SAN DIEGO -- Every Thursday morning at the Winter Meetings, team executives stream into a ballroom, rollerbags in hand, with the Rule 5 Draft the last stop before the Meetings conclude and the baseball world heads home.
There was some intrigue heading into the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, with the addition of a 26th spot to big league rosters leading many to wonder if that meant more teams would be willing to take a flier in the Major League phase of the Draft. The answer to that was decidedly no, as only 11 players were taken, the second fewest since 2000.
As is often the case, the Major League phase was pitching heavy: eight of the 11 players picked were right-handed pitchers. The top five picks were all arms, beginning with the Tigers taking right-hander Rony Garcia from the Yankees' system with the No. 1 pick. Garcia began the 2019 season in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, but he spent most of it in Double-A, finishing with a combined 4.01 ERA, 8.9 strikeouts per nine, 3.1 walks per nine and a .234 batting average against. His stuff ticked up this past season, with his fastball touching 95 mph. He also used his slider and changeup effectively.
"He's got a very good arm," Tigers vice president of player development David Littlefield said. "It's 91-95. For a starting pitcher to throw in that range, it's very solid, and he's got a mix of pitches to go with it. It's fastball, slider, cutter. He is a four-pitch guy, so obviously having four pitches to utilize is helpful for him."
The Orioles took Brandon Bailey from the Astros, one of three players Houston lost, with the No. 2 pick. Bailey is an undersized righty who has largely worked in a starting role and mixes his pitches well, leaning on his excellent changeup.
Sterling Sharp, another right-handed pitcher, was the No. 3 pick, taken by the Marlins from the Nationals' system. Sharp missed a chunk of 2019 with an oblique injury, but he made up for lost time and looked good in the Arizona Fall League. He's one of the best groundball pitchers in the Minor Leagues, with a 3.19 groundout-to-airout ratio last season - it's 2.10 for his career.
"That was a big sigh of relief, and I'm very excited it happened," Sharp said. "I was a little disappointed not being added to the 40-man, so that time span from then until now… it's a big sigh of relief someone took a chance on me.
"I have to go out there and do what I have to do to make the team. Having a young group there will help me connect with the guys and feel at home with a new team."
The first position player taken was Mark Payton, an outfielder from the A's system selected by the Reds with the sixth pick. The 28-year-old left-handed hitter is coming off a year in Triple-A Las Vegas in which he hit .334/.400/.653 with 30 homers in 395 at-bats, then played on Team USA in the Premier12 Olympic qualifying tournament.
In addition to Bailey, the Astros also lost right-hander Yohan Ramirez to the Mariners and infielder Jonathan Arauz to the Red Sox.
"We woke up this morning thinking we'd lose one or two, and three is one more than that," Astros special assistant to the GM for player personnel Kevin Goldstein said. "But we knew that we had some guys off the roster who had a little bit of selection risk, and we saw what happened. We thought we'd lose one or two and we lost three. I don't use the word loss. I think we have three guys taken and we don't count them as a loss until they stick on the roster all year for the big league teams that took them."
It costs $100,000 for a team to make a selection in the Major League phase of the Draft, and that player has to stick on the roster all year or be offered back to the player's original team for $50,000. And while the addition of that extra roster spot didn't lead to more picks in the Major League phase, it's clear it entered the thinking of some teams who were active.
"I think that facilitates any pick like this," said Gus Quattlebaum, vice president of professional scouting for the Red Sox, who took Arauz from the Astros. "Even if it's a pitcher at the back end of the 'pen. It's a variable that we considered."
The Orioles were the only team to make multiple picks, taking Bailey No. 2 and then closing the Major League phase by taking Michael Rucker from the Cubs with the 11th pick.
"We think both players have an interesting mix of strike-throwing ability and strong pitches to help them compete in the American League East," Orioles pro scouting director Mike Snyder said.
There was one trade announced right at the conclusion of the Draft, with the Phillies sending shortstop Vimael Machin to the A's after taking him No. 8 from the Cubs' system.
The Triple-A phase was busier than the Major League one. It costs just $24,000 to make a pick and there are fewer restrictions involved. A player can be placed on any roster in the Minor Leagues and does not have to be offered back to the original club. A total of 42 players were taken in that phase on Thursday.
Below is the complete list of players selected in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft.
The order was based on the reverse order of standings from the end of the 2019 regular season. Teams were only able to make a selection if they had space on their 40-man roster.
Major League Phase
1) Tigers: RHP Rony Garcia (Yankees)
2) Orioles: RHP Brandon Bailey (Astros)
3) Marlins: RHP Sterling Sharp (Nationals' No. 13 prospect)
4) Royals: RHP Stephen Woods (Rays)
5) Mariners: RHP Yohan Ramirez (Astros)
6) Reds: OF Mark Payton (A's)
7) Giants: RHP Dany Jimenez (Blue Jays)
8) Phillies: SS Vimael Machin (Cubs)
9) Cubs: RHP Trevor Megill (Padres)
10) Red Sox: SS Jonathan Arauz (Astros' No. 25 prospect)
11) Orioles: Michael Rucker (Cubs)
1) Tigers: RHP Ruben Garcia (Orioles)
2) Orioles: OF Cristopher Cespedes (Indians)
3) Marlins: C Julian Leon (Angels)
4) Blue Jays: RHP Hobie Harris (Yankees)
5) Mariners: C Brian O'Keefe (Cardinals)
6) Pirates: RHP Alex Aquino (Braves)
7) Padres: LHP Brady Feigl (Rangers)
8) Rockies: RHP Nate Griep (Brewers)
9) Angels: RHP Erick Julio (Rockies)
10) White Sox: RHP Will Carter (Yankees)
11) Reds: SS Michael De Leon (Rangers)
12) Giants: C Bryan Torres (Brewers)
13) Rangers: RHP Eris Filpo (Rockies)
14) Cubs: RHP Brock Stewart (Blue Jays)
15) Red Sox: RHP Raynel Espinal (Yankees)
16) Mets: RHP Adam Oller (Giants)
17) Cardinals: RHP Jordan Brink (Brewers)
18) Nationals: SS Manuel Geraldo (Giants)
19) Indians: LHP Daniel Young (Blue Jays)
20) Rays: LHP Faustino Carrera (Cubs)
21) Braves: 2B Wendell Rijo (Yankees)
22) A's: OF Jason Krizan (Mets)
23) Dodgers: INF Carlos Sepulveda (Cubs)
24) Tigers: 2B Brian Schales (Twins)
25) Orioles: 2B Wilbis Santiago (Indians)
26) Mariners: CF Jhonny Santos (Marlins)
27) Rockies: RHP Michael Petersen (Brewers)
28) Angels: OF Edwin Yon (Reds)
29) Reds: RHP Miguel Figueroa (Giants)
30) Rangers: RHP Andriu Marin (Twins)
31) Cubs: OF Jerrick Suiter (Pirates)
32) Red Sox: RHP Jose Espada (Blue Jays)
33) Cardinals: RHP Enrique Saldana (Rockies)
34) Indians: RHP Jhon Peluffo (Orioles)
35) A's: C Jose Colina (Indians)
36) Mariners: 1B Daniel Gomez (Cardinals)
37) Angels: OF Pedro Diaz (Rays)
38) Cubs: OF Vance Vizcaino (Rockies)
39) Cardinals: RHP Jacob Bosiokovic (Rockies)
40) A's: RHP Deivy Mendez (Padres)
41) Angels: C Carlos Reina (Reds)
42) Cubs: SS David Masters (Nationals)