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2015 Rule 5 Draft Background and Open Thread

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

As the almost entirely uneventful (for the Blue Jays) 2015 Winter Meetings wrap-up today, that can only means one thing: it's time for the Rule 5 draft. Once a solid source of talent, in the last decade it's lost of lustre following changes in the 2006 CBA that allowed teams an extra year before their prospects were eligible. But 2014 proved to be something of a renaissance, with 10 players sticking with their new teams including some significant performers such as Delino DeShields Jr., Mark Canha, and Odubel Herrera.

The major league portion gets underway at 10 eastern followed by the minor league portions, with everything streamed on and likely to last under 30 minutes.The Blue Jays have the 21st pick since a number of teams above them have full 40-man rosters and won't be able to pick. The more interesting thing to me will be to see if the Jays lose a player for the first time since Brad Emaus in 2010.

Let's start with some background links:

  • Last month I outlined the Rule 5 process and the protection decisions for the Blue Jays. In particular, Dwight Smith Jr and Andy Burns are interesting players left unprotected who have ability and experience in the high minors which could make them attractive
  • The Rule 5 Eligible list in the BBB Library lays out all eligibles for this year, as well as when prospects in the organization will become eligible. One note is that all minor league free agents signed since all also Rule 5 eligible (though very unlikely to be picked)
  • For more background on the Rule 5 and more history, take a look at last year's post.
  • After rosters were finalized in last month, Baseball America laid out a guide to interesting available players, updated in the last couple days with a few more in the past couple days. A number of interesting ex-Jays prospects: Wuilmer Becerra, Alberto Tirado, Kyle Drabek, Myles Jaye and Balbino Fuenmayor.
  • BA's resident Rule 5 expert JJ Cooper reported last night that Rays prospect Tyler Goeddel is expected to be taken first overall, and Tirado is expected to be taken early as well.
  • Jim Callis of seconded that and added some other names himself. The good news is, there doesn't seem to be any buxx about the Jays guys.

Historically, the Jays have found some gems in the Rule 5 draft, such as George Bell and Kelly Gruber. But it's been a long time since they found value in the Rule 5, the closest perhaps being in 2007 when they took Randy Wells from the Cubs but returned him. And more recently under Saint Alex, the Jays have not even been active participants (in the major league portion), taking and returning Zech Zinicola in 2009 and Brian Moran in 2013 who was immediately traded to the Angels for international cap space.

But since the Jays are under new management, that's probably not the best indication for what to expect now. Let's instead take a look at what Cleveland has done in the Rule 5 since Shapiro became the GM there:

  • 2002: lost Hector Luna to the Rays, Derek Thompson to the Cubs, Marshall McDougall to the Rangers, Matt White to Boston; claimed Travis Chapman from the Phillies
  • 2003: lost Matt White and Luis Gonzalez to the Rockies, Hector Luna to the Cardinals, Willy Tavares to the Astros, and Lino Urduneta to the Tigers
  • 2006:lost Ryan Goleski to the Rays, Jim Ed Warden to the Phillies (both returned)
  • 2007: lost Matthew Whitney to the Nationals (returned), Brian Barton to the Cardinals
  • 2009: claimed Hector Ambriz from the Diamondbacks, lose Chuck Lofgren to the Brewers
  • 2010: lost Josh Rodriguez to the Pirates and Jose Flores to the Mariners with the first two picks, but both players were returned by the end of April
  • 2012: lost Hector Rondon to the Cubs (who has turned in two consecutive elite seasons of relief) and T.J. McFarland to the Orioles (173 mediocre innings since); claimed Chris McGuiness from texas but returned him

In total, under Shapiro Cleveland lost 17 players in the Rule 5 while only claiming two (neither of whom made any impact either for them or since). Given this lack of activity, this report from Mike Wilner is interesting:

It's sort of doubly intriguing since the Blue Jays are attempting to contend next year, and it's harder for a contenders to carry Rule 5 players.

Since the rule change in 2006 which really changed the game, the losses are narrowed to eight, or about one a year. All in all, this suggests a pattern of either not being able to protect or choosing to expose prospects that were at least interesting to other teams. And certainly, losing Rondon in 2012 looks like a bad call. Given this history, it's perhaps not so surprising that the Jays did not protect either Andy Burns or Dwight Smith Jr. So we'll see soon.