On Monday night, all major league teams added Rule 5 eligible players to their 40-man rosters in advance of the winter meetings and the draft.
One notable development was the designation for assignment (DFA) of former no. 1 overall selection Mark Appel, who was taken by Houston in 2013. The Astros selected him in front of players who have gone on to success, like Kris Bryant, Jon Gray and Aaron Judge.
Appel was moved to Philadelphia as part of the Ken Giles trade in 2016 and he has since scuffled, to the point the Phillies DFA’ed him, leaving him open to being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
The Rule 5 draft has been a bit of a gold mine over the years, and one interesting sidebar is the fact that current NFL quarterback Brandon Weeden was picked in the AAA phase of the 2005 draft by Kansas City (from Los Angeles).
There have been many astute Rule 5 picks who went on to great things in the history of baseball and we’ve come up with 20 from the last 20 years that current baseball fans should know at least a little bit about (in chronological order with claiming team and year).
20. SP Johan Santana – Minnesota Twins, 1999
In 1999, the Minnesota Twins had the first pick in the Rule 5 draft, due to finishing last overall, and made a deal with the Florida Marlins. It basically worked that Minnesota would pick RHP Jared Camp from Cleveland if Florida picked Johan Santana and then they would later swap picks. Well, it couldn’t have worked out better. Santana, who was pitching in ‘A’ ball in ’99, made his debut in 2000, pitching mostly out of the bullpen. By 2003 he was one of the Twins best pitchers, going 12-3 in 45 games (18 of them starts) and garnering enough votes to finish seventh in American League Cy Young voting. In 2004, he won the first to two AL Cy Young awards, fashioning a 20-6 record and league leading 2.61 ERA, as well as most strikeouts at 265. As for Camp, he never did get to the major leagues, with his last stint coming in AA ball for the Detroit Tigers in 2002.
19. INF/OF Jay Gibbons – Baltimore Orioles, 2000
The Toronto Blue Jays have dined well off the Rule 5 draft over the years, but in 2000, division rival Baltimore plucked a tasty morsel out of the Blue Jays minor league system with the no. 4 pick in the Rule 5 draft. Gibbons, an outfielder/first baseman, was a great contact hitter with some power in the Jays’ minor league system, hitting .321 with 19 homers and 75 RBI in his first season with Tennessee of the Southern League in 2000. In 2001, he would mostly DH and play first base for the Orioles, seeing action in 73 games and hitting .236, but with 15 homers and 36 RBI. In his next two seasons, he would play in 296 games, hit 68 doubles, 51 homers and drive in 169 runs. Over his seven years in Baltimore, Gibbons batted .260 with 121 homers and 405 RBI in 779 games.
18. RP Luis Ayala – Montreal Expos, 2002
The Expos were only two years removed from moving out of town for good to Washington, D.C. in 2002. But, it was still business as usual at the 2002 Rule 5 draft and they certainly did well with the 14th overall selection. Luis Ayala was actually toiling in the Expos system in 2002 for the AAA Ottawa Lynx, but was signed by Arizona at the end of the season. Yet, the Diamondbacks didn’t put him on their 40-man roster and Montreal scooped him right back up in the draft. It turned out to be quite a prescient move, as Ayala forged a 10-3 mark in 65 games for the Expos in 2003, along with a 2.92 ERA and 1.099 WHIP. In five years with the Montreal/Washington franchise, Ayala sported a 27-32 record in 320 games, 3.33 ERA and 1.246 WHIP.
17. INF Jose Bautista – Baltimore Orioles, 2003
Before he became legendary in Toronto, Jose Bautista scuffled around the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league organization, starting in 2001. he was a decent hitter with a bit of pop in his bat, but there as yet wasn’t a hint of great things to come at the major league level. The Orioles took a flyer on him with the sixth pick in the 2003 draft and in 2004 he made an inauspicious debut with the team, going 3-for-11 in 16 games. From there it was a rollercoaster as he was waived and then picked up by Tampa Bay, followed by appearances on the rosters of Kansas City, the New York Mets and then Pittsburgh again. He would be the only player ever to have his name on the back of five different MLB rosters in one season. Of course, his career really took off when the Pirates dealt him to Toronto in 2008. By 2010, he was an All-Star and AL home run champion.
