Despite 26th Roster Spot, Teams Largely Pass On Rule 5 Selections

Image credit: OF Mark Payton (Photo by Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO—The addition of the 26th roster spot led many to believe this year’s Rule 5 draft would feature more selections than usual, simply because teams now had an extra roster spot to potentially carry those Rule 5 players all year.

Instead, clubs largely opted to pass on Rule 5 draft selections and hold that extra roster spot for players they could option up and down as needed.

A total of 11 players were selected in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday, the fewest since 2013.

Five players were taken in the first six picks. After that, only six more players were selected in the final 31 picks of the Major League phase.

“I thought there would be a few more, myself,” Astros pro scouting director Kevin Goldstein said.

The Tigers, picking No. 1 overall for the second time in three years, drafted Yankees righthander Rony Garcia to start a run on pitchers to open the draft. The Orioles selected Astros righthander Brandon Bailey with the second pick, the Marlins drafted Nationals righthander Sterling Sharp third overall and the Royals selected righthander Stephen Woods Jr. with the fourth pick. After the Blue Jays opted to pass with the fifth pick, the Mariners closed the early run on pitchers by drafting Astros righthander Yohan Ramirez sixth overall.

Garcia, who turns 22 on Dec. 19, became just the second pitcher selected No. 1 overall in the Rule 5 draft in the last five years, joining Miguel Diaz in 2016. He logged a 4.01 ERA in 25 appearances (24 starts) at high Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last season and held righties to a .197/.273/.356 slash line, but lefties roughed him up for a .267/.334/.457 line.

“We had a variety of people see him,” Tigers vice president of player development Dave Littlefield said. “I think going in, it gives us some flexibility. We’re building. We are a little more settled on the starting side. I would think in general he would have the flexibility to be in the ‘pen, maybe go long. And if he progresses, then maybe as a starter.”

Athletics outfielder Mark Payton was the first position player drafted when the Reds selected him with the 12th overall pick. Payton, 27, hit .334 with 30 home runs and 97 RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas last season and finished second in the Pacific Coast League with a 1.053 OPS. He was selected for Team USA’s Olympic qualifying roster after the season and hit .217/.269/.522 at the WBSC Premier12 tournament.

The Astros had the most players selected of any team in the major league portion. Of the 11 players taken, three were Astros—Bailey, Ramirez and shortstop Jonathan Arauz, who was selected 17th overall by the Red Sox.

“You can try to be positive right now and see it as a tribute to our scouting and player development group,” Goldstein said. “I don’t like to use the word lost. We don’t know if we lost them until the end of next year. We hope we get them back. They’re three players we really liked.”

The Orioles were the only team to select more than one player in the major league phase, drafting Bailey with the No. 2 pick and Cubs righthander Michael Rucker in the second round.

“To be able to compete in the division that we’re in, you really have to have a blend of performance, of pitch mix and of ability to throw strikes,” Orioles pro scouting director Mike Snyder said.

“We think both players have an interesting mix of strike-throwing ability as well as strong pitches to help them compete in the American League East.

While teams were conservative making selections in the major league phase, they were extremely active in the minor league phase. A total of 33 players were selected in the minor league phase. The Tigers made Orioles righthander Ruben Garcia the first overall selection in the minor league portion.

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