Simply put, the intent of the Rule 5 Draft is to allow players who might otherwise be stuck in an organization to receive a chance to pursue their careers elsewhere.
Any player that has been signed to a professional baseball contract for four years (or five years if signed at the age of 18 or younger) and is not on his organization's 40-man roster is eligible to be selected during the Rule 5 draft.
There are three phases of the Rule 5 draft - Major League (players selected from Triple-A rosters), Triple-A (players taken from Double-A) and Double-A (players taken from Single-A). Rosters specificially for this purpose were submitted by each club to Major League Baseball on November 20.
In the case of the Major League phase, players taken in the Rule 5 draft must be kept at that level for the entire subsequent season. If the player is no longer wanted, he must first be exposed to waivers and if he clears, is returned to his original club. There is also an associated, albeit small, financial penalty. Players taken at lower levels do not have the limitation regarding remaining at the same level the next season.
The particulars of participation are defined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between players and ownership. The new CBA, which was agreed-to one year ago, had bumped the previous limits up by one year, leading to fewer new names appearing on the Rule 5-eligible roll last year.
As a refresher, across all of MLB, only 19 players were taken in the Major League phase of the 2006 Rule 5 draft. The Cardinals were not involved. 24 players were selected in the Triple-A phase and just three in the Double-A draft.
That total of 47 continued a multi-year downward trend, a 16% drop from the 56 taken in 2005. That compares to 75 players taken in 2004 and 80 in 2003.
Two years ago, the Cardinals selected pitcher Juan Mateo from the Cubs in the Major League phase, but returned him late in 2006 Spring Training, when it was clear he would not crack the 25-man roster.
In 2006, for the second straight year St. Louis picked up two players in the Triple-A phase of the draft – a catcher and a middle infielder. Last year, Omar Falcon and Jose Contreras were taken, neither of whom remains in the organization. The year before, the two picked up were Iker Franco and Vince Harrison, also both long gone. Clearly, none of these moves were earth-shaking.
Yet, there only needs to be one or two stories like that of a then-anonymous Venezuelan pitcher who was taken from the Houston Astros by the Florida Marlins in the 1999 Rule 5 draft, and then was traded to the Minnesota Twins. Of course, his name is none other than Johan Santana, two-time American League Cy Young Award winner.
More recently, the Kansas City Royals nabbed their current closer, Joakim Soria, from the San Diego Padres in last December's Rule 5 draft. The Cubs took Josh Hamilton, who became a starter and feel-good success story with Cincinnati this past season. So, good players can be had.
By the numbers
Of the 18 Cardinals organization players eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, 16 of them are assigned to Memphis, meaning they would have to be selected in the Major League phase of the draft. Therefore, these players would need to remain on the claiming organization's 25-man Major League roster for the entire 2008 season or be returned for half the original $50,000 claiming fee. That serves as an effective deterrent for taking players who have no chance of contributing.
Only two are on the Springfield roster, eligible to be taken in the Triple-A phase of Rule 5 for a fee of $12,000. No eligible players are on the Cardinals' single-A or rookie-level clubs. Therefore, the Cards can lose no one in the Double-A phase of the 2007 Rule 5 draft. Any players in this phase would cost $4,000.
Of the nine pitchers, eight are with Memphis and just one is a left-hander. Two are starters with the rest relievers. Three catchers are on the eligible list, the most of any of the position players. Four infielders and just two outfielders complete the list.
A major change from 2006 is the fact that the Cardinals have made just two minor league free agent signings since the close of the season, pitchers Dewon Brazelton and John Wasdin. Last year by this time, they had added seven players, including outsiders Tagg Bozied, Mike Smith and Edgar Gonzalez and returnees Rico Washington and Juan Richardson.
Despite the fact they just signed, both Brazelton and Wasdin have become Rule 5 eligible, though odds are that neither will be taken since they had just been free-agents a few days ago.
