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Explaining the Rule 5 Draft

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Now that the Twins have space on the 40-man roster, let's run through the ins and outs of the Rule 5 draft.

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Most of us know the basics of the Rule 5 draft: some players are eligible, and teams pick in the order of reverse standings provided they have room on the 40-man roster. That player must be kept on the 25-man roster all season or returned to his original club. Right? Well, kind of. We'll get to the rules of the Rule 5 once we touch on a couple of frivolities and a roster check.

Who are the best Rule 5 picks by the Twins?

Minnesota gets credit for Johan Santana, but technically they drafted Jared Camp and then flipped him to the Marlins in a pre-arranged deal for Santana. That was a good call. After looking through the organization's Rule 5 history, here are my top five Rule 5 selections by the Twins.

  1. Johan Santana, 1999 (34.8 fWAR with Twins, 2000-2007)
  2. Shane Mack, 1989 (17.9 fWAR, 1990-1994)
  3. Doug Corbett, 1979 (4.2 fWAR, 1980-1981)
  4. Scott Diamond, 2010 (2.7 fWAR, 2011-2013)
  5. Rich Reese, 1962 (1.9 fWAR, 1964-1973)

Who are the best Rule 5 picks of all time?

This is just my opinion after doing some research. You may find that you'd prefer to have one or two different guys here, but the diamonds in the rough are truly few and far between.

  1. Roberto Clemente, 1954 (80.6 fWAR post Rule 5)
  2. Darrell Evans, 1968 (61.1 fWAR)
  3. Johan Santana, 1999 (47.3 fWAR)
  4. Bobby Bonilla, 1986 (32.7 fWAR)
  5. Jayson Werth, 2001 (33.7 fWAR)
Oddly enough, guys like Josh Hamilton and George Bell don't make this list - and I thought they might.

Where will the Twins pick?

Based on reverse order of standings, Minnesota would be picking fifth. The Twins have only today made room on their 40-man roster so that they can take part, so it's worth asking: what's the state of the rosters for the four teams slated to pick at the top of the draft?

Arizona: 41. Somebody is on the way out.
Colorado: 39.
Texas: 39.
Houston: 39.

As of this writing, it looks like the Twins will be picking fourth. The Diamondbacks have two days to find a spot on the 40-man roster if they are curious about anyone in the Rule 5. As the team that could be picking first, you'd think they'd like to at least bring a guy in to try him out in spring training.

Rule 5 draft: the rules (Major and Minor League phases)

  • The purpose of the Rule 5 draft is to force teams to put their young players into a position where they're on a path to getting playing time. It keeps organizations from stockpiling young talent and keeping them cheap and out of reach of other teams.
  • If a team selects a player in the Rule 5 draft, they must pay $50,000 to the team from whom the player was taken
  • The picking team must then keep the player on the 25-man roster all season (this includes being active for a minimum of 90 days, although the rest of the time can be served on the disabled list and associated rehab assignments)
  • If the player does not stay on the 25-man roster, he must be passed through waivers. If he goes unclaimed, the picking team must send the player back to his original team for $25,000 or work out a trade with the original team to earn the right to send the player to the minor leagues. The original team can decline to take the player back, meaning the picking team can waive the player if they don't want to keep him.
  • To be eligible for selection, a player who was 19 or older when drafted should have been in the league for four years. If the player was 18 or younger when drafted it should be five years. That means the rule of thumb this season is that collegiate picks from 2011 and prep picks from 2010 are eligible for the first time, if their team hasn't protected them by adding them to the 40-man roster.
  • Teams can trade Rule 5 picks (as the Twins and Marlins did with Santana and Camp), but the same rostering rules apply.
  • In the minor league phases (Triple-A and Double-A), players can be taken from levels lower than the league they'll be called to (i.e. Triple-A phase means drafting players in Double-A or below) and players are selected from a "reserve list" which is dictated by each team. The reserve list is essentially a list of players eligible to be drafted.
  • Drafting a player in the Triple-A phase costs $12,000; Double-A $4,000.
  • Each phase of the draft ends when all teams pass when their turn comes up. Rarely does any phase last for more than two rounds, although occasionally a team near the top of the draft will make three picks. To get an idea of how long the Rule 5 draft goes, in 2012 there were 15 players selected. Miami picked three players (the Twins selected Ryan Pressly). It's common for many teams to not pick a player, even if they have space on the roster. In the Triple-A phase, 27 players were picked (Toronto picked three times). Nobody was taken in the Double-A phase.
  • If a team feels they made a mistake in not protecting a certain player, they are allowed to select their own man when their turn comes around. Atlanta picked their own Ben Rivera in 1988.

Is there anything else you'd like to know about the Rule 5 in advance of Thursday? Leave it in the comments, and I'll do my best to find some answers for you.