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Rule 5 draft

Enough to cover with upcoming Rule 5 draft I thought it deserved it’s own thread.

In this financially uncertain season, teams protected a “typical” number of guys; roughly 50% of all R5 eligible Top 30 system prospects.  The last 6 years this has ranged from 48% - 58%.   It remains to be seen if teams make more Rule 5 selections than normal as a possible avenue to cut payrolls, but the available talent pool is “typical” for Rule 5.  Neither especially weak or strong.

https://www.mlb.com/news/rule-5-draft-eligible-prospects-2020

Top 10 system prospects are almost always protected when eligible for R5.  This year only 2 players ranked in their system Top 10 by MLB.com are R5 eligible:  Minnesota #9 SS-Wander Javier, and (former Padre prospect) Philadelphia #9 RHP- Enyel DeLos Santos.  Anecdotally, this seems typical too; a very small # in top 10 each year.  This means that the very best players available in R5 are in the Top 300-400 best prospects in MLB range.   It’s fair to say that the cream of the crop of the Rule 5 draft (guys who get selected) are in the Top 300 - 500 range of currently rated prospects.

Javier is the only player eligible for Rule 5 with an overall “50” prospect grade from MLB.com.  For perspective, this would put him in Padres & almost every other system’s Top 10 prospects.  $4 MM Intl sign with Big tools but <.200 BA at low A in 2019 sandwiched by no play at all in 2018 (injury) & 2020. Minnesota had 2 open roster spots and did not protect him… because he’s nowhere near MLB ready.

“45” Overall grade prospects are available, and would, by MLB.com’s rankings, land in the #16-17 range in Padres system (probably #20+ in mine).  Tirso Ornelas (#17) is our highest rated prospect with a “40” overall grade, so all of the Padres notable prospects in Rule 5 have “40” grades.

I have always felt that Rule 5 is too under-utilized by most teams, and have never understood the aversion to spending only $50-100K on a player who is even a relative longshot to remain on an active roster.  For example, the Padres paid $100-$125K signing bonuses to NINE players in the 2019 Draft between rounds 12 – 29.  They will be THRILLED if even one of these guys ever just briefly reaches MLB.   What they are “getting” with draft picks is different than R5 pick:  Years of control to fill needed spots in Minors system & the ability to coach, develop, & deploy the player how/where wanted.

But picking a 5th SP candidate or long reliever in R5 who makes a few appearances in MLB then gets returned to the original club for “only” a 100K (plus salary) cost has to be viewed as a victory against the massive costs of all other avenues of player acquisition.  So I’ve never understood the mentality in R5 of “don’t pick guys with #5 SP (i.e. “low”) ceiling”….. why?!?!  Given what mediocre FA SP make, why NOT go the cheap route for competition or even a roster spot if there’s not much performance difference.

Or frequently the picks ultimately get traded permanently to the selecting team instead of being returned to the original team.  This happened last year with Cubs offering Trevor Megill back to Pads, and then Pads just made it a trade; Megill off Cubs 40-man, in their Minors system.   This tactic seems especially pertinent for the Padres this year lacking upper level depth at almost all field positions.  Could they use Rule 5 to simply “buy” a more advanced upper level minors depth option?

Given my big picture on R5 take last post, here is how Padres prospects will get (mis) evaluated as:

Most likely to be selected by MLB.com rankings:”   #17 Tirso Ornelas, #19 Esteury Ruiz, #23 Lake Bachar, #26 Pedro Avila, #28 Eguy Rosario, #29 Jordy Barley….

....Actually Ready to potentially contribute in MLB / My most likely to be selected:   OF/INF Allen Cordoba, Avila, Bachar, Rosario, SP/RP Jake Nix, SP/RP Osvaldo Hernandez

When considering him as a prospect (despite his MLB playing time), I had Cordoba rated more highly than anyone here.  Bat first athletic guy who flashed his hit tool even massively over his head 3 years ago.   No real defensive position, but enough ability to at least fill in at SS & CF very valuable.  Development really hurt by the major car crash injury, but he played very well at Elsinore in 2019 unlike the rated E. Ruiz at the same level.  Avila’s 1 MLB spot start was a big deal; b/c he performed well.  Not really “reaching” here… he has the ability.  TJ recovery is the issue.  Would be way higher on almost any other system’s depth chart than ours.  Bachar is an athletic smaller school late developing guy who could stick.  Rosario just FEELS like he might be close enough to stick in MLB.  Nix has MLB service time, lost 2019 to injury, so hasn’t pitched in 2 years, but good FB.  Hernandez is a limited stuff, big arsenal crafty LH who hasn’t really put it together in Minors, but is older & Pads gave him 2.5 MM as part of the huge 2016 class.  Overshadowed by the other Cuban P’s same year.  LH gives him a better chance to stick.

Big FB RP’s not picked last year:  Darius Valdez, Jordan Guerrero

Obviously Mason Thompson was in this category too!  Valdez was in Feb ST last year & the Instructional League, so other teams just saw/scouted him.  Guerrero didn’t play anwhere in 2020.

Not ready for MLB:  Ornelas, Ruiz, Barley.

