The Rule 5 Draft has been called, at times, a bit of a needle in a haystack exercise. Players not protected on their team’s 40-man roster are eligible for a reason. But every year, big league talent is found from that haystack. Last year alone saw outfielder Akil Baddoo get taken by the Tigers and work his way into being an everyday player who posted a 2.1 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference, and right-hander Garrett Whitlock join the Red Sox and become a huge part of their playoff bullpen, finishing with a 3.0 WAR.
Whether any of the 30 players listed below can go on to have that kind of immediate impact or will even get selected as a Rule 5 pick remains to be seen. But the MLB Pipeline staff identified an intriguing player from each organization who is eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft (scheduled for Dec. 9), with "intriguing" meaning anything from the possibility of being selected to an interesting back story.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Samad Taylor, 2B/OF (No. 17)
The 23-year-old was an impressive Double-A performer with a .294/.385/.503 line, 16 homers and 30 steals in 87 games for New Hampshire. His 141 wRC+ was ninth among Double-A players with at least 300 plate appearances. He also plays multiple positions, having gotten time at second, short, center and left. All that said, he might not be a perfect fit at any one position, and while his run tool would play in the Majors, a 29.4 percent K rate is cause for concern. A Rule 5 club would likely keep Taylor in a utility role and hope it can get him to improve enough offensively to make the most of his budding power-speed combo.
Orioles: Adam Hall, 2B/SS/OF (No. 15)
A 2017 second-rounder out of the Canadian high school ranks, Hall battled as his approach regressed a bit with a move to High-A in 2021, with extended missed time because of a quad injury no doubt contributing. Hall does have plus speed (26-for-27 in stolen bases in 88 games last year; 82-for-97 in his career) and showed some positional flexibility in ’21, playing short, second and center field.
Rays: Blake Hunt, C (No. 15)
Roster crunches and the Tampa Bay Rays have gone hand in hand in recent years. Following the additions of René Pinto and Ford Proctor, the Rays’ 40-man roster includes four catchers, making Hunt the odd man out. Acquired from the Padres last offseason in the Blake Snell deal, Hunt didn’t quite click offensively this past campaign, posting a .205/.288/.375 line and nine homers in 76 games at High-A and Double-A. He has enough defensive skills, especially with his arm, to be a backup catcher consideration as a Rule 5 pick, and the Rays may sweat leaving him unprotected so soon after trading for him.
Red Sox: Gilberto Jimenez, OF (No. 10)
Signed for $10,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, Jimenez has developed into one of the best contact hitters, speedsters and defenders in the Red Sox system. But he hasn't played above Low A -- where he batted .306/.346/.405 with 13 steals in 94 games -- so Boston made a calculated gamble that he won't be able to stick on another club's big league roster.
Yankees: Josh Breaux, C (No. 18)
Similar to Gary Sánchez in terms of his offensive and defensive profile as well as his build, Breaux is enticing because he has well above-average raw power and an arm that was once clocked up to 100 mph when he took the mound at McLennan (Texas) CC. The 2018 second-rounder still needs to polish his hitting and receiving, and he batted .249/.298/.503 with 23 homers in 90 games between High-A and Double-A.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Guardians: Oscar Gonzalez, OF (unranked on Guardians Top 30)
The Guardians chose not to protect Gonzalez for the third straight offseason even though he's coming off a career-best .293/.329/.542 year with 31 homers in 121 games at Double-A and Triple-A. The $300,000 signee out of the Dominican Republic in 2014 also has a strong arm to go with his pop, but his career 4 percent walk rate is a red flag.
Royals: Seuly Matias, OF (unranked on Royals Top 30)
This isn’t Matias’ first Rule 5 rodeo. In fact, it’s his third, and we should be clear that it’s unlikely he’s taken this time around either. But Matias’ blend of plus-plus power and an impressive outfield arm will always make him an enticing option. The 23-year-old just showed that in the Arizona Fall League, where he clubbed six homers in 22 games and added the longest dinger (466 feet) and three hardest outfield throws as measured by Statcast. Matias' swing-and-miss is his biggest detriment. He fanned 33.0 percent of the time in the AFL and 37.6 percent at Double-A in 2021 before that.
Tigers: Garrett Hill, RHP (unranked on Tigers Top 30)
The 2018 26th-rounder wasn’t a big name in the Detroit system entering the season but was certainly a solid performer. He posted a 2.74 ERA with 99 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings at High-A and Double-A and headed to the Arizona Fall League, where he had a 1.98 ERA with 21 K’s and only three walks in 13 2/3 frames. That’s especially notable given the offensive environment of the AFL. Hill sat 91-93 in the AFL while mixing in a changeup and curveball, so it’s not necessary killer stuff that can pop in the Rule 5. But anyone looking for someone who could provide starting depth and whom they could stash as a long man out of the bullpen might consider Hill.
Twins: Yunior Severino, 2B/3B (No. 26)
Severino originally signed with the Braves but was one of several prospects declared free agents by Major League Baseball for Atlanta’s international signing violations and signed with the Twins after that. He’s yet to play above A-ball but actually hit better in High-A (.321/.414/.493) in 35 games than in Low-A in 2021. There is some offensive upside in this switch-hitter, and he plays two infield positions to boot.
