There were 18 players selected in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft — which is to say that 18 players who were left off their organizations’ respective 40-man rosters were selected by a new team and given a chance to break camp on a 25-man roster.
Eligibility for the Rule 5 Draft is dependent on age and minor league service time, but the Rule 5 is generally an opportunity for potential big leaguers who aren’t in their clubs’ immediate plans to break through elsewhere, so long as they can remain on their new club’s roster/disabled list for the entire season — including at least 90 days of active roster time. (A player who falls shy of those 90 days of active service due to DL time retains his Rule 5 status in following seasons until he has accumulated 90 active days on the 25-man roster.) Rule 5 players cannot be optioned to the minors without first being passed through outright waivers and, if they clear, then offered back to their original club for $50K (half of the $100K cost of making a Rule 5 pick in the first place).
Here’s a look at the spring standing of the current slate of Rule 5 picks:
- Victor Reyes, OF, Tigers (selected out of D-backs organization): The 23-year-old Reyes is hitting just .200/.243/.229 through 37 plate appearances after being selected with the No. 1 pick in this year’s Rule 5 Draft. Obviously that’s not the performance Detroit was hoping to receive, though that hasn’t ruled him out for a roster spot on a rebuilding club. Manager Ron Gardenhire recently called it a “really big” decision when chatting with the Detroit Free Press’ Anthony Fenech, who examines the decision at greater length in his column.
- Julian Fernandez, RHP, Giants (from Rockies): The 22-year-old Fernandez has yet to pitch above A-ball since debuting as a 17-year-old back in 2013, and he’s been hammered for 10 runs on six hits and four walks with six strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings with the Giants this spring. It’s tough to see him sticking, even if he can top 102 mph with his heater (as Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper noted on Twitter at the time of the draft).
- Nick Burdi, RHP, Pirates (from Twins via trade with Phillies): Burdi, recovering from Tommy John surgery, has yet to pitch this spring and will be on the disabled list to open the season.
- Carlos Tocci, OF, Rangers (from Phillies, via trade with White Sox): Tocci has swiped six bags and reportedly shown good leatherwork in the outfield, making him a plausible reserve outfield candidate if the Rangers decide to prioritize those attributes in rounding out their bench. On the other hand, he’s struggling at the plate this spring and does not exactly have a lengthy track record of hitting in the upper minors.
- Brad Keller, RHP, Royals (from D-backs, via trade with Reds): Though he managed only a 4.68 ERA at the Double-A level last year, Keller is being looked at as a reliever by a Kansas City organization that is in need of pitching depth. He has recorded seven strikeouts in six spring innings and seems to have a solid shot at taking a job.
- Burch Smith, RHP, Royals (from Rays, via trade with Mets): Once a well-regarded prospect whose career was derailed by injury, Smith put up some interesting numbers in the Arizona Fall League (including 29 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings). He has been a bit wild this spring, handing out eight free passes in eight frames, but could join Keller in the K.C. pen.
- Anyelo Gomez, RHP, Braves (from Yankees): Yet another interesting player in a Yankees system that is producing too much talent for the team’s 40-man roster, Gomez ran up the ladder in a strong 2017 season, briefly reaching Triple-A and ending with a cumulative output of 70 1/3 innings of 1.92 ERA pitching with 11.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. He hasn’t dominated this spring, but the Braves obviously like his arm and have plenty of reason to try to hang onto him in a year in which they do not expect to compete for the postseason.
- Nestor Cortes, LHP, Orioles (from Yankees): What’s that we were saying about the Yankees? Ah yes, another such player. The 23-year-old just ran up over a hundred innings of 2.06 ERA ball in the upper minors, with 9.0 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9. He has held his own as a starter this spring, too. With the O’s in need of both lefty relievers and rotation depth, he seems to be on track for a job.
- Jordan Milbrath, RHP, Pirates (from Indians): An intriguing side-arm reliever, Milbrath certainly came into camp with a shot at cracking the Pittsburgh pen. But it’s fair to wonder if that’s still possible now that he has struggled through six outings, coughing up eight earned runs on eight hits and seven walks in 5 1/3 innings.
- Elieser Hernandez, RHP, Marlins (from Astros): The pitching-needy Marlins snagged Hernandez after he showed well at the High-A level and in the Venezuelan Winter League. He has impressed this spring with nine strikeouts and no walks over ten innings, so the Marlins have every reason to stash him in the bullpen.
- Mike Ford, 1B, Mariners (from Yankees): An injury to Ryon Healy initially looked like it could help to open a door for Ford, but it’s a fairly short-term issue for Healy, and Ford is hitting just .150/.292/.325 through 48 PAs this spring. With Daniel Vogelbach on hand as another lefty swinging first base/designated hitter option, Ford could have a tough time sticking in Seattle.
- Luke Bard, RHP, Angels (from Twins): Bard was shelled for five runs in one-third of an inning in one of his outing but has otherwise impressed the Halos this spring, as Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times recently wrote. Manager Mike Scioscia, in particular, sounded encouraged by Bard’s ability to throw multiple innings per outing. At present, he seems to have a decet chance of making the Angels’ roster.
- Tyler Kinley, RHP, Twins (from Marlins): The hard-throwing Kinley has allowed just two runs in seven innings with the Twins, but while he’s whiffed seven hitters in that time he’s also walked five. The Twins signed three free-agent relievers this winter and are aiming to contend in 2018, making it tough to see Kinley sticking on the roster all season (or even breaking camp with the club).
- Albert Suarez, RHP, D-backs (from Giants): Suarez has a 3.72 ERA with an 8-to-2 K/BB ratio in 10 2/3 innings for the D-backs this spring. His chances of landing a bullpen spot improved somewhat with an oblique injury to Randall Delgado. As Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic recently pointed out, because Suarez has been previously outrighted off the Giants’ 40-man roster, he would not need to be offered back to the Giants if he clears waivers and could instead elect free agency.
- Anthony Gose, LHP, Astros (from Rangers): Gose was already placed on waivers by the Astros and returned to the Rangers after clearing.
- Pedro Araujo, RHP, Orioles (from Cubs): The Baltimore organization certainly seems to be impressed with Araujo. He generated plenty of swings and misses in 2017 and has carried that over into camp, with seven Ks and just one walk in his five innings.
- Brett Graves, RHP, Marlins (from A’s): Though he produced tepid results in his first effort at the Double-A level last year, Graves maintained a solid K/BB ratio and obviously caught the Marlins’ eye. But he has had a messy spring and is now slowed by an oblique strain, so the odds are against him going north with the MLB team.
- Jose Mesa, RHP, Orioles (from Yankees): Indications are that Mesa is not quite keeping pace with his two fellow Rule 5 hurlers. Indeed, he has surrendered five walks and five earned runs in his 5 2/3 innings of Grapefruit League action.