The Rule 5 draft is held annually on the final day of the Winter Meetings. The pool of players is populated by those players not on their respective organizations 40-man roster that have either four years (College/Junior College players) or five years (high school players/international players) of professional experience.
A team, with an open spot on their 40 man roster, can draft a player for $100,000 but the player must remain on another teams 26-man roster (roster expanded in 2019) the following season or be offered back to the original team for $50,000.
The Tampa Bay Rays lost one of the most significant players in the history of the Rule 5 draft when they left Josh Hamilton unprotected in 2006. He was selected by the Chicago Cubs and traded to the Reds on the same day. Hamilton went on to appear in five All-Star games and win the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2010 while a member of the Texas Rangers.
Last year, the Rays lost pitcher Sam McWilliams to the Kansas City Royals, but he was returned to the Rays during Spring Training.
One reason a team selects a player is the belief that the player can provide immediate help to a team in an area where they are thin on their rosters. Another reason a team may select a player is to hold on to them for the upcoming season and then send the player back to the minors to complete their development.
Moises Gomez, 20, is ranked the Rays 13th best prospect on MLB.com’s Pipeline (Link). Last season Gomez hit just .220/.297/.402 with 16 homers in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. His big development issue is his inability to make consistent contact as he struckout in 33.5% of his plate appearances.
Garrett Whitley, 22, was the 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft and spent the year playing for the Charlotte Stone Crabs alongside Gomez. Like Gomez, he too struggled with contact, batting .226/.339/.412 with 10 homers and 16 stolen bases while striking out in 37.1% of his plate appearances while walking 14.1%. Some of his struggles may be due to missing all of 2018 after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Sometimes, there is a real wild card selected in the Rule 5 draft. A player who battled injury and missed most of the previous season or a player that hasn’t advanced past High-A. In 2016, the Baltimore Orioles selected Anthony Santander from the Indians after he missed time with a shoulder injury. In 2014 the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Oscar Hernandez from Tampa Bay who had never advanced past High-A.
Resly Linares fits both the injury and advancement parameters which make him a long shot to be selected by a team. He does have a high upside, something teams are looking for. Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Elvis Luciano, who was just 18 years old and had never appeared above Rookie League. Toronto kept him on their roster for the entirety of the 2019 season.
Linares made just two appearances for the High-A Charlotte Stone Crabs before succumbing to a barking elbow that cost him the remainder of the 2019 season. In 2018 with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods the left-handed pitcher made 17 starts and went 7-3 with a 3.20 ERA. He logged 84.1-innings while striking out 97, walking 25, and allowing just six homers.
Help The Roster In 2020:
The next group of players are those that have had some success in the upper levels of the minors. A team may feel that these players are worth taking a look at in Spring Training. This group includes left-handed pitchers Kenny Rosenberg and Matt Krook and right handed pitcher Sam McWilliams.
Kenny Rosenberg, 24, was selected by the Rays in the 8th round in 2016. The left-handed starter went 11-5 with a 3.43 ERA spanning 139-innings. Most of his season was spent with the AA Montgomery Biscuits where he went 11-4 with a 3.29 ERA spanning 134-innings while striking out 108 batters and walking 55. A team might feel his role is better suited in the bullpen as a multi-inning reliever or as a backend starter for a pitching thin organization.
Matt Krook, 25, was acquired by Tampa Bay along with Stephen Woods, Christian Arroyo, and Denard Span in exchange for Evan Logoria in December of 2017. Last season with the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits he appeared in 32 games logging 50-innings pitching to a 2-3 mark with a 4.50 ERA. He struck out 52 batters while walking 32.
Control has always been an issue for Krook who has a lifetime strikeout rate of 10.3 K/9 while an unsustainable walk rate of 6.4 BB/9. His appeal has been his ability to keep the ball in the park, much like Zach Britton of the New York Yankees he throws a heavy ball. In 256 minor league innings, he allowed just 12 homers. There might be a team out there that believes they own the secret to unlocking the control issues that has plagued his development thus far this season.
He was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 2019 Rule 5 draft but was returned to Tampa Bay at the end of spring training. He opened the 2019 season with the Montgomery Biscuits going 6-3 with a 2.05 ERA earning a promotion to the Triple-A Durham Bulls. His time with the Bulls was not pleasant as he appeared in 11 games (8 starts) going 1-6 with a 8.18 ERA. A team may feel that a switch in role from starting pitcher to relief pitcher could benefit them.
Other Interesting Prospects:
There are several intriguing prospects that are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. Their chances of getting selected are slim due to advancement, injury, or simply they don’t have the ceilings of other prospects in the system.
Chris Betts, 22, was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2nd round in 2015 and has had trouble staying healthy which has limited his advancement through the minors. The power hitting catcher spent last season with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods batting .210/.333/.400 while swatting 19 homers and driving in 73.
Ryan Boldt, 25, was selected by Tampa Bay in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft and missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. In 2018 with the Montgomery Biscuits the right handed hitting outfielder batted .273/.348/.461 in an injury shortened season.
Jim Haley, 24, was selected by Tampa Bay in the 19th round in 2016. The right handed hitting infielder spent last season with the Charlotte Stone Crabs (85 games) and the Montgomery Biscuits (37 games) batting a combined .282/.329/.443 with 16 homers and 81 homers.