Rule 5 Preview: Devil Rays Looking To Sell First Pick

LLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.–As the hours wound down before the Rule 5
draft, several clubs that had early picks were considering selling them
or passing altogether.

That didn’t mean teams didn’t have
interest in the top of the draft, however. More than four teams had
contacted the Devil Rays in hopes of buying the No. 1 pick overall, and
Tampa Bay reportedly was asking for upwards of $100,000 for their slot. One scouting source had confirmed that the Athletics, who are at 38 on their 40-man roster, paid the Rays $100,000 for the rights to the pick.

The
Rays’™ 40-man roster is full, as is Kansas City’™s, who picks second. The
Cubs have the third pick, and both the Royals’ and Cubs’ rosters are at
the limit.

Clubs picking in the middle of the pack or below are
very interested to move up, but it is uncertain how much they’™re
willing to pay in what is deemed to be a rather thin crop of talent
available this season, due to the extra year of protection that the new
Collective Bargaining Agreement imposed.

But there are a few
intriguing power arms out there, most notably Rockies righthander Pedro
Strop–who worked consistently in the mid-90s with his fastball in the
Rookie-level Pioneer League last season. Strop is a converted middle
infielder who ranked 17th in BA’s ranking of Pioneer League prospects.

“He
can run it up to 95, 96 with good life,” a scouting director from an
American League club said. “The breaking ball has depth and spin, but
he’™s inconsistent with it. Still, repeating his mechanics properly and
being able to locate his breaking ball consistently are all workable
things. He could have some value out of the pen, but there has to be a
patience factor involved. He’™s not very far along, obviously, but in
the right situation it could work.”

The name with the biggest
buzz attached to it the night before the draft was Padres righthander
Joakim Soria, a 22-year-old who spent most of the 2006 regular season
pitching for the Mexico City Red Devils, with a 12-game stint in the
low Class A Midwest League thrown in. Soria also has outstanding life
on his fastball, which sits in the low 90s and tops out at 95. He also
throws an above-average changeup, but his breaking ball remains a
question.

“I know last year it was a problem–he couldn’™t locate it at all,”
a scouting director from a National League club said. “But it’™s gotten
tighter and the reports this winter have been very good and he’™s shown
good velocity. He’™s the flavor of the week in a lot of ways just based
on what he’™s doing now.”

What Soria is doing now certainly is
impressive. The 6-foot-2, 170-pounder is 8-0, 2.02 with a 64-19
strikeout-walk ratio in 62 innings for Obregon in the Mexican Pacific
League. Those numbers have him leading the league in the pitching
triple-crown categories. During the regular season, Soria went 1-0,
2.31 in just 12 innings at low Class A Fort Wayne after coming over
from the Mexican League.

Other names garnering interest (aside
from our Rule 5 preview we rolled out on Monday) were Indians
outfielder Ryan Goleski, a slugger with a right-field arm; Cubs
righthander Lincoln Holdzkom, a hard thrower with an inconsistent track
record of throwing strikes; Tigers utilityman Ryan Raburn, who has
power and can play second base or left field; Marlins righthander Nic
Ungs, a veteran strikethrower; Astros righthander Chance Douglass, a
sinker-slider guy; and White Sox lefthander Jay Marshall, who found
success with a lower arm angle this year and profiles as a left-on-left
specialist reliever.

The draft starts at 9 a.m. ET, and BaseballAmerica.com will have plenty of coverage during and after the draft, both of the major league phase and of the two minor league phases that follow.

For a full explanation of the rules of the Rule 5, we present Alan Schwarz’ seminal work on the Rule 5 from 1995. The story has been amended to reflect the changes made to the Rule 5 in the newest Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Rule 5 Basics

You’ve seen it written and referred to a zillion ways: the Rule 5
draft, the minor league draft, the rule V drafts, that draft at the
Winter Meetings that’s a little too complicated so I’ll wait to see if
it matters later . . .

It’s actually not that involved, so as a public service we now present
to you an observer’s guide to what Baseball America typically refers to
as the major league Rule 5 draft.

The process doesn’t shake baseball’s rafters, but it does add a
wrinkle to the player-development game that’s worth understanding.
Every once in a while, a player makes a significant impact after being
chosen, Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente in 1954 being the classic
example.

The Rule 5 draft has been a staple of the Winter Meetings
almost from its beginning and sprung up as a method to prevent teams
from stockpiling talent in their minor league systems. Players not on
major league rosters would otherwise have little or no chance to find
an opportunity to play elsewhere, though that restriction was further
eased in the 1980s when minor leaguers got the right to become free
agents after six full seasons.

Major league teams must protect players on their 40-man rosters
within three or four years of their original signing. Those left
unprotected are available to other teams as Rule 5 picks.

Players who were 18 or younger on June 5 preceding the signing of their
first contract must be protected after five minor league seasons.
Players 19 and older must be protected after four seasons.

But here’s the kicker: To prevent teams from drafting players
willy-nilly, each Rule 5 pick must be kept in the major leagues the
entire following season or be offered back to his former team for half
of the $50,000 selection price. Few players are ready for such a jump,
so only about 10-15 get picked each year. Fewer still last the whole
season in the big leagues.

“They have to keep a guy for the whole year, so a lot of teams
are safe,” says Paul Snyder, the Braves’ director of scouting and
player development. “But there have been kids drafted out of A-ball.

“(In 1984) Toronto got two guys (Lou Thornton
and Manny Lee) who could pinch-run and play defense. They’re easier to
carry in the American League because there aren’t as many pitching
changes.”

Other miscellaneous Rule 5 rules and tidbits:

  • The “Rule 5″ moniker comes from its place in the Professional Baseball Agreement. The June draft, for instance, is Rule 4.
  • Teams must file their 40-man rosters by Nov. 20, and only those not at the full allotment of 40 may select players.
  • Teams select in reverse order of that season’s finish. The Devil Rays draft first, followed by the Royals and Cubs.
  • There are Triple-A and Double-A segments of the Rule 5 draft,
    with price tags of $12,000 and $4,000 respectively. Minor league
    players not protected on the reserve lists at the Double-A and Class A
    levels are subject to selection, but almost no future big leaguers
    emerge from this process. It’s basically a tool for major league teams
    to fill out affiliates rather than obtain talent.
  • In 1988, the Braves drafted a player from themselves. They
    neglected to protect righthander Ben Rivera on the 40-man roster, had
    the first pick in the draft and took him.

Minors | #2006 #Prospect Bulletin

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