Potential 2008 Cardinals Rule 5 Eligibles

Without action, 14 St. Louis Cardinals minor leaguers will be eligible to be taken in December's Rule 5 Draft. We look at the list and predict which ones are most at risk.

Any discussion of baseball's Rule 5 Draft, to be held in conjunction with Baseball's annual December Winter Meetings, should begin with a reminder of its purpose.

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 career elsewhere.

At this point, organizations are thinking though which players they want to protect – to ensure they are not lost to another club. They don't yet know for sure which players will be available to draft until late November.

To be exempt from the draft, a player must have been added to the organization's 40-man roster following the fourth season since he originally signed, or fifth if the player was 18 years old or younger when first signed.

Those two dates are one year longer than the deadlines that had historically been in effect. The decision to effectively give ownership one more year of control of minor leaguers was a concession made by the players to the owners during the last round of collective bargaining negotiations, which culminated in a new agreement covering the years 2007 through 2011.

Who is in?

As a result, many from the 2005 class will become Rule 5 eligible unless added to the 40-man this fall.

Five of the Cardinals' 14 Rule 5 draft eligible players this year were a part of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, led by first-rounder, shortstop Tyler Greene and supplemental first-rounder, pitcher Mark McCormick (right). These two are the ones most at risk to be taken by another organization and therefore, seem most likely to be added to the Cardinals 40-man roster in the next 60 days.

Instead, the Cardinals could decide to gamble by not protecting the oft-injured McCormick, who ended the season on the disabled list all the way down at A-Advanced Palm Beach. While a talented player, one who initially received an $800,000 signing bonus, McCormick still seems miles away from being able to contribute at the Major League level.

In four seasons as a professional, the right-hander was unable to pitch as many as 63 innings in any one of them. When he does make it to the mound, control is often an issue. For example, prior to his injury in 2008, McCormick fanned 58, but walked 44.

Trey Hearne, Kenny Maiques and Casey Rowlett are the other players originally drafted in 2005 now eligible to be taken.

Another interesting case is that of reliever Luis Perdomo, received from the Cleveland Indians in the Anthony Reyes trade. The 24-year-old fanned 22 in 18 innings after joining Double-A Springfield, but his ERA was 4.50. His mid-90's fastball and improving slider makes his addition to the 40-man also possible.

Based on his age and signing date, Perdomo looks to have been eligible for the Rule 5 Draft last December and was obviously not taken. At that point, he was coming off a good season in low-A for the Indians. His profile is much higher now.

Who is out?

Excluded is a group of high-flying teenagers drafted in 2005, including top prospects Colby Rasmus, Bryan Anderson, Tyler Herron and Daryl Jones, all selected in the first four rounds that year.

Other later-round 2005 drafted exclusions include Shaun Garceau, Tyler Leach and Blake King, all taken at the age of 18 or younger. As a result, the Cardinals look as if they will have a much more difficult time preparing for the 2009 Rule 5 Draft than here in 2008.

Others eligible

Two players from the 2004 draft class, pitchers Matt Scherer and Mike Sillman, are among the five repeaters from last year's list of eligibles. Matt Pagnozzi and Brandon Yarbrough from the 2003 draft are other players again available for selection.

Outfielder Cody Haerther, drafted in 2002, had been added to the 40-man roster prior to the 2006 Rule 5 Draft for protection from Rule 5, but since he was removed during this past season and outrighted, he now becomes Rule 5 selectable for the first time.

Five of the 14 ended the 2008 season on the disabled list. They are McCormick, Elvis Hernandez, Hearne, Maiques and Sillman, all pitchers.

The complete list of 14

Rule 5 eligibles Pos Draft (rd.) Last club 1st R5
Dumont, Cristofher OF 2004 (FA) GCL yes
Greene, Tyler SS 2005 (1) Memphis yes
Haerther, Cody OF 2002 (6) Memphis yes
Hearne, Trey RHP 2005 (28) PB (injured) yes
Hernandez, Elvis   RHP 2005 (FA) PB (injured) yes
Maiques, Kenny RHP 2005 (37) QC (injured) yes
McCormick, Mark RHP 2005 (1s) PB (injured) yes
Mikrut, Jon RHP 2005 (FA) Springfield yes
Pagnozzi, Matt C 2003 (8) Springfield no
Perdomo, Luis RHP 2003 (FA) Springfield no
Rowlett, Casey   UT 2005 (32) Springfield yes
Scherer, Matt RHP 2004 (16) Memphis no
Sillman, Mike RHP 2004 (21) Mem (injured) no
Yarbrough, Brandon C 2003 (5) Springfield no

Eight of the 14 are right-handed pitchers, two are catchers, two are outfielders, one is a shortstop and the other is a utility player.

Not the final list

While the players' final assignments in 2008 are noted in the table above, there will be changes made. In other words, more than four of these players will surely be listed on the Memphis working roster when the Cardinals submit their rosters prior to the draft. Placing players at the highest level possible raises the ante for potential claiming teams.

Remember, 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).

In 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 – half of the original $50,000 claiming fee. Players taken at lower levels do not have the limitation requiring them to remain at the same level the next season.

However, no organization can just assign every prospect to their Triple-A affiliate for greater protection. The players exempt from the Rule 5 Draft include those on the Major League 40-man roster as well as up to 38 men that can be protected at the Triple-A level and 37 more at the Double-A level.

Looking ahead

Over the next two months, this list could change in at least two ways. First, it could contract if any of these players are added to the 40-man roster between now and the November date the protected lists are due. As noted above, Greene, Perdomo and perhaps McCormick are the most likely additions.

It could also grow if any minor league free agents are signed or re-signed before the draft. For example, the Cardinals added veteran John Wasdin on a minor league deal last November 19. He immediately became eligible to be taken by another organization in last December's Rule 5 Draft, but was not selected.

Buyers, not sellers

None of the 18 Cardinals farmhands eligible in 2007 were taken, nor were any of the 27 available the previous year, for that matter. One indicator of an improving farm system would be having more prospects worth protecting that can fit on the 40-man. The Cardinals look to be at least a year away from that.

As most Cardinals fans know, the club selected Brian Barton from the Cleveland Indians in the Major League phase last December. The outfielder remained on the 25-man roster all season (except for time on the disabled list and an allowable rehab stint) and is now Cardinals property.

Here is a link to the article about the Cardinals players that were eligible to have been taken in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft: "Cardinals 2007 Rule 5 Draft Eligibles".

In the next article in this series, I will take a look at the Cardinals 40-man roster, forecasting the changes to it that may ensue in the upcoming weeks, including these prospective Rule 5 additions. We'll also revisit the Rule 5 eligible list once the rosters are filed in late November.

Related article: "Cardinals Potential Minor League Free Agents"

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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