Here are the 10 best Rule 5 Draft picks of the past decade

December 5th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rule 5 Draft will take place here at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the annual event in which teams try to find some diamond-in-the-rough big league talent.

A refresher on how the Major League phase of the Rule 5 works:

Players first signed at age 18 or younger must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 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. If that player doesn't stay on the 26-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 2019 had to be protected. A college player taken in the 2020 Draft was in the same position.

In the past 10 years (2013-22), 133 players have been selected in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 (there was no Major League phase in 2021). Most haven’t made much of a big league impact, but some have been solid contributors. Here’s a list of the 10 best, using a combination of production to date (using bWAR) and potential in the future.

1. Mark Canha, OF/1B, DET: Selected by Rockies (traded to A’s) from Marlins, 2014 (14.7) – last year No. 5
Canha is the leader on the bWAR list among picks in the past decade and continues to be a productive player. He played nearly every day in his rookie season of 2015 and hit 16 homers, then had his best season in Oakland in 2019, when he went yard 26 times and finished with a .913 OPS. He’s accrued 4.7 bWAR over the past two years combined with 5.0 bWAR in two years with the Mets and Brewers and was traded to the Tigers in November.

2. Anthony Santander, OF, BAL: Selected by Orioles from Cleveland, 2016 (7.9)
After not playing much over his first couple of seasons, Santander has continued to show that his power from both sides of the plate will show up consistently in big league games. After hitting 33 homers (2.1 bWAR) in 2022, he added 28 more and 3.0 WAR during the 2023 season to move him up this list.

3. Garrett Whitlock, RHP, BOS: Selected by Red Sox from Yankees, 2020 (5.0)
Whitlock was the No. 4 pick in the 2020 "virtual" Rule 5 Draft. (There were no Winter Meetings to attend in person because of the pandemic.) His rookie season in 2021 has been his best (1.96 ERA, 2.8 bWAR), but he’s provided valuable innings, both relieving and starting, for the Red Sox over three seasons, even while fighting through a hip injury in 2022. Despite some struggles in 2023, he has a career 3.51 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, .247 BAA and 5.22 K/BB ratio in 99 appearances.

4. Odúbel Herrera, OF, FA: Selected by Phillies from Rangers, 2014 (13.4)
Herrera fizzled out after his first two seasons, accruing 8.7 WAR in 2015 and 2016 combined, earning an All-Star nod in ’16. He was an everyday player for the next two seasons and again in 2021, but played sparingly in 2022 and was in indy ball last season. He has the second-highest WAR of those who stuck with big league teams on this list.

5. Brad Keller, RHP, FA: Selected by Reds (traded to Royals) from D-backs, 2017 (9.1)
Keller made a huge contribution in his rookie 2018 season, starting the year in the bullpen and finishing in the Royals rotation, accruing 4.2 bWAR in the process. He added 3.0 more in 2019 and 1.8 in the shortened 2020 season. He’s been far less effective in the three seasons since and was hampered by thoracic outlet syndrome before heading to free agency this offseason.

6. Tyler Wells, RHP, BAL: Selected by Orioles from Twins, 2020 (3.7)
Wells made a strong first impression pitching out of the Orioles’ bullpen in 2021, tossing 57 innings and recording a 5.4 K/BB ratio (65 strikeouts, 12 walks) with a 0.91 WHIP. He’s largely been a starter over the past two seasons, accruing 2.8 WAR combined, then made three relief appearances in the postseason in 2023.

7. Tommy Kahnle, RHP, NYY: Selected by Rockies from Yankees, 2013 (3.3)
While it hasn’t been eye-popping, Kahnle has put together a nice nine-year big league career since the Rockies took him in 2013. He spent two seasons in Colorado before getting traded to the White Sox, who dealt him back to the Yankees in 2017. He made it through Tommy John surgery in 2020, made it back to pitch effectively for the Dodgers in 2022 before re-signing with the Yankees before the 2023 season. He had the best year of his career last season (1.1 WAR) and has a career 3.64 ERA, 11.0 K/9 rate and .213 BAA in 340 games.

8. Ryan Noda, 1B, OAK: Selected by A’s from Dodgers, 2022 (2.3)
We’ll have to see whether Noda is a one-year wonder, but he’s off to a very good start. He played nearly every day for the A’s in 2023, homering 16 times in nearly 500 plate appearances. He did strike out 170 times, but his 70 walks offset that a bit and he finished with 2.3 bWAR for the year.

9. Delino DeShields Jr., OF, FA: Selected by Rangers from Astros, 2014 (5.1)
DeShields broke out of the gate very well, playing in 121 games with the Rangers in 2015 and finishing with 25 steals, the first of four out of five seasons he stole 20-plus bags. He spent time in the big leagues with Cleveland in 2020 and the Reds in 2021 before playing for Triple-A Gwinnett (Braves) in 2022. He began the 2023 season with Tacoma (the Mariners' Triple-A affiliate) before landing in indy ball.

10. Trevor Stephan, RHP, CLE: Selected by Guardians from Yankees, 2020 (1.7)
Stephan has been a valuable member of the Guardians bullpen since they nabbed him from the Yankees. He’s had positive WAR in each of his three seasons and topped 70 games pitched in 2023. Combined, he has a 3.73 ERA, 10.7 K.9 rate and .239 BAA.

Others of note (listed with team that acquired them in Rule 5): Akil Baddoo, OF, Tigers; Ji-Man Choi, 1B, Angels; Kevin Kelly, RHP, Rays; Victor Reyes, OF, Tigers; T.J. McFarland, LHP, Orioles; Blake Sabol, OF/C, Giants