White Sox: Luke Shilling, RHP (No. 29)
Shilling didn't pitch at Illinois in 2018 but the White Sox drafted him in the 15th round nonetheless, only to see him sustain a severe lat injury in his first bullpen workout after signing and never got him on the mound in a game before releasing him in May 2020. He improved his conditioning and mechanics before Chicago re-signed him last January and topped out at 98 mph and flashed a promising curveball and cutter in High-A -- but he made just 16 appearances before blowing out his elbow in June and requiring Tommy John surgery.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Astros: Yainer Diaz, C (No. 13)
Acquired from Cleveland along with Phil Maton in a July deadline trade for Myles Straw, Diaz is a career .328 hitter in four pro seasons and batted .300/.336/.443 with six homers in 73 games between Low-A and High-A. He owns solid arm strength but needs to find more power and clean up his receiving and blocking.
Angels: Robinson Pina, RHP (No. 20)
Pina pitched his way to Double-A in 2021, though he struggled there and then had a bit of an inconsistent showing in the Arizona Fall League. Still, he struck out 13.2 per nine during the regular season and showed a high-spin rate fastball (over 2,500 rpm) up to 95 mph and a slider that can miss bats in the AFL. A starter in the past, he has stuff that could tick up in shorter stints out of the 'pen, where command issues won’t be as much of an obstacle.
A’s: Brady Feigl, RHP (No. 24)
He won’t blow you away with pure stuff, with a fastball that typically sits in the low 90s. But he does have a four-pitch repertoire, doesn’t walk a ton of guys (2.8 BB/9 in his career) and actually misses a fair amount of bats (8.8/9). He’s proven durable, so a team needing starting pitching depth or a swingman could give Feigl a shot, kind of like the Royals did with Brad Keller back in 2017.
Mariners: Jose Caballero, 3B/SS (unranked on Mariners Top 30)
The Mariners didn’t really get that long of a look at Caballero after getting him at the 2019 Trade Deadline from the D-backs between the 2020 shutdown and a knee injury. He played only 20 games in the regular season and didn’t put up good numbers in the AFL, but there is some thump in his bat, he runs well and has shown the ability to play three infield positions capably.
Rangers: Bubba Thompson, OF (No. 27)
A star Alabama high school quarterback who drew interest from Southeastern Conference football programs before the Rangers made him the 26th overall pick in 2017, Thompson is a tremendous athlete with 25-25 upside but has had trouble staying healthy and producing at the plate. That said, he had the best season of his career in 2021, batting .275/.325/.483 with 16 homers and 25 steals in 104 Double-A games.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Justin Dean, OF (No. 25)
There was too much swing-and-miss in Dean’s game in 2021 with the move up to Double-A (30.2 percent K rate), but there is no question that his near top-of-the-scale speed is a legitimate weapon on both sides of the ball. He’s stolen 76 bags in his last two seasons and can cover a lot of ground in all three outfield spots.
Marlins: Griffin Conine, OF (No. 21)
A 2018 second-round pick of the Blue Jays, Conine joined Miami -- the franchise with which his father Jeff won two World Series and became known as "Mr. Marlin" -- in a summer 2020 trade for Jonathan Villar. He has well above-average raw power and an overly aggressive approach that resulted in 36 homers (tied for second in the Minors) and 185 strikeouts (first) while he hit .218/.330/.530 in 108 games at High-A and Double-A.
Mets: Brian Metoyer, RHP (unranked on Mets Top 30)
An analytically minded Rule 5 club might give Metoyer a hard look. As discussed in our AFL statistical standout piece, Metoyer’s curveball registered the 35 highest spin rates of the Fall League as measured by Statcast, and he was around 93-95 with a cutter. On stuff alone, those two pitches are worth investigating -- can they stick in a Major League bullpen? Metoyer only has two appearances above High-A, and his AFL results (10.45 ERA, 17 strikeouts, 10 walks in 10 1/3 innings) didn’t exactly back up the stuff. Those facts will also be considerations in the Rule 5 process.
Nationals: Tim Cate, LHP (No. 13)
The 2018 second-rounder is only two years removed from being the Nats’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year, so it raised a few eyebrows that he was left unprotected in his first year of Rule 5 eligibility. However, Cate did take a step back in 2021, with a 5.31 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and 81 strikeouts in 96 2/3 innings, all spent at Double-A Harrisburg. He shows just an average fastball, but Cate’s bread-and-butter has always been his plus curveball. The southpaw has a history of throwing strikes and generating ground balls as well, and there’s an outside possibility a Rule 5 club will think he can get back to that while providing length to the pitching staff.
