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An Oakland A’s Rule 5 draft primer

Who the A's might target, who other teams might pluck from the A's system, and all the info you might need for the Rule 5 draft!

The Rule 5 is coming up on December 8th at the winter meetings, baseball's annual conference of boring men engaging in what is no doubt the three most awkward days of the year. What's the Rule 5 draft? Should the A's partake in said exciting tradition? Let's talk about it!

What is the Rule 5 draft?

Per Wikipedia, which can literally be edited by anyone with internet access, the Rule 5 draft was commissioned to prevent teams from compiling too much young talent needlessly. It’s a smart event, as it keeps players from missing out at shots at the bigs due to being blocked.

Teams that make selections in the Rule 5 draft are subject to a $50,000 dollar fee (pocket change in this business) and most importantly, are required to keep the selected players on their active 25-man roster throughout the season. That's the crux of what makes the Rule 5 so interesting and so difficult: roster spots are valuable, and taking someone in the draft requires keeping them in the big leagues in spite of a requisite lack of experience for an entire season.

Should a drafting team wish to remove said selected player from their roster, they must offer him back to their original team for half the fee. The original team isn’t required to keep the player on either their 40 or 25-man roster, and therefore are likely to accept the player back into their organization.

The order of the draft is in reverse order of the previous seasons standings. That means the A’s are well positioned with the sixth choice in the draft, should they choose to make a selection. Teams without an opening on the 40-man roster are ineligible to draft, and other teams just choose not to partake.

Which minor leaguers are eligible for the Rule 5 draft? I’ll let J.J. Cooper of Baseball America explain.

With a few exceptions, any player who was younger than 19 on June 4 of their signing year is eligible to be picked if they are not on a 40-man roster after their fifth pro year. Any player who was 19 or older on June 4 of their signing year is eligible after their fourth pro season. In practical terms, that means that most high school/international signees from 2012 and college draftees from 2013 are eligible for the first time this year if left off the 40-man roster. The rule used to be three years for college players and four years for high school/international players, but it was changed before the 2007 Rule 5 draft.

There are exceptions to those rules. If a player signs after the initial team he is assigned to has already ended its season, that year does not count toward Rule 5 eligibility (see the example of Luiz Gohara). Since a draft signing deadline is now in place for drafted players, this largely applies to international players who sign in mid-August or later. Also, any player whose initial contract is renegotiated becomes eligible that year (and every subsequent year) for the Rule 5 draft if not added to the 40-man roster. A notable recent example of this rule was Cubs outfielder Matt Szczur. After Chicago paid him an additional $1.4 million on top of his initial $100,000 signing bonus to induce him to give up football, Chicago had to put him on the 40-man roster after the 2011 season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.

You can find more information about the Rule 5 draft here!

In the 19 years of the Rule 5 draft, there has been one Hall of Famer (Roberto Clemente), 24 All-Stars, and numerous productive players. You can find a full list of notable Rule 5 picks here!

The A’s Rule 5 draft history, MLB level

Drafted by the A's

Year Player Position Result
1998 Eric Stuckenschneider OF More like Eric Sucksenschneider
1999 Bo Porter OF Only had 15 ABs with A's, generally insufferable
2001 Jason Grabowski IF/OF/C 16 total ABs with A's
2002 Mike Neu RHP 42 IPs, 3.64 ERA
2002 Rontrez Johnson CF Never played for the A's
2004 Tyler Johnson LHP Never played for the A's
2006 Jay Marshall LHP Two poor seasons with the A's
2006 Ryan Goleski OF Acquired via trade, terrible
2007 Fernando Hernandez Jr. RHP 3 poor IPs
2008 Ben Copeland OF Never played for the A's
2009 Bobby Cassevah RHP Never played for the A's
2012 Nate Frieman 1B Acquired via trade, one decent season then poor
2014 Mark Canha IF/OF Acquired via trade, verdict still out

Not a lot of success there, with Mark Canha still a question mark. That might be an ugly list, but the Rule 5 draft is generally ugly so don't read too much into that. Yet.

Drafted from the A's

Year Player Position Result
1998 Joel Adamson LHP Didn't pitch after being drafted
1998 Josue Espada SS Never played in the bigs
2000 Scott Chiason RHP 11 terrible innings
2003 Chris Maebus RHP Pitched in one game
2006 Jared Burton RHP Very solid MLB career
2015 Colin Walsh 2B Returned to A's

Jared Burton was good, everyone was else was terrible. Rule 5 giveth very little, Rule 5 taketh away very little.