16. OF Shane Victorino – Philadelphia Phillies, 2004
Three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star Shane Victorino had the distinction of being a Rule 5 pick not once, but twice in his pro career. In 2002, the San Diego Padres got him from Los Angeles, but he really didn’t pan out and was later returned to the Dodgers. Then, in 2004, the Phillies saw something in him and took Victorino with the seventh overall pick (there were only 12 in the Major League phase). The speedy outfielder would repay the Phillies trust in him with eight good years. In addition to being a Gold Glove recipient and two-time All-Star, Victorino twice led the NL in triples, stole 179 bases in 987 games and scored 582 runs. Victorino was also a catalyst in the playoffs for Philadelphia, smacking nine doubles, two triples, six homers and driving in 30 runs in 46 playoff games for the Phillies. He helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, too.
15. 2B Dan Uggla – Florida Marlins, 2005
Few players have had the instant success that Dan Uggla had with Florida after being taken ninth overall by the Marlins in 2005. The following season (2006), the former Arizona Diamondbacks farmhand hit. 282 in 154 games, with 60 extra base hits (27 HR) and 90 RBI. That production earned him an All-Star nomination and got him enough votes to finish third in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Uggla was a hitting machine for five years with the Marlins, hitting 154 homers, driving in 465 runs and logging a batting average of .263. He was also an All-Star in 2008 and won a Silver Slugger award in 2010.
14. RP Jared Burton – Cincinnati Reds, 2006
If not for a slew of varied injuries, workhorse long reliever and set-up man Jared Burton may have had a longer career. In 2006, the Oakland Athletics opted not to put him on their 40-man roster after he had a decent season with Midland of the Texas League. The Reds were able to pick him up in the Rule 5 at no. 8 and Burton would make his debut in early April, 2007. It wasn’t a great one (1/3 inning pitched, three walks), but over the course of a 2007 season interrupted by injuries and rehab stints in the minors, he pitched rather well for Cincinnati. Overall that first season Burton had a 4-2 record in 47 appearances, posting a 2.51 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 43 innings. Over five years in Cincinnati, Burton’s overall mark was 10-3 in 164 games with a 3.41 ERA and 143 Ks in 169 innings. Burton’s total WAR in those five years was also an impressive 2.5.
13. OF Josh Hamilton – Chicago Cubs, 2006
Given his well-documented history of substance abuse and rehabilitation after being picked no. 1 overall in 1999, it was little wonder when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays left Josh Hamilton off their 40-man roster in 2006. If only they could have seen in a crystal ball what was to be. The Chicago Cubs, who picked him third in the 2006 Rule 5 draft, didn’t have foresight either, as they dealt him immediately for $100,000 cash to Cincinnati. He hit the hide off the ball for the Reds in 2007 spring training and in order to retain his rights, they had to keep him on the 25-man roster. In just 90 games for Cincinnati, Hamilton, who had taken an incredible eight years to reach the majors, hit .292 with 17 doubles, two triples, 19 homers and 47 RBI. The Reds, though, didn’t see all that potential and traded him in the 2007 off-season to Texas. It was there that he would be a five-time All-Star and AL MVP in 2010.
12. RP Joakim Soria – Kansas City Royals, 2006
The San Diego Padres maybe should have known what they had in reliever/spot starter Joakim Soria in 2006. He was nearly a strikeout per inning pitcher and a workhorse who got his WHIP down almost 500 points from his previous season in AAA. But, they didn’t put the hard-throwing righthanded Mexican on their 40-man roster and lost him to Kansas City at no. 2 in the Rule 5. Soria wouldn’t disappoint his new team, sporting a 2-3 record and 2.48 ERA in 62 games. He logged 17 saves and had 75 strikeouts in 69 innings, earning a few votes for AL Rookie of the Year. Over the next four seasons in Kansas City, Soria would be an All-Star twice and save 143 games in all, including 266 more strikeouts in 246.1 innings pitched. Soria bounced around between 2013 and 2015, but as of 2017 was back in the AL with Kansas City and still performing admirably.
11. SP R.A. Dickey – Seattle Mariners, 2007
Before he was a Cy Young winner for the New York Mets in 2012, R.A. Dickey’s career wasn’t paved with gold. Drafted 18th overall by Texas in 1996, it was discovered later that he was missing the UCL in his pitching arm, which pretty much kept him mediocre until he discovered how to perfect the knuckleball. Still not in command of that pitch in 2007, he was selected 12th overall by Seattle in 2007 and would appear in 32 games with the Mariners in 2008. He was 5-8 with a 5.21 ERA that season and would take two years and two teams to finally master the knuckle. In 2012, at the age of 37, Dickey put it all together, recording a 20-6 record, 2.73 ERA and league highs in strikeouts (230) and innings pitched (233.2). He is a free agent this year after going 10-10 with Atlanta in 2017.