Ornelas might get chosen, but NOT ready:  VERY BAD at High A in 2019, sent to Rookie ball to re-work swing, flashed some improvement in brief end of season return to Elsinore.  Good start in Mexico, then suffered a broken arm.  Not a realistic jump for him to stick in MLB, but can 1 team find a way to hide him?  Ruiz oozes bat/speed potential, but hasn’t realized it in High A & is a bad defender with no position.  Barley is a young uber athlete nowhere near MLB ready.

There is an 85-90% chance Padres don't make a Rule 5 pick.  Very talented MLB roster.  Would pick near last ahead of only the WS teams.  Sends the "wrong" message as playoff caliber team.  BUT the Padres have an extreme lack of depth from MLB down to AA at all field positions but Catcher.  So while I think there is a 0% chance Pads would select a Pitcher (they just did with Lawson & Thompson) or Catcher, there is a small chance they select a position player to COMPETE for the last spot on the bench & force the few backups who are on roster now to do the same.  Preller's REAL goal here might be to ultimately trade for the rights to the player, so he can be stashed in the minors.... i.e. "buy" a depth prospect for about the cost of a 12th round draft pick, to help backfill the huge # of prospects traded out at deadline.

By MLB.com rating, Minnesota #9 SS-Wander Javier is highest "rated" guy available in R5.  His big upside, WAY too far away from MLB ready profile is exactly wrong for the Padres situation.  I would look for relatively closer to MLB ("older"), lower ceiling guys who fit specific Utility Infield or CF capable OF role.  I skimmed through the non-C position players ranked #25 or higher left unprotected.

Amazingly, the Angels lead MLB with 7 top 30 prospects (all positions) unprotected.  Phillies, Mets, Padres have 6 each.  A’s, Nats, Twins, Reds 5 each.  So many of the potential picks come from these orgs.  Here are some names.  All are “45” Overall grades by MLB.com unless noted, so all would be in the top 20-30 range in Padres system.  My top choice in Bold

Infielders: 

Minnesota #22:  Jose Miranda 22 3B/2B -  50 Hit tool, low K rate.

LAD #21:  Omar Estevez 22 2B/SS – 50 Hit tool,  but “doesn’t have defensive tools desired for util role”

Reds #19:  Alfredo Rodriguez  26 SS   Cuban.  “Superior Defense” 60 Field & Arm.  40 Hit, 30 Power

Pittsburgh #21:  Kevin Kramer (L)  27 2B  50 All BUT 45 Hit.  “Possible INF/OF super utility”

LAA #26:  Leonardo Rivas (S) 23 SS   Overall: 40 Grade.  60 Run 55 Field & Arm 45 Hit 30 Power   Good plate discipline.  Can play 2B/3B/CF.

LAA #19:   Livan Soto (L) 20 SS  50 Hit & Run, 60 Arm, 55 Field, 30 Power. “Long term SS”, can play 2B/3B, Good: Bat to ball skills, plate discipline, LH swing.  From Braves 2016 INTL signing class lost by penalty (FA).  Hope to trade for/push to Minors

Outfielders:

Pittsburgh #23:  Lolo Sanchez  21  CF  50 Hit tool.  Run 60, Field & Arm 55, Power 35.  Pitch recognition issues.  4th OF profile

Kansas City #14:  Seuly Matias  22 RF  70 Arm, 60 Power, 55 Field & Run, 40 Hit.  Huge K rate.  Poor pitch recognition.  Hope to trade for/push to Minors

A’s #24:   Buddy Reed (S)  25  CF   Overall: 40 Grade.  70 Run, 65 Field, 60 Arm, 40 Hit & Power.   I know, I know…  but he perfectly fits MLB need as a RH CF who can defensively sub at all 3 OF positions, pinch run/double switch.  Particularly good fit if Pham returns (defensive late game sub).   Legit competition for Jorge Mateo & Greg Allen as 5th OF.

A lot of research there. My guess is zero selected (and kept) from the Padres and the Padres select zero.

(Note: I have been for eliminating the Rule 5 for years ... maybe in the next CBA).

Hard to see the Padres (if they see themselves as a contender) using up a 26 man roster slot for a player another team saw no near term value while eliminating a player that has some current value. Even selecting would force a player removed from the 40 man (although I could suggest a few that would not bother me) but in turn would make the next removal of a player more difficult if they wanted to add a FA or make a trade.

Wiggle room though ... maybe not someone on a team's Top 30 but one of Preller's "hidden" gems lurking in 2019 in Rookie / Short season ... maybe some injury that year ... still young (20ish) ... heavily scouted as an international FA by the Padres ... someone who has the tools to develop. Sort of a clone of Cordoba.

A factor behind the scenes is Preller's on-going work to add more experienced candidates for the bench ... if he is on track to add some veteran quality ... he may not want to use the roster spots on a Rule 5.

If Preller somehow doesn't lose a single player from the massive 2016 International signing spree AND draft, that is quite the accomplishment.  Of course, only made possible by all the deadline trades (Trammell, Arias, Potts, Rosario were all selected to 40-man).  Counting those guys, 6 draft picks from 2016 and 8 of the Intl FA signings are now on MLB rosters.  It is possible:  Using MLB.com ratings, Padres don't have a single "45" grade overall prospect - Ornelas is our highest ranked "40"... call him a  "40+".

