relief outings and four starts.

1999: Reds OF Dewayne Wise
Wise played for the Major League club in 2000 and '02, seeing some time in the Minors in between. He left the Blue Jays via free agency following '03, and it was after that departure that he established himself more, finishing with 575 games spread across 11 seasons.

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1997: Cardinals OF Luis Saturria
Prior to '98, Saturria was returned to St. Louis and did not appear in any games for the Blue Jays.

1995: Braves RHP Carey Paige
Formerly a third-round Draft pick of the Braves, Paige pitched for the Blue Jays' Dunedin, Fla., affiliate for one season in '97, his only season of play with the club.

1992: Braves RHP Billy Taylor
In early April of the following season, Taylor was returned to the Braves, and he went on to pitch in parts of seven seasons with the A’s, Devil Rays, Mets and Pirates, reaching 100 career saves.

1990: Yankees RHP Ricky Rhodes
Rhodes did not appear in any games for the Blue Jays. The right-hander spent five years in the Minor Leagues with the Yankees, but in 1995, pitched for the Canadian Surrey Glaciers of the Independent Western League.

1986: Royals RHP José Núñez
Núñez swung between the bullpen and rotation for the Blue Jays in the late '80s, posting a 4.40 ERA over 137 innings from '87-89.

1985: Royals RHP Jose de Jesus
de Jesus was returned to Kansas City prior to the '86 season. He pitched parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues between the Royals and Phillies.

1984: Astros SS Manuel Lee
“Manny” Lee is one of the club’s all-time great Rule 5 picks. A talented defender who spent eight seasons patrolling the middle of the Blue Jays' infield, Lee was a member of those great late-80s Toronto teams and its first World Series championship club in '92. Lee appeared in 753 career regular-season games and 20 in the postseason with the Blue Jays.

1984: Mets OF Louis Thornton Jr.
Thornton played parts of three seasons for Toronto, being used primarily as a late-game substitution in his rookie year of '85. Altogether, he appeared in 79 games for the Blue Jays.

1983: Indians 3B Kelly Gruber
Another of the club’s best Rule 5 selections, Gruber went on to play nine seasons with the Blue Jays, ending in '92 with a World Series title. Gruber’s best season with Toronto came in '90, when he hit .274 with 31 home runs, 118 RBIs and an .842 OPS. That was good for an All-Star nod and a Silver Slugger Award on top of a Gold Glove Award.

1983: Braves C Terry Cormack
Cormack was a first-round Draft pick by the Braves in '81, but he did not appear in any games with the Blue Jays' organization.

1982: Braves RHP Jim Acker
Acker spent four seasons with the Blue Jays before being traded to the Braves in '86 for Joe Johnson. In '89, Toronto traded Francisco Cabrera and Tony Castillo to get Acker back. Altogether, Acker pitched parts of seven seasons for the Blue Jays, posting a 4.07 ERA over 281 appearances.

1982: Pirates LHP Mercedes Esquer
Esquer spent three seasons with the Blue Jays' Double-A affiliate in Knoxville, Tenn., but he did not appear in any Major League games.

1981: Cardinals RHP Jim Gott
Most of baseball knows Gott as a reliever for the Dodgers, Pirates and Giants, but before that, he worked mostly as a starter for three seasons with the Blue Jays. Across 65 starts and 34 relief outings, Gott owned a 4.45 ERA. Prior to the '85 season, he was traded in a package to the Giants for Gary Lavelle.

1981: Expos OF Anthony Johnson
Johnson spent one year with the big league club in Toronto, appearing in 70 games and hitting .235 with three home runs and a .676 OPS. He then spent two more seasons with the Blue Jays at Triple-A Syracuse.

1980: Phillies OF George Bell
The finest Rule 5 pick of them all, George Bell spent a decade with the Blue Jays and is remembered as one of the all-time franchise greats with his name enshrined on the club’s Level of Excellence at Rogers Centre. Bell hit 202 home runs over his nine seasons with the Blue Jays, earning two All-Star nods and three Silver Slugger Awards. His best season, of course, brought the first American League MVP Award to Toronto in 1987 when Bell hit .308 with 47 home runs, 134 RBIs and a .957 OPS.

1980: Angels C Dan Whitmer

Whitmer appeared in just seven games with the Blue Jays in '81, recording a double and a walk. He spent much of that season and the following two in the club’s Minor League system.

1979: Braves 3B/OF Mike Macha
Macha got into just five games with the Blue Jays in '80 before he was purchased by the Tigers in late May.

1978: Padres C Bob Davis
Davis appeared in 123 games over his two seasons with the Blue Jays, hitting .189 with five home runs. Davis was the primary backup behind Ernie Whitt in '80.

1978: Yankees OF Ted Wilborn
Wilborn played in 22 games with the Blue Jays as a 20-year-old in '79, primarily as a pinch-runner. He had a long Minor League career, though, playing parts of 12 seasons with the Yankees, Blue Jays, Giants, White Sox, Orioles and Tigers.

1977: Yankees 1B/OF Willie Upshaw
An underrated member of those early '80s Blue Jays teams, Upshaw was the club’s primary first baseman for years and enjoyed a nice peak from '83-85, when he hit a combined .287 with an .830 OPS. That '83 season also included his career-high 27 home runs.

1977: Expos OF Andrew Dyes
Tornoto's first Rule 5 Draft pick, Dyes played a handful of games with the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse before moving on to play in the Minors with the Padres and Mariners. He later played four seasons in the Mexican League from '81-84.