Most casual baseball fans don’t even know what the Rule 5 Draft is. That’s because over the decades since its inception there hasn’t been many players that have made a huge difference in the annals of baseball history. But that doesn’t make it any less important.
So what is the Rule 5 Draft? Let’s put it in the simplest terms. After a certain amount of years (this criteria has changed over the years, hence the vagueness of a timeline) of playing in the Minor Leagues, the Major League ball club has to decide whether said player is worth holding onto or not. If the Major League club thinks they are worth another year of work in the Minors they add them to their 40-man roster, thus protecting them. If not, they go unprotected and are able to be snatched up in the Rule 5 Draft that takes place at the end of the Winter Meetings each year.
That’s not the most detailed explanation you will find — for example, there are provisions the drafting team must follow and “return policies” as well — but it’s the basic idea behind the Rule 5 Draft and that’s what you were looking for, right? Got it? Good.
Now, the talent pool is usually very thin, but that’s not to say that some outstanding players haven’t passed through the system. The most famous of the Rule 5-ers was Roberto Clemente. We all know who he is. George Bell became a home run hitting, MVP winning slugger in Toronto much like Jose Bautista is now… both found in the Rule 5 Draft. Johan Santana? Yup, someone let him go and the Minnesota Twins struck gold. Josh Hamilton was able to resurface and become an MVP thanks to the Rule 5 Draft. Last year, the Phillies found Odubel Herrera. He’s no Clemente, but it looks like they found themselves a starting outfielder.
This year there is actually some good picks out there. Two in particular caught my eye.
One is the Great Balbino. Balbino Fuenmayor is a great story, as he took his roller coaster career to new heights last season for the Kansas City Royals farm system. He tore his ACL near season’s end, and with Eric Hosmer locking down first base for years to come, they had to make a difficult decision.
The other is New York Yankees outfielder Jake Cave. Cave’s gritty hustle and outfield play has always made him a favorite of mine, yet he was left unprotected in favor of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams, two kids that have the potential, but I have personally grown tired of. I think Cave will make a welcomed addition to quite a few teams.
The link below will bring you to the full analysis of Fuenmayor and Cave that I did this morning at minorleagueball.com. Enjoy!