Major League Baseball’s annual Rule 5 Draft takes place on Thursday at 9 a.m. at the Winter Meetings. Below is a primer on the draft and how it affects the Mets this year who will have the 6th pick.
HOW DOES THE DRAFT WORK?
Named for its place in the Official Professional Baseball Rules Book, the draft was created to prevent teams from stockpiling young talent in their minor league system, and instead exposes them to selection by other clubs. The current rules require teams to “protect” players from the draft by placing them on the major league reserve list (more commonly known as the 40-man roster; those terms will be used interchangeably) after either four (if the player was 18 or younger on the June 5 immediately preceding the date he signed his first contract) or three (if the player was 19 or older) Rule 5 drafts have passed since the player signed his first minor league contract. Make sense?
If not, look at it this way. This year, first-time eligible players were generally either college draft picks in 2014, or high school draft picks and international signings in 2013. Players who have gone unselected in the past remain eligible until they hit minor league free agency or are added to the 40-man roster.
This year, the Mets had a few options as to who they would protect ahead of Thursday’s draft, but the four players ultimately chosen were relievers Tyler Bashlor and Gerson Bautista, infielder Luis Guillorme and starting pitcher Corey Oswalt. Since it’s unlikely that any of those players will break camp with the Mets next spring, each of them will technically be playing as major leaguers on optional assignment to the minor leagues in 2018.
In choosing the aforementioned four players to join the 40-man roster, the Mets are exposing over 45 players to selection the Rule 5 Draft. Some of the more notable players that fall into this category include breakout relief prospect Adonis Uceta, knuckleballer Mickey Jannis, and former top prospects Wuilmer Becerra and Jhoan Urena. Becerra spent the 2017 season on the Mets’ 40-man roster but was outrighted off it in October.
If a player is selected (which can only happen if a team has an open spot on their 40-man roster), the drafting team must pay the player’s original team a $100,000 fee. The player must then remain on his new team’s active (25-man) roster for the entirety of the upcoming season, or else he gets offered back to his original team for a $50,000 fee.
Teams may choose a player or pass on their selection, and teams that do make a pick will be offered another choice in the second round. This continues until all teams have passed on a selection.
WHAT ABOUT THE MINOR LEAGUE PHASE?
Following the major league phase of the draft, the minor league phase is held (the separate Triple-A and Double-A phases were eliminated following the 2015 draft). Players eligible for selection in this round are those who were left off of the major league reserve list and the organization’s Triple-A reserve list (which has a limit of 38). Note that players placed on the Triple-A reserve list are not necessarily Triple-A players. These players incur a $24,000 fee and are not returned for any reason. Notable Mets who can be selected in this phase are Jayce Boyd, Nicolas Debora, Ben Griset, and Jose Carlos Medina.
HOW IS THE ORDER DETERMINED?
It’s the same as the First Year Player Draft, in reverse order from the previous year’s standings. However, the fact that some teams have full 40-man rosters and can’t make Rule 5 picks adjusts the order slightly. The Mets will pick sixth as of now, but since the San Francisco Giants, owners of baseball’s second-worst record, have a full major league reserve list, the Mets will most likely make the fifth choice. In addition, teams can simply pass on their selection.
WHO COULD THE METS LOSE?
SIX PLAYERS THE METS COULD TAKE
OF Victor Reyes, ARI
Reyes is one of my favorite players available this year because he satisfies all the criteria that general managers are looking for in position players. The 23-year-old gets on base, runs well and plays sound defense, all of which make him an attractive selection.
Reyes played the entire 2017 season in Double-A and posted a .292/.332/.399 line with 29 doubles, 18 stolen bases and a 15.5 strikeout rate, which is in line with his career average. In addition, Reyes has at least 600 innings logged at each outfield position throughout his career. The Mets are undoubtedly lacking in major league-ready outfield depth, and with the abilities of Juan Lagares and Brandon Nimmo in doubt, it could not hurt to bring in an extra body.