Phillies: Scott Kingery, UTIL (ineligible for Phillies Top 30)
So, he’s not a prospect and anyone taking him would be on the hook for $14.5 million in salary over the next two years, which would make this less of a bargain option. But if he’s healthy, he can play just about anywhere, has some pop and has the speed to steal bases.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: Korry Howell, OF/SS/3B (No. 15)
Milwaukee didn’t add anyone to its 40-man roster ahead of last week’s deadline, leaving Howell and many others eligible for this year’s Rule 5. Howell has plus-plus speed that could help a Major League club, and his athleticism has helped him work at multiple spots on the diamond. Questions about the bat kept him off the 40-man and will determine if he gets taken in the Draft. He showed some power with 16 homers, but a 39.6 percent K rate in 28 games at Double-A begs a lot of questions about what type of contact rate he would have at the top level.
Cardinals: Delvin Pérez, SS (No. 12)
The 2016 23rd overall pick is Rule 5-eligible for the second straight season but has a stronger chance this time. His plus run and fielding tools form the basis of his Rule 5 case, and weirder things have happened in the Rule 5 Draft than a team taking a fast glove-first infielder. Also, Pérez now has a full Double-A season under his belt, so the jump wouldn’t be wholly prohibitive. But his bat remains a major drawback. Pérez hit .265/.322/.339 with four homers in 98 games, and his propensity for weak contact would likely be exacerbated in the Majors.
Cubs: Andy Weber, SS (unranked on Cubs Top 30)
Weber is an organization favorite of the Cubs but lacks loud tools, projecting as a decent hitter with modest power, fringy speed and steady defense all over the infield. The 2018 fifth-rounder from Virginia batted .214/.302/.321 in 41 Double-A games while battling turf toe but looked much better while helping the Mesa Solar Sox win the Arizona Fall League championship.
Pirates: Tahnaj Thomas, RHP (No. 13)
Nearly every Rule 5 Draft has at least one pure-stuff arm taken from A-ball in the hopes he can make the jump into a big league bullpen. The 6-foot-4 Thomas fits that description perfectly, with a fastball that can reach triple digits, especially in shorter stints, and a slider that can be above-average at times. He can miss bats (9.8 K/9) but also misses the strike zone (5.0 BB/9), so it’s a risk, but the velocity is sure to get some looks.
Reds: Drew Mount, OF (unranked on Reds Top 30)
A little recency bias here, because Mount just played in the Arizona Fall League, and played pretty well. Making up for lost time from a dislocated ankle, Mount hit .314/.375/.412 in 14 AFL games. He’s got some pop, especially to the pull side, and plays solid defense in all three spots. A former college football player, he brings a grinder/aggressive mentality to the field every day.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: Keegan Curtis, RHP (No. 28)
Arizona acquired Curtis from the Yankees in July, knowing he was Rule 5-eligible. He held his own at Double-A Amarillo following the move (3.94 ERA, 27 strikeouts in 16 innings) but was hit around at Triple-A Reno (7.04 ERA, 2.22 WHIP in nine appearances). His results in the Arizona Fall League were improved (12 strikeouts, four earned runs in 9 1/3 innings), but it wasn’t enough to earn him a 40-man spot. Curtis topped out at 96 mph with his heater in the AFL and showcased a pair of breakers in a slider and curve. It’s that arsenal that he hopes will be enough to get him a Rule 5 look out of a Major League bullpen.
Dodgers: Leonel Valera, SS (No. 15)
Valera may be the best prospect the Dodgers landed in their $166.9 million splurge on international players in the 2015-16 class, though he cost just $50,000 out of Venezuela. Extremely physical for a shortstop, he offers 20-20 potential as well as plus arm strength and the versatility to play all over the diamond. Los Angeles is betting that after he hit .224/.305/.436 with 16 homers and as many steals in 95 High-A games, other clubs won't think he's ready to make the jump to the Majors.
Giants: Seth Corry, LHP (No. 11)
Corry won the Low-A South Atlantic League pitcher of the year award while finishing second in the Minors in ERA (1.76) in 2019, but his mechanics fell apart during the pandemic layoff and he couldn't find the strike zone this year. He still can touch 96 mph and show a plus curveball and solid changeup, but he logged a 5.99 ERA with 100 strikeouts and 63 walks in 67 2/3 innings in High-A.
Padres: Esteury Ruiz, OF (unranked on Padres Top 30)
Ruiz can really fly and is aggressive on the basepaths, having stolen at least 30 bases in each of his last three seasons. In fact, his 119 steals rank third in the Minors since 2018. He spent his entire age-22 season at Double-A but was only league-average with the bat there, hitting .249/.328/.411 with 10 homers in 84 games. Ruiz has improved in his ability to make more contact, and he has started to make more of his solid raw power. The Padres played him at all three outfield spots, which could help his Rule 5 cause, but a evidence of a better hit tool was likely needed to press the issue in earnest.
Rockies: Tommy Doyle, RHP (unranked on Rockies Top 30)
Just a year ago, Doyle looked like a success story, going from being the University of Virginia’s closer in 2017 to saving 37 games over his first two Minor League seasons and making his brief big league debut in 2020. A shoulder injury sidelined him for nearly all of 2021, so a team would have to be sure he’s healthy, but he was once a Top 30 prospect with a plus fastball and above-average curve.