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The Rule 5 Draft: A 10 year look back

The Rule 5 Draft: A 10 year look back
December 4, 2013
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One of the first articles I wrote for this site was a Rule 5 Draft piece to show how it has changed and developed over the years and a breakdown of each draft to try to find the trends in the draft. Then, I talk about who is likely to be selected and who should be safe.  Today, this is my fifth time writing this review in advance of the Rule 5 Draft.

Every year the fans tend to get a little too nervous about this draft. Every year I have fans asking me, with fear, if a certain player is going to be selected.  This is my attempt to preemptively try and answer some of those questions before the draft occurs.

So here is a break down; now a ten-year retrospective on the Rule 5 Draft. Some of the material is updated, while material is borrowed from previous years. At the end of the day, I hope this will allow everyone to better see how things are likely to develop with the draft this year.


In the 2003 Rule 5 Draft there were a total of 20 selections, only 7 of which were kept (roughly 1/3). There was one trade which most Indians fans will remember: the Indians traded a selected player, Willy Taveras, along with Luke Scott for Jeriome Robertson. While a stinker of a deal now, I can’t fault the Indians for trading for a lefty coming off a 15 win season in a hitter’s park. The most frustrating part about that deal in general has to be that Luke Scott was just a throw in. The really interesting thing about this draft was five of the first six picks were from the Pirates. The GM really blew this process, and while most were returned, I don't see how a team that bad could decide to not protect prospects.

The breakdown of players selected in the draft is as follows:

Starting pitchers: 1 (5%)
Middle relievers: 12 (60%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 1 (5%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 2 (10%)
Third basemen: 0 (0%)
Utility: 2 (10%)
Outfielders: 2 (10%)

Indians selected: 4 (20%)

The big name in this draft was that of Jose Bautista who is now an All Star who played for five different teams that year, so it was not just Pittsburgh who missed on him as any team in baseball could have picked him up at multiple points.  Another name to note is Jason Grilli who has had an up and down career but was a central part of the pen for the Pirates last year. The four Indians selected in the draft were Willy Taveras, Hector LunaLino Urdaneta, andMatt White. Of these players only Luna was not offered back to the Tribe. The biggest names selected in the draft were either Taveras, Matt White, or Chris Shelton to Detroit. In other words, it’s not like many All Stars were taken that year. White’s name is only well known because he is baseball’s first billionaire player, thanks to buying land and finding out it was worth over $2 billion thanks to a deposit of rare stone and not because of his seven games of big league play. I have listed the category of a utility player – this is a player who logs 50 or more games at multiple infield positions.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 2 (10%)
AAA: 6 (30%)
AA: 10 (50%)
A+: 2 (10%)

Teams seemed to take the biggest risks with utility players and middle relievers when they reached down to AA. Luna and Gonzales were both players who spent a full year in AA. The two players taken from high A were Taveras and Bautista; both had logged a lot of time in high A and came with solid pedigrees. Taveras was the Indians 4th ranked prospect in 2001 and Bautista was the 7th ranked prospect in 2003.


In the 2004 Rule 5 Draft there were 12 players selected and of those only three were kept. There were no deals and the Indians did not have any players selected. The breakdown this year was:

Starting pitchers: 3 (25%)
Middle relievers: 5 (42%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 0 (0%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen: 1 (8%)
Utility: 0 (0%)
Outfielders: 3 (25%)

Of the players kept, Andy Sisco is someone people made a big deal of when he was first drafted but who has really failed to do much since then. The best player selected in this draft was Shane Victorino, but he was not actually kept. Victorino could not make the Philly squad, but the Dodgers didn’t want to pay the money for the return fee so Philly was able to keep him. It’s undoubtedly a mistake the Dodgers regret to this day as the return fee is virtually nothing. Another name of note is Tyler Johnson who was a solid reliever for the Cardinals the year they won the World Series, but has since suffered an injury which derailed his career.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 1 (8%)
AA: 5 (42%)
A+: 4 (33%)
A-: 1 (8%)
R: 1 (8%)

Victorino was the one player with MLB experience. The players taken from the low levels were Andy Sisco who was a 6’10” lefty, Angel Garcia a 6’7” righty, and Marcus Carvajal who was a reliever. Sisco and Carvajal both stayed with their teams for the year working out of the pen.


