By Zach Swanson
Canadian Baseball Network
Often overlooked: The Rule 5 Draft
The Rule 5 Draft never gets enough recognition, but many selections have been key to success to many Major League Baseball teams, including and especially the Toronto Blue Jays.
First off, just a few quick refresher rules for the Rule 5 Draft.
This draft is designed after Rule 5, which is to prevent teams from stockpiling young players.
A player who was signed at the age of 19 must have been on a major league roster for at least four years to be eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft (five years if signed at 18 or younger).
After being selected, a player must be kept on the major league roster for an entire year. If that requirement is not completed, the player must be released back to his former team.
To prevent the flip-flopping of minor league systems, each pick costs $50,000. If the draftee doesn’t complete an entire season, the team who selected the player must trade him back to his former team.
I believe this draft isn’t taken as seriously as it should. There have been many players selected in this draft who have gone on to be all-stars, but because of the mental difficulty of the game of baseball, the player was struggling to succeed. There could be a number of reasons, such as issues with a coach or teammate, as a young kid possibly missing family, or a kid from Central or Latin America, just simply not having anyone who spoke their language.
The Rule 5 draft, as I mentioned earlier, has been huge in the success of the Toronto Blue Jays, directly and indirectly. The Jays themselves selected huge players who benefited the franchise greatly third baseman Kelly Gruber and the 1987 AL MVP, George Bell.
Bell obviously was one of the greatest hitters in Blue Jays franchise history, and Gruber helped lead the Jays to the 1992 World Series title.
The Jays also grabbed Willie Upshaw, Jim Gott, Manny Lee and Lou Thornton to name a few.
The other player taken in the Rule 5 draft was Jose Bautista, selected Dec. 15, 2003 by the Baltimore Orioles from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bautista has obviously made a sizable impact on the team, especially in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS this past postseason. But Bautista wasn’t taken by the Jays, no- he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in 2003, which ended up being his first of 5 teams he went on to play for in 2004.
Some other notable Rule 5 draftees- Josh Hamilton, Roberto Clemente, Shane Victorino, Johan Santana and Jayson Werth, to name a few.
Watch for some Rule 5 draftees this year, and keep an eye on them. You never know, we might just see someone who can bat flip better than Bautista.