This year’s Rule 5 draft class has shown that the Winter Meeting-capping selection process still has meaning. As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper explained recently, a remarkably high-quality group of players swapped hands last December, and odds are that few of them will end up returning to their original teams.
For reference, here are the season’s leaderboards for the players who have accrued major league statistics, for both Rule 5 hitters and pitchers. Let’s have a look at where things stand with the season all but over (at least so far as Rule 5 roster considerations are concerned).
Keepers With Immediate Function
Far from clogging roster space, Odubel Herrera (Phillies), Delino DeShields Jr. (Rangers), and Mark Canha have all been heavily-used, productive contributors to their respective teams. Herrera, in particular, has been a revelation, tallying over three wins above replacement at 23 years of age.
On the pitching side of the equation, Mets selection Sean Gilmartin has been nothing short of excellent in his 45 2/3 frames with the club. The lefty has worked to a 2.56 ERA and seeming to be quite a useful asset moving forward.
Twins right-hander J.R. Graham, meanwhile, has exceeded Gilmartin in usage — he’s nearing sixty innings for a contending club — but hasn’t matched the results. Graham owns just a 5.09 ERA, though there are some signs of hope for the future. He has a respectable 7.3 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 to go with a 46.8% groundball rate, and SIERA values his contributions at a solid 3.76.
Needless to say, all of the above players will be retained by their new organizations. While many Rule 5ers who are successfully acquired end up back in the minors following their season of limbo, the odds seem good that all of these players will once again be significant pieces of their teams’ puzzles in 2016.
Little-Used, Future-Looking Assets
Of course, there are other Rule 5 selections who are now all but certain to be kept. But the road traveled by their teams involved much more difficult roster juggling. As with Adrian Nieto (White Sox) and Wei-Chung Wang (Brewers) last year, these players were not significant contributors at the major league level despite taking up active roster spots all season long.
25-year-old infielder Taylor Featherston has had at least some function given his valuable glove, but has slashed just .156/.210/.227 in only 141 plate appearances for the Angels. He makes for a nice analogue to Nieto, who similarly was considered a quality defender up the middle who wasn’t quite ready for MLB pitching, but managed to hold on all season long. Featherston could follow suit and return to the minors next year.
This year’s first overall Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez missed the beginning of the season for the Diamondbacks when he hit the DL with a broken hamate bone. He was activated in early July, just in time to spend the required ninety days on the active roster to complete a Rule 5 acquisition. He’s slashed just .107/.219/.143 in a meager 33 plate appearances since that time, so he’s all but certain to be sent down in 2016.
Orioles righty Jason Garcia has only thrown 27 innings, posting a 4.33 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 4.7 BB/9. Like Wang last year, a mid-season injury eased the active roster burden in his case. It’s not yet clear what will happen with Garcia next year, but it’s likely that he’ll go on optional assignment to develop as a starter.
Also set to be retained upon the conclusion of the 2015 season are lefties Andrew McKirahan (Braves) and David Rollins (Mariners). The two southpaws have had startlingly similar paths: PED suspensions that actually made it easier for their clubs to retain them, followed by fairly ugly earned run averages but reasonably promising peripherals in limited action. Both will cross the 90-day threshold this year, so they can be retained without requiring time on the roster to start 2016.
Still In Limbo
It is possible for a player to remain with a selecting team but still remain in limbo. That’s because of the aforementioned 90-day rule. Players that haven’t spent that much time on the active roster due to DL or suspension stints must first accrue the remainder in the following season before they can be permanently acquired. If and when they do reach that point, such players can be freely optioned to the minors by their new teams.
This year there is one such multi-year player: righty Daniel Winkler, was a Tommy John patient who was only just activated recently by the Braves after missing most of the year. Hhe’s yet to appear in competitive action for the Atlanta organization — in the minors or the majors — and had never seen big league action before the year. He’ll pick up just under a month of time on the active roster late this year, and will need to be on the club’s 25-man for about two months at the start of next season for his rights to be kept.
The ride was over months ago for a trio of hurlers: Jandel Gustave, Logan Verrett, and Andy Oliver. The first two were returned to their former teams, while Oliver hit free agency because he was a two-time Rule 5 pick. Interestingly, Verrett has played a reasonably significant role in the majors with his original team since being returned. He’s thrown 23 1/3 innings of 1.93 ERA ball, with 8.9 K/9 against 1.9 BB/9, for the soon-to-be NL East champs.