In the 2005 Rule 5 Draft there were again 12 selections and only 3 players kept. There were also no trades and zero Indians selected. The breakdown this year was:

Starting pitchers: 2 (17%)
Middle relievers: 8 (67%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 0 (0%)
Second basemen: 1 (8%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen: 0 (0%)
Utility: 0 (0%)
Outfielders: 1 (8%)

The big player that was selected during this year was Dan Uggla, who moved from Arizona to Florida. Another interesting aspect of this draft was pitcher Victor Santos who was selected, stayed on roster all year, and then was cut after the season was over. Now three years into this review we see that the draft is dominated by middle relief arms, specifically players who were relievers in the minors.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 2 (17%)
AAA: 6 (50%)
AA: 1 (8%)
A+: 3 (25%)

The big name from this draft Uggla was a player who had repeated AA and seemed like a player who had stalled. The rest of the players were more of a who’s who of the typical Rule 5 pick, that being a reliever who had failed to do much.


This year there was a rise in both players selected and kept. There were 19 players taken and 4 kept, but the percentage of players kept dropped to 21%. There were also two trades that happened this season. The first player taken was an Indian, Ryan Goleski, but I am sure Oakland wishes they had taken Josh Hamilton instead. Here is the breakdown for the draft:

Starting pitchers: 1 (5%)
Middle relievers: 10 (53%)
Catchers: 3 (15%)
First basemen: 1 (5%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen: 0 (0%)
Utility: 2 (11%)
Outfielders: 2 (11%)

Indians selected: 2 (11%)

This is the most interesting draft in this cycle because not only were there two Indians taken, but two future All-Stars were also selected. The two Indians were Ryan Goleski and Jim Ed Warden, both of whom were returned to the Tribe. The All-Star players that year were Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria. Both players were surprise picks at the time but have since looked like genius moves. Hamilton had been so long out of the game and Soria had never played above A ball. They were both well thought of and ended up being the 2nd and 3rd players selected in the draft. Another interesting pick was when Baltimore took Alfredo Simon, traded him and in time he was returned to Texas.  In just two more years he would end up back in Baltimore as their closer after being signed from the Mexican League.

This draft should also be noted for the solid relievers that it turned out with players such as Jared BurtonKevin Cameron, and Sean White, thus meaning that over a quarter of this draft ended up being productive. 2006 might go down as the best draft ever for the Rule 5 just in terms of results.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 2 (11%)
AAA: 4 (21%)
AA: 9 (47%)
A+: 3 (16%)
A-: 1 (5%)

The lowest player selected was Soria, but it should be pointed out that he had been pitching in the Mexican League that year and faced a better level of competition early on. San Diego owned his rights and tried to stash him and failed after they had signed him out of Mexico after he left the Dodgers organization. Josh Hamilton actually counts as a AA player. I know the stories tell about low A, but he had some time in AA in the years before 2006. The three relievers I mentioned before were all at AA, as were both of the Indians losses that year. I must say I think 2006 was a year with a clear loser in Oakland as not only did they draft the wrong player first and pass on two All Stars, but then they lost a solid reliever in Burton and ended up with nothing to show for any of it.


The 2007 Draft saw a total of 18 players drafted, and of those only 3 were kept. Once again the percentage of players kept this time was around 17%. In terms of trades there were a total of four, so a lot more players were able to stay with the team that selected them. There were two Indians selected and one of them, Brian Barton, was one of the players kept. Here is the breakdown:

Starting pitchers: 2 (11%)
Middle relievers: 12 (67%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 0 (0%)
Second basemen: 1 (5%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen: 1 (5%)
Utility: 0 (0%)
Outfielders: 2 (11%)

Indians selected: 2 (11%)

There was one future All Star in this draft: R.A. Dickey. He was drafted by Seattle who later made a trade with the Twins to keep him. He had already started to throw his knuckle ball and was just looking for an extended chance at this point in his career. After the season was done he resigned with the Twins as a free agent.  Once again the draft was dominated by guys that teams take a flier on to see if they can help the pen. After all, $50K is cheaper than even the minimum free agent contract.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 1 (6%)
AAA: 7 (37%)
AA: 7 (37%)
A+: 2 (11%)
A-: 1 (6%)

In 2007 there was a huge switch to relievers in the higher levels. Of the players taken from the lower levels all were returned. Teams seemed a lot more hesitant to take a risk on a player who was farther away.


