One of the more, for lack of a better term, distinctive aspects of the MLB Winter Meetings is the existence of the Rule 5 Draft. Created in order to prevent teams from just sandbagging players in their minor league systems despite the fact that they may be major league ready given their experience level, the Rule 5 Draft more often than not is simply a way for teams with roster slots available to essentially buy lottery tickets for their rosters.
Here is the gist of how it works: if a player is not on a team’s 40 man roster (and is therefore “unprotected”) AND that player was 18 on the June 5th before they signed and this is the fifth Rule 5 draft since they signed OR they were 19 on the June 5th before they signed and this is the fourth Rule 5 after they signed, they are Rule 5 eligible. Each player selected costs $100,000, but if they do not remain on the selecting team’s 25 man roster for an entire season, they must be offered back to their original club for a half-price discount before they can be removed from the roster and designated for assignment.
There is more nuisance to the whole process than that, but that is the general idea. Before we go any further here, its important to point out that no man on planet Earth loves the Rule 5 draft more than Baseball America’s JJ Cooper and he put together an outstanding primer on the 2017 Rule 5 Draft and you should subscribe to Baseball America if you haven’t already and read it.
So what does this mean for the Braves. Well, they do have a few players of note that they did not protect from the Rule 5 draft before the 40 man roster deadline. While the Braves did move to protect LHP Ricardo Sanchez and LHP reliever Adam McCreery, outfielder Dustin Peterson, infielder Travis Demeritte, RHP reliever Caleb Dirks, and LHP Tyler Pike are all prospects of some repute that could at least garner some consideration by teams looking for value in the Rule 5 draft, although they are not necessarily considered likely to be picked.
As for some of the best players available, there are plenty of options available whether they be pitchers (which appears to be the strength of this Rule 5 draft) like guys who could help a rotation now or down the road such as the Twins’ Nick Burdi, the Rays’ Burch Smith, or the Yankees’ Cole Coshow. There are relievers with big arms that are definitely going to be gambles such as the Diamondbacks’ Jose Almonte, the Rockies’ Julian Fernandez, and the White Sox’s Connor Walsh or position players that have pedigree but also their own warts/injury issues such as the Blue Jays’ Max Pentecost and the Diamondbacks’ Victor Reyes or Kevin Cron.
There are a host of other interesting players (again, JJ’s primer above is invaluable) in this year’s Rule 5 draft, but without a consensus ‘best guy’ there is a lot of intrigue surrounding what will transpire in this iteration of the delightfully weird Rule 5 draft. For more information about the specifics and eccentricities of the Rule 5 draft as well as some history around it, Jonathan Mayo did a great job of previewing it here as well.
One quick note, as the Winter Meetings come to a close comes the time when we begin to hash out our pre-season Braves top prospects list. Expect to see that begin to roll out by the end of December assuming nothing too crazy happens.