Clevinger's surgery has a cascade tightening effect on the offseason 40-man roster; he can't go on 60-IL & open up a roster spot till ST, but "need" all of the trade candidate depth SP's like Lucchesi more now.  A bigger variable in Pads not picking someone could be what looks like serious weakness in the FA market for position players.  Why use a roster spot on a R5 pick when there are/will be a lot of MLB experienced vets available for cheap?  Depends WHO is available for specific needs (RH CF capable, etc)

But the Starting Pitching FA market so far looks as strong as ever... with a weaker class than last year.  With stressed budgets and uncertainty, why NOT pick possible #5 SP/swingmen in Rule 5 if your team meets these 4 conditions:  1) Non contender, 2) need to cut/limit payroll, 3) room on your 40-man roster, 4) weak SP depth (see #1).

People tend to look at Rule 5 and say "hardly anyone, especially consequential, gets picked & sticks with team all year".  This is somewhat true, but overlooks the elephant in the room:  The HUGE # of higher potential guys who get added to their team's 40-man rosters to avoid being exposed.  Elite top 100 MLB prospects "would be" anyway, but this forces the issue for lesser but potential MLB caliber guys.

Significant financial issue more for the players, but teams too.  If something happens to Marcano or Thompson in ST now, they're protected $ wise ; would land on MLB IL.  Lawson (TJ) almost certainly starts there; receiving MLB minimum pay vs AA/AAA.

Until MLB DRASTICALLY improves pay for their Minor leaguers, I would not want to see this mechanism removed that forces teams' hands for the best guys in their systems.  The 6 year Minors FA rule is already very restrictive to players.  Removing Rule 5 would increase the # of guys who have to ride out those 6 years before either (finally) making a MLB roster, or getting a better MLB opportunty elsewhere.

Fuzzy on the IL rules but think Thompson, Marcano, and Lawson still could be optioned "injured" to the minors because the have zero ML time. Someone like Wingenter however would go on the ML IL.

However, if it is a 45 day IL injury ... Padres would probably want to keep them on the ML IL to open a roster slot and preserves a minor league option on the player ... that may be important given the three involved.

=====

Since a 40 man roster is fixed ... protecting a prospect who will not help in the current year or selecting a deep prospect who will not likely be useful on the 26 man roster is not helping the current team win while forcing the drop of other roster players (or potential roster players bypassed) who could help. The process is costing jobs (pay) to players as a result of this process.

Think we all agree that minor league players need better pay, benefits, and working conditions but that is a stand alone issue covering all.

I do walk the line on how long before a minor league players qualifies as a FA.  In fairness to the signing club, they paid the bonus ... funded their development ... should get a reasonable control period to potentially recoup their investment. Is that after the 7th year from signing? In fairness to the "prospect", are they being prevented from securing a better path to the ML while being controlled for that long?

Right now a HS kid is Rule 5 eligible after his 5th year and FA after his 7th from signing. College after his 4th and 7th. Maybe drop the Rule 5 and make all minor leaguers FA 6 years after signing year unless added to the 40 man. That benefits all the minor leaguers equally. It could be argued (baring injury debates) a player that has had 5 full seasons of minor league ball and not good enough for the parent clubs ML roster .... probably should be free to find a new organization. Remember slots will be "open" since not protecting less ready options from Rule 5. More movement, freedom for all minor league prospects.

Fuzzy on the IL rules but think Thompson, Marcano, and Lawson still could be optioned "injured" to the minors because the have zero ML time. Someone like Wingenter however would go on the ML IL.

However, if it is a 45 day IL injury ... Padres would probably want to keep them on the ML IL to open a roster slot and preserves a minor league option on the player ... that may be important given the three involved.

You might be right on Lawson, b/c he was not on the 40-man roster at the time he was injured?  But I don't think so:  if he were taken in Rule 5, he would have had to remain on that team's MLB roster, forcing that team to IL him (what the Padres avoided another team doing).   So seems like Padres would be bound by the same rules or MLBPA would howl.  But Padres have luxury of optioning him when he's healthy.  All 3 of these guys will be optioned down either initially or eventually (after MLB IL).  Preserving  minors options irrelevant; OK to use them in 2021; they are not MLB ready yet.  What they would gain if Lawson was on MLB 60-day IL is a roster spot for 2+ months start of season... THAT might have value to a tight roster.  Wingenter would have to be on MLB IL & pay b/c he was injured while on the 40-man roster; afforded that protection... until the offseason.

Found this:

4. Generally an injured player cannot be optioned to the minors. However, an injured player who did not accrue any MLB Service Time during the previous season, has not accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time, and was not selected in the previous Rule 5 Draft, can be optioned to the minors during a period of time beginning on the first day of Spring Training until the 15th day prior to the start of the next MLB regular season. 

so that apparently is within the rules and Lawson can be optioned as soon as ST begins. I guess that also fits Wingenter who has less than 3 years of service time and did not accrue any in 2020.