The 2008 Draft saw a lot of players selected with a total of 21 taken. Even after all of the fear Cleveland fans had that year not one of the players taken came from Cleveland. Four players lasted the whole year with their new team or roughly 20% of the players, though it should be noted one of the players had Tommy John surgery and that’s why he was able to be kept. There was one trade with Minnesota gaining starting pitcher Justin Jones. Also 4 players were outright waived and one of them is now in the Independent leagues. Here is the breakdown:

Starting pitchers: 5 (24%)
Middle relievers: 11 (53%)
Catchers: 2 (10%)
First basemen: 0 (0%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen: 0 (0%)
Utility: 2 (10%)
Outfielders: 1 (5%)

Indians selected: 0 (0%)

The most successful player who was taken and kept was Everth Cabrera who San Diego selected with the third pick from Colorado. He has turned into a solid starter who led the National league in stolen bases last year.  The player who has been the most successful though was Ivan Nova, who was taken and returned by the Padres before the end of March. He has gone on to be a solid starter for the Yankees. While there was a rise in starting pitchers taken, the draft was still dominated by the middle relievers.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 1 (5%)
AAA: 4 (19%)
AA: 11 (53%)
A+:5 (25%)

As it is most years, the majority of players taken are players who are in AA. The reason for this is simple: if you are successful in AAA, then you are more than likely protected. If you’re in AA and eligible for the Rule 5 Draft then somewhere along the way you had a hiccup. Maybe you repeated a level or got hurt, but either way it slowed your development. Teams try and find those players who could help them from those who have had a slower development cycle.


The 2009 Draft saw a drop in players taken with only 17 players selected. The interesting thing about 2009 was the number of deals that occurred as parts of other deals. For instance the first pick in this draft was traded to the Yankees as the player to be named later from an earlier Brian Bruney deal, this also happened between Houston and Florida and Baltimore and Texas. In all cases these players were later returned to their original team. This was the lowest total since 2005. Cleveland had only one player selected, Chuck Lofgren, who the Indians worked out a deal so Milwaukee could keep him in exchange for hard throwing but wild reliever Omar Aguilar.

Two players lasted the whole year with their new team or roughly 11% which is another number that is lower than normal as it usually is in the 16-22% range. One of two players was Hector Ambriz, who was chosen by the Tribe and injuries derailed his career. Three players were waived, and their original team declined to pay the return fee for them. Here is the breakdown:

Starting pitchers: 6 (35%)
Middle relievers: 8 (47%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 0 (0%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen: 1 (6%)
Utility: 0 (0%)
Outfielders: 2 (12%)

Indians selected: 1 (6%)

In terms of success there are really only three choices. Hector Ambriz of the Indians, which I am sure no Tribe fan will be shocked to hear was not the most successful of the chosen players. The other two choices are David Herndon who was the last choice and managed to stay the whole year on a very good Phillies team. The other choice is Kanekoa Texeira who was drafted by Seattle, then waived and spent the rest of the year with KC. In the end the player who went on to make the bigger impact is Herndon.  He pitched for a good team, but suffered an arm injury which caused him to be released, and is still trying to get back to the majors.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 2 (12%)
AAA: 6 (35%)
AA: 7 (41%)
A+: 2(12%)

As it is most years the majority of players taken are players who are in AA. The difference in this case is that there were almost as many AAA players as AA players. The gap between the levels was a lot closer that year in terms of talent taken.


The 2010 Draft saw 19 players taken just like the year before, and on top of that the top two picks were both Indians.Jose Flores also started out a new trend that year where we saw players taken from low A. It was the most players taken from low A and also the most players selected from A ball that we have seen in this sample size. It means teams are reaching lower to try and find an arm that can help them, looking to maybe find the next Soria. Of the 19 picks, 5 made it without being offered back or 26% of the players chosen which is also higher than usual. The amount of trades were also up as 4 players including the Indians own Josh Rodriguez was traded.

Starting pitchers: 6 (32%)
Middle relievers: 10 (53%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 0 (0%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen: 0 (0%)
Utility: 3 (16%)
Outfielders: 0 (0%)

Indians selected: 2 (11%)

As mentioned before this was interesting for Tribe fans as the top two picks came from the Indians. The most successful player was actually the pick right after them as Joe Patterson became an important lefty for the Diamondbacks pen.  The top player has to be George Kontos who was taken by San Diego and returned to the Yankees before March was over, a lot like the Nova pick. Kontos would later be traded to the Giants, and this past season was an important piece in their pen, appearing in 44 games with an era of 2.44. Of the 4 players to make it three were pen arms, and the only bat was Michael Martinez, a 27 year old utility player. So of the 4 players chosen three of them were on playoff teams proving good teams can still find help in this draft.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 0 (0%)
AAA: 8 (42%)
AA: 5 (26%)
A+: 3(16%)
A-: 3 (16%)

The trend here is the teams willing to spend $50K and take a risk on a low level arm. This is a trend that I think could hurt the Indians long term as the Indians have a lot of promising arms in the lower levels who are eligible. The other interesting change is that this shift comes at the expense of AA where in the past the majority of players had been taken. The data shows to me that the Indians might need to be more worried about losing highly projectable arms or near ready arms instead of just a solid pitcher in AA.