There's one final A's Rule 5 transaction that falls outside both categories. Last season, the A's traded Jabari Blash to the San Diego Padres to complete the Yonder Alonso, Drew Pomeranz and more deal. With a high draft pick, the A's could conceivably use their position as a trade chip again, although as we saw last season, it's not all that valuable.

Who might the A's lose?

As detailed by the great Melissa Lockard, the A's have three players with a decent chance at being taken by other teams in the draft. They are:

-Tucker Healy, a 26 year old righty reliever who has racked up strikeouts at every level in his career, including last year at AAA. He's also got fairly major control issues, allowing 4.5 walks per nine innings pitched in his last campaign.

-Sam Bragg, another righty reliever with good stuff, excellent strikeout numbers, but with better control than Healy. Bragg is further away, spending his 2016 season at AA Midland, but still could be an option for a bullpen-lite team to stash away in their pen next year.

-Dylan Covey, a righty starter who spent his year split between A+ Stockton and AA Midland. Covey is too far away to be a starter at the big league level but could conceivably be stashed in the bullpen as a long guy for 2017.

Here are more names to watch, though it's unlikely anyone beyond these three players gets snatched.

2016 Rule 5 targets

There are numerous great resources out there to read about some of the best options in the December 8 draft. J.J. Cooper of Baseball America compiled a list. So too did AN commenter calibaseball27. Here are some highlights:

Hitters

Barrett Barnes, outfielder, Pittsburgh PIrates

The A's have approximately 1.5 outfielders as of now, so it's pretty neat that Barnes can reportedly play all three outfield spots with competency. Barnes biggest issue has been staying on the field, but his talent is undeniable. The downside? Barnes is a righty and while he doesn't have major splits, he's harder to stash on a roster that already has LHP mashing outfielder Jake Smolinski.

Philip Evans, infielder, New York Mets

As it stands, the backup infielder is probably Chad Pinder, which doesn't make a whole mess of sense. Pinder is still young enough to have a chance at being an everyday guy, and could benefit from more regular AAA at bats. Evans can play across the diamond and had a breakout season next season. It wouldn't be a sexy pick, but hey, it could work depending on how the A's infield breaks.

Jon Kemmer, Outfielder, Houston Astros

Kemmer's profile is similar to that of Mark Canha, probably with a little better glove. He's done nothing but hit since arriving in the pros, but at age 26 he's running out of time to truly make an impact. He's a left handed hitter on the heavy side of the platoon. Again, the A's have like 1 outfielder so there might be a match made in heaven with the unheralded Kemmer, the open minded A's, and the wide open outfield.

A gaggle of reliever prospects

Part of the strategy for finding a Rule 5 gem is finding players that are easy to keep on the 25-man roster as they adjust to big league baseball. Keep in mind, many of these guys are jumping multiple levels, and the goal isn't necessarily to get immediate value so much as it is to make it through the season, thereby keeping the player within the organization.

Relievers fit that strategy nicely - every team has a guy at the back of the pen who is a little less than reliable, the A's have a few. It wouldn't be difficult to add one more, or even replace a Jon Axford with an almost free, higher upside reliever. Here are some options.

The A's do occasionally partake in trades, so nothing is off limits but as of now, they look set with lefty relievers. Sean Doolittle can dominate both hands while Daniel Coulombe looks like the next gem, a guy who can be a lefty specialist and maybe more.

That makes it unlikely for the A's to go after a guy like Tyler Webb, the Yankees farmhand who did nothing but dominate lefties in AAA last year. But considering that Marc Rzepczynski fetched Max Schrock in August, a LOOGY might not be an bad investment.

Righties are also plentiful this go around. Drew Muren can hit 100 on the radar gun, which is neat. Julian Fernandez can too, but both are raw. If you're interested in a more polished player, Yonny Chirinos may be your man. He's got excellent control and could conceivably play a bigger role this year, even if his upside is lower than the harder throwers.

Who should the A’s draft, if anyone?

The Rule 5 draft isn't a no-risk proposition. Losing a roster spot comes at someone's expense - consider that last year, the 25th spot went to Ryan Dull. That went pretty well!

As you saw above, Rule 5 picks often suck. Like, full-on, Barton levels of terrible. It's common and it makes sense, as the guys being chosen aren't deemed valuable enough for their respective organizations to protect on their 40-man roster.

There's an interesting nuance this season, as the league is considering adding a 26th roster spot. That extra spot would make holding onto a Rule 5 pick an easier proposition.

While there's a limit of how many lottery tickets you can fit on a roster, the A's need to take some chances in 2017. The Rule 5 draft will offer an opportunity to pick up an unheralded guy, and there's a good chance the A's utilize that 6th overall pick.

Your thoughts?

What should the A's do with the 6th overall pick in the Rule 5 draft?