Baseball's annual Rule 5 Draft is an often forgotten source of talent. It's designed to help players that are stuck in the minor leagues, perhaps blocked by a superstar like Albert Pujols or Evan Longoria, reach the big leagues with a different organization. Make sure you check out our Rule 5 Draft primer if you're unsure of how it works or what makes a player eligible.
For the most part, teams look to acquire role players in the Rule 5 Draft (a bench piece, long reliever, etc.) rather than hit a home run and find a star. The Dan Ugglas and Joakim Sorias are few and far between. The Orioles did select a future All Star in the 2003 Rule 5 Draft, but unfortunately Jose Bautista's breakout didn't occur until six years later with the Blue Jays. Jay Gibbons hit .260/.314/.455 with 126 homers in parts of seven seasons with the O's after they grabbed him from Toronto in the 2000 Rule 5 Draft.
The Orioles have selected a player in major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft every year since 2005, most notably landing Alfredo Simon back in 2006. Steve Melewski of MASN Sports recently spoke to one of Baltimore's higher-ups about how they prepare for the event...
"Now you simply go through all your reports and most people don't realize that there are more than 10,000 reports on this year's (available) players in virtually every club's system," said John Stockstill, the Orioles director of player development. "In our case, (assistant director of player development) Tripp Norton we be involved, I'll be involved and Lee MacPhail (director, pro scouting) will head that with all our scouts ... Lee will use all of our reports available and we'll eventually target several players that we'd like to acquire."
Baltimore is a team with a lot of young talent on their roster and the financial means to make a splash in free agency, but they're still looking to fill some holes by being creative. Stockstill said they rank the Rule 5 Draft eligible players on their radar in several different ways, including by position and by team need. This year they could be searching for a shortstop or backup catcher, and of course pitching.
It's not often that the Rule 5 Draft bears fruit, but considering the cost (just $50K to select a player), it's a great way for a rebuilding team to add some young pieces to the roster and see what sticks.