This draft was one of the most interesting ones to date. The reason is simple, and that is because there was a brand new trend to take players who are on the DL. There were only 12 selections that year and 4 of those selections spent the whole year on the DL. This means those players are still subject to the same rules in 2012, but still shows teams have no fear about injured players when it comes to rolling the dice in Rule 5.  It strikes me that teams might have realized that the real value might just be in these players.

The data for this draft is weird as technically 9 players were kept which would be 75%, which would be more than the previous top two years combined, in terms of players kept. The problem is almost half of those players are still under Rule 5 stipulations, so in many ways total players kept is incomplete. The bottom floor value is 41%, which is already the highest value of recent years in terms of players kept.

Starting pitchers: 3 (25%)
Middle relievers: 5 (42%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 0 (0%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen:  (0%)
Utility: 3 (25%)
Outfielders: 1 (8%)

Indians selected: 0 (0%)

The most successful player selected has to be Lucas Luetge, who was a great left handed specialist for the Mariners. The other players who were selected in general put up some pretty ugly numbers.  Luetge was the only player to not post a negative WAR of any player selected.  There was only one trade made to keep a player, but we did see another two trades where teams acquired players who had been selected.  From the group of four injured players, none of them made it the majors with their new teams. Two of those players Gustavo Nunez and Brad Myers ended up back with their original teams. The other two players Lendy Castillo and Robert Fish were both acquired by their new teams in trades. So in the end none of the injured players were kept, so the final rate of retention was 41% which is still extremely high. If you are curious for 2013 the top player from this draft was Marwin Gonzalez who was a solid utility guy while Luetge ended up spending part of the years in the minors.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 0 (0%)
AAA: 4 (33%)
AA: 6 (50%)
A+: 2(17%)
A-: 0 (0%)

The last two years, there has been a change where the players are coming almost entirely from the upper levels. This changes the previous trend, where teams were trying to go lower and grab top talent in the lower levels and develop them. Teams are now just grabbing upper level players and hoping they can help.


The 2012 draft saw 15 players drafted. It was a very active draft for the Indians who selected a player and lost another two in the draft. The Rule 5 happened before the Indians made any moves last year, and their selection ofChris McGuiness was made as a fallback pick. They had a need at first base, and if they had not made any major moves I think he would have made the Indians opening day roster. Six players (40%) were retained by their team and the best of the group was Ryan Pressly a right handed pitcher who was taken by the Twins from the Red Sox with the fourth pick. He pitched in over seventy innings for the Twins with an era under 4 and a positive WAR. I also picked Nate Freiman as the top player, a 6’8” first basemen the Athletics found, who posted an OPS over .700 in 80 games this year. Of the top four picks only the Rockies pick Danny Rosenbaum failed to be retained by his new team. The Indians lost two players in this draft, Hector Rondon and TJ McFarland, and both stayed with the teams who selected them for the entire season.

This draft saw a sudden change, as it was debatable if more relievers or starters were taken. There were two pitchers I counted as relievers because they ended 2012 that way that had worked both as starters and in the pen. Pressly in particular was a terrible starter but excelled once he was moved to the pen in AAA for the end of the year, which I am sure was something the Twins had noticed. The other interesting trend in this draft was the amount of first basemen selected as the previous nine years had seen two selected in total. This one draft doubled the first basemen taken this century.

Starting pitchers: 4 (27%)
Middle relievers: 5 (33%)
Catchers: 0 (0%)
First basemen: 2 (13%)
Second basemen: 0 (0%)
Shortstops: 0 (0%)
Third basemen:  (0%)
Utility: 2 (13%)
Outfielders: 2 (13%)

Indians selected: 2 (13%)

This data shows that 2012 was a pretty big change from past history. The amount of relievers taken were down and the amount of first basemen was way up. The amount of hitters taken in general was much higher as well. Also, teams didn’t take any veteran arms as typically one or two of the arms is a journeymen type that a team takes as depth. The only veteran player was a utility player. This year every player selected was young. This shows me that there is a chance that the approach to the Rule 5 could be changing.

