NASHVILLE — The last thing that happens at the Winter Meetings is the Rule 5 Draft. It goes down at 10 AM Eastern time this morning.
The draft itself is less-than-riveting. Tons of people in a big room. Team names get called out in rapid fire succession, some occasional players get selected but most responses are simply “pass.” The whole thing is over much more quickly than you think.
I covered the Draft in 2009 and 2010 because it seemed exciting to do so, but it quickly became apparent that it’s rather pointless unless you’re knee-deep in prospect-fu or unless your particular team has signaled ahead of time that it plans to do specific things in the draft. Heck, even some people who work for clubs struggle with identity and significance of players in the draft. I remember back in 2010 I spoke with a team official about his club’s plans for the Rule 5. After talking about how great his club’s scouts were and how hard everyone works, he said, only half-jokingly I think, “we are about 90% sure that a guy we’re looking at in the late rounds actually exists.”
So that’s how that goes. For this year we can say this much: the Phillies, who select first, are on record saying that they intend to select Rays outfielder Tyler Goeddel with the first pick. Goeddel was a supplemental first-round pick in 2011 and has, in the past, been a top-20 Rays prospect. He moved from third base to the outfield recently, however, and is a guy whose game is built on athleticism. All of which are the hallmarks of a “project,” and the Rule 5 Draft is great for projects. Or, as was the case with famous Rule 5 Draft selection Josh Hamilton all those years ago, guys who are special cases of one form or another.
As you probably know, players selected in the Rule 5 have to remain on the 25-man roster all season after being selected. If not, they are offered back to their original team for a nominal fee. Lots of teams eventually figure out that they really can’t carry their Rule 5 selectees on the roster, however, but do want to keep them in the organization. So, historically, a lot of Rule 5 draftees find themselves “injured” at some point early in the season and wind up on the disabled list, where they (a) don’t take up a roster spot; but (b) aren’t subject to being taken back by their old team.
Sometimes the Rule 5 draft spins out a gem for someone. Josh Hamilton was a Rule 5 guy. So was Johan Santana, Shane Victorino, Dan Uggla, and Joakim Soria. But those are the exceptions, not rules, so don’t expect your team to change its trajectory this morning, in that big ol’ ballroom where the draft takes place.