10. RP Darren O’Day – New York Mets, 2008
Considering the fact they’ve only made the playoffs once in the last eight seasons, we’re going to bet the Los Angeles Angels would still like to have Darren O’Day coming out of the bullpen. Ditto the New York Mets, who, other than 2015-16, have also missed the playoffs nine times in the last 11 seasons. In 2008, the Angels abandoned side-arm reliever O’Day to the Rule 5 draft, and he was plucked at no. 15 by the Mets. He made New York’s roster out of spring training in 2009, but they DFA’ed him early in April to make room for Nelson Figueroa. The Texas Rangers saw the potential and picked him up off waivers and for two seasons at least, he was great (2.41 overall ERA in 152 games). After some trouble in his third year led the Rangers waived him, but he got a soft landing in Baltimore and the rest, is history.
9. SS Everth Cabrera – San Diego Padres, 2008
Off the field, Everth Cabrera has not been a success story, what with being suspended for involvement in the Biogenesis scandal and arrests for alleged driving under the influence of marijuana. On the field, the Nicaraguan shortstop had an immediate impact for the San Diego Padres after they picked him third from the Colorado Rockies system in the 2008 draft. An average fielder, Cabrera had a good batting eye and plenty of wheels at the plate. He hit .255 for the Padres in 2009 and with 46 walks in 103 games boosted his on base percentage to .342. He would steal 25 bases that year in 33 attempts and finish eighth in NL Rookie of the Year voting. In 2012 he was tops in the National League in thefts with 44 and in 2013 he was All-Star for the first and only time in his seven-year career.
8. INF Marwin Gonzalez – Boston Red Sox, 2011
The Houston Astros let Marwin Gonzalez percolate well as a bench depth infielder for a few years after acquiring him in a trade with Boston at the 2011 Rule 5 Draft. The hard-hitting infielder repaid their faith in him this fall, big time. Gonzalez spent quite a bit of time in the Chicago Cubs system as an international free agent before being selected in the Rule 5. He had decent speed an increased his batting average along the way, but not a whole lot of power. Once he made the leap to the majors, though, he didn’t look back, spending a limited amount of time in the Astros minor league system. He finally broke out this season, playing five different positions in 134 games and finishing with a .303 batting average, career highs in doubles with 34, homers with 23 and RBI at 90. Gonzalez didn’t hit for great average in the playoffs, but smoked a key game-tying homer off the Dodgers lights out closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning of Game 2 that propelled Houston to a 7-6 extra innings victory (and tied the series in the process).
7. OF Ender Inciarte – Philadelphia Phillies, 2012
Sometimes the saying “you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone” applies to baseball. The Arizona Diamondbacks employed Venezualan Ender Inciarte in their minor league system for a few years before exposing him to the 2012 Rule 5 draft, where Philadelphia picked him way down at no. 15. He did win a spot on the Phillies opening day roster in 2013, but lasted one day before being DFA’ed so that newly acquired Ezequiel Carrera could be put in the line-up. The D-Backs took him back and after some more time marinating in the minors, Inciarte had a great rookie season in 2014, hitting .278 and stealing 19 bases in 118 games. He put in another solid campaign for Arizona in 2015, recording a .303 average and stealing 21 more bases, but was dealt in the off-season to Atlanta as part of the Shelby Miller/Dansby Swanson deal. A fleet outfielder with a strong arm (41 outfield assists in four seasons), Inciarte has been a Gold Glover the past two years for the Braves and an All-Star for the first time this year.
6. RP Ryan Pressly – Minnesota Twins, 2012
It’s safe to say that Ryan Pressly has actually been better as a major league reliever than he ever was in the minors. Part of the Red Sox system until being picked up in the Rule 5 draft by the Twins in 2012, Pressly logged an overall minor league ERA of 4.06 in 158 games and sported a 28-37 record. In 230 major league games, all with Minnesota, he has so far registered a 3.81 ERA and 16-15 mark. Pressly made the Twins out of spring training in 2013 and saw action in 49 games. He pitched in a career high 76.2 innings, had a 3.87 ERA and struck out 49 batters. He has been a workhorse his last two seasons, throwing in 129 total games, but his ERA has elevated from 3.70 in 2016 to 4.70 this past season. However, his strikeouts per nine innings has increased dramatically from 5.8 his rookie season to 9.0 in 2017.