Probably the highest-profile names eligible to be selected are starting pitchers Stuart Pomeranz and Eric Haberer along with reliever Mike Sillman. All three made our Top 40 Cardinals Prospect List one year ago, with Pomeranz ranked number seven, Sillman at 28 and Haberer right behind at number 29.
This year, Pomeranz received votes again in preparation for our upcoming Top 40 countdown, though he slid considerably year-to-year. The other two were shut out. Two years ago, Haberer had reached number 14.
Four players are repeaters. Brian Stitt, Matt Pagnozzi, Henry Guerrero and Juan Lucena were part of the group of 27 players who were eligible last year. Despite recent 40-man additions Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte and Joe Mather also being on the list last December, no Cardinals were taken.
Stuart Pomeranz has just completed his second consecutive trip to the Arizona Fall League, but he has spent most of the intervening 12 months in rehab. Pomeranz saw limited action in 2007 after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to clean up a frayed labrum after Spring Training.
The big 6-foot-7 righty came into camp on the Springfield roster and if he had been able to pitch well, could easily have earned a spot in Memphis to start the year. Instead, after a long stint on the disabled list, he ended the season on the Palm Beach Cardinals and then headed to the Winter Instructional League, continuing his rehabilitation process.
Pomeranz appeared in a number of uniforms and levels, starting with three games in the Gulf Coast League. Next, he moved up to Palm Beach, making three more starts. He then reported to Instructs, where he worked on the side before heading to Arizona.
There, the Cardinals took it very easy with Pomeranz, limiting his work to one outing per week as he dealt with the expected soreness aspect of his recovery. Overall in Arizona, he pitched effectively, allowing just one earned run in 14 innings of work. Pomeranz struck out just three and walked five, signalling that he is not fully back yet.
Injuries are not new to the 22-year-old. He was limited to just 18 starts for Double-A Springfield in 2006 due to oblique and shoulder injuries. Originally, he had been drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft as a high schooler.
Haberer, 25, was originally taken by the Cardinals from Southern Illinois University in the third round (90th pick overall) of the June 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Last season, the lefty posted a 7-11 record with a 4.44 ERA splitting time between the Palm Beach and Springfield rotations.
Following the 2006 campaign, the lefty was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he served as a reliever. Haberer posted a 4.50 ERA in seven games as he allowed five earned runs in 10 innings pitched.
During 2007, Haberer returned to Springfield's rotation, where he remained all season. By keeping the ball down (1.87 GO:AO), he managed to post a respectable 13-8 record with a 4.32 ERA. In 152 innings, Haberer struck out just 72 and unimpressively walked an equivalent number of opposing batters – 72.
Like Pomeranz, the Springfield Cardinals' right-hander missed considerable time due to injury in 2007. He was placed on the disabled list on September 1 due to tightness in his right forearm. But the problems began long before then.
Sillman spent a considerable amount of time on the disabled list during the 2007 season due to shoulder problems. After beginning the year with Memphis, Sillman was transferred to Springfield in late July after completing a rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League.
On the positive side overall, he managed a sparkling GO:AO ratio of almost 5:1 and held his opponents to a collective .171 batting average. On the other side of the coin, the Nebraskan walked 21 in 23 2.3 innings pitched, but he also fanned 25.
Sillman turns 26 years of age in early December, so his baseball clock is ticking more loudly these days. In 2006, everything had come together for Sillman, as he registered 35 saves for A-Advanced Palm Beach and posted a 1.10 ERA in the process.
We will see during the December 6 Rule 5 draft whether the Cardinals lose any players and/or perhaps pick up one or two. This writer, at least, projects no losses for the ‘Birds this time around.
The entire list is below, with club assignments for Rule 5 protection purposes. Remember, this doesn't necessarily have any connection to where the player either finished 2007 or will end up taking the field in 2008.
Cardinals 2007 Rule 5 Draft eligible list
The players exempt from the Rule 5 draft include those on the Major League 40-man roster as well as up to 38 men who can be protected at the Triple-A level and 37 more at the Double-A level.
The names of the 18 unprotected players follow.
© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.