Friday, December 09, 2011

Taking Advantage of the Rule 5 Draft

Are you a struggling team who doesn’t seem to have an all-star on the roster, are you a potential contender looking to add that last bullpen piece or role player but don’t want to spend big money on the 25th man on you roster? If that sounds like your team then try the Rule 5 Draft.
The Rule 5 Draft is one of my favourite times in the baseball offseason. It’s a chance for teams to select players to play for their MLB teams in the upcoming season.
 It gives teams the opportunity to select a player for their MLB team. Most rule 5 guys are role players, usually pinch runners or back up defenders. Pitchers tend to be hard throwers who usually end up being the last man in the pen or a lefty specialist. These players may not be stars but it is a great opportunity for the player and the team. As a player he gets the chance to play in the big leagues. Now yes most may never see the majors but at least they are given the opportunity to attend big league spring training and have the opportunity to make the team something they may not have without the rule 5 draft. The team has the potential and yes it’s a small chance but they have the chance to get a star player. Yes it’s highly unlikely that all stars are acquired via the rule 5 draft but for rebuilding teams like the Astros or Cubs it’s a worthwhile gamble. There have been 26 players who have made the all-star team who were once rule 5 pick, most notably Roberto Clemente, George Bell, Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana, and Joakim Soria.   
It only cost $50,000 to select a player. For teams trying to rebuild provided that the rule 5 player won’t take another players spot is a worthwhile risk. The worst that can happen is that you’re out $25,000. Its like the lottery you’re not likely to win but it’s worth a shot.
I believe that the Rule 5 draft is underrated in today’s game and could be a tool if used effectively by GMs. Most teams don’t even select a player in the major league portion of the draft. Only 12 teams made a selection this year. I think that if teams did more scouting in preparation for this draft there would be many more diamonds in the rough found. If scouts focused on this draft as intently as they did the first year player draft I believe that many great players would come out of the Rule 5 draft. There have to be players in the minors who if given the opportunity would have success in the majors. Players with mechanical flaws in their batting stance, flaws in their pitching mechanics, that could be fixed with the help of MLB coaches. Scouts in my opinion need to be looking for players like this. If you could find a Roberto Clemente for $50,000, why not do everything you can to make that happen, especially for teams with little money. If you could get an all-star for $50,000 that would be huge for the team.
 If I was a GM I would defiantly put resources into the Rule 5 draft and try to use it my advantage. You just never know if a player will figure it out when in Spring Training and you end up with that elite player you were looking for. If not hopefully you were able to get that bullpen arm or bench player you were looking for.       
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  1. Paul, since the rules changed in 2007 to give clubs an extra year of control before players are eligible for the Rule 5, the quality of talent available has dropped significantly, so the historical examples aren't as relevant. And trying to make a significant mechanical change at the big league level while jumping two or three levels and getting scattered playing time is a lot to ask of a guy. The most valuable thing big league teams have is a roster spot and giving one away on a narrow narrow hope is a tough thing to ask of a GM.

  2. I agree with the above comment. Add in the fact that most Rule 5's are treatly like Faberge eggs by their manager and never played unless the most dire of situations requires them to be.

    The number of guys drafted versus the number of competent major leaguers (not even All Star level) is small.

    The best type of Rule 5 pick is a reliever, because they are fungible commodities anyway and can at least be the 12th man in the pen at worst.

    But overall the Rule 5 is pretty much a wasteland.

  3. I do agree that with the rule changes that there is less talent available but I still honestly believe that there are still good players out there. Yes my examples were with the old rules but look at a guy like Jose Bautista who made a mechanical change and figured it out later in his career. Yes he was not a rule 5 guy when the jays got him but I feel that there are players like him in double A who can be fixed withe the help of big league coaching. If the effort is put in by the gm and team then these players could be found.