Every year, Major League Baseball finishes the winter meetings with the Rule 5 Draft. Every player 4 years removed from signing with a baseball team (or 5 years removed in the case of high-schoolers) that is not on a team's 40-man roster is eligible to be selected and if a team chooses a player in the Major League phase of it, the team is required to keep the player on the active 25-man roster or give them back to their original team and pay a small fine. Very few great players are available in the Rule 5 Draft, but a few good ones emerge every year. Here are quick glimpses at the 12 players selected in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft this year, in draft order:
1) Fabio Castro, LHP, 20 years old, selected by KC from CHW, traded by the Royals to the Rangers for INF Esteban German: Castro is a diminuitive pitcher but he put up big numbers last year at a very young age. However, those numbers were in High-A Ball, a far cry from the major leagues. Castro may be a great reliever some day, but he is not ready for the major leagues right now. By trading for Esteban German the Royals got an all-around solid infielder with great speed and good plate discipline. It would not surprise me if he establishes himself as a starter in Kansas City. Unless Castro really crashes and burns, the Rangers will likely hold on to him and send him to the minor leagues next year and he will eventually resurface as a very good reliever. Still, I think the Royals got the better end of this deal.
2) Luis E. Gonzalez, LHP, 22 years old, selected by COL from LAD: Gonzalez was in AA most of last year, where he was extremely difficult to hit against. However, he also walked lots of hitters and ultimately that may be his downfall. I don't expect Gonzalez to stick with the Rockies because he cannot throw strikes consistently enough to succeed in the Major Leagues right now.
3) Steve Andrade, RHP, 27 years old, selected by TB from TOR, traded by the Devil Rays to the Padres for cash considerations: Andrade played in AA all of last season, which is surpising considering his age. He was extremely effective though as he posted a 1.97 ERA and struck out 71 batters in only 50 1/3 innings. Even more impressive, he only walked 16 batters. Even though the jump from AA to MLB is a big one, Andrade has a chance to secure a spot in the Padres' bullpen and establish himself as a quality reliever.
4) Victor Santos, RHP, 29 years old, selected by PIT from KC: Santos is not the classic Rule 5 draftee. While most players drafted are career minor-leaguers, Santos has logged substantial innings in the major leagues the last four years. Santos is fairly mediocre and will likely be a long reliever or spot starter for the Pirates in 2006.
5) Chris Booker, RHP, 29 years old, selected by DET from WAS, traded to PHI for cash considerations: Booker spent last year in AAA and earned a brief cup of coffee with the Reds thanks to his outstanding season. Booker has an excellent chance to stick in Phillies bullpen for the entire year.
6) Seth Etherton, RHP, 29 years old, selected by SD from KC: Like Santos, Etherton has logged quite a few innings in the major leagues already, though his Major League career leaves much to be desired. There is a good chance he does not make the Padres out of spring training.
7) Mitch Wylie, RHP, 28 years old, selected by NYM from SF: Wylie has had a nice minor league career, but not a great one. He may be a decent Major League reliever, but I am not convinced the Mets are looking for decent players. My guess is Wylie will be returned to the Giants.
8) Dan Uggla, 3B, 25 years old, selected by FLA from ARI: Uggla may be the most intriguing prospect taken in the Rule 5 Draft. He has a history of struggling the first time he plays in a new league, which is bad omen considering he is going to jump from AA to the Major Leagues. However, he also has a history of exploding when repeating a league. Considering the Marlins have purged their roster, Uggla should make the Marlins in some capacity and though he may struggle this year, he could develop into a quality everyday player for 2007 and beyond. A high risk move by the Marlins, but one certainly worth taking considering their current situation. Very nice pick.
9) Jason Pridie, OF, 22 years old, selected by MIN from TB: Pridie has an interesting power/speed combination but he is yet to channel his talent and become a great ballplayer. Pridie certainly will not start for the Twins and I am not sure he will make their bench either. He will have to make it as a stolen base/defense specialist.
10) James Vermilyea, RHP, 23 years old, selected by BOS from TOR: Vermilyea had good numbers in AA but got lit up in AAA. I doubt he will stick with the Red Sox.
11) Juan Mateo, RHP, 22 years old, selected by STL from CHC: Mateo has spectacular numbers, but they were accumulated while playing High-A baseball. Few players are able to make the massive jump and I doubt Mateo will either. However, he does have a better than average chance because it looks like he has major-league talent.
12) Mike Megrew, LHP, 21 years old, selected by FLA from LAD: Megrew was hurt for almost all of last year and he has never played in any lever higher than high-A, so he is a very high-risk pick. However, the Marlins have nothing to lose and when Megrew was healthy, he was dominant. Megrew may stick around because the Marlins can afford to keep him and he may even turn out to be a quality pitcher. However, Megrew has atleast an equal chance of completely failing.
Overall, this Rule 5 "draft class" looks pretty good. Usually, only a couple players stick and make a difference but this "class" looks like it will produce several. The ridiculous free agent market for relievers certainly added incentive for teams to draft rule 5 pitchers and as a result, 10 of the 12 players drafted were pitchers. It will be interesting to see how many of this year's Rule 5 players make an impact in 2006.