Which 2023 MLB Rule 5 Draft Picks Are Sticking?


Image credit: Mitch Spence (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

With one Opening Day arriving this week and the traditional Opening Day less than two weeks away, here’s a look at how the 10 2023 MLB Rule 5 picks have fared this spring. So far, no one has been placed on waivers, and there is a chance that all 10 picks will remain with their new clubs for Opening Day.

As a reminder, MLB Rule 5 picks cannot be optioned to the minors. Teams must place them on waivers if they don’t make the MLB roster. Another team can claim the player and then faces the same MLB Rule 5 roster rules. Players unclaimed on waivers must be offered back to their original team. That team can claim the player back for $50,000 (half of the original $100,000 that is required to select the player in the Rule 5 draft), or the two teams (the one that picked the Rule 5 pick and the original team) can work out trade compensation to allow the picking team to keep the player without Rule 5 roster restrictions.

Players can be placed on the injured list (if they are legitimately injured), but a player who doesn’t spend at least 90 days on the active MLB roster during the season following their selection must be kept on the active MLB roster the following season until they meet that 90-day requirement.

1. Mitch Spence, RHP, A’s (picked from Yankees)

Spence has made three starts and four appearances for the A’s and has been relatively effective. He’s 1-0, 4.15 with 11 hits, 4 walks and 14 strikeouts in 13 innings. Spence has thrown strikes, has a .229/.302/.333 slash line and he’s only allowed one home run this spring. He’s making a solid case for a spot on a team that has no plans to contend in 2024, or likely in 2025. He could be the A’s fifth starter, or at worst, he could slide into the bullpen as a multi-inning reliever who can move back into the rotation as needed.

2. Matt Sauer, RHP, Royals (picked from Yankees)

Sauer’s traditional stats (2-0, 2.25) look quite good, but his six relief appearances have been more of a mixed bag than that appears. Opponents are hitting .294/.351/.588 against him, and he’s allowed two home runs and four doubles in eight innings of work. Sauer has made a case for a spot in the Royals’ bullpen, and the more stable back of the pen that Kansas City has this year, thanks to a number of veteran acquisitions, makes his path easier. 

3. Anthony Molina, RHP, Rockies (picked from Rays)

Much like Sauer, Molina’s ERA looks better than his actual spring performance. Molina has a 3.48 ERA, but a 6.97 runs allowed average, thanks to four unearned runs. In Molina’s case, the four unearned runs came in an outing where he committed a fielding error to allow Livan Soto to reach. While he did manage to strike out Mike Trout that inning, he also allowed a walk, a double and a single. Miguel Sano hit a three-run home run after he left the game to clear the bases. Molina has lived up to expectations as a strike-thrower and he’s yet to allow a home run. While he hasn’t been spectacular, he looks like the strike-throwing potential back-end starter the Rockies envisioned when they selected him. He’s making a case to be a long reliever for now who could develop into a starter eventually.

4. Shane Drohan, LHP, White Sox (picked from Red Sox)

Unfortunately for Drohan, he’s yet to pitch in a game. Drohan had nerve decompression surgery on his left shoulder in February. The rules of the MLB Rule 5 draft mean that the White Sox have no reason to hurry his return. He can begin the season on the injured list, and once he’s healthy, the White Sox can send him to the minors for a rehab stint before they have to make a decision of whether to add him to the MLB active roster or offer him back to the Red Sox. If his injury sidelines him for most of the year (which is not expected, at least as of yet), the 90 days on the active roster requirement would carry over into next year.

5. Nasim Nunez, SS, Nationals (picked from Marlins)

When the Nationals picked Nunez, they knew they were getting an excellent defender, but one whose bat may not be MLB ready. Nothing this spring has changed that assessment. Nunez is hitting .100/.182/.150. Nunez singled in his first game this spring and doubled on Feb. 27. Since then, he’s 0-for-13. Nunez isn’t striking out, and he’s only made one error in 40 chances, but his bat will make it hard to carry him. Trey Lipscomb’s impressive performance as a play-anywhere infielder may make Nunez’s path a little rougher.

6. Ryan Fernandez, RHP, Cardinals (picked from Red Sox)

The Cardinals wanted to add more swing-and-miss stuff to their bullpen, so they picked Fernandez, even though he gave up 38 hits and seven home runs in just 30.2 innings at Triple-A Pawtucket in his first Triple-A exposure. So far, that seems to be a worthwhile gamble. Opponents are hitting .238/.304/.381 against him, and he’s allowed one or fewer baserunners in five of his six relief outings this spring. Fernandez has shown he can get ahead with his mid-90s sinker, and his slider and cutter have been effective enough.

7. Justin Slaten, RHP, Red Sox (picked from Rangers)

Slaten looks like another excellent Red Sox Rule 5 pick, following in the footsteps of Garrett Whitlock (a 2020 Rule 5 pick). Slaten’s mid-90s fastball has excellent carry, and his sweepy slider has been just as effective. He’s yet to allow an extra-base hit or an earned run in five appearances. Hitters are hitting just .105/.195/.105 against him. Control was a concern, but Slaten has walked only one batter in 5.1 innings.

8. Deyvison De Los Santos, 3B, Guardians (picked from D-backs)

Big league pitching hasn’t blown De Los Santos away. That was a concern for a hitter who posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage in Double-A in 2023. He’s hitting .265/.265/.382 with one home run this spring while playing first base, left and right field and DH. De Los Santos has yet to draw a walk this spring. He has power potential, which is something the Guardians can use. But carrying him on the roster, especially since he’s not really playing third base so far with Cleveland, will be a tough ask. While he may make the Opening Day roster, it’s still a tough ask to see him sticking all year.

9. Stephen Kolek, RHP, Padres (picked from Mariners)

Kolek made the Padres’ travel roster for the Korea Series, so he already cleared a bar that no other 2023 Rule 5 pick faced. Making the 31-player travel roster doesn’t guarantee a spot on the Opening Day roster, but it’s a good sign. He’s been an effective reliever this spring. He’s yet to allow a run in six appearances over 5.2 innings. He has walked four batters to go with five strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .200/.360/.300 against him.

10. Carson Coleman, RHP, Rangers (picked from Yankees)

When the Rangers selected Coleman, they knew he would continue rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. This exploits a Rule 5 loophole of sorts. If healthy, MLB Rule 5 picks must remain on active MLB rosters all season if healthy. But injuries can cut the total time required to be carried on an active roster significantly. Coleman is on the 60-day IL for now, so he won’t count against 40-man roster limits until he’s healthy. When he returns, he can be ramped up at the complex and then sent to the minors on a rehab stint before the Rangers need to make any decision about adding him to the MLB active roster. He will need at least 90 days on the active MLB roster to meet Rule 5 eligibility requirements, which could stretch into next season depending on how quickly he returns to action.

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