5. RP Hector Rondon – Chicago Cubs, 2012
It was either ironic, or coincidental — depending on how it’s viewed — that Hector Rondon would later help beat the team that let him go to the Rule 5 draft in a huge World Series. The Cleveland Indians didn’t believe that Rondon, then a starter in their minor league system, was part of their long range plans. The Cubs did their homework and took him second in 2012. Rondon had a so-so rookie season with Chicago in 2013, but by 2014 he became the club’s full-time closer, saving 77 games between 2014 and 2016. He recorded two saves in the 2015 NLDS and in 2016, with the arrival of Aroldis Chapman, he was shifted to set-up duties. In the Cubs drive to a long awaited championship that year, Rondon was fairly effective. He appeared in two games of the thrilling Fall Classic, allowing four hits and one earned run in 2.1 innings, with two strikeouts.
4. 1B Justin Bour – Miami Marlins, 2013
The Marlins struck gold in the 2013 Rule 5 draft — and it wasn’t even in the major league phase. A 25th round pick of the Chicago Cubs, Bour was nonetheless a pretty good hitter in their minor league system for a few years, but faltered in 2013, making the Cubs decision to leave him open an easy one. The Marlins obliged and after a great 2014 campaign with their AAA affiliate (minor league phase picks don’t have to make the team out of spring training), he got called up for a 39-game stint. In 2015, Bour played in a career high 129 games, hitting .262 with 23 homers and 73 RBI, getting him some NL Rookie of the Year votes. Injuries have caused Bour to miss 126 games the last two seasons, but he’s been a force at the plate. In 108 games this past season, the big first sacker had a .283 average with 25 homers and 83 RBI.
3. RP Tommy Kahnle – Colorado Rockies, 2013
Things have definitely come full circle for New York Yankees set-up man Tommy Kahnle. Originally a hard-throwing reliever and some-time closer in the Yankees minor league system, they didn’t put him on the 40-man roster in 2013. The Colorado Rockies must have liked his lofty SO/9 numbers (well over 11), selecting him fourth overall in the major league phase. The thin air at Coors Field did nothing for Kahnle and after a season and a half of so-so results, he was designated for assignment by the Rockies in 2015 and then traded to the Chicago White Sox. He quickly turned things around in the Windy City, lowering his 4.86 ERA from the 2015 season in Colorado to just 2.63 with Chicago in 2016. This past season, he was having a career year with the Chisox, posting a 2.50 ERA and striking out 60 batters in 36 innings when he was dealt back to the playoff bound Yankees. He was rock solid in 32 appearances down the stretch for the Bombers, whiffing 36 in 26.2 innings of work and registering a 2.70 ERA. He also had a good first post-season with New York, allowing just three earned runs in 11.1 innings, with 10 strikeouts.
2. CF Odubel Herrera – Philadelphia Phillies, 2014
Now that the Texas Rangers have Carlos Gomez in center field, we’re pretty sure they don’t regret exposing former minor league farmhand Odubel Herrera to the 2014 Rule 5 draft. Or, do they, actually? While Gomez was an All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers a few years back, he’s been OK with the Rangers, but not outstanding. Herrera, meanwhile has been a constant with the Phillies who is only getting better year over year. He made the Phillies out of spring training in 2015 after being picked eighth in the 2014 Rule 5 draft. He hit .297 in 147 games that year, with 30 doubles, three triples, eight homers and 41 RBI, as well as 16 stolen bases. He hit more homers in 2016 (15) and swiped more bases (25) leading to his first All-Star nomination. In 2017, Herrera was a gap-hitting machine, stroking a career high 42 doubles, along with three triples and 14 homers. He’s a keeper.
1. RP Joe Biagini – Toronto Blue Jays, 2015
It’s been a tale of two pitchers since Joe Biagini first threw a pro pitch in the San Francisco Giants minor league system in 2012. The Toronto Blue Jays, who have done very well historically in Rule 5 drafts, took a flyer on Biagini in 2015, even though his numbers as a starter were less than inspiring. So, the team took him 10th from the Giants and turned him into a workhorse long relief/set-up man in 2016 and it worked. He went 4-3 in 60 appearances for the playoff bound Jays, with 62 strikeouts in 67.2 innings pitched. He was also lights out in the post-season, allowing three hits and no earned runs in 7.1 innings, while striking out six. However, in the 2017 season, the Jays suffered a few injuries to starters like Aaron Sanchez, pressing Biagini back into a starter’s role. In a lost season, Biagini was way better as a reliever than starter, as his starter number’s attributed to a 5.34 ERA (opposed to 3.06 in 2016). A move back to the bullpen would be wise in 2018.