RHP Anyelo Gomez, NYY
The Mets need bullpen depth, and it appears that a few of their free agent targets have decided to take their talents elsewhere. With that being said, the Mets must look at every possible option, which includes those available in the Rule 5 Draft. One of these power arms is Gomez, who posted a 1.92 ERA and 4.14 K/BB in 70 innings across four levels in the Yankees’ system in 2017.
The slender right-hander touches 100 mph with his fastball and owns potentially two big league secondary pitches in his slider and change-up. Gomez will be taken in the draft, and the Mets may have to pull the trigger. After the Giancarlo Stanton trade, Sandy Anderson has to get back at the Yankees somehow.
OF Andrew Pullin, PHI
Pullin began the 2016 season on the voluntarily retired list, but he returned in May and has mashed ever since. Over the past two seasons, Pullin has hit .292 with 34 home runs and 64 doubles. The 24-year-old was eligible for selection last year and remained with the Phillies, but it’s unlikely the same happens on Thursday.
Scouts are confident his bat will play at the major league level, and while Pullin’s outfield profile is limited to the corners, he has 179 games of minor league experience at second base.
LHP Nestor Cortes, NYY
One downside of having a strong farm system is that players who would normally be protected from the draft in a weaker system are left up for grabs. The Yankees have run into that exact problem, as they have a slew of minor league relievers that could get poached (Cale Coshow and J.P. Feyereisen in addition to Gomez are the notable ones).
Cortes, 23, had a fantastic season in 2017, using deception rather than power to record a 1.80 WHIP and 105 strikeouts between Double-A and Triple-A.
RHP Nick Burdi, MIN
Burdi, a former second round pick, had Tommy John surgery last May, but the good news is that he recently began throwing again, and the rules stipulate that a team may place a Rule 5 selection on the disabled list (Burdi would need to be on the active roster for at least 90 days, or else the restrictions against optioning a Rule 5 player carry over to 2019).
Burdi, 24, was up to 100 mph before his surgery, and he had racked up 20 strikeouts as opposed to four walks in 17 Double-A innings. Armed with a devastating slider and an affinity for strikeouts, Burdi will be selected.
LHP Sam Selman, KC
The former Vanderbilt Commodore was the Royals’ second-round selection in 2012, and he enjoyed a breakout season five years later. A former starter, Selman limited opponents to a .150 average, while striking out a fantastic 97 batters in 67.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
The 27-year-old sits in the low 90s, and adds a solid slider to the mix. Regardless of what team it’s for, Selman will see the major leagues in 2018, or else he’ll simply walk away as a minor league free agent.
Other Names to Consider
WHAT HAVE THE METS DONE IN THE DRAFT RECENTLY?
The Mets did not select or lose a player in the major league phase of the 2016 draft, but lost southpaws Paul Paez and Adrian Almeida in the minor league phase to the Mariners and Angels, respectively. Paez was released in July while Almeida recorded a 5.31 ERA across 27 appearances in Low-A.
The Mets passed on their selection in 2015, but lost Matthew Bowman to the Cardinals. Bowman was a promising pitching prospect in the system after the Mets took him out of Princeton in 2012, but they believed they could sneak him through the draft following a down year in Las Vegas. In the two seasons since, Bowman has made 134 appearances as an effective reliever for St. Louis. In the minor league phase, the Mets lost RHP Octavio Acosta and SS Alfredo Reyes.
2014 saw both a selection and loss by the Mets. They took LHP Sean Gilmartin from the Twins, who ended up sticking on the active roster for the entire 2015 season. Currently in the Cardinals organization, Gilmartin made one appearance in the World Series for the Mets. Logan Verrett was taken by the Orioles, but he was claimed by the Rangers and was eventually returned to the Mets on May 4. Verrett would eventually end up back on Baltimore this past season, appearing in four games.