Tony Lastoria/IBI

Rule 5 draft: Looking through 13 years of data

Scout's Jeff Ellis breaks down the past 13 years of the Rule 5 draft looking at what types of players get selected and where they get taken from.

Every year I add to this information changing the percentages. When one looks at the numbers it is possible to see who and what a team could lose in the draft. In the 13-year cycle, there were 204 players selected and a total of 68 kept, so roughly only 33% of all players selected end up sticking. The amount of players selected every year, on average, is 16, which basically means an average of five players sticking with a Major League club. The number of players taken and being kept has been trending up, it should be noted. 

Starting pitchers: 43 (21%)

Middle relievers: 102 (50%)

Catchers: 7 (3%)

First basemen: 5 (2%)

Second basemen: 4 (2%)

Shortstops: 2 (1%)

Third basemen: 4 (2%)

Utility: 15 (7%)

Outfielders: 22 (11%)

What this data shows (at least to me) is that the main use of the Rule 5 Draft is to find bullpen help. We are seeing more starting pitchers, of late, taken and then converted to the pen, and a rise in outfielders as well. Teams are figuring out how to better use the draft to fill specific needs, or they are gambling on either tools or stats that allow them to think they can find someone to help their teams. This last paragraph is what I wrote last year and it remains true this year as well. I could make the exact same statements. The one addition is that, over the last two years, there has been one first baseman selected each year, which accounts for nearly half of the total first baseman taken during this 13 year window. This also shows me that many teams are having more problems finding useful first baseman, which had been a position that teams had taken for granted in the past.

Now for the information on levels:

MLB: 11 (5%)

AAA: 63 (31%)

AA: 85 (42%)

A+: 34 (17%)

A: 7 (3%)

R: 2 (1%)

So, the last 13 years have seen 204 players taken, and 78% of them have been from AA or higher. The player who is taken from A is often a player who has suffered multiple setbacks, either due to injury or lack of production. This is why they are so rarely taken, especially since that kid will have to jump from A ball to the majors, which is no easy feat. The one player who did this last year was Luis Perdomo, and he did struggle mightily in the majors.

This article is over 1.8K words, which is more than likely 1.5K words more than the Rule 5 is worth. All drafts get people's attention and the Rule 5 has been a place to find talent. It is just a draft where the hit rate, relative to the amount of time spent thinking and talking about it, is out of balance. One advantage it has, in terms of the attention it gets, is that it occurs in December. December is a relative dead zone time for a large percentage of major league teams. For a starving baseball fan, unless your team is active in free agency, there is a chance that the only news about your team since the season ended had to do with the Rule 5, either via changes to the 40 man or the draft itself.


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