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Blue Jays Rule 5 Preview and History

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

We'll use this as an open thread for the Rule 5 draft.

The 2014 Rule 5 (nb: not Rule V!) draft will take place at 12 PM today at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. For a background on the Rule 5, as well as a list of Jays of Jays players eligible to be taken (less Ryan Tepera, who was protected), see this post from November.  There's also a full listing of future Rule 5 eligibility bookmarked in the Library. In terms of interesting prospects available from other teams, Baseball America has a nice overview a few weeks ago, as well as another piece yesterday drilling down on six, including the Jays' Greg Infante.

Despite having three open roster spots, we are told not to expect the Jays to take anyone:

The would be in keeping with recent history: they have made only two selections in the Major League portion of the last six Rule 5 Drafts, and really only one as Brian Moran was chosen last year and immediately flipped to the Angels for slot space. The other was Zech Zinicola, chosen from Washington in 2009 and returned midway through Spring Training in 2010.

In terms of the 2-3 players the Jays think they could be at risk of losing, my guesses would that the aforementioned Infante, Andy Burns and John Stilson are the most likely candidates (there's a deeper discussion of each in the piece linked at the beginning).

There's also the minor league phases, where teams can protect another 38 players on their AAA rosters, and 37 on their AA rosters, and players not protected can be chosen for $12,000 and $4,000 respectively with no requirement to remain on a roster or be offered back. The Jays figure to be quite active in this phase, as they've taken 11 players in the minor league phases of the last four drafts. Apparently, the Jays might be targeting the Mets organization:

Before getting too excited, keep in mind that almost all the players selected are considered org guys, not among the top 75 or so players in their organizations. A few make it to the bigs (Eugenio Velez was taken from the Jays in 2005 and made it with the Giants), but most will spent only a year or two in their new organization and never be heard from by casual fans. In the past two drafts, the Jays have lost Evan Crawford (who had a brief big league stint prior to been selected), and former college star Mark Sobolewski.

In the mean time, below is some trivia regarding Rule 5 history (most Blue Jays related):

  • In 1988, a team drafted its own player. Atlanta failed to protect Ben Rivera due to a "clerical error"; fortunately, they had the first pick and selected him. As a sidenote, two-thirds of the 12 players who actually changed teams in that draft came from the two Canadian franchises, 5 from the Jays and 3 from the Expos.
  • There have been two players named Jose Bautista to reach MLB, and both were Rule 5 selections by Baltimore. Jose Arias Bautista was a RHP taken in 1987 from the Mets who enjoyed a 10-year career, and Jose Antonio Bautista was taken in 2003 from Pittsburgh. After being selected off waivers, sold, and traded in 2004, he was traded back to Pittsburgh where he toiled in anonymity until being traded in 2008 for failed catcher of the future Robinson Diaz. And you know the story from there.
  • This is the 38th Rule 5 draft for the Jays. In the previous 37 drafts, they have taken 31 players in the MLB portion from other organizations, and have lost 32 to other organizations (an equal 31 if Moran is excluded). Additionally, in 1994 Tomas Perez was selected first overall and immediately traded to the Jays (he had a decade long run as a replacement level utility infielder)
  • They were especially active in the Rule 5 in the first decade of their existence, taking 17 players including productive players such as: Willie Upshaw (1977), George Bell (1980), Jim Gott (1981), Jim Acker (1982), Kelly Gruber and Manny Lee (1984).
  • As the Jays' system become stocked with talent, particularly from Epy Guerrero's Dominican pipeline, they switched from offence to defence in the Rule 5. From 1986-89, they lost 12 players, at least two per year. This continued from 1991-2000, losing another 12 players while only selecting 4.
  • Overall, the Jays have been much better at finding talent than other teams have been at taking talent. Players drafted by the Jays have accumulated 82 career fWAR while losing players who totaled 42 fWAR (27 by one player, Mike Morgan). Though not all of that was with the initial selecting team, and 69 WAR for the Jays was players chosen pre-1986 so last 30 years have been more barren.
  • Since the 2006 rule change that diluted the Rule 5 draft by allowing an extra year before eligibility, there's been much less activity, with the Jays losing only Brad Emaus in 2010 and selecting just three players for themselves. In 2007, they took Randy Wells from the Cubs but returned him in 2008; he went onto have tow nice years in 2009-10 totalling 5 fWAR
  • I didn't realize until recently that Graeme Lloyd was actually signed by the Jays in 1988, and taken from them in the 1992 Rule 5 draft. He was of course later traded to the Jays in the 1999 Clemens deal, and when he left as a FA after the season the Jays got a pick and chose Dustin McGowan. In a sense, that branch of the roster tree goes back to 1988.