Clubs search for gems: Rule 5 Draft preview

December 13th, 2017

Teams are always looking for ways to add big league talent to their rosters. All 30 organizations are given a relatively low-risk way to do so every year at the end of the Winter Meetings via the Rule 5 Draft.
This year's Rule 5 Draft raft takes place in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., today at 9 a.m. ET, with a live audio stream on By virtue of finishing tied for the worst record in baseball in 2017, and having a slightly lower winning percentage than the Giants in 2016, the Tigers (64-98) get the first pick not only of June's amateur Draft, but also for today's Rule 5 Draft.
:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::
After the Tigers come the Giants, followed by the Phillies, White Sox and Reds. There are hundreds of eligible players, and teams are going through those lists and scouring past reports, as well as any ones from the Arizona Fall League or winter ball, to help determine whether they want to make any selections.
The Draft order
Below is the Rule 5 Draft order, based on the reverse order of standings from the end of the 2017 regular season. A team must have room on its 40-man roster to make a pick, so each team's 40-man status is in parentheses.
Rule 5 Draft order
Names to watch
As the Draft approached, several names were being mentioned as potential picks in the Major League phase. Twins reliever Nick Burdi, a hard-throwing reliever coming back from Tommy John surgery has been mentioned most prominently as the potential No. 1 pick. Fellow right-handers of the Rays and Cale Coshow of the Yankees are also being discussed.
How it works
Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 Draft process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft and they're only allowed to do so if they have room on their 40-man roster. If that player doesn't stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.
For this year, that means an international or high school Draft pick signed in 2013 -- assuming he was 18 or younger as of June 5 of that year -- has to be protected. A college player taken in the 2014 Draft is in the same position.
While the extra year of evaluation time has led to the names being available for the Rule 5 Draft being slightly less noteworthy, and perhaps curtailed the activity of teams, the success rate of the Major League phase has gone up. Over the past three years, a total of 31 of the 48 players taken in this phase have seen big league time with the team that acquired them. Some have attributed this to tools like advanced analytics that allow teams to know more about players that previously seemed more like needles in a haystack.
There is also a Minor League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, with the costs rising from $12,000 to $24,000 for a Triple-A pick (anyone not protected on a big league or Triple-A roster is eligible). The Double-A phase has been eliminated. Players selected in this portion of the Rule 5 Draft aren't subject to any roster restrictions with their new organizations.
Recent gems
There were 18 players taken in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft a year ago and 10 of them saw time in the big leagues with the team that drafted them or traded for them immediately following the draft. Another three made it up after they were sent back to their original team.
None of them landed on postseason rosters like did with the Blue Jays the year prior. , also from the 2015 Rule 5 Major League phase, has become a reliable weapon out of the Cardinals' bullpen the last two seasons. In 2014, position players Jr. and made immediate impacts as regulars in the Rangers' and Phillies' lineups. DeShields faded in 2016, but rebounded with a solid 2017 season. Herrera signed a five-year, $30.5 million extension with the Phillies nearly two years to the day after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft. He then followed up his 2016 All-Star campaign with a strong 2017 season.
All-time best picks
The way the Rule 5 Draft works has changed over time. So while everyone's all-time list would undeniably start with Roberto Clemente, it's almost as if a "modern era" type qualifier is needed. Looking at 1990 up until last year, here's how Rule 5 Draft picks lineup in a top five, ranked by WAR.
1. Johan Santana, LHP, 50.7
2. Shane Victorino, OF, 31.2
3. Josh Hamilton, OF, 28.1
4. Dan Uggla, 2B, 17.6
5. , RHP, 16.5
Keep an eye on Herrera, though. He's at 10.3 WAR already after just three years.
Top available prospects
There are 70 players on team Top 30 Prospects lists who were not protected and are thus eligible to be selected and given the chance to stick on a 25-man roster. There are nine first-round picks from the 2013 Draft -- including three of the first seven players selected -- and another two from the '14 Draft available this year.
Here's a list of all 30 teams' Top 30 Prospects who are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft:
Arizona Diamondbacks (3)
12. , RHP
18. , OF
25. Jose Almonte, RHP
Atlanta Braves (2)
12. , 2B/3B
14. , OF
Baltimore Orioles (2)
19. Randolph Gassaway, OF
29. John Means, LHP
Boston Red Sox (4)
24. Jake Cosart, RHP
25. , RHP
28. Hildemaro Requena, RHP
30. Jhonathan Diaz, LHP
Chicago Cubs (5)
9. Trevor Clifton, RHP
16. Chesny Young, 2B/SS/OF
22. Charcer Burks, OF
26. Erling Moreno, RHP
29. Jose Paulino, LHP
Chicago White Sox (2)
21. Jordan Guerrero, LHP
29. , RHP
Cincinnati Reds (3)
20, Gavin LaValley, 1B
26. Nick Longhi, 1B/OF
28. Michael Beltre, OF
Colorado Rockies (3)
15. Dom Nunez, C
21. , RHP
24. , LHP
Detroit Tigers (2)
21. Jose Azocar, OF
26. Adam Ravenelle, RHP
Houston Astros (1)
15. , OF

Kansas City Royals (2)
14. , 1B
19. Marten Gasparini, OF
Los Angeles Angels (2)
28. , RHP
Miami Marlins (5)
12. Jeff Brigham, RHP
25. Ricardo Cespedes, OF
26. Isael Soto, OF
28. John Norwood, OF
29. , OF
Minnesota Twins (4)
9. Kohl Stewart, RHP
10. Lewin Diaz, 1B
25. Jake Reed, RHP
New York Mets (4)
12. , OF
15. Jhoan Urena, 3B
17. Luis Carpio, SS
20. Ali Sanchez, C
Oakland A's (1)
26. Casey Meisner, RHP
Philadelphia Phillies (2)
16. Jose Gomez, INF
23. , OF
Pittsburgh Pirates (3)
19. Yeudy Garcia, RHP
26. Tyler Eppler, RHP
30. Adrian Valerio, SS
San Francisco Giants (3)
20. , RHP
21. Jordan Johnson, RHP
24. Kelvin Beltre, 2B
Seattle Mariners (5)
9. Luis Liberato, OF
10. Anthony Jimenez, OF
11. Greifer Andrade, OF
20. Ian Miller, OF
29. Chuck Taylor, OF
Tampa Bay Rays (1)
25. Nick Cuiffo, C
Texas Rangers (1)
28. Michael De Leon, SS
Toronto Blue Jays (7)
8. Max Pentecost, C/1B
19. , OF
20. Jordan Romano, RHP
24. Francisco Rios, RHP
25. Patrick Murphy, RHP
29. , OF
30. Angel Perdomo, LHP
Washington Nationals (3)
18. Drew Ward, 3B
23. , C
26. Osvaldo Abreu, SS/2B