Christmas has come early! Well, no it hasn’t, but for minor league bloggers like yours truly, the Rule 5 draft (like the amateur, Rule 4 draft in June) is a feast for our fascination.
The major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft is pretty complicated. Created to ensure that teams couldn’t sign and horde talent, the draft helps disburse players, forcing teams to make a decision to start their 40-man roster time or not. Basically, any player in a club’s system who is not on the team’s 40-man roster is eligible provided that they haven’t been in the system for four Rule 5 drafts (or five, if the player signs with the club at the age of 18 or younger). This gives teams four or five seasons to decide on whether a player merits inclusion on the roster. In the draft, teams select players and must pay $100,000 per player to select them. The player then must remain on the club’s 25-man roster for the entire season (barring a limited amount of time on the DL) or he must be offered back to the original team for $50,000.
In the minor league phase teams pay $24,000 to draft a player who isn’t on either the Triple-A or Double-A roster and players may be kept with no restrictions.
The Blue Jays have been active in the Rule 5 draft over the past couple of years, selecting Joe Biagini in 2015 and Glenn Sparkman in 2016. Biagini, as we all know, has become one of the most entertaining Blue Jays interviewees and has done some solid work (if inconsistent in the starting rotation last year) as a Blue Jay. Sparkman started the year with a broken thumb and was stashed on the DL for a while and, after working his way back, the Blue Jays decided that they would return him to the K.C. Royals.
The Blue Jays haven’t lost anyone to the Rule 5 draft in the past few years but could very well lose one or more this year. After the Jays protected Rowdy Tellez, Conner Greene, Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Thomas Pannone, Max Pentecost, the former first-round pick, is the highest profile player in Jays’ system who is still available. I’ve seen pundits also think that Jordan Romano, Andrew Case, Angel Perdomo and Roemon Fields could also be attractive targets for other teams.
The Blue Jays didn’t select anyone in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft last year but lost three players.
5-foot-5 infielder Jorge Flores was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies and struggled with injury, missing most of April with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils. After a few games back with Reading in May, he was promoted to the Triple-A Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Playing in 22 games in Lehigh Valley, he hit .260/.304/.300 before being released at the end of July. Signing on with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was assigned to Advanced-A Visalia where he hit .216/.277/.373 before becoming a free agent at the end of the season.
The Yankees selected Jays’ minor league catcher Jorge Saez. Saez spent most of his season in Double-A Trenton where he hit a solid .249/.350/.423 with eight doubles and nine home runs in 67 games after playing only two games in Advanced-A Tampa.
The Texas Rangers selected 6-foot-8 lefty Matt Smoral and he was assigned to Hickory of the Class-A South Atlantic League. Smoral opened his season in mid-May, working out of the bullpen. Only 23, Smoral continued to struggle with his control, walking 21 batters in 14 innings while striking out 25 and giving up 12 runs (10 earned) for a 6.43 ERA and 2.14 WHIP.
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