The purpose of the Draft is to give eligible players the opportunity to further their career in another organization and of course, for the selecting clubs to better themselves. The current clubs look to protect players of future value to them so they are not lost.
Generally speaking, players who were 19 or older when they signed and have been in the organization for four years become Rule 5-eligible. Same with those players who signed at the age of 18 or younger and have been in the organization five years. There are unique cases as well.
In preparation for the draft, the Cardinals added three players to the 40-man roster, exempting them from Rule 5 consideration. They are infielder Greg Garcia and outfielders Mike O'Neill and Oscar Taveras. Two players were outrighted off the 40-man roster and now become eligible for this draft – left-handed pitcher John Gast and infielder Jermaine Curtis.
Three other additions are included since the last time we covered this subject in detail. Two are recent free agent signings – catcher Ed Easley and third baseman Scott Moore. The other is Dominican Summer League shortstop Allen Cordoba, who was omitted previously.
After all the ins and outs, 47 players are Rule 5-susceptible, up from 39 one year ago.
In this article, we will identify the level at which these players have been designated for protection by the Cardinals.
This is an important factor, not understood and appreciated by many, that determines which of these players might be most advantageously selected by another organization during the draft.
Major league phase
Only the players assigned to the Triple-A Memphis reserve list for protection will be eligible for the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. They can be taken at a cost of $50,000. If selected, those players would have to remain on the new club's 25-man major league roster the entire 2014 season or be offered back to the Cardinals at half the purchase price.
For 2013, 35 Rule 5-eligible players have been placed on Memphis' roster. 14 are pitchers, including six left-handers. That group includes two just back home from the Arizona Fall League in Anthony Ferrara and Dean Kiekhefer, plus Justin Wright, who pitched in the AFL previously. Former first or second-round draft picks available are pitchers Seth Blair, Jordan Swagerty and Robert Stock.
The other 21 are position players, made up of five catchers, 12 infielders and four outfielders. That group includes former top prospects Anthony Garcia, Tommy Pham and Starlin Rodriguez, all outfielders.
The table below also indicates the level at which each of these players concluded their respective 2013 campaigns as well as whether or not this is their first time being Rule 5-eligible. 18 of the 35 are repeaters, not selected in a previous Rule 5.
|Triple-A protection||Position||2013||1st R5|
In terms of which of these players might be most appealing to another organization, it really depends upon the need those clubs are trying to fill and how the Cardinals' eligible players fared in their scouting reports.
If healthy, Gast and Swagerty would also surely be taken, but then again, if healthy, they probably would have been protected by the Cardinals in the first place.
The Cardinals did not place all their Rule 5-eligible players at Memphis. Therefore, 12 of their players will be eligible to be taken in the minor league phases of the Rule 5. Due to less-restrictive rules for players rostered below Triple-A, any of these players taken would not return in 2014.
Nine Rule 5-eligible Cardinals farmhands have been placed on the Double-A Springfield roster for purposes of this draft. The group is made up of four pitchers, including one lefty, one catcher (retired Juan Castillo), one infielder and three outfielders.
|Double-A protection||Position||2013||1st R5|
These players would cost less for another organization to select, specifically $12,000 each. Most importantly, they would not have to be added to the major league roster if taken in the Rule 5, nor would they be required to be returned to the Cardinals regardless of the level at which they are assigned by the selecting organization in 2014.
Again, if any of the nine Springfield-designated players are taken in the draft, it is almost certain that they are not coming back. Same for the Class-A players that follow.
The 27-year-old Swauger is a dependable bat with considerable Triple-A and Double-A experience and a career .767 OPS. However, his opportunity for playing time next season is questionable given the outfield prospects currently at the top levels of the system.
Hernandez, still just 22, finished 2013 with A-Advanced Palm Beach. The Puerto Rican native was St. Louis' 10th-round selection in the 2009 Draft. In 86 career games, including 71 starts, Hernandez has a 21-19 record with a 3.93 ERA. He fanned 311 and walked 141 in 389 innings.
Shortstop Jake Lemmerman was acquired from the Dodgers for Skip Schumaker last winter, but did not impress with the bat at Springfield, hitting .231. Former Naval officer Mitch Harris has a great backstory, but has yet to pitch in full-season ball at the age of 28. Nick Longmire is a 2010 fifth-rounder that never got untracked as a professional.
The final three Cardinals players eligible for the draft are pitchers put on Class-A rosters.
|A protection||Position||2013||1st R5|
In future installments, we will look potential targets of the Cardinals in this Rule 5 Draft, plus the organization's past history in Rule 5 Drafts, in the major and minor league phases, both as a supplier and selector of players. Of course, on draft day, we will then break down any Rule 5 activity that affects the Cardinals.
Remember that to see the entire Cardinals system in one graphical view, check out the Roster Matrix, kept updated at The Cardinal Nation Blog.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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