Perhaps because of a handful of exceptional players who later became all-stars after once having been selected in the Rule 5 Draft – Josh Hamilton and Johan Santana among them – the annual December event draws far more attention than it probably should.
The reality is that only very rarely do either the lost/chosen players ever become big-leaguers and only a rare few of them make a real impact.
A Brief Background
This year’s festivities will be held on Thursday, December 11, as Baseball’s Winter Meetings conclude.
Players eligible are not on the 40-man roster. The exact qualification depends on age when signed, but generally speaking, college players drafted in 2011 and high school players and Latin American teenagers first signed in 2010 are Rule 5 eligible for the first time this year.
You can read much more about the process and the names of the Cardinals available in the draft here: TCN’s 2014 Cardinals Rule 5 Protection Picks.
Major League Phase
For the last two years, the Cards neither added nor lost a player in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. This are the top tier of players that if claimed, would be required to be kept in the major leagues for the entire following season or be placed on waivers, then if unclaimed, offered back to the original team.
The only player taken by the Cards in the last 10 years to stick was outfielder Brian Barton in the 2008 season. Before that, it was infielder Hector Luna in 2004.
As far back as my detailed records go, since 2002, just two Cardinals were lost in the major league phase of Rule 5 that were not returned. As it turned out, the Cards did not miss a lot by the losses of Mike Parisi and Luis Perdomo. Even the three players returned did not make an impact with St. Louis.
|R5||Majors selected||From||Return||Majors lost||To||Return|
|2009||Ben Jukich||Cin||yes||Mike Parisi||ChC||no|
Minor League Phases
Because fewer than 40 players can be protected on the Rule 5 Triple-A roster – those eligible for the Major League phase – some pretty good players fall to the Rule 5 Double-A roster or below.
Any of those players claimed are as good as gone, as they do not have to be returned no matter where they are assigned in the claiming organization the following season.
Even so, the impact has been even less in the minor league phases of the draft.
Since 2002, the Cardinals selected 18 players and lost 12 in this part of Rule 5. These players are more about inexpensively filling minor league depth needs than being true MLB prospects.
|R5||Minors selected||From||Minors lost||To|
|2013||Greg Miclat||Tex||Kevin Thomas||Min|
|Jesus Ustariz||Det||Jake Lemmerman||SD|
|2012||Matt Cerda||ChC||Steven Hill||Oak|
|2011||Barret Browning||LAA||Charlie Cutler||Pit|
|Shooter Hunt||Min||Domnit Bolivar||Mil|
|2008||Russ Haltiwanger||KC||Cody Haerther||Tor|
|2005||Iker Franco||Atl||Tim Hummel||CWS|
|2004||Matt Demarco||Fla||Tony Granadillo||Bos|
|Jose Garcia||Tex||Josh Teekel||Fla|
|2003||Rayner Laya||Mon||Jesse Roman||SD|
In fact, as the above table reinforces, only one of the 18 claimed ever reached St. Louis. The club’s only major leaguer to come from the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, to the best of my knowledge, is Barret Browning. The reliever was selected from the Angels in December 2011.
Even so, Browning’s 15 minutes of fame was fleeting - consisting of less than 20 major league innings in 2012. The left-hander was removed from the 40-man the next January and was released and out of baseball by the end of May 2013.
None of the 12 lost by St. Louis have had more than a cup of coffee in the majors, though two of the three taken from the Cardinals last year at this time are still trying.
Revisiting 2013 Rule 5
As noted, for the second straight year, the Cardinals had no action in the major league phase last December. In the minor league phases, the Cardinals were busy, however, adding two players while saying goodbye to three.
In 2014, Miclat moved around among Palm Beach, Springfield and Memphis. The 27-year-old hit just .212 before becoming a free agent following the season.
Ustariz, 21, played some first base and was a designated hitter at rookie-level Johnson City. His line was a ho-hum .242/.302/.345/.647.
Departing last December were pitchers Kevin Thomas and Hector Hernandez plus infielder Jake Lemmerman.
Thomas, who was a Texas League all-star with Springfield in 2013, did not throw an official pitch for the Twins organization in 2014 before being released.
After pitching in A and A-Advanced for the Cards in 2013, Hernandez stalled at the same levels for Arizona in 2014. The 23-year-old logged a losing 7-8 record with a 4.32 ERA.
Lemmerman, best known as the Cardinals’ take from the Dodgers in the Skip Schumaker trade, split his time between Double-A and Triple-A with the Padres, batting .280.
A lot will be written by many, including yours truly, on the players taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Just don’t set your hopes too high on them helping to hoist the World Series trophy.
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