Minor League Rule 5 Draft Picks Face Long Odds

Players selected in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft, held annually at the Winter Meetings, face long odds of sticking with the club that drafts them. But that's nothing compared with players taken in the Triple-A and Double-A phases of the draft. Historically, they have had virtually no chance of forging big leagues careers.

When Jim Callis explored the issue one year ago, he found that the most decorated big league careers among those taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft belonged to Jorge Sosa, Aaron Miles, Brian Buscher and Edgar Gonzalez (the second baseman) and Eugenio Velez. But only Buscher and Velez contributed to the clubs that drafted them.

The minor league draft consists of two phases, and teams can continue selecting players until their minor league rosters are at capacity. Any player eligible for the draft is not, by definition, held in high regard by his organization. Each club can shield 78 players from the draft altogether—40 on the big league roster and 38 at Triple-A. An additional 37 can be placed on the Double-A roster and be protected from the big league and Triple-A phases of the draft.

A drafting team pays $12,000 for a Triple-A pick and $4,000 for a Double-A one, but players are not bound to those classifications.

Teams made 25 selections in December's minor league Rule 5 draft, led by the Mets and their five picks. Players ranged in age from 20-year-old Angelo Sanchez to 28-year-old Beau Vaughan. Seven of the players had been followed in various winter leagues, while two righthanders, Raul Burgos and Johan Figuereo, had just completed their third seasons as pitchers after converting from other positions.

The very first pick of the Triple-A phase this year brought with it intrigue. The Nationals plucked 22-year-old righthander Arismendy Mota from the White Sox and then promptly dealt him to the Cubs for cash considerations.

Each year, a handful of major league Rule 5 picks are traded, but such a move at the minor league level is practically unprecedented. Making it more unusual was the fact that Mota had yet to pitch in the United States, having spent his first four seasons in the Dominican Summer League. He showed vast improvement last season, going 7-2, 1.81 in 15 starts, with 80 strikeouts in 90 innings.

According the Cubs, Mota is a pure projection pick, a pitcher with a loose arm and room to fill out his 6-foot-2 frame. He aggressively attacks batters with a low-90s fastball featuring late life, and he has good feel for a hard 12-to-6 curveball.

The Padres used their scouting reports to find Hayden Beard, a 24-year-old Australian whom the organization scouted as an amateur. The righthander signed with the Mets in 2005 and pitched 30 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League the following year, but he did not pitch domestically in any of the three subsequent seasons.

"He got into some trouble," Padres international scouting director Randy Smith said, indicating that the Mets had placed him on the suspended list. "Nothing serious, but they didn't bring him back."

Beard was pitching for the South Australia Bite in the country's Claxton Shield event this winter, and Padres scouts saw him touching 94-95 mph with his fastball and flashing a plus slider that touched as high as 87 mph in a relief role.

"It's not too often you get an arm touching 95 for $4,000," Smith said. "He's got a strong body, he's about 6-foot-2, 190 pounds . . . and he seems hungry."

Contributing: John Manuel