MLB: 1 (7%)
AAA: 4 (27%)
AA: 7 (47%)
A+: 3(20%)
A-: 0 (0%)
R: 0 (0%)

The data here shows that the levels players taken from are really staying constant. The interesting thing is that the top two producers were both taken from AA, which shows that the jump from AA to the majors is really not as big a deal as it used to be.

10 year total

Now, if the data from the past 10 years is added together, it is possible to see who and what a team like the Indians could lose. In the 10-year cycle there were 165 players selected and a total of 42 kept, so roughly only 26% of all players selected stick. The average amount of players selected every year is 17, which basically means an average of 4 players sticking with a Major League club. In that same time there were 16 trades, which show by and large teams are reluctant to let their own players go.

Starting pitchers: 33 (20%)
Middle relievers: 86 (52%)
Catchers: 5 (3%)
First basemen: 4 (2%)
Second basemen: 2 (1%)
Shortstops: 2 (1%)
Third basemen: 3 (2%)
Utility: 14 (9%)
Outfielders: 16 (10%)

Indians selected: 13 (8%)

What this data shows (at least to me) is that the main use of the Rule 5 Draft is to find bullpen help. I mean, there were more relievers taken than every other position combined. There are also a decent amount of outfielders, utility players and starting pitching selected, but by and large the draft is dominated by bullpen help. Although, this started to shift last year as teams started taking starters and making them relievers in the majors for them.

It is a bit distressing to see 8% of all players selected come from the Indians, I mean the Indians are just 3% of major league baseball so they are losing almost three times what one would expect the average players lost to be. A vast majority of those players have been returned so the Indians have actually just gained a lot of cash in exchange for their players being selected. Still, for a team that has not been good for a majority of this time table, one would think the protection of the players who are young and under control would be a priority.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 12 (7%)
AAA: 49 (30%)
AA: 68 (41%)
A+: 29(18%)
A-: 6 (4%)
R: 1 (1%)

So by and large the players who are selected are from the upper levels as 78% of all players taken are from AA or higher. This is the area from which a team like the Indians should be most concerned about losing a player. A team who takes a player has to think that player can help them next year, so it makes sense that the most advanced players are selected.

The big question is always who might be selected from the Indians this year. Unlike years past there is not the stress and worry those years the past had. There are not a lot of big name players that fans are afraid to lose. I would say the most likely player selected would be Matt Packer as he has been a solid pitcher coming up through the minors and while his stuff is not electric he has performed well and more importantly is left handed. If not for injuries Giovanni Soto might have made the 40-man this year. He is another lefty with a long history of success in the minors, but his prospect pedigree is stronger than that of Packer. He looked like a sure fire LOOGY after the 2012 season, so a team could still take a chance on the arm.

Tyler Holt is a hardnosed, dirtbag type of player that Francona has loved. He is a plus defender at all three outfield spots, but his production with his bat in the minors show that he is best case a defensive depth guy for most organizations. Alex Monsalve was a top prospect once for the Indians as a catcher with good offensive upside. Then the injuries started; however, some team might want to take the chance on his upside. The wild card player to me though is Elvis Araujo. Of all the players mentioned the one with the best upside is Araujo, who is a big lefty with an electric arm. The problem has been injuries and lack of production, but a team could stash him as a second lefty just based on the potential in his arm even if he has not shown much over the last two years.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at

User Comments

December 5, 2013 - 9:46 PM EST
Seems like the Indians have an unusually high percentage of players draft. I wonder what other teams are higher..
December 5, 2013 - 8:14 PM EST
Barton washed out, but I am sure he is fine. He had a engineering degree, which some say was part of the reason he went undrafted. Played those 2 years in the majors and that was it
December 5, 2013 - 7:28 PM EST
Rondon is a loss that will always hurt. The Cubs could steal him and alow him to basically learn at the Majors because they were non-contending and rebuilding. It's a testament to their faith in his potential that they stuck with him the entire year even though his ERA bounced over 6.00 and back.

The Tribe hasn't made many such mistakes, but dawdling about trying to find the next 'Chris Davis' with McGuiness exposed Hector and the Cubs snatched him up.

They believe he has a genuine chance to crack their rotation.

He sure would look good in our pen with the same possibility.

People forget that before his Tommy John, Rondon WAS the most prized arm poised to crack our big league rotation.
December 5, 2013 - 4:45 PM EST
Whatever happened to Brian Barton? Wasn't he a rule 5 loss for the Tribe?
lee jian wei
December 5, 2013 - 3:23 AM EST
good article

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