Major League Baseball will hold its annual Rule 5 draft this Thursday and unlike other years this one may be a ho-ho-hummer for the Houston Astros. Without getting too detailed here – the Rule 5 draft allows a minor league player to be picked by another major league club, if they have spent either four or five years in the minors, depending on their age when they were drafted. The kicker is that the drafting club has to keep the player drafted on the 25 man major league roster for the full season or offer them back to the original club at half the $50,000 they paid for the player’s rights.
A number of famous players have found a new club and success through the Rule 5 including Josh Hamilton and Astros’ farmhand Johan Santana, who was drafted by the Marlins and then immediately traded to the Twins, where he had great success (after minimal impact in his first “required” year in the back of the Twins’ bullpen). More recently the Astros lost Delino Deshields Jr. to the Rangers in the Rule 5 and in Jeff Luhnow’s first action in his new job, he traded for Marwin Gonzalez, who the Red Sox had drafted from the Cubs for him.
The important thing for the big club is that any players they want to protect that are eligible for the Rule 5, must be on the 40 man roster ahead of the draft. Three weeks ago, the Astros put two of their eligible pitchers, Dean Deetz and Cuban Cionel Perez on the 40 man and traded OF Ramon Laureano (who was eligible) to the A’s. There are 18 Astros farmhands in AA or above, who are eligible for the draft, including OF Jon Kemmer and pitchers, Akeem Bostick, Kent Emmanuel, Mike Hauschild, Brendan McCurry and Cy Sneed. It will be interesting to see if anyone goes after one or more (up to three) of the Astro eligible, especially since many of them were not that good last season or may be getting too old to be considered top prospects.
Out in the world here are some of the top Rule 5 players eligible:
- Mark Appel. RHP. Yes that Mark Appel. Just like with the Astros, he never put it together with the Phillies farm teams.
- Kohl Stewart. RHP. Fourth overall draft choice in 2013, has been good when healthy, but has not been healthy enough to get above AA
- Burch Smith. RHP. Missed two seasons after TJ surgery, but showed some flashes at AAA and in the AFL in 2017
- Mason McCullough. RHP. A Matt Albers type body with a big sinking fastball and a penchant for walking a lot of batters
- Cale Coshow. RHP. A 100 mph guy who may be a bit blocked in the Yankees system
- Victor Reyes. OF. High batting average, high-speed, no power guy
- Nick Ciuffo. C. Likely future backup catcher in the majors
It is hard to see where the Astros really have any room for a Rule 5 guy on the 25 man roster for a whole season. Usually these players are available for a reason and the Astros are in the middle of a win it all window.
It is much more likely that the Astros lose a player than pick a player on Thursday.