The Rule 5 Draft allows teams to select players who aren’t on another team’s 40-man roster, and who’ve been in the minor leagues for a long time. It’s a way to prevent teams from compiling and stashing youngsters, preventing them from reaching the big leagues when they might otherwise be able. That’s your short version, anyway.
The draft is tomorrow morning, and the Chicago Cubs would have been selecting fourth … but they lost their first round selection thanks to a broohaha with the Phillies about the way the Cubs used the disabled list as a mechanism to keep their 2012 selection from the Phillies, Lendy Castillo. Players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must stay on the selecting team’s 25-man roster for the full season, with at least 90 days actually active. Thus, there’s an incentive to utilize the DL.
The Cubs could still make a selection in the second round of the Rule 5 – there are multiple rounds so long as teams want to make picks – or in one of the minor league phases of the draft. They could also make arrangements with a team that isn’t planning to take a player, and have that team take a player for them for a little bit of money and a subsequent trade. In other words, the fact that the Cubs lost their first round pick doesn’t really change a whole lot of what tomorrow could look like.
The Cubs have indicated that they didn’t plan to take anyone tomorrow anyway, and, even if they don’t, there’s a lot of Cubs relevance. Namely, the Cubs could lose a player or two tomorrow. Such is the existence of a team stockpiling a lot of young talent.
Baseball America previewed the Rule 5 a couple weeks ago, and the Cubs are featured prominently, with three prospects mentioned as possible selections. Marcus Hatley, 25, is currently pitching in Mexico and is your standard strikes-out-a-ton-of-guys-but-walks-a-ton-of-guys minor league reliever. I can understand the Cubs taking a chance on losing him, but he could eventually be a productive reliever in the bigs.
BA also listed Marco Hernandez, who hasn’t played above A-ball (and is just 21), but could be the kind of youngster a team like the Astros takes a Hail Mary on. Ditto Gioskar Amaya, I’d think, whose story looks very similar to Hernandez’s.
And then there’s Matt Loosen, 24, who showed well in the AFL this year, and has bounced back and forth between High-A and AA. He’s got legitimate stuff, and he’s just got to command it. It’s not hard to see a team taking a chance on Loosen in the bullpen to see what happens.
Other possibilities for selection are lefty starter Eric Jokisch, outfielder Jae-Hoon Ha, righty reliever Zach Cates, and many more. You never know how far another team will reach, as was the case last year when the Diamondbacks took pitcher Starling Peralta out of A-ball from the Cubs, only to return him after Spring Training when it was clear it wouldn’t work out.
An almost aside: the Yankees’ big bonus baby from last year’s international class is eligible for the Rule 5, thanks to a problematic contract situation. Omar Luis is a 21-year-old lefty with almost no professional experience, but the Yankees liked him enough in 2012 to give him $4 million (later reduced to $2.5 million). He would be the ultimate grab and stash.
UPDATE: A couple minutes after publishing this piece, I see an update today from BA. Marcos Mateo – remember him? – is getting a lot of attention, apparently. Apparently, after missing 2012 and most of 2013 with an elbow injury, Mateo is looking incredible in the Dominican Republic. He’s 29, and we’ll see if he’s still in the Cubs’ system by this time tomorrow.